So Twitter released its new design and layout and, honestly, here was my first thought:

It looks just like Pinterest.

I mean, sure, there are some differences, but the masonry layout, image-heavy design, and categorization look very similar to its competitor.  Here are the two side-by-side:


the new twitter layout is an excellent example of visual social media
this pinterest layout is a great example of visual social media

Of course, I don’t think they’re actually the same, or that Twitter was trying to copy Pinterest.  Instead, I think this is an excellent indication of a shift in visual social media interaction and mindset towards visual imagery.

This shift has been on the rise for a while now, from Twitter’s 140-character word limit (they no longer include images in that word count!) to the creation of platforms like Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat, where absolutely no words are required.

Images lead to more engagement on social media

Studies have shown that Tweets with images receive 150% more retweets than Tweets without images.

Photos also have an 87% interaction rate on Facebook, trumping all other types of posts dramatically!

Why?  Think about it.  When you’re scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed, you’re basically skimming information.  There are hundreds of posts from your friends about how they spent their day and articles about the latest industry trends from the business pages that you follow. What makes you stop and like, comment on, or share the posts that you do?  Most likely, you share the funny cat video that your friend posted, like the adorable photo of your cousin’s baby, and comment on the interesting graffiti art that one of your favorite pages posted.

Photos and videos grab your attention – they stand out from the otherwise massive wall of text!   They make you smile, cry, or laugh.  In fact, human faces make it easy for you to connect emotionally with a brand, product, or idea.

Pictures stand out and grab attention

So why is it exactly that images make us stop in our tracks?

  • They break up the monotony of text
  • They can express much more than images can – action, emotion, mood, etc.
  • They engage a different part of your brain than text; putting them with words utilizes even more of your viewers’ brain!
  • They allow for more associations than text and can invoke memories or past experiences in your audiences’ minds
  • Our brains are wired to react to bright colors – incorporating those colors in photos immediately draws attention

For visual social media platforms, image-focused layouts draw people in.  They make streams of information easier to process faster and on-the-go. Images show up particularly well on social media apps, where they take up the bulk of the mobile screen.  They also make for more successful business accounts and advertisements, which is where platforms typically bring in income.

Visual social media elements can simplify difficult concepts

Do you know that people process visual information 60,000 times faster than text?

This means that photos and graphics make it easier for us to understand difficult or complex concepts quickly.  Think about medical journals and textbooks – they often include diagrams that outline the principles that they’re explaining.  Take a look at the infographic below.

this infographic is a great example of visual social media

The use of visuals and way in which the information is presented make the statistics about the Harry Potter books clear and easy to visualize. Imagine the same information written out over several paragraphs – especially on social media!  No one would take the time to consume that on their phone or while scrolling through their newsfeed.

The same thing goes for charts and graphs, as well as videos and photographs.  Showing exactly what you mean rather than simply writing it helps people understand exactly what you mean faster and easier.

How do I focus on visual social media?

Start making it a goal to use photos with more of your social media posts, even on platforms that aren’t completely image-focused (like Instagram and Pinterest are).  Take pictures of your office, your employees, and your work.  Add images to the blog posts that you’re sharing on your social media.  Take a short video that explains how to do something or shows you making your product.  Share images that inspire you, or even turn quotes or statistics into appealing, colorful word art.

If it’s difficult for you to take your own photographs, then you can use free-for-commercial-use stock image sites such as Pixabay and Pexels. For even better images, Photodune, iStockPhoto and Shutterstock have reasonably-priced photos as well.

If you’re interested in creating infographics, but aren’t familiar with software like Adobe Illustrator, Canva and Piktochart provide easy, free resources to create them online.

Another fun way to incorporate more visuals is to get your audience involved!  Hold a photo contest, and give a prize to the winner who gets the most likes, or feature their winning picture on your blog!

The point is: be creative.  There are endless ways to take advantage of image-heavy social media platforms.  Just get out there and have fun with it!