Actually maybe that should be Facebook Cache Limbo? It is a mystery.
Anyway, great news, people! An issue that came up in the comments section of my previous article on Facebook thumbnails has been solved (or at least reliably worked-around).
Commenter Nélio (man, you rock!) tipped us off to the existence of the Facebook URL Linter, a tool to help developers debug their pages so that the metadata and whatnot all falls in line with FB specs.
Doing some searching, I also came up with this brief from allfacebook.com
This in itself is very, very cool. HOWEVER, the true value in our situation is that the Linter includes the necessary feature of flushing your cached page data out of Facebook‘s cache! This is HUGE.
As you may or may not know, when you attempt to share a page on FB, that page is immediately stored in FB’s cache. The downside is if you forgot to put some necessary info (such as description meta or thumbnail link) then FB stores that incorrect page and you can’t get that new info to share correctly until Facebook’s cache is flushed.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to determine at exactly what interval they flush the cache out. So if you have a timely piece you’d like shared sometimes there’s nothing you can do but sit there frustrated as your article is shared without the catchy thumbnail, definitely resulting in less clicks.
Actually there was one previous workaround. Another commenter on the same article that started this all (Jesse) mentioned that adding a random query string onto the end of your article (example.com becomes example.com?=1) will result in Facebook taking a new look at your page and getting your updated info.
I’ve tested this and in fact used it many times since his comment. The only problem is that while it works for you, you can’t really count on your readers who want to share the article knowing enough to throw that random string on the end of your url.
But it doesn’t matter now. If you just take your problem url and paste it into the Linter, Facebook will flush it out of the cache and you can go ahead and share with impunity.
I tested this right away after the comment was left.
First I set up a new page on my site. I removed almost every image from the page and then went to share it on my Facebook page (I didn’t hit the “Share” button, only the “Attach” button -that’s enough to get the url into the cache).
As expected, the url came up plain and boring with no thumbnail image. I tried it again and again, which might be your normal response (and which actually is making your problem worse by making the wait longer for the cache to refresh).
Then, I went back to my article and I added a thumbnail image to the page. I didn’t add it to the head of the page in the section, I just inserted a thumbnail and then hid it with css “display:none”. I republished the page and went back to it. Checking the code I could see that my thumbnail was indeed in the HTML but hidden by my CSS.
Now, I returned to my FB page to share the url again. No change. As usual, only the cached version of my page was shown on Facebook. Again, I tried to attach the page several more times with the same result.
Normally I’d now add that random query string to the end of the url, but this time I went to the Facebook URL Linter and put my url in there (without the query string).
So I saw all the debug and social graph info but for this instance I wasn’t worried about any of that. After running the url through there I headed back to my Facebook page and put in the correct url.
I clicked the Attach button and the article popped in there with the thumbnail I’d added to the page. KICK. ASS.
So this is a surefire way to get your Facebook share out of Facebook cache Hell. Of course, it won’t help you if you don’t realize in time that your info is wrong, but if you can get on top of it and run your url through there before it’s shared too often you can fix the problem pretty quickly.
Anyway, let me know your experiences in the comments or if you have any other issues I’ll definitely see if I can help. Until then “Facebook Share, Tweet and Stumble this thing to the fullest, people!”
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