How do you make an audio story travel even further on the web, which is a mostly-visual medium?
It’s a difficult question, and one that we struggle with on NPR’s Social Media Desk. Often, our audio pieces aren’t published with a photo we can use on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. So we started thinking: what would an image look like for a radio story? How could we make an image to help producers and reporters make their pieces more shareable?
We decided to experiment with letting the words speak for themselves -- by turning the best quotes and facts from a piece into a visual image that could be uploaded to social media and shared alongside a link to a piece. We call them "quotables," and it looks like this in action:
Adding an image to a tweet produces on average a 35 percent boost in retweets, according to a study from Twitter. Adding an image to a Facebook post, we found, has driven similar results. As we began turning our facts and quotes into images, shares, likes and pageviews on many NPR stories all went up.
This is because, we realized, people really like to share facts and compelling quotes with their friends -- and in a Twitter stream or Facebook newsfeed, images tend to stand out. We are hardly the only ones doing this. Buzzfeed’s True Facts Twitter feed spits out random facts that they discover from around the web. Another fact account, called UberFacts, has almost 7 million followers.
But there are a few best practices to think about when making images out of selected facts and quotes from your stories:
You can make pictures of facts or quotes as many times as you want on Twitter, but there is a limit on Facebook. After extensive testing, we realized that posting a quotable more than three times a week on Facebook has an adverse effect -- and people stop sharing and clicking. But on Twitter, which moves much more quickly, it is harder to overuse these images.
Include the link to your story in the caption of the Facebook post or in the tweet you send. Make sure to write a caption for the photo you upload to Facebook, just as you would a regular photo. That’s also where you should link to your piece. Both the caption and the link will travel with the image when people share it, leading to more people coming to your stories.
Think about what people might want to share. That’s the bit you want to pluck out for your image. Pick out the most compelling quote or fact from the interview, but keep it short. Shorter is better -- we’ve experimented with both short and long quotes and shorter quotes or facts are easier to digest and share. We’ve also found that editorial content works really well -- much more than marketing content. Using the images for both editorial and marketing content confuses people -- and they are less likely to share the quote or fact.
You can use just about anything to make these images for your pieces. You can even make these in something as simple as Microsoft Paint. For a start, here are 14 tools collected by Buffer that you can use to edit images for social media.
If you are at an NPR station, you now have access to the NPR stations' own new quotable tool, created by NPR’s Social Media Desk, Digital Services and Member Partnership. The tool brands the quotable image with your station’s logo and resizes it for both Twitter and Facebook. Additional instructions and tips are on the tool's page on nprstations.org.
Some quotables work better than others. For more examples, flip through our collection on Facebook and on Twitter to see what has worked, and what hasn't. We've used them for every type of story, show and topic. Use those images for ideas and inspiration to get started. And if you create a successful quotable-like image, share it with me on Twitter so we can add to our examples for others that want to learn.
NPR Digital Strategist Melody Kramer co-leads NPR's social media. She tweets @mkramer and loves talking about public media. Find more daily tips and lessons from the social media team at the Social Media Desk Tumblr.
Work at an NPR member station? Find more information about using the station quotable tool at nprstations.org.