Thursday 25 May 2017

Twitter Text in Photos Best Practices

Over the last few days, we have seen many important and urgent tweets containing written information in photos.

As twitter does not allow more than 140 characters in a tweet, many organisations such as the Greater Manchester Police, The O2 and Mayor Andy Burnham have resorted to a words words and an image containing the message.

Of course, it would be wonderful in an emergency if certain organisations were allowed to tweet longer than 140 characters. My suggestion would be 4,000 characters, enough for 700 words.

Edit 15 June 17 - Twitter have suggested a thread of tweets as a way of telling a longer story, then suggest a Twitter Moment, see How to use Tweet Threads.

This text would immediately be searchable in twitter, where text contained in an image, to my knowledge, is not.

My suggestions
  • Make a Square Image, in my tests 1000 x1000 pixels which was a good sensible size
  • Use a font size of about 20 point which will allow 215 words, 1208 characters
  • Think mobile, chances are this slide will be seen on a handheld device first
  • Think portrait and landscape, hence the square format, with a mobile in landscape - can you read the first line easily with a pinch zoom
  • Use short paragraphs, and break text into bullet points making it even easier to read
  • Use Simple Global English, think language accessible to everyone
  • Use a small border of needed, a large border for a logo is wasted space
  • Desktop - Composing the text slide can be very easy, there are many text editors, then save as jpg/png or screenshot
  • Mobile - I have used Google Keep and Docs, both with different text size effects writing until the area looks square
  • With slides as large large text and photos or graphics 16:9 is a good format, but again if unsure, use square

What follows is some data drawn from a few recent tweets contained text in photos from the lead collage slide at top of this page. My small sample was enough to see a maximum of 627 words, with an average of 152 words at 890 characters. My mid test slide contained 215 words, 1,208 characters.

To collate this data, I uploaded a slide to then used grab image text, then copied that text to a google doc and used tools/word count.

Sample TweetWordsCharactersSample TweetWordsCharacters
132121248test 01111619
1430204test 022151208
1579434test 034442477

I have used Greater Manchester Police (who were social media brilliant by the way) as that’s what kicked off this post.

And again, IF TWITTER RAISED THE 140 CHARACTER LIMIT in a crisis for certain organisations this would be wonderful.

Anyone can benefit from this guide whether individual twitter users, social media editors and planners, those in police, government or the mainstream media.

For me personally, I had a little trouble reading some text slides when I needed it most. It was of course when the news was fast and emerging from Manchester.

As I write the last words of this post, GMPolice have tweeted six more tribute slides from the families of the victims. If in any small way this post may help those hard working people who make the slides ready to tweet, and then get easily read - then it's been worth it.

Edit, just received a helpful idea from Emma, see comments or read, 'Another thing that could be useful, if you have images of text is to ensure you use the alt tags - Making images accessible for people on Twitter - I think that allows for 420 characters.'


Links to twitter accounts while researching.. Greater Manchester Police Andy Burnham

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