Get 127% More Engagement on Medium, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn
How to enhance the “Curb Appeal” of your links on social media.
Note: This is an update of a previous article I wrote for Medium (Park, 2020). Medium users created the text highlights below.
In my testing, a featured image can increase visibility and engagement on a post by over 127%. Without an image, many readers will scroll right past your links on social media.
So, read on to learn how and why you should set a featured image.
- Get Engagement With Curb Appeal.
- How to Test Your Pages’ Featured Images.
- How to Set Your Pages’ Featured Images.
- How to find a featured image.
Get Engagement With Curb Appeal.
Real estate agents understand the importance of “curb appeal” to get more engagement. I have noticed that many writers do not for some reason.
Imagine that you spend months renovating a home. You install a beautiful new kitchen with brand new appliances, upgrade all of your bathrooms, install flooring, and immaculately decorate it. Then you shove a for sale sign on your overgrown lawn among your dilapidated fence, dirty windows, and tattered siding.
You will spend the next eighteen months watching people speed by your house without stopping.
That’s what you are doing when you create a web page or a blog post without a featured image. Sharing your page or post on social media is like putting it in a row of homes for sale. If yours has no curb appeal, people are going to scroll on by.
Here are examples of how links look on Twitter with and without featured images.
This is what a tweet of a link looks like when the page does not have a featured image.
This is what a tweet of a Medium link looks like after setting the featured image.
This is how a tweeted WordPress blog should look when it has a featured image.
Almost any image is better than no image.
Moreover, only adding an image to your social media post may get you more engagement, but a card with an image is much easier to click.
In fact, users will often click on an image expecting it to take them to your page. Don’t surprise them with a blown-up image when you want them to visit your site.
Posting photos of your puppies or dessert is fine for general social media engagement, but if you want people to click your link, be sure to use a link with a featured image.
However, if you do not have the ability to change the featured image of the blog you are writing, you may be better off adding your own image to the post.
How to Test Your Pages’ Featured Images
First, go to the Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn debug sites to test your home page.
How to Test Your Pages’ Featured Images on Twitter.
For convenience, all URLs in the instructions are repeated at the bottom of this post.
Go to https://cards-dev.twitter.com/validator, enter the URL of your home page, and click, “Preview Card.” It should look something like this.
Note: As of this writing, the Twitter card validator is not working correctly. However, you should still use it as it will still preload or update cards for display when you post them.
How to Test Your Featured Images on Facebook and LinkedIn.
Use the same process to test your home page on Facebook and LinkedIn. Your links may show up differently on those sites so you may need to adjust your image or use a tool like Yoast to customize your image for each social media site.
Remember to set the “Alt” text for visually impaired users.
- FaceBook debug URL: https://developers.facebook.com/tools/debug/
- LinkedIn debug URL: https://www.linkedin.com/post-inspector/inspect/
(Links last followed April 20, 2020).
After you have updated your image, you will need to test them in the debug tools. Not only in order to see how they look, but also in order to replace the image in the social media sites’ cache with the new one.
How to Set Your Pages’ Featured Images
For the best engagement, post and every page on your site should have a featured image.
This is how you fix your website or blog if it is in WordPress. If you are using a different platform, the steps will be similar, but you will need to get specific instructions from your host provider.
Set every blog post’s featured image.
Each post should have a unique featured image. If you have a lot of posts, then start with the most recent one. Navigate to your first post in your browser, copy the URL, and then paste it into the debug links for each social media site.
If the page has no featured image, then add one the same way you did for the home page. On posts, the “Featured image” link may be under a dropdown. The WordPress user interface is not completely consistent.
Do not overlook captions and “Alt” descriptions.
Make sure images that you use have an “Alt” description for the visually impaired.
In addition, if you are using third-party images, be sure to properly attribute the image to its creator in the caption.
Every time you add or update featured images, you need to test them in the social media debug tools. Not only to make sure they look right, but also to refresh the images in the sites’ databases.
How to set your featured image on Medium.
Setting your featured images on Medium is easy. After all, Medium will always select the first image on your post as the featured image.
So, simply add a new line and click on the plus sign.
Then click on the picture icon to upload an image.
If you want to use an image other than your first image as your featured image, you can.
First, click on the ellipses menu to the right of “Save and publish” and select “Change featured image” from the dropdown menu. Then choose from the list of available images.
How to set your featured image on WordPress.
If there is no image, then navigate to your home page and click the “Edit Page” link. (You may need to log in to WordPress first.) Next, find the “Set featured image” link and click it. Usually, it is on the right side of the page near the bottom.
Select an image to be the featured image for your home page. Use the “Upload Files” tab if necessary. Usually, the best choice is a professional photograph of yourself. However, if you have some other professional image that you use for branding, that will work too.
The end result will look something like this.
Note, if you use “Yoast SEO” then you will have the option to override your featured image on your social media sites as well as some other options. This is optional, but you can test different options in the validator to optimize your card.
How to set your featured image on Squarespace.
Squarespace automatically uses your blog posts’ thumbnails as featured images for social media. However, you need to set the “Social Image” for every other website page manually. To do this, click on “Pages” in the menu and then the gear icon next to each page.
Finally, click on “Social Image” and upload the image of your choice. Your results should look something like this.
How to find a featured image.
Paid image sources.
The two most common paid image sources that I have seen are Getty Images and Shutterstock.
However, most people overlook cartoon syndicators. In many cases, you can buy a commercial license for a blog for under $100. Donna Barstow has cartoons available for under $20 for blogs.
- Donna Barstow Cartoons: https://donnabarstow.com/
- Andrews McMeel Licensing: https://licensing.andrewsmcmeel.com/
This one is from Andrews McMeel Licensing.
Free image sources
Here are some free image sources that you can use for your featured images. All of these sites will tell you exactly how to credit the creator when you download the image.
- https://wikipedia.org (Great for finding images of public figures.)
Social media debug URLs
- Twitter: https://cards-dev.twitter.com/validator
- Facebook: https://developers.facebook.com/tools/debug/
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/post-inspector/inspect/
If you find one or more images that could work, use A/B testing to determine which one will get the most engagement. See “How to Time Travel to Ask Future Customers What They Sarcastically Want — Use A/B testing to make better decisions” (Park, 2021).
Many people are scrolling past your links. Give them a reason to stop and look by adding featured images.
- Park, Preston. 2020. “How to Enhance the ‘Curb Appeal’ of Your Links on Social Media.” The Startup. May 7, 2020. https://medium.com/swlh/how-to-enhance-the-curb-appeal-of-your-links-on-social-media-14c5fd39eada.
- “Saturday November 26, 2022 Calvin and Hobbes Comic Strip – Andrews McMeel Licensing.” n.d. Licensing.andrewsmcmeel.com. Accessed November 27, 2022. https://licensing.andrewsmcmeel.com/features/ch?date=2022-11-26&__hstc=110897754.c7fea640d643d58541f6f4c570842cfe.1669518548599.1669518548599.1669518548599.1&__hssc=110897754.1.1669518548599&__hsfp=109479996. (Not affiliated)