Pictures + words = better social sharing
You’ve seen them: pictures with words embedded in them, and words presented as images. They’re everywhere across the web. Some are memes, but more are quotes, advice, and inspirational sayings.
— Tim Fargo (@alphabetsuccess) June 9, 2014
People identify with quotes and jokes and insights, and then they share them, both to help others and to say what they themselves are about.
They’re also a great way to spread the word about an upcoming event:
You don’t always need to have a photo or image in the background. The words themselves can be the image.
For more ideas of how images and words can complement each other (and for a little inspiration to go with), check out the images in this Huffington Post article listing wise quotes by Bill Murray.
And it’s not all decoration: There’s research to show that tweets and posts using images with embedded text get more shares and interaction. See for example “Stop Trying to Get Your Blog Posts Shared and Do This Instead” and “A/B Test: Why You Need to Include Photos in Your Tweets.”
Now that you’re sold on the plan to add thoughts and quotes in this form to your content mix, in a way that fits with your overall message, how can you create these images?
- If you have an image editor, like Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Elements, that’s more than up to the task. You could even create a layered template to make it simpler to make consistent images quickly. If you work with a graphic designer, have her or him create some layouts for you.
- Online photo editors like Picmonkey, Pixlr, and iPiccy usually include the ability to add text to an image, with a small selection of fonts.
- Free sites like Picfont and Piclits are made specifically for creating images with embedded words. They generally have fewer design options, but they’re also hard to mess up.
- Noteography is a web and mobile app for making images of just words — excellent for quotations.
- Meme generators like Meme Generator help you build meme images, using the normal meme-standard fonts and frequently used images. Memes are a world and style unto themselves. If you want an image that fits that style, it’s easier to use a generator than to try copying from scratch.
Some tips for making a great, shareable text image:
Make sure you have the right to use the background image. You can’t easily credit the image source once you’ve posted the image to Twitter and elsewhere, so Flickr and other sources of Creative Commons images aren’t your best bet for choosing an image for the background. Instead, take your own photo, buy a photo, use one that comes with your photo editing tool, or use a plain background. Using someone else’s image without proper permission or rights is stealing, and a very bad choice.
Keep the text readable. If the image is busy — has a lot of detail throughout, with no blank or open space — put a translucent background box behind the text, or use drop shadows or outlining on the text, so it stands out. Use a simpler, bolder font face to enhance readability.
Go easy on the number of fonts and sizes of letters. Using one or two at most allows the text to stay readable. (Yes, you can find marvelous examples of text images that use lots of font faces. These are created by people who studied design and know how far to push the boundaries. If that’s not you, stick to what’s sure to work.)
If the text is very long and it’s hard to find an image on which it fits, you can skip the background photograph and use a solid or paper-effect background.
Embed your URL, name, or other identifier in the image, so people can trace it back to you. Once an image is re-shared, any links in your original post can be lost or disconnected from the image. Including a visual link back to yourself gives people a chance to find out who created the image in the first place.
Embed a hashtag too if the image is part of a campaign. For example, this post from the White House promotes a twitter campaign.
Track what happens, and notice which images and text get shared more. Also keep an eye out for others to reshare. And note which resonate the most for you.