I was a dedicated Instagram user. The app was swift to use, had no advertising, and it was convenient to share pictures from the service to both Facebook and Twitter. There were a whole bunch of complaints when Instagram stopped using the Twitter Cards system for displaying previews of images in tweets, and there are even workarounds using IFTTT. This week Flickr has also released a new, considerably improved version of its iOS app.

I’ll leave the features of the respective apps for others to review, but here I am setting out to examine what way to get pictures onto Twitter is likely to maximise the number of people seeing that image, because that’s what most people are surely going to want, right?

Anyway for this quick study I’m going to use 4 example tweets – this from @MartinShovel using Twitter’s default photo sharing functions, this from @StudyAlex using TwitPic, this from @kcorrick using Instagram, and this from me (@jonworth) using Flickr’s mobile app. I am then going to show how these 4 tweets display on four regular ways for people to use Twitter, all on a Mac (although the lessons here also apply on mobile devices, and on PCs too). The four tests are with Twitter.com, Tweetdeck for Chrome, Tweetbot for Mac, and Hootsuite.


The four tweets appear as follows (click each to enlarge):

Three of the four platforms display the image correctly at Twitter.com – namely Twitter’s own default image functions, Twitpic and Flickr. Only Instagram (@kcorrick’s tweet, bottom left) fails on this test.

Tweetdeck for Chrome

Here are the same four tweets, this time in Tweetdeck for Chrome (Mac version). Click to enlarge.

This time it’s the Flickr pic that fails (my tweet, bottom right). Tweetdeck is an official Twitter product, but for the moment at least, Instagram pictures (bottom left) show correctly there.

Tweetbot for Mac

Tweetbot is my favourite way to use Twitter by an enormous distance (and it works on iOS as well). So how does it fare?

Here, as with Tweetdeck, Flickr is the one that fails. All three other networks’ pictures are shown correctly.


Loved by many corporate Twitter users as its browser based, here are the Hootsuite tests:

Here the overwhelming impression is that Hootsuite’s default way to handle images is poorer than the other three tools, for images are only to be seen by clicking the + beside the link. However only two image sharing tools – Twitpic and Instagram – make even this work, while the official Twitter image sharing tool and Flickr do not work on this test.


In short: if you want the widest possible audience for your pictures, Twitpic is the tool to use, as it is the only one that works properly – at the moment – with Twitter.com, Tweetdeck, Tweetbot and Hootsuite. While the lack of Twitter.com support for Instagram is a major blow, it still has good support across other Twitter clients. While Flickr plays well with Twitter.com, it is well behind elsewhere for the moment.

So, as ever, make sure you do not assume that others on Twitter are seeing what you are seeing – the current image sharing options are confusing.

One Comment

  1. I think it’s important to note that on Twitter.com you actually have to spot the “view photo” link under the tweet in order to show the photo itself. Not sure why Twitter insists on having the timeline as pure text while Facebook shows since years what you can do with all the links that are posted.

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