Let’s face it, Twitter Cards are cool. Fortunately, they have been around long enough that many of the “kinks” have been worked out. But, that said, it doesn’t mean that everyone is using them yet. On one hand, everyone *should* be using them. But, as we know, when that happens, the “coolness” may begin to wane.
Ok, What ARE Twitter Cards?
Twitter Cards come in all shapes and sizes (literally)! The idea is that when you tweet a link, there is a Twitter Card that will automatically accompany your tweet.
When you type the tweet and insert a link that has a Twitter Card, it will pull and display the Twitter Card. An example is the “Player Card” (type of Twitter Card), shown in the screen shot, below. As you will notice, this type of Twitter Card (Player Card) includes a YouTube that can be played right from Twitter (or any page where the tweet is embedded).
How Does It Work?
The way that the Twitter Cards work is that they pull meta information from that page of the link. So, assuming that you have set up your site or page correctly, with the correct meta tags, Twitter will pull that information when it pulls your page for the link (during the tweeting process). When Twitter sees that you have that meta available, indicating the presence of a Twitter Card, it knows to display it automatically on the tweet.
Types of Twitter Cards
The three most popular types of Twitter Cards are:
- Summary Card with Large Image – If you are going to tweet a summary, why not a large picture? (view sample.)
- Photo Card – these are fun and eye-catching. You can still add the text in the tweet, but the image grabs people. (view sample.)
- Player Card – these are my favorite! So much versatility, with adding real media to your Twitter feed. (view sample.)
For more information on how to set up the Twitter Cards, you could visit the Twitter Developer section on Twitter Cards.
So, What are Meta Tags and How Do I get Them?
Personally, I hand-code my own social media coding. The reason that I do that is that I can control every aspect of what I do, like the image for the tweet, which is different than the image for Pinterest, Facebook, etc. This allows me to create custom Pinterest video shares and more. However, I am also a programmer, and I enjoy doing that sort of thing. I would be sad if someone removed my access to custom program my sites.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be a programmer. I found an excellent plugin out there (and I need to give credit to Gail because she is the one who told me about this plugin!). The plugin is JM Twitter Cards. I haven’t personally used this plugin on a regular basis (as I said, I custom program my social media functions), but it does include many of the features that I custom program. So, from a feature aspect, I recommend the plugin. Other plugins, like Yoast WordPress SEO, also include Twitter Card functionality.
There have been reports of issues with the Genesis theme that are highlighted by an incompatibility with the JM Twitter Cards plugin. There is a discussion here, on the topic of the featured image. Fortunately, that thread also shows a solution.
Tip 1: How to Get Your Player Card Validated
One of the steps that is needed, before each of the different types of Twitter Cards works for your site, is to ensure that Twitter validates the Twitter Card. The time that it takes Twitter can be under an hour to several hours.
Usually the summary card and the photo card validate fairly easily, but the player card can present a problem. If you try to validate your player card and get some sort of warning that includes time (i.e. 4s or .15s), it is likely that it has to do with the load time on your site.
That does not mean that your site is too slow, but that at that moment, Twitter could not receive the information fast enough so your card fails before actually being submitted to Twitter. There have been reports that people have had intermittent results in trying to get the Twitter Player Card validated.
Here is a solution. Turn off your plugins before submitting your Twitter Player Card. It is a pain and will likely affect some functionality on your site, but leave those plugins off until you receive word from Twitter that your Player Card is fine. Then, you can turn the plugins back on, on your WordPress site.
If you are a WordPress plugin junkie, this can really become an issue. But, there is a solution for that, too. Here is how I do the plugin thing. First, you should get a plugin organizer. I love and use Jeff Sterup’s Plugin Organizer.
The first thing you do is add any inactive plugins (that you may be keeping around for that “rainy day”) into a group that is named something like, “intentionally inactive.” This will help you to know that you do not want to re-activate those plugins accidentally. Then, break the rest of your plugins into groups of 10 or less and add them to a new group, using the Plugin Organizer. You can name them Group 1, Group 2, etc. By doing so, if you ever have to troubleshoot plugin issues, you have groups to flip on and off all at once. Go through and turn off (by groups) all plugins you can, and then go to the Twitter Card validator and validate your player card. After your acceptance email from Twitter, you can re-activate all those plugins again and you are all set.
Note: You could also do this without the plugin organizer, using the “recently active” default list, but using the plugin organizer may help you in cases where you decide not to turn on all the plugins. And, if you need to troubleshoot something else, later, it puts the plugins into bite-sized groups. This is a lifesaver if you are a plugin junkie.
Tip 2: How to Customize the SEO Title in JM Twitter Cards
JM Twitter Cards allows you to use a custom field for the title of the Twitter Card. This is handy if you want to control that text. What is tricky is if you don’t know (or don’t have) the custom field. Not all WordPress data has a custom field. Fortunately, you can use the “More Fields” plugin to create a custom field. Then, when you have created that custom field, you can copy and paste the name of the field into your “custom fields” section of your JM Twitter Card settings. This is a bit of an advanced topic, but it will help those of you who are stuck and want it to work the way you want it to work. Just keep in mind that More Fields is not necessarily the prettiest plugin (and it hasn’t been updated recently), but it does do the trick.
There you have it. Why you should use Twitter Cards, how you can implement them on your site and a couple of tips that may help you be even more creative (and get those Player Cards validated in no time!).