Question of the Week: Image Size and Social Networks

by Susan Murphy

shutterstock_133792997This week’s Question of the Week comes from Tina Sollows. Tina is from Canada, and she shares lots of insights about social media and other things at her blog Living at the Legal Limit. She also has a lot of pets like me, and that makes me like her even more! Give her a follow and say hi!

Tina asks a great question about image sizes across social media platforms:

“Given that different social media platforms display images differently, do you think there is an optimal size for images that will display nicely across let’s say both Facebook and Pinterest. Also, given that mobile devices have varying screen sizes, is there an optimal size that also takes a majority of smart phones and tablets into account? Or would it be better to have different size photos for different platforms?”

Well, the answer to this question is that, like most things in social media and the Internet in general, there isn’t one easy answer. However, there are a few guidelines you can follow, and I’m going to provide a few resources you can check out too (thanks to our tech guru Tony!)

The good news is, most social media tools have the capacity to scale images to fit within the different dimensional requirements of the site. As you know, Facebook has lots of different images at lots of different sizes – cover photos, profile photos, timeline images, and post thumbnails all have different dimensions.

Here are the standard dimensions for the different image types on Facebook (courtesy of Have Camera Will Travel):

Width Height Notes
Cover Photo 851px 315px
Profile Image in Header 160px 160px Must be uploaded at 180px by 180px
Profile Image on Timeline 32px 32px Same image as main Profile Image, automatically downscaled
Thumbnail for Shared Links 155px 114px
Uploaded Photos 2048px 2048px
Uploaded Timeline Photo Thumbnail 403px 403px See exceptions above for small images.
Video Preview Thumbnail 403px 226px

Images will typically be scaled to fit according to where on Facebook the image is being displayed. Most popular social networks will also scale images to fit.

As for mobile, this becomes even more challenging, because there are so many screen formats and sizes out there. It’s nearly impossible to accomodate every type of screen, so the best you can do is find a way to make your images display on as many types of screens as possible. Creating a mobile optimized version of your site can help this (there are handy plugins for tools like WordPress that make this a snap).


Best Practices for Using Images

Because there are so many different types of screen sizes and formats, I recommend following a few best practices that will hopefully give you the best results possible. Of course, it’s important to test your images to find out what will work best for the sites you are using, but this should get you started:

1) Quality first

The basic rule of thumb for images is ‘garbage in, garbage out’. You can’t make a fuzzy, grainy image look better, especially by the time it’s scaled and compressed onto a site like Facebook or Pinterest. So start with the best quality image you can get your hands on, and your end results will be much more satisfying.

2) Know your audience

Like anything, knowing where your audience is viewing your images is critical to being able to provide them with the best viewing experience possible. This is especially true for mobile. You can use tools like Google Analytics to see what kinds of platforms people are using to view your content (it will even tell you what browser they are using and what kind of mobile device!). That will help you to decide what to focus your energy on in terms of optimizing. This site, Global Statcounter, can give you some global statistics and trend indications on what kinds of devices people are using to view sites.

3) Test and test again

The best way to figure out the best type of image for a social network is to test things out. You may need to play around with the cropping or size of your Facebook cover image to get it just right. But this also provides the advantage of being able to get really creative with it too. Check out some of these cool and clever cover photos. The more you test things out with the images you have, the more you’ll learn about what works best.

I hope that helps, Tina!

If anyone else has a question they’d like us to answer about social media, the Internet, video or online content, drop us a line via Twitter or Facebook or leave us a comment on this post! We’d love to hear from you.









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