No image, no problem

‘Screenshorts’ are images of text embedded in a tweet that may increase social media engagement

William Love, Sandpoint High School

It’s well documented that images or videos attached to tweets impact engagement and increase retweets, but what if you don’t have an image or video?

Consider a screenshort.

No, that isn’t a typo. A screenshort, according to BuzzFeed’s Matt Honan, is “a block of text, screen-shotted, and embedded in a tweet.” Honan points out that screenshorts are a great way to get followers to read a passage from a story without having to click on a link. It also allows a publication to bypass the 140 character limit placed on Tweets.

A screenshort can be an actual screenshot from a story or document. Below are two examples. Notice how the second example highlights a passage of text he wants his followers to read.

Jay Rosen

Chris Snider

While a screenshot from a story works, there are some more aesthetic ways for a media organization to produce a screenshort. No, these examples are not screenshots, but both use direct quotes from the story.


New Yorker

Screenshorts can also be used to provide quick snippets of information to followers in breaking news situations. Notice how The New York Times provided followers with the 5 Ws in this screenshort during the mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.

NY Times

If you do have an image, you should consider including text in it. According to this Hootsuite article, Twitter images that include text often cause followers to slow down their scrolling, while the words add context to the image. See how the quote enhances our understanding of CNN’s story on Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit.


Now, there are some things to consider when using screenshorts or images of text. Blocks of text overdone can be a turnoff for engaging your followers.

Another is the design aspect. Be aware of the image dimensions for Twitter or whatever social media platform you want to use. Below is an example of when the dimensions are not considered. (Also notice that the text in the tweet is essentially the same as the text in the image, which I would avoid.)

Not so good

Finally, Buzzfeed’s Will Butler identified issues with screenshorts in response to Honan’s article. Text in images can’t be interpreted by screen readers, which can be an issue for the visually impaired. Here’s how Butler explains it:

“Put simply: When you take a screenshot of text, the information therein is lost. This makes screenshorts effectively invisible to blind people’s screen readers — but it also prevents the text from being found easily by anyone who wants to locate or index it later. The real important data — the text data — is stripped, and if the text isn’t published somewhere else, it can never be found in a search engine, either.”

The key if you choose to use screenshorts is to see how your followers respond in terms of the engagement numbers. That will indicate if it works with your audience.