Twitter photos boost the number of retweets users receive.
Marketing Social Media

Twitter Photos Spur Retweets, but Results Vary by Industry


Want your tweets to nab more attention? Photos can help.

Recent data from Twitter headquarters reports that tweets featuring photos or video get more retweets than those without visual media. According to the study, Twitter photos (URLs) are retweeted 35 percent more than tweets with text alone, while video links bring in 28 percent more retweets. Other features can help a tweet get passed along, but the results tend to be weaker than visual media: Quotes in the text, for example, raise a tweet’s sharability by 19 percent, while a hashtag boosts it by 16 percent.

Twitter put together these findings using two million tweets from users over the course of a month. The results support data from another study conducted by HubSpot’s Dan Zarella in October 2013, which examined how photos were used in tweets. While Twitter’s data discussed the presence of URLs in tweets, Zarella looked at whether photos were visible in the tweet itself. In his research, having the photo visible was by far the most successful; those tweets were 94 percent more likely to be passed along.

While attaching visual media is a proven strategy for boosting many organizations’ retweet numbers, Twitter’s data indicated that the results vary widely by industry.

For example, news organizations got the best results by adding a photo URL in the tweet—with 27 percent higher retweet figures—while video URLs earned 15 percent rates. But for television organizations, visual media was actually less influential than including a quote in the text. That tactic earned a 53 percent bump in retweets, while video was at 48 percent, and a photo URL ranked third place with 46 percent.

As Mashable commented, “Adding a photo generally appears to be the easiest way to garner retweets, but each industry has its own secret formula.”

Engagement Is Key

For content marketers, engagement is the biggest component in measuring success in social media. Retweets, mentions, and favorites are a direct measurement of engagement on Twitter, so paying attention to what is contained in each tweet is essential. Results will not be optimized when brands tweet blindly.

Each tweet must be targeted both in form and content to reach a particular audience. Because Twitter data shows the disparities between different industries’ retweet rates, smart strategy calls for tailoring tweets to what will be most effective for individual companies. With this in mind, social media strategies must be crafted to maximize the effectiveness of every tweet, and Twitter photos and videos appear to have a direct advantage toward increasing awareness and engagement.

Brenda Barron is a writer and social media strategist from southern California. She primarily writes about the convergence of technology and business, with an emphasis on social media and content marketing. Outside of The Content Standard, her work appears on sites like Brandxten, The Motley Fool, and the Intuit Small Business Blog.

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