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The Complete Guide to Content Previews on Social Media

Published: June 21, 2022       Updated: June 16, 2024

12 min read

Have you ever shared a link to a piece of your content that you spent hours crafting, only to get almost no response? It's frustrating. You know the content is good, so why aren't people clicking on it?

Part of the reason might be your social media content preview. For good or bad, the content preview can be the deciding factor in whether people click on your link.

In this guide we're going to cover:

  • What a social media content preview is
  • Why it is so important
  • 10 strategies you can use to craft clickable previews

What Is A Social Media Content Preview?

A social media content preview is a short piece of text, usually around 100 characters, that is used to tease and entice people to click on a link. This could be to an article, blog post, video, or any other type of content.

Depending on the content of the link, the text might be automatically created by the social media platform or written by the person who created/shared the content. The text is usually accompanied by an image, although that's not always the case depending on the content of the link.

Each social media platform displays the preview a bit differently. Facebook usually displays the image first, followed by the title of the content, followed by a small snippet of text describing the content, although the snippet isn't always shown on mobile devices. Twitter follows the same format.

LinkedIn only shows the featured image and the title of the content below it. Pinterest is unique in that in the social feed, it shows an extra-large image and the title of the content. However, when you click on the image it doesn't immediately take you to the link. Rather, it takes you to a second card that includes the post image, the title of the content, a snippet of text, and the profile of the person who shared it.

The point of all this is that if you want people to click on the links you share, you need to know how each platform displays the content preview and then adjust accordingly.

Why Are Social Media Content Previews So Important?

You might be thinking, What's the big deal with social media content previews? If my content is good, people will click on it.

Unfortunately, that's not the case. That's why content previews are an important element of your social media strategy.

We're living in a world where there's so much content vying for people's attention. In 10 minutes a person can scroll through hundreds of posts, each of them asking for a like, click, share, or comment. Selfies, memes, "Which Harry Potter Character Are You?" quizzes, posts in all caps insisting that the earth is flat and that Oprah Winfrey is actually a secret KGB agent. Let's just say that there is a LOT of noise.

If you want to stand out and compel people to click on your post, you need to take intentional steps to catch people's attention. (4)

That's where social media content previews come in. They allow you to be creative and different by enticing people to click on the link. You can tease them with an interesting photo and just enough information about the content to make them curious. And when people are curious, they click.

Plus, if your preview is good, it will encourage people to share your post with their friends, which will help you reach a wider audience. This generates more clicks, which leads to more shares, and so on.

A Quick Primer On How To Create Your Own Content Previews

Before we look at how to create social media content previews that get clicks, let me quickly explain what you need to do to customize content previews. If you don't do this, the social media platform will automatically grab the content's title, featured image, and the first few words of text to display.

If you use WordPress to host your website, install the RankMath SEO plugin. This will allow you to control what gets displayed, both in the Google search results and on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Unfortunately, due to the unique nature of Pinterest, you have to customize the content preview manually.

You can choose which photo you want to be displayed, the title (if you want something different from the content), and the snippet of text as well.

If you host your website on a platform like Wix or Weebly, there are similar plugins that will allow you to craft your own content previews. Simply visit the "marketplace", search for "SEO", and look for a plugin that allows you to edit the social media previews. It won't be hard to find one.

10 Tips For Crafting Highly Compelling Content Previews

Now that we've covered why content previews on social media are so important and the technical aspects of how to customize them, let's look at practical strategies for crafting previews that grab attention and compel clicks.

1. It's all about the title

More than anything else, your content preview MUST have an engaging title. The title is what will determine whether or not people even bother to click on your post. It needs to be interesting, compelling, and make a promise that there is real value if people click the link.

Without resorting to clickbait, your title needs to stand out as people scroll through their social media feeds. It needs to be good enough to cause people to stop scrolling and think, That looks interesting.

If you need help crafting the perfect title, CoSchedule's Headline Analyzer can help. You type in a headline and it will both grade it and provide suggestions for how to make it even more compelling.

2. Ask a provocative question in the title and tease the answer in the preview text

This is a great way to get people's attention and make them curious about the answer you provide in the link. Make your title a question that causes people to stop, think, and become curious.

For example, "Do You Know The 3 Simple Words That Will Make Your Content Go Viral?" This tells people what the content is about (going viral) but also promises to reveal a surprisingly simple secret that could really benefit them.

In the preview text, provide just enough information to whet people's appetites without giving away the answer. For example, "If you want your content to be shared by hundreds, even thousands of people, you need to know these three words."

The only caveat to this (and really, every strategy) is that your content really does need to deliver on the promise of the title. If the content doesn't match the title, people will feel duped and be less inclined to click on your links in the future.

3. Use engaging visuals

As the saying goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words," and this is especially true with social media. The photo is usually the first thing a person sees as they're scrolling through their social feed. If the photo is compelling, they're more likely to read the title and snippet text, and more likely to click.

When selecting visuals for your content preview, make sure that they are high quality, visually interesting, and relevant to the topic of your post. A beautiful photo that has nothing to do with the topic of your content will still get clicks, but people will feel misled when they arrive at your post and see that the visuals don't match the text.

Also, avoid cheesy stock photos at all costs, unless you're doing it in a tongue-in-cheek, ironic way that would actually get people's attention. You may also want to consider adding a small amount of text to your visuals to further grab people's attention. Just don't over do it.

If you struggle with image design, apps like Canva and Venngage make it incredibly easy to design professional-looking photos.

4. Promise a free bonus if people visit the link

There is nothing people love more than free stuff. If you can promise a free bonus (PDF, checklist, cheat sheet, etc.) for people who visit the link, they are much more likely to click.

The free bonus doesn't even have to be completely related to the content of your post. It could be something as simple as a list of the best free tools for accomplishing a certain task or a more high-level resource related to a broader topic you consistently cover.

5. Tell people exactly what's in the content

People don't like feeling like they've wasted time, and if your content doesn't contain what they expected they'll be annoyed. One way to avoid this is by telling people exactly what's in the content before they click. This can be done in the title or preview text.

For example, "5 Social Media Tactics That Will Help Grow Your Business" tells people that the post will give them five specific tactics to grow their business. In the preview text you could even spell out a few tactics: "Tactic 1: Find your ideal audience. Tactic 2: Choose the right platform".

Just make sure to deliver lots of value and not just a fluff listicle.

6. Use a call to action

This may sound redundant since the entire point of sharing links on social media is to get people to click, but including a direct call to action in the text snippet can be the little nudge that's needed to get people to view your content.

For example, "Click here to learn the three steps that will help you double your traffic in 30 days." Or even just a simple "CLICK HERE" at the end of your snippet to reinforce in people's minds what they should do. If you want to be even more direct, you could use a small arrow like "=> CLICK HERE". Obviously, you don't want to overdo it or be too pushy, but don't hesitate to use a direct call to action.

7. Highlight a surprising fact in the content

This works especially well if your content contains insights from research that not many people would know. When people see something that surprises them, they are naturally curious and want to learn more.

For example, "Did you know that 86% of people use social media for purchasing decisions?" Or "One surprise? SEO has a 5.2x ROI compared to just a 2.1x ROI for paid search."

In your content snippet, make sure to mention the surprising fact or statistic and the context out of which you're sharing it. For example, "We analyzed 15,000 pieces of content and found that..." You want to whet people's appetites for what other relevant facts they might find in your content.

8. Mention an expert

If the content you're linking to features an expert of any sort, be sure to mention them by name in your title. Maybe even consider putting it in all caps so that people don't miss it. People love learning from experts, and if they see the expert's name in your preview they may be more likely to click.

Include a picture of the expert on your image and maybe even a bit of text about the subject that's covered. This will catch the eye of people who are interested in the subject.

Also, in the text you write above the post itself (which isn't technically a content preview), tag the expert so that they know you shared the post. The odds are high that they'll share the post as well.

9. Use emojis when appropriate

Emojis are a great way to add some personality and visual interest to your content previews. Putting an emoji in the text snipped helps break up the text and catch people's attention.

Just make sure that if you use emojis, they are appropriate for both your brand and the content being shared. For example, if your company helps high-wealth individuals with financial planning, using a goofy smiley face emoji probably isn't the best idea. On the other hand, if you own an industrial cleaning company, there are probably places where it's appropriate to use an emoji to highlight the need for various cleaning services.

10. Highlight the content's popularity

If a piece of content has gotten a significant amount of engagement, in terms of things like page views, shares, or mentions in the media, highlight that fact, either by putting text on the image or mentioning it in the text snippet. People are much more likely to click if they think other people have found it valuable. It's the classic bandwagon effect.

For example, you could write, "Our most shared piece of the year!" Or, "[Well-Known Person] thought this was so good that they sent it to their entire email list!" Your goal is to build social proof around the content so that people are more likely to click it.

Final Thoughts

After spending hours crafting a valuable piece of content, spending more time working on the content preview probably isn't super appealing. But it's worth the effort.

It may seem silly that something as seemingly insignificant as a content preview can make a big difference in how a piece of content performs. The reality is that by taking the time to write a compelling social media content preview, you can get more clicks, which can lead to more leads, and ultimately more sales.

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