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Using Author Tags with Facebook Story Previews

By Tom Pitts
Jul 27, 2015

In June, Facebook published a new post on their media blog about the Open Graph Author Tag, part of their Open Graph metadata protocol. While the content of the post was new, the feature discussed, the Author Tag, was not. Facebook actually started supporting their own Author Tag two years ago, as explained in their original Facebook Developers blog post from 2013.

From our experience in working with a number of large publishers that are active on Facebook, we have found that author tags are a common area of confusion. This confusion occurs, in part, because there are many ways to express authorship of web pages and to have a byline show up as part of a story preview in the Facebook News Feed.

Various standards have been put forth over the years to express authorship of web pages, but there isn’t much documentation on which methods Facebook supports.

What does a byline look like in a Facebook story preview?

When Facebook is able to determine the author of a page, a byline shows up in the story preview on Facebook for desktop users, an example of which is shown below.

How do you specify an author to Facebook?

We did some testing to find a few different ways that Facebook pulls authors into their story previews, also called News Feed link posts. To understand why Facebook includes authors in certain posts, it helps to understand how they build story previews.

Facebook parses web pages for metadata that help describe the page. Facebook does this by using tags on the page, including their own tag standard, the Facebook Open Graph protocol. In the case of authorship, if the Open Graph author tag is not available, Facebook will attempt to determine an author by checking for a number of other tags on a page.

Below, we’ve documented the ways in which Facebook identifies the author of an article.

Author meta tag

If an author meta tag exists on the article page, Facebook will use the value in the content attribute as the article author.

<meta name="author" content="Tom Pitts" />
Facebook Open Graph Author Tag

Facebook’s Author Tag has the added benefit of linking the byline to the author’s Facebook profile page, as long as the author has enabled the Follow option.

To link to the author’s Facebook profile, the page should use the article:author Open Graph tag.

<meta property="article:author" content="http://www.facebook.com/15800002245">
Why should you specify an author for Facebook?

Adding authors to your Facebook posts helps create richer story previews and lets you showcase one of your most valuable assets, your writers.

In addition to improving the look of Facebook posts, author tags can improve users’ News Feed experience, as Facebook may use these tags to help determine which authors to feature more often. For example, Facebook might use author tags to select related articles that are found beneath a story preview.

Below is an example of related posts sometimes shown on Facebook.

Also, if Facebook knows that a user clicks on articles by a certain author, they may decide to show more of that author’s content in the user’s News Feed. Without an author tag, Facebook wouldn’t be able to make those decisions.

Since so many people get their news and content from Facebook, we recommend every publisher use an author tag.

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