Do Images Really Make the Best Facebook Posts?
Long-time Facebook users may remember the good 'ole days, when whatever you posted could be seen by whomever was following you. No matter what you shared, if someone checked their news feed, they'd have an opportunity to notice your post.
Those days are long gone.
Thanks to Facebook's EdgeRank, now, every time you share an update, an algorithm is applied that determines, out of all your current followers, which ones will actually have an opportunity to see it. The algorithm is supposed to be designed to help Facebook users see the posts that are most likely to interest them.
So as a result, savvy marketers have been looking for ways to improve their EdgeRank and get their posts seen by more of their followers, without having to pay Facebook to promote the post. People have been advised to ask questions and share updates that are more likely to get Liked or received comments. They've also been advised to always include an image, because people tend to like images more. But is that advice still valid? Will including an image positively impact your EdgeRank, and does it matter if it's an image as part of a link preview, or should it be a full image?
Additional Reading: The Facebook Hack That Will 10x Your Reach
Let's review the three different post options, and then take a look at some data.
A full image post is one where you actually upload an image to Facebook and share it. You can and should still include some text, and if it's related to an article you've written, you can include a link t the article within the description.
Image as part of a linked article
When you share a link to Facebook, Facebook will attempt to create a "preview" of that link by grabbing the title of the linked article, a thumbnail image if there is one, and a description. All of these values can be dictated using the Open Graph meta tags. You still have the option of writing a description, and can include additional links, but no full attached image.
No image at all
And of course you can choose to include no image at all. Your description is text only. Links can be included in the text, but are posted without a preview.
Over the course of the past few months, I have been deliberately mixing up how posts are made to The Social Media Hat's Facebook Page using all three of these methods. The results, I think, will surprise you.
Facebook provides Page Managers with the Reach of each post. That's the total of people who have "seen" your post. That means that the post was in their news feed while they were scrolling through it, but it doesn't necessarily mean that they read it, and click-throughs on included links are tallied separately. If someone Likes or Comments or Shares a post, it's possible for the Reach to be amplified to include other people who may have seen that activity.
While we cannot simply look at every kind of post and compare Reach, since older posts will naturally have higher Reach numbers than more recent posts, we can compare different kinds of posts that occurred within the same relative time period - within 24-48 hours.
This text post shared on June 14 acheived a Reach of 776, received 5 Likes and was Shared 3 times.
This link preview post, shared on the same day, achieved a Reach of just 71.
This link preview post, shared on June 19, was Shared once and Liked by three people, yet still only had a Reach of 70.
This text post, shared the same day, with no shares and likes, achieved a Reach of 186.
This image post was shared on June 20, received two Likes, yet reached just 77 people.
This text post, shared a day later, reached over 200 people.
As you can see, for this Facebook Page at least, text only updates draw the most views. That means that when I post text only updates, the Facebook EdgeRank algorithm favors those posts and allows them to be seen by more of my followers.
This is completely contrary to what was perceived to be "conventional" wisdom with regard to posting images and links.
The images and links that I posted actually performed half as well. That's a startling and alarming trend that Page owners need to be aware of. If your status updates perform anything like mine, you're going to want to favor text only updates more than images or link previews.
I still recommend that businesses post pictures and include article previews so that your Page posts are varied and visually interesting. But it also means that not only do you need to include text only updates in your mix, but that you may also want to include more than the rest.
If you've already been posting a mix, log into Facebook and look at your Page. You can scroll back through your old posts and look at the Reach value on each. How do your image posts compare to your text only posts? Are you seeing the same results that I have? Or, if you haven't been mixing up your posts, try it for a few weeks and see if you notice a difference.
Please share a link to your Facebook Page and let me know what you've noticed about your post reach. And if you'd like help with Facebook and understanding how to best promote your business, contact me.
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By Mike Allton, Content Marketing Practitioner
Mike is a Content Marketing Practitioner - a title he invented to represent his holistic approach to content marketing that leverages blogging, social media, email marketing and SEO to drive traffic, generate leads, and convert those leads into sales. He is an award-winning Blogger, Speaker, and Author at The Social Media Hat, and Brand Evangelist at Agorapulse (formerly CMO at SiteSell).
As Brand Evangelist, Mike works directly with other social media educators, influencers, agencies and brands to explore and develop profitable relationships with Agorapulse.Follow @Mike_Allton