The number one tip for increasing social media engagement is to include graphics, videos, and other visual items in your post. An image, even a simple one, can dramatically improve the click-through volume to your site.
But, Twitter is a text medium. Including images, with tweets your site visitors send from Tweet This, is a challenge. But it’s not impossible. This post details a few strategies for including graphical content with your tweets.
Okay, you can put away the evil mastermind mindset now. Hopefully that little thought experiment showed how important it is for Twitter to put restrictions and controls on the capability Tweet This takes advantage of. There are two primary controls Twitter uses. The first is independent verification of content before tweeting.
You know that pop-up windows that appears when you click a Tweet This box or link?
That’s independent content verification. A Twitter hosted and managed pop-up window appears, showing precisely what the user will send before they submit it. This keeps the evil masterminds among us from tricking poor users into posting things they don’t want to post.
The second control is preventing the uploading of images on another person’s behalf. You can’t make the user culpable in the serving of inappropriate images. You have to upload the image, or get the image from somewhere else. You can’t make the user do it. This provides a trail back to you, should the image be inappropriate, and provides plausible deniability for the user, should there be negative fallout.
These restrictions prevent easy inclusion of graphics in Tweet This. But, there are a few workarounds that you can take advantage of.
Solution #1: Upload Graphics Yourself & Link to Them
This is the most straightforward solution, and works similarly to normal Twitter image uploads. All you need to do is upload your desired graphic somewhere and copy and paste the link to it into your Tweet This shortcode. I recommend using the hidden URLs feature to accomplish this so your Tweet This boxes and links will not show the ugly picture link, but the resultant tweet will have it.
Simply upload your image somewhere, then put the link in your Tweet This shortcode.
If you don’t care about image previews, then any upload place will work. However, if you want Twitter to display the picture automatically, like in the screenshot below, there is a catch.
To display previews like that, the graphic will need to be uploaded to Twitter and you’ll need its http://pic.twitter.com link. So, you’ll need to tweet out the image first, then hunt for the URL. The easiest way to get the picture link is to pretend you are going to retweet the post with the desired image. When you click the retweet button, you’ll see a confirmation pop-up. In it, is the link:
Copy and paste that link into the shortcode creator. Again, I recommend using the hidden URL to keep your Tweet This box looking pretty. See the series of screenshots below showing the process and result:
This isn’t the smoothest process, but it works, and is the most flexible.
Solution #2: Twitter Cards
Twitter has a feature, called Cards, that allow the display of rich photos, videos, media, and more. They are used to provide link previews within a Twitter stream, much like Facebook’s link previews. With Cards, you can specify a title, description, and image for your post, and you have a few options for how they are displayed. Here’s an example:
Check out this fantastical article written about Tweet This! http://t.co/zALxPtr9N5
— Tweet This (@ttplugin) April 3, 2015
In many cases, this is more useful than a simple graphic, and it is far simpler to make this work than it is to include a graphic the way described above. There are, however, two downsides. First, Twitter Cards require manual expansion by users in the Twitter stream. Second, the image and text shown is tied to the article, and can’t be tailored to specific tweets. This means these Cards aren’t as obvious or eye-catching as a photo using the method above, and they’re not as flexible.
If you want to enable Twitter cards for your site, you’ll need to do two things. First, you must add meta tags to your site’s HTML code. Don’t worry, this is much easier than it sounds, if you use a plugin. I highly recommend the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin. It has a number of great, and important, features. Twitter Card support is one.
Simply follow the instructions on the plugin’s website to setup Twitter cards and you’re good to go. The second task is to validate a link on your site so Twitter knows to start generating Cards. Copy a link to one of your articles and paste it in the form at this website: https://cards-dev.twitter.com/validator. Then click “Preview Card.” Assuming validation is successful, your site will now generate Twitter Cards.
The WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin will automatically generate titles, descriptions, and images for your Twitter Cards based on your post’s information. Or you can manually alter them for each post, if desired, by filling in the fields under your post editor.
Once finished, every time someone sends a tweet with a URL from your site, it will include a Twitter Card. Here’s an example of this in action.
— Tweet This (@ttplugin) April 3, 2015
Graphical content vastly improves user engagement with your tweets. But, Twitter is, first and foremost, a text medium, and that means it’s difficult to include those graphics. Especially on behalf of someone else.
Fortunately, there are a few tricks you can use. First is to include a link to an existing photo on Twitter. Second is to setup Twitter Cards for your site.