Link Previews for Text Messages
One of the things that some find challenging about creating text messages is the 160 character limit.
And if you want to link up to some content on your website, you're eating into that 160 character limit with your link!
But what if your link could be transformed into an image, headline and short description???
Introducing Link Previews
Link previews are supported on both iPhones and Android and work based off a standardized protocol known as the Open Graph Protocol.
What's cool about the Open Graph protocol is it is also used to generate link previews for Facebook and Twitter and other social networks. So when you make sure your website is using the Open Graph protocol you're covering a lot of ground!
As a baseline you want to make sure to include the following open graph meta tags:
- og:title This is the title you want to have show up under the preview. In the image above you see it as the words Engage CRM Messaging.
og:imageThis is the preview image that will be shown above the title. It's important to note that there are no limits on what you can include in your image. It could be text, photo, illustration or any combination, so you can really grab attention if you think it through.
If you're ready to take it to another level, then you can include og:video!
If you decide to use video, be sure to include a direct link to the video file, not an embeddable video page. If the video is a mp4 file, it can be played automatically, which can really catch the eye. If it's a streaming video file format, then the play button must be tapped to start playback.
What about Engage CRM Trackable links?
Link previews for iOS and Android both respect what are called server-side redirects, which is how trackable links redirect contacts to your destination, so that means that if your destination page has the Open Graph protocol in use, then you can get the benefit, even with trackable links.
It's worth noting that when a link preview is generated, the link itself is removed and replaced with the link preview element.
Because of this, links in the middle of text will not be previewed. It's best practice to end your message with the link in order to have the phone convert the link into a rich preview.
How Will You Use Them?
The truth is that you don't always need a rich link preview, but being aware of the fact that they exist can make it so that your messages are more impactful and get better response.
Where I see the big opportunity is adding an accelerator to your messages that are critical for a contact to follow your link and adding a short primer video to get them to tap and consume the rest of the story or content.
One useful tool we always use here to make sure that our meta tags are set correctly is Facebook's Sharing Debugging tool
It allows you to see what Facebook has cached for a link and to update that cache based on changes you make. This will allow you to know what a preview link will look like, roughly, when you send that link out in a text message.
It's also worth noting that other URL shorteners like bit.ly and google will properly redirect, preserving your meta tags for link previews. So if you don't need the tracking and you're confident in your delivery, those will work as well.