Hootsuite – What 20,000 Tweets Taught Us About Twitter Images
May 25, 2015
By Evan Lepage
Scroll through your Twitter feed. Which messages catch your eye? The ones with great images, right?
Every Tweet that you send without an attached image is a missed opportunity. But simply throwing an image on every Tweet isn’t enough anymore. If you’re trying to separate yourself from the noise, choosing the right image is essential.
Of course, just as there are a number of factors which make certain images more effective than others on social media, the success of a Tweet is based on even greater number of factors: the composition of your audience, the substance and quality of your content, the Tweet copy and the images. All of these factors are important—you can’t rely on one and hope it will compensate for the others.
For this reason, it’s vital that you learn what works for you by testing all of these factors individually and analyzing the results. We do this every day, and breaking down the performance of thousands of Tweets has allowed us to hone in on Twitter images specifically.
Here are 5 good and 5 bad Twitter images and what they taught us about choosing visuals for Tweets.
Lessons from 5 good Twitter images
Words within images—A killer combination
The old cliche ‘an image is worth 1,000 words’ seems very poignant when you’re limited to 140 characters. However, when your image is placed in a stream with 1,000 other images, that value might not be so obvious to your followers. On Twitter, we may need to update that expression to “an image with words is worth 1,000 clicks.”
This may come as a surprise to some, but Twitter images that combine text with photos or design are actually quite powerful for two main reasons.
First, words force a user to slow down their scrolling, to take an extra second or two to look at your Tweet. This is exactly what you want, since those extra few seconds of attention are far more likely to lead to social media engagement or a click on your link. If you can make a person stop scrolling, your Twitter image has done its job. The above image isn’t particularly appealing from an aesthetic standpoint, but people stopped to read the text in each level of the pyramid and because they stopped many of them ended up on our blog. In addition to the over 180 retweets and 120 favorites, the url within that Tweet was clicked 1,274 times—significantly above our average click-through.
The second reason images with words are so powerful is that words add context. When you’re so limited by space, you might want to have a great image that isn’t necessarily explained by the Tweet copy or vice versa. By including text within the image, you get to add context so that your Tweet copy can be self-sustaining. This saves you precious characters and allows you to focus on making both the text and the images as strong as they can be.
Get things moving—Use gifs
When people are scrolling through their Twitter feeds, how long do you think you have to capture their attention? Five seconds? Three seconds? One second? Your image needs to pack a serious punch in that very short time span, which is what makes gifs such an effective tool on Twitter.
Regardless of how you pronounce them, gifs are a powerful visual tool because of their short duration and how they stand-out an otherwise largely static page. Gifs don’t autoplay on Twitter, but that big play symbol has proven to be tempting enough to stop people in their tracks. We’ve found that gifs increase our engagements on Tweets, specifically the number of people who share and retweet our messages. The following Tweet was retweeted and favorited over 80 times respectively, and drew over 760 link clicks.
We created the above gif ourselves, which is great for businesses that have the resources. Unfortunately many businesses don’t have the resources or know-how, so a gif database like giphy.com is worth bookmarking. You can find a gif for almost any situation or context. Generally gifs lean towards the humorous, as well, which is a positive since people respond to humor on social media.
Of course, you shouldn’t be using gifs for every post, and maybe not even every day. Use them sparingly, only when they really fit the content, and they’ll come as a surprise and a treat to your followers.
Image cliches are cliches because they work
When someone makes a joke about social media and images, it probably involves a cute animal, a meal or a sunset. These images do make up a large part of what you’ll see on social media, so you should avoid them right? The opposite is true. They are cliches for a reason: because people love them. People love looking at food and cute animals. They love laughing at the same memes over and over again. If you use images that fall into these categories, you’re probably going to increase your engagement. It works for us.
In the social media and tech worlds, a desk shot—often an overhead image of a laptop on a pretty wooden surface—has become pretty cliched. And we absolutely use this style of image on Twitter, to great success.
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