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Showdown: links vs photos vs messages. Which medium works best on social media?

A previous blog post discussed ways to increase social media engagement to avoid the dreaded cricket chirp post. I suggested monitoring three factors around posting to see what worked best. Today I would like to share some data around the first factor – media type.
There are five different media types Facebook allows for posting a story (Figure 1) – text, link, image, video, and poll, very similar to the types of status updates allowed by Twitter, LinkedIn, and now Google+.

Figure 1

I crawled 1,000 randomly selected local Facebook Business Pages, looking at activity from May to July 2011. While results may vary, this is a good gauge to shape your own analysis.
Note: Since the poll feature of Facebook is relatively new and not yet widely used, and ‘video’ is also not widely used (Facebook considers YouTube and other embedded videos to be links), there were not enough video or poll posts to draw statistically significant conclusions.
Figure 2

Three major insights from Figure 2:

1. Pictures get ‘likes.’ This makes sense, as photos are by far one of the most engaging items on personal Facebook profiles. People like looking at photos. Clicking the ‘like’ button is the Facebook equivalent of saying “great shot.”
2. Text status updates get comments. Text based messages put emphasis on the statement. When a business asks a question or makes an announcement via a message, customers are more likely to respond with a comment or share their opinion. A customer might enjoy a photo or link, but be able to sufficiently state their opinion with the ‘like’ button. A question, on the other hand, usually begs a response.
3. Links aren’t very engaging. According to my data, you are lucky to receive a comment on one in six links you post to your Facebook Business Page. There are more ‘likes’ than comments, but links are still the least engaging of media types.
Now that we know a bit about expected engagement of each media type, let’s look at the volume that these sample businesses are publishing in Figure 3.

Figure 3

Links, which have the lowest engagement, count for 60% of the posts to Facebook Business Pages. Engagement might not be how every business determines success, but engagement is an important factor in your future social media interactions.

Suggestions for Businesses

Post more pictures. People like looking at photos and they are a great way to interact with your fan base and build trust. People like to do business with a smiling face.
– Do you have a unique skill or hobby? Post pictures that show your personality.
– Post pictures related to your line of work – shots from the field or scenarios you encounter on a daily basis. Though these things may seem routine to you, it will help familiarize your customers with your business and show that you’re an expert.
– Post pictures of your happy customers – with their permission, of course. If it makes sense for your line of work, this is a great way to allow customers to relate to other customers you have served well.
Post fewer links. Whether you are linking to your own site or other articles on the Web, you might be posting links more than your customers benefit from. If, like many of the businesses I analyzed, 60% of your posts are links, try dropping it to 40% or less. Other media types create more engagement and interest. When you do finally post a link, say, back to your website, your audience may be more likely to make a purchase.
Don’t be afraid to post plain text. Sometimes simple is better. Don’t be afraid to post a single line of text expressing a sentiment or asking a question.
Can you think of more ways to apply this knowledge? I’d love to hear about them in the comments section.

Greg Kroleski

With a background in data science, SEO and analytics, Greg Kroleski owned the creation and launch of the Hearsay Sites product from conception to sales and implementation.

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