Is Text Killing Your Social Media?

I’m a words guy. 1,500 words a week on this blog and untold thousands on Twitter. Thousands more at work and that’s not even counting the love letters I write my wife. I like the written word. But maybe I’m just old-fashioned.

Because today, visually conveying information is where it’s at. From pictures to videos to infographics, text is seen as stodgy, out-of-date and stale. But it even goes beyond being cool. There’s real data that images do better on social media. We turn to our favorite social media data hounds, Buffer.

On Facebook:

1. Photo posts get 39% more interaction
Not only do photo posts get more engagement than links, videos or text-based updates, they actually account for 93% of the most engaging posts on Facebook. According to Kissmetrics, photos get 53% more likes, 104% more comments and 84% more click-throughs on links than text-based posts. And as we’ve mentioned before, self-explanatory photos seem to perform best.

On Twitter:

2. Tweets with image links get 2x the engagement rate of those without

These data are precipitating a huge change in how folks do social media:

But before marketers jump into this visual web, it’s important they take a step back and recognize that a new approach is required. No longer will quick-witted 140-character tweets and traditional monitoring tools be sufficient. In order to reap the benefits of image-driven engagement, marketers need to expand their current wheelhouse of social media knowledge and tools.

Below, you’ll see how images are changing the role of social media marketers and discuss three musts for brands that are eager to conquer the visual web:

1. Build art director skills.
As visual engagement grows, marketers will be required to produce great images that still fall within their branding. At the most basic level, they’ll need to understand what makes a great photograph — and it’s more than just implementing the “rule of thirds“.

2. Always be closing (carefully).
Pinterest and Instagram allow consumers to engage at a product level for the first time. Not only do they express interest in brands, but they also reveal the exact products they love down to the style, color and size. Social media teams now have the opportunity to gauge purchase intent in real time and push consumers to buy.

3. Research and master image marketing tools.
As mentioned earlier, images are being shared at a record pace. Without the ability to leverage this trend, brands have no part in the process. Luckily, dozens of platforms, services and tools have emerged to create an ecosystem of companies that are aligned by one common goal: to help brands market with pictures.

But wait, what’s better than pictures? Lots of pictures put together: videos! And with the explosion of popularity in short-form video like Vine and Instagram, there are folks who think video is the way to go:

Most of the time, though, I don’t want fantasy. I want authenticity. When I’m trying to capture my kid’s birthday party, I don’t want the best moments. I want the truest moments—I want to remember exactly what it felt like, what it sounded like, how frustrated and stressed-out and over-the-moon I was all at once. And for authenticity—or, better authenticity—videos handily beat photos.

But, you say, I’m so busy! How can I add videos to my repertoire? Well, the inimitable Kerry Shearer has some tips for you:

So, what do you think? Am I a dinosaur? Should this blog be just videos of me?

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Profile Photo Kevin Lanahan

There is always a place for text, but it depends on the audience you are trying to reach and the message you are trying to convey.

I think text formatting doesn’t get enough emphasis. I’ll read a long text post if it is chunked up with headings and lists so I can scan it. But a relevant image will encourage me to engage with the article.

So, yes, you are a dinosaur. But so are birds. No, you should not make videos if you don’t want to.

Profile Photo Jim Garrow


Thanks so much for your comment. It really comes back to designing for our audiences. There really isn’t a one-size-fits-all anymore. Images are great and can definitely help with engagement, but they’re definitely not a panacea.

You also raise a great point about design itself. So often, government communicators, especially at the local level are just the folks that are willing to talk to the media. They can lack necessary training in design, aesthetics, communication theory and a whole raft of other things that can make our messaging more effective.