You can shrink links (URLs) in social posts to save characters, and to keep your posts looking tidy. The Hootsuite dashboard uses the ow.ly link shortener by default, which tracks click stats that can be viewed in Hootsuite Analytics. Note that links on Twitter always reserve 23 characters in tweets.
The ow.ly shortener does not affect your site’s search engine optimization (SEO). Because each shortener responds like a 301 redirect, visibility and web page ranking pass through to your site.
To shrink a link in the Composer
- Paste a link into the text field of the Composer. A link toolbar will appear below the field.
- Select Shorten with Ow.ly. The shortened link will display in your post preview on the right. If the post is being sent to multiple social networks, a unique ow.ly link is generated for each one.
- Organization members: To use a vanity URL or other external shortener that has been set up for your organization, select Add tracking instead of Shorten with Ow.ly, and then select Customize to select from a list of available shorteners. Select Apply to finish.
Important: Shortened links are not maintained when saving content library templates. The full link is saved, and shorteners or link presets must be applied when a template is published.
Link previews and troubleshooting
When social posts include a link to a website, they often display a link preview. The preview is a summary of the content found at the link destination, usually consisting of a title, description, and image. Shortened YouTube or Vimeo links will display a playable link preview within the post on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Link previews generate automatically, but each social network pulls this information differently from the link’s website. This means that the resulting link preview for a given link may not be the same on each social network.
While composing a post, you may see this error message: “We couldn’t populate a link preview”
This error appears when our link scraping system is unable to read the metadata on the URL you provided, and thus can’t generate a link preview. The first thing to check is that the URL you are sharing is a published link. A link preview can't be generated until the website or article is live and accessible to the public.
If you've confirmed that the link is live, see below for ways to optimize your link based on the social network you are publishing to.
Link previews will only display in tweets when the link’s website has Twitter Cards enabled. To verify if the site you’re linking to has a Twitter Card, and to see what it will look like, enter the link into Twitter’s Card validator.
To guarantee that your tweet contains an image, you can attach your own, or select any Suggested images the Composer may have retrieved from the link. However, attaching an image will override the preview if the link does have a Twitter Card. The published tweet will contain a clickable link, and a separate, uploaded image.
Note: Twitter Card link previews publish to Twitter natively, but don’t appear in Hootsuite streams.
Learn more about Twitter Cards, and how to add them to your website.
LinkedIn posts generate link previews based on the data that LinkedIn extracts from each website, but these previews can be customized when publishing.
Enter a link into LinkedIn's Post Inspector to see exactly how LinkedIn will read and process it. The tool will help you identify any missing data on the page, and what needs to be added to get a better preview.
Facebook posts generate link previews based on the open graph meta tags (eg. og:image) that Facebook’s link scraper pulls from each website. If these tags are missing or incomplete, the link preview will be incomplete. Note that when publishing links to these sites on Facebook natively, Facebook will try to fill in the blanks with the data available, so link preview results may differ.
Enter a link into Facebook's Debugger to see how its preview will look when published to Facebook. The tool will flag missing meta tags and anything else that needs to be fixed on your website to generate a complete link preview.
See Facebook’s documentation to ensure that your own website is set up to generate optimal link previews.
If your URL was only recently published, it could also be that Facebook hasn't yet scraped the link you’re trying to share. Try composing your post again after an hour or so.
Note that Facebook does not allow scraping of Facebook-centric links, such as Events, when publishing through third-party platforms like Hootsuite.
Customizing link previews
Link preview customization is only available for LinkedIn Page posts, and for Facebook Page posts that meet the following requirements:
- The link being shared is from your own website.
- The website domain has been verified through Facebook’s Domain Verification process.
- The Facebook Page has been associated with the verified domain in the Facebook Business Manager.
Facebook implemented these requirements to reduce misrepresentation of link content.
To customize a LinkedIn or Facebook Page link preview in the Composer
After entering a link, a link preview will automatically generate.
- Select Customize below the link preview.
- If more than one image was retrieved from the website, select an option, or select Replace image to upload your own. Images can be a maximum of 5MB in .jpg, .jpeg, .gif or .png formats. Content library images cannot be used for link previews.
- Select the title or description to edit its text.
- Select Save.
LinkedIn requires link previews to have a thumbnail image, title and description. Facebook requires at minimum the thumbnail image. If any of these elements are missing from your link preview when a post is published, the social network will fill in the missing data.
To replace a link preview entirely and upload an image instead, select the X in the top-right corner of the link preview card, and then upload your own media file or open the media library to select an image.