The beauty of social media marketing is that it offers businesses of any size the opportunity to reach out to thousands of potential followers at any point of the day. The unfortunate downside of social media marketing is that you must develop a "shareable" or "likeable" strategy in order to be successful. When it comes to inspiring content sharing and likes, you must make the ultimate choice of whether to use an image or words.
Knowing when to use an image and when to use words to convey your message can be quite a challenge if you don't know your audience. Understanding the preferences of your followers is the first step toward creating a strong social media post. For example, during the Oscars, host Ellen DeGeneres successfully created the most retweeted tweet (say that five times fast) through the use of an image. In doing so, she shattered the previously conceived notion that Twitter was primarily for using hashtags and minimalist wording. The fact that an image replaced a previously high-stakes word game shows the incredible importance of knowing your audience.
In the previous example, the photograph showed a handful of A-list celebrities. The people retweeting the photo heard about it by watching the Oscars—an awards show featuring A-list celebrities. If you add the two together, it makes complete sense that Ellen chose to use an image over a tweet like, "Hanging with #celebrities @TheOscars #lifeisawesome #epic #2014." She then could have gone on to tag all of the celebrities. However, the latter strategy wouldn't have become the most retweeted tweet at a show for which the focus is on visual appearances. And so, she rightfully chose an image over words. The result was the tweet seen around the world.
At the end of the day, knowing when to use a photograph (or graphic of some sort) and when to use your words can mean all the difference between gaining incredible visibility or being lost in the constantly updating social media news feeds. Understanding the social platform that you’re sharing content on is also important. While Twitter is traditionally dominated by words, Facebook users seem to respond to image centric content. Your content should be crafted to fit the accepted standards of each social platform.
With this in mind, there are a few social media networks that require the use of photographs or videos: Vine, Instagram and YouTube, for example. However, even in these instances, you must decide whether words should be inlayed over your still images or whether still frames with words should replace b-roll. The answer to these questions will depend on an understanding of your audience's preferences.