Research: More People Will Tweet a Post With a Cartoon Than a Photo

You’ve worked hours to create a compelling article for your website or blog. The next question is:  will it be shared on social media such as Twitter? After all, you want your content to be seen and appreciated.

Adding a photo will make your article more interesting.  But recent research shows that a cartoon may work even better when it comes to getting others to tweet your content on Twitter.

Cartoon vs Stock Photo Tests

In three recent tests, cartoonist Mark Anderson of Andertoons (note, a contributor at this publication) demonstrates that including a cartoon on your post or website will make it more likely for people to share your content on Twitter than if you add a stock photo to the exact same content.

Test 1:  In the first test, he showed online participants two dummy blog articles, one article displayed above the other on the page. The top article contained one of his original grayscale cartoons. The second article showed a color stock photo purchased from a third party website.

For ease of viewing, we’ve simply showed the two articles side by side below so you can get an idea of what the posts looked like. In the tests they were arranged differently.

Cartoon vs stock photo

When participants were asked which blog post they would rather share on Twitter, 90% chose the blog article containing the cartoon.

Test 2:  To double check his findings, Anderson decided to vary the placement of the posts on the page.  He reversed the blog posts with the one containing the color photo at the top of the page and the one with the grayscale cartoon farther down below it. As it turned out, 57 percent of those seeing the page still indicated they would prefer to tweet the blog post with the cartoon — despite being located lower down on the page.

Test 3:  Next, Anderson showed participants a single article on a page.  One page had a single dummy blog post with a cartoon in it. The other page had the same article, but with the stock photo. Again, participants showed a clear preference. Seventy five percent (75%) chose to share the page having the cartoon in it.

When Anderson added a quality post instead of the dummy content he had been using in the previous tests, the cartoon still won out. Sixty-four percent (64%) of participants still preferred the post with the cartoon.

Why did so many prefer cartoons?

According to some, cartoons were preferred because they seemed informal and added more content interest than stock photos.

Anderson says he used from Zurb for the test. was used to provide anonymous paid participants.

Participants were asked to add comments on why they made their choices. One said the cartoon made the content feel more informal and that this informality seemed in step with the Twitter audience. Another said the cartoon added value to the other content on the page while the stock image was just “decoration.”

How to use cartoons without violating copyrights 

As with any image you use, make sure you have the proper rights to use it.  Cartoons and stock images — like all original works — are automatically protected by copyright from the moment they are created. It doesn’t matter whether they have a copyright notice on them or not.  Copyright law in most countries does not require a copyright notice.

If you decide to try out cartoons, please remember that Mark Anderson of Andertoons, like many other professional cartoonists, is self-employed. Self-employed cartoonists make their living through selling their work.

We’ve made it risk-free to experiment.  In our Small Business Trends business cartoon gallery we offer six Andertoons cartoons royalty-free.  You will not violate copyrights by using those six.  (We’ve purchased the rights to make them publicly available to you, royalty-free).

Then when you see how well cartoons work, consider a low-cost cartoon subscription from Andertoons. That will give you the legal right to pick and choose from a wide range of cartoons for your website, blog, email newsletters and so on. You’ll have a large supply of images and not have to worry about copyrights coming back to bite you.

7 Reactions
  1. Wow, now this is interesting info and it’ll definitely be useful for my new Twitter endeavors. I’m seeking to get more engagement from my Twitter following and this is great info to know as I begin my execution. Thanks for sharing.


  2. Hi Ti, I thought it was pretty interesting stuff, too. Of course, we’re big fans of @Andertoons business cartoons, so it doesn’t surprise me.

    We use stock images, too, but we like to find edgy or interesting stock images. Stock images can be overused.

    But the weekly Andertoons cartoon is a great way to wind down on Fridays for the week.

    – Anita

  3. Very interesting findings. I have added Mark Anderson’s cat cartoons on my web site as a funny touch (Andertoons daily cartoon, syndication / cat). I have purchased several cartoons as my logotypes & blog banners from my friends and editorial cartoonists and artists, John Cox & Allen Forkum.

    Do you know if you could purchase cartoons from Mark for illustration of an e-book? I think cartoons will be powerful than stock photos in an e-book and it will stick out compared with other e-books.

  4. Other than the obvious conflict of interest, a study by a cartoonist found that cartoons were more effective.

    Definitely could see that people would gravitate to a cartoon as the photo from time to time.

    • Hi Steven,

      Thanks for your comments. Several thoughts I would like to share:

      (1) Note that the study used an outside service and anonymous participants. So we felt there was enough stringency in the methodology that the information has some value. How much value you want to place on it is up to you as the reader — just like with anything we write about. You may think it’s important, or not. That’s up to you.

      (2) FYI: Most studies are done by the entity with an incentive to perform the study. Who else would care enough to do such a study? We get at least 3 pitches a day about studies and surveys like that. 🙂 Those same studies and surveys, just because they have a large corporate name attached to them, often get written about in major newspapers. Just saying….

      (3) As a publisher and co-author of “Visual Marketing: 99 Proven Ways for Small Businesses to Market with Images and Design,” I’ve long ago learned the power of a good image. We are always searching for interesting visual materials for articles. Often the most interesting images are the ones that touch an emotion such as humor. Or they are edgy or offbeat. We use both cartoons and stock images in our publications, and find value in both. But it’s hard to find stock images that don’t look trite, because they are so widely used today. Yet a cartoon can be interesting simply by virtue of the fact that it’s hand drawn and not a typical staged, sterile-looking stock image.

      (4) As a former corporate lawyer and now a publisher whose every article gets scraped and republished dozens of times without our permission, I strongly believe in respecting copyrights. We purchased from Mark Anderson the rights to the 6 cartoons we offer for free download — actually one was a custom commission we paid a hefty fee for, and 5 were purchased for a fee (and yes, we actually paid money out of pocket). And we did that in part because we think cartoons are powerful visual clues, and in part because we respect copyrights of entrepreneur creators. And we wanted to provide something of value to the community we serve, yet be a good example of the right way to use images — by having the legal rights to them.

      – Anita, Publisher of Small Business Trends