Social media is becoming increasingly visual. When you share a link on social media, most social media sites add a thumbnail image to coordinate with the post. At some point, you’ve probably seen a link shared on social media with a seemingly random image displayed beside it. Maybe it’s a link on Facebook with a random button displayed beside it or it’s an image in a Twitter feed that you can’t read without tapping or clicking on it because the text is cut off. Whatever the case, images that are less than optimal can be found all over social media.
The image that a site chooses might seem arbitrary, but it’s actually not. Instead, code embedded within a web page tells each site which image to use. Because of this, it’s important that you know how to gain control over what image social sites use when your posts are shared, even when you’re not the person sharing them.
The default social media image selection: the featured image
If you want to ensure the same image is shared across all social media sites, the WordPress featured image is an easy solution. Located at the bottom of the menu on the right side of your WordPress post or page editor, WordPress designates the featured image as the preferred image for social sites to use. Under ordinary circumstances, social media sites will use the featured image as the image that displays when your post or page is shared there.
Sadly, the best solution isn’t always that simple. That’s because different social sites work best with different image sizes. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn prefer wide images. Pinterest prefers tall images. And if you share something about your post on Instagram, you’ll want a square image. And don’t forget that if you share something on Facebook as a comment, it will use a square image instead. Maddening, isn’t it?
Thankfully, we’ve got a couple of tips for you.
Facebook and Twitter
You can use a plugin like Yoast SEO to specify exactly which images are shared to Facebook and Twitter. If you want to use a separate image for Facebook and Twitter or you don’t want to use the featured image for one of those sites, this is a good option. Remember that Facebook and Twitter both prefer wide images, but Twitter prefers them slightly wider (2:1 ratio) than Facebook does (1.91:1).
Instagram works best with square images. Originally, Instagram forced images to be cropped to a square but the platform now also accepts wide images. However, they appear smaller as Instagram gives every image the same amount of horizontal space.
Pinterest allows users to select any image to share, so optimizing a featured image for Pinterest doesn’t work very well. It’s a better idea to optimize the featured image for Facebook and Twitter and add a separate image somewhere in the body of your post to use on Pinterest. If you share your post on Pinterest using the tall image you’ve created, there’s a good chance most people who find your post on Pinterest will use the same one you did.
Best practices for social media images
Remember that if your image doesn’t fit a social site’s width to height ratio preference, the image will automatically be cropped equally on each side. Keep the part of your image you most want people to see in the middle so it won’t be cropped out.
If you want to make one image work well on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, consider using a square image with the text centered in the vertical middle 50%. Twitter and Facebook crop out equal parts of the top and bottom, so that’s why you want to place your text in the middle. Facebook uses square images as thumbnails when a link is shared in a comment, so this works best for Facebook.
You can also create a double-wide image to optimize for Twitter, and Facebook will trim a little bit from each side. The image will still work in Instagram, but it will appear smaller than normal because of its reduced height. Facebook will also crop a double-wide image significantly when shared in a comment, so while this is a decent option, it is perhaps not the best one.
For more social media tips
MPWR Design’s #SocialSeptember focus means more tips for best integrating WordPress with social media sites are on the way! Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for additional tips and tricks throughout the week as well.
Also, subscribe to our weekly MPWR Monday email list and in you’ll receive a WordPress tip by email every week. You’ll also get our Social Media Strategy Guide as a free download to help you get a jump start on running your organization’s social media accounts.