Sharing Visually on Facebook: How Can It Get Readers to Your Site, Too?

I like photos. I tend to “Like” them, too. But despite my “clicks of approval” (read: we never really know what Likes mean), I don’t always click through to content when a news org shares an image.

Maybe everyone is more systematic than I am, but my Likes are pretty arbitrary. I’m calculated about a lot of things, but my commenting is pretty arbitrary, too.

Two things to healthily recognize here: “Liking” isn’t unvaluable to a news org, and neither is commenting. We can measure some value with those statistics and participate in a “Like science.” At the same time, measurement of engagement on something like Facebook may be inexact when you’re looking at all kinds of journalistic impact. (See good discussion on better measuring journalism’s impact here.)

Putting some of that conversation aside, if your journalistic meat doesn’t lay in Facebook’s garden, my gut is you want your audience to stay awhile on the content on your site. For whatever reason or combination of reasons—financial or philosophical.

If that’s you, here’s a good question worth considering: How do you share visually on Facebook and additionally draw in website traffic?

Let’s take the passing of first man on the moon Neil Armstrong, whom President Obama called a hero “not just of his time, but of all time.”

Armstrong’s death is a huge story worthy of bringing attention and tribute to the man’s life. With all the strong visual storytelling elements – photos of the man, quotes of the man, front pages from that historic day in 1969 – everyone is probably sharing visually on Facebook. Whose story are you going to click?

Part of that answer is probably a combination of factors you can’t control in the moment – how many accounts users follow in addition to yours, brand loyalty, how much someone cares about the topic and Facebook’s own algorithm and what it puts forth first. You of course want a compelling photo – content is king – but perhaps the assistance lays in your linking, and the general presentation. Some elements you sure can control.

Here’s a look at how some orgs handled visual sharing and linking this weekend, categorized by where the approach placed the link. You can decide which approach is best.


In the caption (New York Times

The good: Nostalgia is always good, for one. Secondly, the image is long in height and full of text, which seems to grab attention, even without being in our favorite meme-font. Those elements mean that when you scroll down reading the page (and the length of the image), you end up at a short headline-like tease for the story link. You may want to click.

Some questions: Is the link too small in the feed? Does that not matter if someone is interested enough to enlarge the image and then perhaps click the link in the caption?

In the post, after (Washington Post)

The good: Faces are always eye-drawing, for one. Secondly, the image doesn’t tell you all of what’s going on, so you may end up reading the short text in front of the story link, which may compel you to click.

Some questions: If someone is scrolling quickly and not aware of something like Neil Armstrong’s death, does the image fully convey what’s going on and what’s news? Do you rely on people reading the post’s text, which they may or may not do?

In the post, below (Mashable)

The good: Faces, again, are eye-drawing. And in this case, the text place on the image tells part of the story—Armstrong has passed. The blue hyperlink is separate out from the text, perhaps enticing you to click.

Some questions: Do you want to add text to images to tell your story, or would you rather your image tell it on your own? What about for stories for which you can’t easily add text?

No photo, just a story (National Geographic)

The good: Big images are nice, but so can be the blue box around an article that’s shared. In sharing an article, you can get an image in there, too. If everyone is sharing similar enlarged photos, this may prove a win-win.

Some questions: What’s really better, a larger image or the small one that accompanies a story post? Do you lose the engagement of someone liking or commenting on the photo itself? Is that okay?