Twitter Photo Tips: The Ultimate Guide For Social Marketers in 2014

Would you rather listen to someone describe a piece of artwork, or see it for yourself?

Because I could TELL you all about an oil painting of a village under the moon, surrounded by swirls of blue and glowing orbs in the evening sky – but it probably wouldn’t be as impressive as Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.”

Starry Night

(Yeeeeeaaahh, that’s a lot cooler looking than I made it sound.)

It just goes to show that the old cliche about a picture being worth a thousand words is actually pretty accurate – and that can REALLY come in handy when it comes to marketing!

Case in point? Twitter! This social network has been shaking up the way it shares images for the past few months, and along with its recent changes to the way your profile looks, one thing is clear: Twitter is becoming more and more visually-oriented, and that’s GREAT news. After all, you can say a lot more with a thousand words than with 140 characters, right?

That’s one big reason why tweets with images tend to get more clicks, favorites, and retweets than those without – AND why your business should be using images as part of its Twitter strategy.

So, what do you really need to know in order to step up your game image-wise? Your Twitter image walkthrough begins right here!

First Things First – Beautify Your Profile

Like I mentioned, Twitter recently revamped the way profiles look, and it’s placed a huuuuuge emphasis on big, bold visuals. That tiny little header image with the even-tinier profile pic layered on top? GONE. Now you should see a little something more like this:

Laura Roeder LKR Twitter profile

Your header image is ginormous now, so make sure you hook yourself up with something nice and high-resolution! Really take advantage of all the extra space you have and go with something dynamic, like that pic of me speaking at Pioneer Nation. Your profile picture is bigger now, too – if you change it, just be sure that you can still make out the details in the tiny version that appears in the actual Twitter feed.

Once your profile gets a mini makeover, you can turn your attention to the everyday stuff, like actually tweeting images on a regular basis!

Size Matters – How Big Your Twitter Images Should Be

Last year, Twitter started doing this thing called an in-stream preview. This means that when you add an image to a tweet, it shows up in your feed, and the feeds of anyone following you – but not the WHOLE image shows up. Twitter automatically crops your image so that it fits a certain aspect ratio.

Here’s an example. Last month, I tweeted out a photo from our company meeting in Portland. This is what it looked like in the Twitter feed:

LKR Social Media team in Portland

That’s not the whole picture, though! It’s just the in-stream preview. To see the entire image, you have to click or tap on the tweet. This means that to capture your audience’s attention, you have to make the most of in-stream previews.

And you know what?

Optimizing your images for in-stream previews is SUPER easy!

Twitter’s in-stream previews use a simple 2:1 aspect ratio. This just means that the image preview is going to be twice as wide as it is tall. Take the width of the image you’re posting and divide it in half – this is all the more vertical space you get for your image preview, which is centered vertically in the original image. Here, let me show you what I mean:

The LKR team in Portland

There’s the full version of that photo I tweeted out. I marked the center of the full version horizontally and vertically, and the blue square represents the part of the photo that shows up in the in-stream preview. The width of the preview is the same as the full image, and the height of the preview is half of the width. The preview window is centered vertically, which in this case was just about perfect for showin’ off our mugs!

You can use this information to make the images you tweet look as good as possible in your feed. By keeping the important information or focal point as close to the vertical center as possible, you ensure that it gets seen WITHOUT anyone having to click on it. Even better, you can crop an image to 2:1 BEFORE you upload it, so that the entire thing is visible in the preview.

This is perfect for promotional tweets, because you can essentially turn each one into its own little banner ad! It’s much more eye-catching than text alone, and it allows you to leave valuable impressions on your followers even as they’re just casually scrolling.

Polaroid Rage – Why Twitter and Instagram are NOT BFFs

It can be really tempting to just use Instagram for sharing images on Twitter – and not just because it’s a handy little shortcut! Sharing photos like this gives Twitter users a direct link to your Instagram profile, making it waaaaaay easier to build your audience on the photo-sharing social network.

But there’s also a HUGE drawback to this sort of image-sharing – especially if it’s the only way you share photos on Twitter.

The problem? Instagram photos don’t show up on your Twitter feed. They just don’t! Chalk it up to Facebook buying Instagram back in 2012. Nowadays, Twitter only provides a link – and that means a barrier between your Twitter followers and the image you’re trying to share with them. This ALSO means that Twitter doesn’t catalogue that kind of tweet as media, so any users who go browsing through your photo library on Twitter will NOT find your Instagram pictures. Ouch.

The good news, though, is that Twitter knows this sucks, and has recently made it easier to work around it. That’s why last month, they introduced new photo editing options that allow you to crop, retouch, and apply all those awesome filters that make your pictures look like they were taken with a Polaroid from the flea market:

Twitter photo editing filter options

Is it perfect? Nah, not really. There aren’t nearly as many filters as on Instagram, for one thing, and you can only use these tools on the mobile app version of the network. And, of course, it creates a whole extra step – certainly not as simple as checking the “Twitter” box when you’re uploading a picture to Instagram. If you want your old-timey photos to show up on Twitter and get catalogued properly, though, this is an easy way to do it. (Alternatively, just manually upload the Instagram photos saved to your phone, instead of sharing them through the Instagram app. It won’t link back to your Insta account, but at least your Twitter followers will actually see them!)

Tag, You’re It – How Mentions and Tags Work with Images

A few weeks ago, I set you up with my ultimate guide to mentioning people on Twitter – but the game just changed, yo! The network recently rolled out a way to tag people in photos, much the same way you do on Facebook, and it’s going to make it WAY easier to get the most out of every Tweet.

Now when you upload a photo to Twitter – again, only in the app version – it prompts you to tag anyone who may be in it.

Tag people in Twitter images

When you tag someone in the image, it displays their full name (not their Twitter handle) next to the tweet’s timestamp. Clicking on their name still takes you to their profile, BUT – and here’s the cool part – tagging people in your photos doesn’t use up ANY of your 140 characters. You can tag up to 10 people in a single image and still have plenty of room left over for composing a message! (Of course, if you want someone’s name to be more visible, you can always use a traditional @-mention, too.)

Four Photos are Worth 4,000 Words: Twitter and Photo Collages

Another new game-changer for 2014? Photo collages – Twitter now allows you to tweet up to four images in a single message. And while a single image usually docks you 23 characters or so, that number doesn’t go up when you share more than one. You can share four pics at once and still have 100+ characters to spare!

LKR Social Media team portraits

This is still a pretty new feature, but people are already finding some uber-clever ways to express themselves using collages. I highly recommend a little experimentation with this one, whether or not you think of yourself as a shutterbug.

Your Photo Tweet To-do List

So that’s it! To recap, here are the four things you should keep in mind about sharing photos on Twitter:

  1. Optimize your images for in-stream previews
  2. Share Instagram photos, but don’t share ONLY Instagram photos
  3. Tag people in images to network without wasting characters
  4. Take advantage of new features like collages

If you do these things, you’ll be well on your way to dominating the Twittersphere with bold, beautiful, eye-catching imagery that your followers can’t ignore!

Got a photo tweet you’re particularly proud of? Link to it in the comments – showing off is encouraged around these parts, so let’s see what ya got!

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About Laura Roeder

Laura Roeder is a social media marketing expert who gives businesses of all sizes the tools they need to make their mark on the web. She is the creator of the social media scheduling software Edgar, as well as social media marketing web courses like Creating Fame and Social Brilliant.


  1. You can make Instagram photos show up on Twitter if you use an IFTT recipe. Works like a charm.

    • Kristina | Team LKR says:

      Hey Shai,
      Thanks for the tip! It adds a (super easy) extra set-up step, but it’s definitely worth it. :) (For anyone unfamiliar with IFTTT – that’s aka if this then that.)

  2. Thanks for the updates on Twitter! I don’t use it too often so I appreciate the tips to keep me up to date. Time to update my header image.

    Question – have you ever did a post on how to do the pre-filled Tweet like you use in the Dash email we receive?