We had a little snafu last week.
I scheduled a blog post to go live on our website on Thursday morning, and then scheduled our social pushes for optimal platform times. I scheduled a Twitter post using Buffer, and a Facebook post, which I did from our company Facebook page.
Twenty-two hours (!) after the scheduled Facebook update posted, someone noticed this:
I felt like that screengrab, posted on our #marketing Slack channel, was reaching out of my computer screen and pointing a neon “social media rookie” sign at my head.
Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic. But I was definitely moderately embarrassed. It looked like I didn’t even know how to schedule a post on Facebook!
The issue with scheduling unpublished posts is that Facebook goes out and pulls the title description as soon as you paste a link into a new post. But when I prepared the Facebook post, the article wasn’t live on the blog like they’d been before. To Facebook, my WordPress post didn’t exist yet, so my link preview showed the “Page not found” title description.
In my naivete, I expected Facebook to pull the title info again at the scheduled publish time a couple hours after the blog article went live. That would be helpful, right?
Apparently not quite. The fact is, it would be a major strain for Facebook to be continually reaching out into the interwebs and checking up on your links before (or after!) posting to your timeline. Although for anyone publishing on a schedule, that’s a problem, since the whole purpose of scheduling posts is to take care of it now and not have to worry about it later.
So can you schedule a post on Facebook that includes a link to unpublished content? We did a little research into the issue, but it didn’t turn up much. A post labeled “Under Review” in the Hootsuite forums described our problem, but hasn’t had a response from the company since 2011. Then in July 2015, prunmit shared code for a WordPress plugin that allows Facebook to view meta information for scheduled posts.
But nothing provided the quick, easy, don’t-bug-the-developers solution we wanted.
It started with a little hunch.
I scheduled a test post on WordPress and then used Buffer to schedule a Facebook post for a few minutes after the WP post was supposed to go live. It looked pretty sketchy.
And then I waited. For three whole minutes, probably.
Buffer worked. Instead of showing “Page Not Found” text with the old link information, Buffer pulled the link information again when it posted to Facebook.
Is Buffer the only scheduling app to do this? Maybe not. We didn’t test any others, so we don’t know for sure. But we’ll update this post if we catch wind of them.
For now, we’ll definitely be using Buffer to schedule our unpublished Facebook posts.
The Backup Solution
If you find out the hard way that your scheduling app doesn’t handle unpublished posts on Facebook very well, don’t worry. Some followers might see your embarrassing post, but we have a workaround that’ll fix the issue for any future page visitors.
Unfortunately, the only way to edit or remove an attached link from an existing Facebook post is to delete the post. But before deleting it, copy the text and link from the previous post and paste it into a new post (or somewhere else for safe keeping).
You’ll also need to check the link. Remember how Facebook only wants to reach out and grab your blog info once? Well, it also has a great memory, and often, after you paste the same link, it will just pull the existing info from the cache—and you’ll have another “Page not found” error.
Facebook’s Sharing Debugger feature can fix this. Just paste your link into the form on the page and click “Debug.” This will show the information that Facebook has stored about your blog. For our purposes, the important part is when and how they last scraped the URL—that means how long ago they pulled your information.
When we checked one of our test posts, it had been 19 minutes since Facebook had checked the website. The response they’d received from the website was a 404—the standard computer code for “Page not found.”
Since we knew that the blog post had been published since the last scrape, we clicked “Scrape Again.”
This time, it showed response code 200, which means Facebook found the page. Success!
Once you’ve got Facebook to update its information about your page, you can add the link to your new post and you’re ready to re-publish. But this time, instead of clicking “Schedule,” click “Backdate.”
This will allow you to add the corrected post to your Timeline without spamming your followers with a duplicate social post. No one likes that.
Just try not to let your sneaky new backdating powers go to your head. Recently, a man named Pablo Reyes used the backdating feature to try to show off his fortune telling skills (and get a bunch of likes and shares on Facebook). That’s not very ethical. Don’t be like Pablo:
So now you know how to schedule Facebook posts for unpublished blog posts—and how to fix things if it goes wrong.