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Images are now mandatory in social media content

I first told you that Pinterest redefined social media from being mostly text to being mostly photos, illustrations, graphics, and infographics. Now, illustrating your content is not just preferable, it’s mandatory.  Facebook, Google+, and Twitter have become much better at following links and automagically populating your shares with photos, videos, titles, and teasers (instead of just making your links hot); aggregator sites such as The Huffington Post and link-share and social bookmarking sites also spider the link, proffering a selection of images to choose from to be associated with each submission.

If your goal is to be shared or read and you’re participating in social media in order to further your personal or corporate brand, then blog, tweet, Facebook, Tumbl, and Posterous without illustrating that content with a photo, chart, illustration, pull-quote, logo, portrait, or infographic at your own peril.

I have sort of known this for years, especially since I share like crazy. I knew that digg and reddit always looked for an illustrative graphics file every time I would submit a link and I knew that Facebook and Twitter would even give me the option of choosing which photo would best define my thousand words — I knew that.

But it wasn’t until I heard that Flipboard had really grown up and matured to include Google+ and Instagram — as well as rich-content like in-line podcasts and videos — that I took another look and my hat blew off!  And I bloody love it (and I get why you all have loved it forever, but I was very old school and did my reading via Google Reader on the web and Reeder on my iPhone).

Flipboard is an app for smart phones and tablets. Until recently, it only offered apps for iOS devices but it’s now Android-friendly.  It takes all your own personal social media walls and streams and mashes them together with breaking news, sponsored content, topical content (you can choose from a dozen topics, including Fashion, Style, Design, Technology, Entertainment, etc), and my very mature and awesome collection of RSS news feeds via my Google Reader and reformats and displays them to look very much like an eBook or digital version of the New York Times, Wired, National Geographic, or whatnot — rife with illustrations, cover stories, pull quotes, and panoramic photos.

It is really mesmerizing.  Now my Klout score is going through the roof because reading content from the 12k folks I follow on Twitter and the 4,800 I follow on Facebook and on Google+, and the thousands of feeds I have imported to Google Reeder is a morning breeze!  I love it.  I am engaging more, I am listening better, I am missing less, and I am generally entertained.  I am finally doing what I said that you should do: listen 80% and talk 20% (who has the time, right?)

I have been paying attention to my reading habits, too.  And I am drawn to pretty things: embedded video content, audio content, infographics, photos of pretty girls, photos in general, scenics — actually, I am almost only drawn to content that has an associated visual element.

It’s impossible not to be drawn to these rich-content posts because Flipboard always gives them at least a quarter of the page but often gives closer to 1/3 to half the page — even for content that is brief.  A good, high-quality, high-resolution image always gets you better visibility as simple tweets or Facebook posts without a visual component always just gets pulled together into a list to the side, crushed together with all the other text-only tweets.

Links to other articles with visual content also works because Flipboard populates your Twitter RTs with the destination’s graphic elements as well as makes it simple to read that target content inline with the Flipbook app — very seamless and also very easy to share, retweet (so, in many way, the very best solution is to Facebook, tweet, and G+ longer-form content that, itself, is well-illustrated with photos, videos, infographics, or attractive people.

One piece of advice for all the jerks who only share content teasers on their magazines or blogs, requiring me to leave Google Reader or whatever reader I am using and head off to your site, you had better put that illustration at the top because if it is below the “more” link, it won’t be of much benefit to sites like Flipboard and the other aggregators — though I hate that tactic, I understand that you have an ad revenue model and that you really would love to control the conversation a little bit more and maybe get some new readers and maybe a few comments — I get it, I get it.  That said, heed my words and make sure there’s at least one photo of Lindsay Lohan before the “click to read more” link — otherwise, you’ll not only lose me but quite a few others — who can resist good dirt on Miss Lindsay?

Since I am trying to relate to my friends on Flipboard, I try to slow down and read the naked tweets and Facebook posts that are just lonely, lonely, 140-character blobs — but if I were less in love with my friends, I would really just blow all of those off and, instead, just dance around the colorful expanse of the nicer, kinder, prettier world of the illustrated web.

Mind you, that’s just me — but I tend to do all of my best cultural extrapolation with just the one data point: me.  Even so, if you really want to draw the attention (and clicks through, reads, Likes, stars, favorites, retweets and shares) from your readers, use a picture.

Chris Abraham

Chris Abraham, digital strategist and technologist, is a leading expert in digital: search engine optimization (SEO), online relationship management (ORM), Internet privacy, Wikipedia curationsocial media strategy, and online public relations with a focus on blogger outreachinfluencer engagement, and Internet crisis response, with the digital PR and social media marketing agency Gerris digital. [Feel free to self-schedule a 15-minute call, a 30-minute call, or a 60-minute call with me] A pioneer in online social networks and publishing, with a natural facility for anticipating the next big thing, Chris is an Internet analyst, web strategy consultant and adviser to the industries' leading firms. Chris Abraham specializes in web technologies, including content marketing, online collaboration, blogging, and consumer generated media.  Chris Abraham was named a Top 50 Social Media Power Influencer by Forbes, #1 PR2.0 Influencer by Traackr, and top-10 social media influencers by Marketwire; and, for what it’s worth, Chris has a Klout of 79 the last time he looked. Chris Abraham started doing web development back in 1994, SEO in 1998, blogging in 1999, influencer engagement in 2003, social media strategy in 2005, blogger outreach in 2006, and Wikipedia curation in 2007. Feel free to self-schedule a 15-minute call, a 30-minute call, or a 60-minute call. If you want to know the services that Chris offers check out Services If you want to work with Chris use the Contact Form You're welcome to follow me via Social Media You can learn more about Chris over in About Chris writes a lot so check out the Blog Chris offers webinars so check Events

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