March 7, 2013

To update an old saying for the Twitter era: A picture is worth a thousand characters.

Research by Twitter shows that tweets that include a photo or video receive 3 to 4 times more engagement (retweets, replies, etc.) than those that don’t.

That effect probably stems, partly, from Twitter’s redesign, which treats each tweet as a “card” that pulls in previews of articles, videos and photos. It puts multimedia right there in the Twitter stream where it is more eye-catching and engaging.

So, obviously, journalists would do well to try to post photos or video of news whenever they’re out in the field reporting. Share the views your journalistic access gives you. NBC News cameraman Jim Long (@newmediajim) is one of the best at this:

But even if you don’t have daily access to photo-worthy scenes, you can still use multimedia to enhance your tweets.

See how these examples from BuzzFeed and Life magazine make a tweet more interesting and engaging by embedding a related photo:


That will cost you an extra 20 characters for the photo link, but it seems worth it.

Here are some other ways you can tweet more multimedia that your followers might enjoy.

Share behind-the-scenes photos from your newsroom — quirks and traditions, a front-page design in progress or a fellow journalist at work. (Do ask colleagues before posting a photo of them or their work.)

Dig through archives or historical photos for old images that are newly significant today.

Search Twitter for other people’s photos by typing “” in the search box along with other keywords. Try filtering your search results to just “people you follow” for more relevant photos. (Bonus: When you use a link to someone else’s image, Twitter automatically credits the original uploader beneath the image preview in your tweet.)

Shoot videos on Vine, Twitter’s new short-video sharing network. Vine isn’t for all kinds of videos — you’re limited to six seconds and it has a certain jump-cut-heavy style. The format has become a sort of video haiku, which requires a bit of pre-planning for shot sequencing and duration.

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Jeff Sonderman ( is the Digital Media Fellow at The Poynter Institute. He focuses on innovations and strategies for mobile platforms and social media in…
Jeff Sonderman

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