How Twitter’s Expanded Images Increase Clicks, Retweets and Favorites [New Data]

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I recently covered some big changes that Twitter has made, and here is another one. Twitter just added inline images to tweets so that you don’t need to click a link to see an attached image, but rather the Tweet itself expands. This only works with images uploaded directly to Twitter, which use a pic.twitter.com URL. If you Tweet a Vine video, you’ll also see this inline on Twitter.com or in the official Twitter apps for iPhone and Android.

On top of that, you can easily post any image you find on the web, straight as a fully expanded image to Twitter with Buffer’s browser extension.

How Twitter’s newly expanded Tweets stand out in the stream

Here’s what Tweets with images look like now on Twitter.com:

tweet 1

 

And here’s how it looks in the Twitter stream:

twitter stream

In the official Twitter apps for iPhone and Android, images are automatically expanded as a preview, and you can tap to open the full image. Here’s what the new Twitter stream looks like on Android:

twitter android

It’s not surprising that Twitter’s focusing on images and videos uploaded to the service itself, and in fact social media scientist Dan Zarrella found in research prior to this change that Tweets using pic.twitter.com links were 94% more likely to be Retweeted.

Dan also found that Tweets including Instagram links were 42% less likely to be Retweeted. I’m interested to see what kind of stats come up in Dan’s future Twitter research, after this change from the company itself.

How inline images have affected our engagement rates so far

We’ve been experimenting with this change by adding images to a lot of the tweets from our @buffer Twitter account and have noticed a big difference in the engagement we’re getting. To get a better idea of what a difference inline images has made, I took the last 100 tweets including a link from our @buffer accounts (not including any Retweets) and compared the averages of the tweets with and without images included.

Using Buffer’s built-in analytics, we were able to look at the number of clicks, favorites and Retweets each of our Tweets received.

buffer analytics

Here are the stats taken from averages of our last 100 Tweets.

The first data point we looked at was “clicks“. Here is the result:

clicks

Our click-rate did grow, but not by very much. My theory on this is that with an inline image, there’s more content for the user to consume without leaving Twitter (which is probably what Twitter wants), so they’re not much more likely to click-through. Of course, that’s just a theory so it’ll be interesting to see what the data says over a longer time period as we keep experimenting with this.

favs

Favorites increased quite a lot. Along with Retweets in the graph below, this shows a lot more engagement with the Tweets themselves. Clicks, on the other hand, show engagement with the original content. This could explain why clicks didn’t increase as much—if Twitter is hoping to increase engagement on average with Tweets within your stream, it appears it’s working from our early indications.

retweets

I’ve embedded the full list of analytics at the bottom of this post in case you want to take a look, and here’s a quick overview of the changes we’ve seen:

chart_1

How to make posting great Tweets with images easier

If you want to try adding images to your tweets to increase engagement, here are a couple of tips that work for us.

1. Right click any image on the web and “Buffer this image”

The Buffer browser extensions let you right-click on any image you find on a site and use it in your tweet. We automatically add the link of the page, so you can easily credit the owner of the image. This uploads the image to Twitter itself, which means Twitter will show it inline.

Here’s how to do that:

First, with the Buffer browser extension installed, right-click on an image and choose “Buffer This Image”:

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 8.10.32 AM
buffer image 2

The image will be added to your post in its full size:

data high

2. Matching your tweet to the image

Something to be particularly aware of now that images are displayed inline is that if you tweet the title of your article without explaining the image, it could be confusing for your followers. We found that writing a tweet which gives context to the image itself and simply including a link for our follwers to read more worked well.

So for example, the original title of the article below was: “The surprising history of the to-do list and how to design one that actually works”. Clearly, that caption doesn’t relate very well to the image.

So instead, we changed it to “This is Benjamin Franklin’s original to do list”, which was a much better caption and gave the Tweet a whopping 111 retweets:

tweet 3

3. Using variety to keep your followers engaged

It can be easy to get carried away with something that shows so much promise like this, but don’t forget that your followers probably want to see some variety from your Tweets. As you can see from our analytics near the top of this post, we’re still seeing some great engagement on Tweets that include a link without an image. In fact—that screenshot shows that link-based Tweets without images can get even more click-throughs that those with images.

A few ways to vary your Tweets are with the following;

  • quotes
  • link tweets
  • questions for your followers
  • facts

This is somewhat similar to the science of blogging. In the same way as you don’t want to make every single article a list post, it’s probably not the best idea to make every single Tweet an image Tweet.

What this could mean for Twitter

Big things are happening at Twitter right now. Having just announced the company’s IPO, there’s no slowing down on new features. In fact, just today another one was announced: custom timelines for TweetDeck. So where is the company heading? It’s hard to guess from the outside but it probably wouldn’t be a big leap to imagine more inline media in the future.

Some people have pointed out how advertising could become a bigger part of Twitter’s strategy, with inline media helping to encourage more of that. Others have pointed out that words are taking a backseat in social media these days, with images and other rich media becoming more of a focus. What do you think is coming for Twitter? Let us know in the comments.

Be sure to try Tweeting images with the Buffer browser extension and see if you’re getting the same results as we have seen above. We’d love to see how this works out for you.

P.S. If you liked this post, you might also like The surprising history of Twitter’s hashtag and 4 ways to get the most out of them and 7 Big, Recent Twitter Changes you Should Know About to Optimize Your Tweeting

Image credits: Android Community

Check out the full stats used for our analysis as a spreadsheet or images one and two. From left to right, the column contain number of Retweets, Favorites and Clicks. Tweets with images are color-coded green.

  • http://www.sparringmind.com Gregory Ciotti

    Can’t argue with this, but I don’t have to like it either.

    The problem is most people don’t re-frame or choose relevant images like you guys are doing; my Twitter stream is now a flurry of random images from people trying to get me to click stuff.

    Time to unfollow a few folks abusing these images, me thinks.

    • LeoWid

      Hi Greg, I completely agree! I think re-framing and making the image match your caption is absolutely key. We found that it can go completely the opposite (less engagement, clicks, etc) if they don’t match up. And the better the match between image and caption, the higher the engagement (that’s just a hypothesis, but hope to prove that one too!)

      • Aaron Musick

        It’s a visual world we live in. At some point you have to communicate with images. This is why I love Buffer. Images fit your stories perfectly.

    • Aaron Musick

      I really hate logging onto an article where the picture and article do not match up. It’s like looking at a tray of cookies that smell like turkey.

      Or when people get a 200×150 picture into a 300X300 frame.

  • http://www.johnrmeese.com/p/about-me.html John Meese

    Love this! Thanks for staying on top of social media research, and sharing your results.

    Also, I think a key for the data is a must. As it is, I see three columns of numbers without headers on the Buffer tweet stats, which is a little confusing.

    • http://www.johnrmeese.com/p/about-me.html John Meese

      I’m sorry, I see now that “100″ and “tweets” each link to different pages. That makes a lot more sense now, just the second page can’t stand alone. Are the tweets highlighted in green those with pictures?

      • LeoWid

        Hi John, thanks for stopping by and great point! You’re right, we should have made that much more obvious. Yup, that’s correct, the green ones are the ones with images and the rest are just links.

        So excited to see these Twitter changes, curious how this’ll play out in the long term!

  • Jo Gifford

    Thanks Belle Beth! It seems every channel responds better with visual stimulus, we re getting text fatigue I think! :)

    • Belle

      You might be right there, Jo!

  • http://www.recensopoli.it Bruno B

    I just noticed today that expanded Tweets don’t have the “Buffer” button in Chrome with the Buffer extension installed: to buffer a tweet with an inline image you have to open it separately. It can be seen also in the 2nd image in this post. Just wanted to point this out to you. :) Thanks for the great service!

    • Belle

      You’re right about this, Bruno. Apologies—I should have mentioned that it only works with the extensions in Firefox and Chrome.

    • carokopp

      Hi Bruno! Ah, yes, you’re right. I think we’re trying to figure out how to make this happen. In the meantime, you can click the retweet button and then click to Buffer from there. :) Looks like this: http://cl.ly/image/3h1j0F3N091r

      Let me know if you have any questions about that process!

      • http://www.recensopoli.it Bruno B

        That’s right, thank you! :)

  • Angela Booth

    I’m on a Mac, and the Buffer extension doesn’t seem to work with images in Safari. I get nothing from the right-click menu, even though I can use the extension from the toolbar to Buffer pages.

    The right-click “Buffer this Image” works in Chrome however. Not a huge problem, but if anyone’s had any luck in Buffering images in Safari on a Mac, I’d love to know how you did it.

    • carokopp

      Hi Angela! Sorry about that, you’re 100% right. This is only possible in Chrome and Firefox, I’m afraid. It’s not possible in Safari. Let us know if you have any other questions at all!

  • http://brianjenningsblog.com/ Brian Jennings

    This is excellent research. Thanks. Do you think there is any value in usually including the same hashtag as a reminder of one’s vision. I do volunteer work for @blackboxintl and we include #storymustchange in most tweets. Is this useful or annoying.

  • kbradnam

    Interesting stuff. Have you ever tried tweeting the exact same tweet with and without an image (at different times or on different days)?

    A really cool test would be to employ your legion of Buffer fans (‘Buffers’?) and get one group to tweet a link with image and another group to tweet the same link without an image at the *exact* same time. Then repeat an hour or so later, but reversing the roles of with/without image.

    I can imagine many more experiments along these lines (e.g. do images of people/animals get more retweets)! :-)

    • http://www.perpettersson.nu/ Per Pettersson

      I’m eager to know this as well. Looking at different messages doesn’t tell us if it’s the images or the message itself. If the data is just taken from a random selection of messages, this says nothing.

      • Courtney Seiter

        Great thoughts, both of you! I hope this is an experiment we can do soon and report back about!

        • http://www.perpettersson.nu/ Per Pettersson

          THAT would be very interesting to read.

  • Manuel Siordia

    I have also found great success using images on twitter. It’s like day and night for me, the links have almost zero RTs while twits with images have 30+ RTs and lots of favs. Thanks for all the info!

  • http://www.zulhilmizainudin.com/ Zulhilmi Zainudin

    ‘Buffer this image’ is not working on Instagram web.

    • carokopp

      Oh, interesting, thanks so much for mentioning this. Hmm, perhaps it’s not treated as a normal image for some reason. I’ll mention this to the team. Thank you, Zulhilmi!

      • http://www.zulhilmizainudin.com/ Zulhilmi Zainudin

        Sure! Hope you can fix it and auto-upload the Instagram photo(s) to Twitter too with the Instagram photo link(s).

  • http://www.kalyr.com/weblog Tim Hall

    Immediately after inline images went live my timeline got flooded with low-quality images; things like blurry phonecam shots of whiteboards at conferences, and nauseating Facebook-style platitude-memes. After unfollowing quite a few people some intrusive and unwelcome promoted tweets with images were the last straw. I have now stuck a fork in Twitter.com and now use Tweetdeck exclusively on the desktop.

    There is a *lot* of concern about NSFW images too.

    I see this move as a major dumbing down of Twitter. Great for marketeers, great for the people with nothing original so say who I tend to mute on Facebook. For grown-ups who want a conversation space, not so good.

  • Rocco from NJ

    This may be a rudimentary question but does this apply to ads.twitter.com? Don’t image clicks on Twitter count as “clicks” with the potential to leave you on Twitter, and not bringing you to the website? So basically does that mean I’d be paying for an image click?

  • Javi

    In my case, new expanded images just increase the unfollow rate.

  • Jan Zając

    Hi Beth, thanks for this interesting study.

    It actually inspired us at Sotrender to analyze the impact of pics, videos and favs for other profiles – 500 biggest brands on Twitter. The impact is clearly visible, alike implications for marketers and community managers.

    We just published the results at our blog: http://blog.sotrender.com/2013/11/photos-on-twitter/ – you’re more than welcome to have a look.

  • http://www.viptwitter.com/ viptwitter

    Hi Beth, this is excellent research. There is one more social networking site for vips http://www.viptwitter.com which has combined feature of facebook and twitter.

  • http://eurapart.com John Williams

    Sure you cab unfollow anyone if you don’t like their stream. Then they will reciprocate. Lose, lose. Why not use Twitter lists to follow the Tweeps you are most interested in?
    This way the stream can be categorised and is more meaningful. You can even use Private Lists to ensure you don’t miss your friends’ tweets amidst the noise. Win , win.

  • http://www.aismedia.com/ Thomas Harpointner

    Great article Belle! Thanks for for sharing your insights.

  • http://javarevisited.blogspot.com/ Javin Paul

    Is there a setting for that, I have tried posted images but they appear as link not inline?

  • mukasin

    can someone please tell me why my tweets doesn’t have inline photo? there is only view photo link and nothing else :(

  • seal27

    If we send Pictures from pinterest to Twitter but buffer them will they be treated as an inline image?

  • tejaswini

    Really very very useful all these tools for SEO Analyst … Thanks for sharing this :)

  • Mark

    I’ve tried doing this, but my pic doesn’t show up. Users still have to click “view photo.” Not sure what’s wrong.

  • Rachael_ForOne,Too

    What does the size of the image on Twitter need to be so that it properly shows up? I notice sometimes my square images only show up as a link. Thanks!

  • PeterTrapasso

    The image appearing vs. the “View Photo” link is VERY inconsistent. Sometimes the photo appears, but other times the dreaded “View Photo.”

    How can I make sure that the image appears every time in my Tweets?

    Any advice step-by-step?

    Thank you,

    Pete

  • emy
  • http://www.mancinimarco.com/ mancinimarco.com

    Good article, but I’ m still confused about images in tweet. Why for some people they always appear expanded and not for others?

    • slconfidential

      I wonder that myself, but I notice here that many folks have ask that question and the reply is …………Silence.

      • Courtney Seiter

        Hey guys! Twitter’s in-stream preview is 440 pixels wide and 220 pixels tall (a 2:1 ratio). So any horizontal image will be cut off at the top and bottom but not at the sides. I’m not entirely sure, but maybe images that stray too far out from this ratio can’t be shown in preview? Social Media Examiner has a great post that breaks down a lot of these issies; maybe it can help you: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/twitter-in-stream-images/

  • Abdul Hashim

    This is a great, excellent plugin made exactly for its purpose, great job, luv it! ;-)