Chinese Prediction True 3,000 Years Later!

June 6th, 2012 Posted by Local SEO, Social media thoughts, Website Engineering 6,991 comments

It turns out the Chinese dude who wrote “A picture is worth a thousand words” some 3,000 years ago wasn’t actually smoking crack.


A Picture Worth 1000 Words

A Picture Worth
1000 Words

A study released in October 2011 by content publisher Skyword shows that articles accompanied with relevant photos/graphics would get 94% more views than the plain-vanilla garden variety of articles.

94% more views. Wow. That should tickle the shutterbug in you, shouldn’t it?

But wait, there’s more!

We knew from Facebook that pictures created engagement, the Holy Grail of social media marketing. But how fat the increase?

Well, Mashable‘s Matt Handy wrote last March that a picture will increase engagement by 120% and a photo album… by a whopping 180%!

Kodak Moment!

Now, does every industry benefit fromthis windfall of page views in the same way? Of couse not!

Here is the interesting graph published by Skyword:

Skyword's graph showing the impact of pictures by type of industry. Some differences in performance

Skyword’s graph showing the impact of pictures
by type of industry. Some differences in performance

For a local business the first column is particularly noteworthy: page views increase by over 80% when business articles contain pictures!

All pictures created equal under God?

In an article published on Mashable by Samantha Murphy in February this year, the 15 most popular pictures found on Pinterest were:

  1. 3 hands of a family: man, woman, baby
  2. A just-married couple kissing in a funny photobooth
  3. A huge bookshelf taking an entire wall, shot from above
  4. Green apples carved to contain cooked apple dices, like apple pies
  5. Wise words, framed
  6. Chocolate chip bacon cookies
  7. Toenails with metallic nail polish
  8. Wise words on love
  9. A landscape with a bench under a tree in autumn
  10. A complex and beautiful braid on a woman’s head
  11. A well-appointed walking closet with dozens of pairs of shoes and handbags
  12. A man drawing on a blackboard full of interesting doodles
  13. A cookie with 3D sugar icing that looks like a melting snowman
  14. A woman with a really big wool scarf around her body
  15. A cozy bed nook in a beautiful apartment

Count the numbers of photos in each colored category:

6 photos showing a human or some part of the human body
3 photos showing some interior scene
3 photos of cooked food
2 photos related to intellectual activity
1 photo of Mother Nature

 While this is not a scientific study, it nevertheless shows people are strongly inclined to share photos showing humans, human habitat and cooked food (also a human activity).

Of note, most of these photos had dominant white, pink or earthy/golden colors, and all were very well lit, with little or no dark areas.

These observations may guide your hand when you pick a shot from a personal collection or a stock photo library to illustrate a point in your blog or website.

A final note

The phrase “A picture is worth a 1,000 words” was not coined by Confucius or some other Chinese philosopher.

Though its origins are lost in history, author Gary Martin writes that the phrase was introduced in an article published by Frederick  R. Barnard in Printer’s Ink, in December 1921. According to Gary, variations of the phrase were common currency in the US in the early part of the 20th century and can even be traced back to the early 19th century.

But Printer’s Ink re-published it in 1927 as an alleged Chinese proverb. This version stuck to this day.

Now here’s the take. Guess what illustrated these words for posterity? You got it: the picture at the top of this article.

To your success!

Phil Chavanne


Skyword‘s website
Matt Handy and Samantha Murphy in Mashable
Gary Martin in Phases.Org.UK