Do images help get your content more shares? Your gut says yes, but what does the data tell us?

We recently looked at 100m Facebook posts and found, not surprisingly, that posts with images got the twice the number of interactions as posts without. So yes, images work. So you knew that already. But did you know that one of the most shared forms of content was the picture list post?

These posts have the potential to go viral as they are a perfect combination of curation, images and list posts.

So what are they, why do they work, and how can you make them work for your content? Glad you asked…

What is a picture list post?

A picture list post is a series of curated images that can:

  • help tell a story
  • show the passing of time
  • show comparisons
  • explain a concept
  • demonstrate a process
  • form a curated list

picture posts

Here are a few examples of well shared picture list posts:

The Story

Shelby Swik – This post tells the story of Shelby Swink and how she reacted when her fiance called things off shortly before their wedding. The post received over 238,000 shares.


Photos from Elizabeth Hoard Photography

Last words This post tells an emotional story with a series of images and words and was shared over 250,000 times.


Curator: Andrea Garcia-Vargas

The Passing of Time

40 Portraits in 40 Years – A portrait over time post on the New York Times shared over 660,000 times.


Photographs by Nicholas Nixon

Content Curation

Overpopulation and Consumption – A post on The Guardian shared over 650,000 times.

Photos by Zak Noyle and Daniel Dancer

Comparisons – then and now, here and there

Climate change – This post showing comparisons over time has been shared over 70,000 times.


Photos NPR

School meals – This post showing images of school meals across the world was shared over 470,000 times.


Photos Sweetgreen

How to

How to dry nail polish quickly – This series of images was shared over 600,000 times.


Photos WikiHow

Why do they work?

People like to share content that is valuable. A New York Times and Latitude research study found five main motivations when it comes to sharing. The number one motivation for sharing was to bring valuable and entertaining content to others. 94% of the respondents said they carefully considered how the information they share will be useful to others.

Picture list posts work because they provide a lot of value through a combination of curation, lists and images. It’s a perfect content formula.


Let’s start with curation. Good curators help us by doing the heavy lifting. They research and filter content to provide the reader with just the relevant content though they will often include links for further reading. A good curator also adds value through commentary and context. Curated content is increasingly popular in a busy world, where we are overloaded with content.

Now let’s add images. The brain processes images much faster than text, studies have shown visuals are processed as much as 60,000 times faster in the brain than text. According to the Visual Teaching Alliance the brain can see images that last for just 13 millisecond and our eyes can register 36,000 visual messages per hour. Try reading that many tweets in the next 60 minutes and see how many you recall. This means we can get the sense of a visual scene in less than 1/10 of a second. This explains why a series of images works so well and why they are used in areas such as learning materials. They work faster than words.

Images have been found to improve learning by up to 400 percent. Stanford University’s Robert E. Horn, argues this is because “visual language has the potential for increasing ‘human bandwidth’—the capacity to take in, comprehend, and more efficiently synthesize large amounts of new information.”

Finally, let’s structure as a list. A good list post is a form of curated post but one which is well structured and instantly scannable. In creating a list post such as 7 steps to design a landing page the author adds value by breaking down a task into a series of clear steps. List posts are also popular as they tell the reader what to expect and contain a promise for example: 5 ways to improve email headlines. There is an expectation that you will gain some valuable nuggets of information rather than a long form essay. This makes them a very attractive form of content for the time pressed consumer.

In summary, the picture list post contains the promise of a list post, the value of curation and the speed of images. It is like rolling three of your favorite superheros into one. They are a perfect combination. They’re the ultimate in efficient, emotionally engaging content – snackable content, enriched with curation and structure.

How Can You Use Picture List Posts?

Believer? Great. So now what? Picture list posts are a key content format which have the potential to go viral. Here are some initial questions to help you think about where they may work best in your content strategy.

  • What types of images currently work best in your industry? Are they product pictures, emotional images or process pictures?
  • What images can you use to tell a story? For example, how would one of your successful projects or case studies look like as a series of images?
  • If you make something, can you show where the raw materials come from, how it gets made, who makes it? Brands like Guinness are increasingly using imagery to tell the story of their product and process.
  • Can you introduce some humour? Product ideas you’ve rejected?
  • What comparisons can you make with images? For example, how have products in your area changed over time?
  • Can you associate your brand positively with different uses / settings through time or around the world?
  • What ‘before and after’ images might work in your industry?
  • What concepts can you explain through a series of images?
  • If you have You Tube videos showing how to use your products or services, could you turn them into picture list how to posts?
  • What ‘how to’ picture posts might work in your area? Processes and structured steps can often work well as a series of screenshots.
  • Could you show a different angle or viewpoint through a series of pictures? What it looks like from your CEO’s desk, from your CMO’s desk, from the front window?
  • How could you surprise people with a series of images?
  • Could you encourage your audience to help curate the images for you? Have a look at 3 UK, Mobile phone company’s HolidaySpam campaign, which gets their customer base showing and sharing what you can do with free data when you travel. Ok, so it’s more of a picture massacre than a list, but still, top marks for getting customers to create content.