Compose for the crop. An image that isn't
composed to look good within the crop of Twitter's in-line preview
is like an overlong tweet where the text gets chopped off. Not only
does the incorrectly cropped picture fail to communicate
effectively, it tells users that you don't "get it" -- the worst
position to be in for a brand on social media.
Communicate in the crop. If the full-sized
image that a brand is tweeting contains more information than the
preview can contain, that's great. But the preview image must
deliver a compelling visual hook if the brand is to have any hope
of engaging users who are rapidly scrolling through hundreds of
Samsung's promoted Tweet for its "Together we rise" campaign is
an example of getting the composition wrong.
The tag line is cut off in the crop, and users are left looking
at an out-of-context picture of the back of Lebron James. The text
of the tweet helps explain things, but the cropped image needs to
make sense on its own. This one is too easy to scroll past, as I
bet millions of users did.
The image from Car2Go gets it right. The preview clearly
communicates a promo code and a free trial for the by-the-hour car
rental service. That was enough to get me to stop scrolling and
click through, where I could immerse in the full-image view.
Use the right creative. With Instagram rolling
out visual ads at the same time as Twitter's in-stream previews, it
would be tempting for a brand to post the same image to the two
different networks. But that's not going to work if your beautiful
square composition optimized for Instagram doesn't translate well
to the 2:1 rectangle of the Twitter image preview. The creative has
to be optimized for the medium.
But communicating in the crop doesn't mean making Twitter's
image preview just a banner ad in the stream, either. If brands
start treating it that way, users will quickly become as blind to
pictures on promoted tweets as they are to the average display ad.
Movie studios appear to be the worst offenders so far, with a unit
promoting "Ender's Game" coming off as basically a straight-up
banner as bad as the movie's reviews. The reason native advertising
programs like Promoted Tweets work is that -- by definition -- the
ad unit feels native to the underlying platform. That doesn't just
concern size and specification; it applies to the tone of
communication and well as the authenticity of the social connection
that the brand is trying to generate.
Make a call to action. This is where Twitter's
image preview could become really powerful, especially on mobile.
Savvy marketers could use Twitter images to include digital coupons
or bar codes in the full-size picture that could be redeemed at
stores by scanning the consumer's mobile device. Combine this type
of promoted tweet with geo-targeting -- where the tweet would show
only for mobile users within a mile of a Nordstrom store, for
example -- and promoted tweets with pictures could usher in a new
era of real-time social retail merchandising.
But brands exploring this new arena will need to remain vigilant
on the execution, not only avoiding turning Twitter into an
eyesore, but making sure that the full end-to-end journey is
optimized in the initial crop. Samsung almost got it right with a
promoted tweet for the Galaxy Gear that showed up beautifully in
the crop, even on mobile phones, where so much Twitter consumption
takes place. But when you click through, Samsung delivers you to a
desktop-optimized site that is practically un-readable on a mobile