Force Facebook to Refresh Link URL

facebook debugger tool

The Facebook debugger tool – it’s a magic bullet!

I ran into an issue the other day while attempting to post a link to Facebook (publicizing the TV episode I will be making an appearance in next month, FYI). For some reason, when I pasted the link into Facebook, the description of the page and the photo were not showing up. Instead of a nice looking post complete with picture and description, the post only showed the raw link itself. This would not have been very functional. I tried copying the link in several different places, even trying a different web browser, but Facebook never would pull up the photo or description. Since the link was a blog post I had written, I made some changes to the post hoping the changes would trigger Facebook to refresh the link. Still no luck. I did a lot of research and finally found a suggestion that actually worked.

It seems that Facebook caches links (or a “URL” in tech talk) to web sites that people post. So if multiple people post the same link, Facebook’s servers won’t need to go the the website to pull the information repeatedly. It just uses the cached copy from the first time it pulled the link information. This is probably good as it keeps Facebook’s servers more efficient and reduces load on the targeted web sites. But if Facebook had a problem pulling the right information the first time, this can be really frustrating since Facebook won’t go back to pull the correct information for a certain amount of time. I’m not sure how long Facebook caches URLs, but when someone is trying to post a link RIGHT NOW, it is severely aggravating. However, I now can happily present a solution!

Facebook has a special web site for developers who want to write software to interface with Facebook. One of tools on this web site is a “debugger” that allows developers to see how Facebook “views” a particular web page. You may want to save this link for future use Fortuitously, it appears the debugger tool has the side-effect of forcing Facebook to reload whatever link you paste into it. I pasted my link into the debugger tool and clicked the Debug button. This brought up some technical info that was mostly useless to me, except that I saw the image and description I wanted. I went back to put the link into a Facebook post and voila! Facebook pulled up the link as I expected it to, pretty picture and everything!

So if you are trying to post a link in Facebook and it didn’t pull the picture or description for some reason, use the debugger tool and force Facebook to refresh the URL it has cached. Hopefully this trick will save you some aggravation in the future. If you have any questions about using social media for business, please let me know. I’ll be happy to help.