May 8, 2014 · 2 minutes

Apparently Twitter is desperate for people to share more photos through its service.

In a heavy-handed call-out to users, the company has released "the ultimate guide to photo sharing on Twitter," which explains all of the image-related features the company has developed over the last few months. Apparently it isn't enough to hope that users will find the features by themselves -- Twitter has to explain something as simple as sharing a picture of your brunch.

The guide follows months of attempts to bolster Twitter's usefulness as a photo-sharing tool. The company has added the ability to upload multiple pictures with a tweet, tag other users in images, and edit photis with a variety of filters that resemble those available in Instagram. It seems that the previously text-based service is finally embracing the social power of visuals.

The guide also demonstrates Twitter's increased focus on acquiring new users and convincing its existing users to spend more time with its service. Photos tend to make people stick with a social network: Facebook's photo-sharing tool helped it become the premier social network, and the image synchronization and editing tools built into Google+ provide just about the only reason to use the oft-belittled service. Photos might be able to boost Twitter's popularity, too.

But having to release a guide to features that emulate those available on other services, from Google+ to Facebook and Instagram, doesn't bode well for Twitter's efforts. People don't need to be told how to share images -- it isn't hard to understand what a camera icon next to a text box is for, and even small additions are easy to spot in Twitter's mobile applications. It doesn't matter how much Twitter prods its users into sharing photos on its service; they'll either tap that icon or they won't, and publishing an "ultimate guide" to anything is a pointless practice.

Pando weighs in

On Twitter’s newfound willingness to resemble Facebook with updated photo features first announced in March:

There has always been some cross-pollination of features between Facebook and Twitter. While Twitter was busy making its service more approachable to consumers, Facebook was busy adding hashtags and other features to expand the reach of its users’ status updates. Both services have sought to break down the information silos between mobile applications. Both have given their users the ability to share the songs they’re listening to or news they’re reading. The services are more alike than either company is willing to admit.

But the release of this feature after months of complaints from both investors and journalists that signing up for Twitter — or convincing friends that the service is worthwhile — is an ordeal probably isn’t a coincidence. Becoming more like Facebook might introduce more friction into a service previously known for its bare-bones approach to communication, but it will also make Twitter more familiar to the many people who already know Facebook. On Twitter's new image-focused, Facebook-like profile design:

Taken together, these recent announcements showcase a Twitter willing to move beyond its simple, what-you-see-is-what-you-get roots in order to create a more approachable service. It just so happens that the new design also shows that Facebook’s decisions with its users’ profile pages were right — people want to view media-heavy profiles that show someone’s best stories instead of barren timelines that are less like a profile and more like a stream of consciousness.
[illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]