A Picture Paints A Thousand Words On Twitter

An interesting blog post from Dan Zarrella piqued my attention this week. He has carried out a statistical analysis of over 400,000 randomly selected tweets to understand how often they got retweeted. The full article is available here: http://danzarrella.com/use-images-on-twitter-to-get-more-retweets.html#

What he found, whilst it shouldn’t be surprising, does make you pause for thought. You’re far more likely to gain a retweet by using Twitter’s native image uploading service (which shows up as a pic.twitter.com link and embeds the image into the tweet) than using Instagram, Facebook or Twitpic links in the tweet. Tweets including an embedded image are almost twice as likely to be retweeted as those without.

In fact, tweets originating from Instagram or Facebook actually decrease the likelihood of getting a retweet on Twitter versus a post with no link, by 42 percent and 47 percent respectively. Twitpic links do increase the likelihood of a retweet, although by less than a native Twitter embedded image.

The “why” behind these findings for Twitter’s native image hosting should not be that difficult to comprehend, but useful to bear in mind nonetheless, as we consider content marketing strategies. Seeing an image embedded within an actual twitter feed is bound to create greater engagement than an image that is one click away. This is the essence of Steve Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think” highly successful philosophy.

In addition, image based communication crosses borders far more effectively than written language, a fact that should not be lost on brands and organizations planning to use Twitter to reach a global audience. And that is exactly what brands and organizations should be using Twitter for, with 78 percent of Twitter’s users now outside the U.S. and the vast majority of Twitter’s growth coming from international audiences, according to Twitter’s own data.

What is less straightforward to understand is why Facebook and Instagram image links should actually decrease the likelihood of a retweet versus a tweet with no link in it whatsoever? Particularly considering Twitpic links increase the likelihood of a retweet. Is there some built-in prejudice that prevents you finding out what is at the end of that Instagram or Facebook link (a picture of someone’s meal or child respectively, with high likelihood, in my experience)? I know not, but find it fascinating that such behavior exists.

So, the learning from this study? One, if you want to reach a wider, international audience on Twitter, ensure you’ve got image content front-and-center in your editorial plan. Secondly, don’t be lazy and link your social media platforms together with a post-once – publish-many approach. Use Twitter’s native image hosting platform and see your engagement numbers skyrocket!

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