22 November 2012

Lessons from Tumblr

If you look around social media, particularly Tumblr and Facebook, you’ll see a lot of things like this:

This example is from We are the 99 percent Tumblr, which was created as part of the Occupy movement. And it was powerful.

Spotted at I Fucking Love Science group on Facebook. Which reminds me of this memorable rant about the popular group:

What you actually “love” is photography, not science.

I could make the case that there is no reason for these to be pictures. The point is all in the text. If all that mattered was pure efficiency, maximizing signal to noise ratio, people would paste plain ASCII text into their websites instead of these pictures.

But the success of these shows how much we love pictures of actual things.

Following a lot of fake pictures purporting to be Hurricane Sandy, Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic wrote:

The algorithms at Facebook privilege photographs because they are what people are most likely to interact with. And users love a picture that’s worth a thousand words, four thousand Facebook likes, 900 retweets, a bunch of hearts, and some reblogs: everyone likes being an important node. The whole system tilts towards the consumption of visual content, of pictures and infographics and image macros.

This is a reminder of the power of images. They have more drawing power than text. If you want people to look at your poster, use pictures. Even a picture of text (like the 99 percent Tumblr) is more interesting than text alove.

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