How the“Touch The Ant” meme became a new Facebook art form.

On May 2017 the page Laugh or Croak Too posted an image that went massively viral. It was shared over 350,000 times; which is more than the people that like the page.

But more than just going viral, the page ushered in a whole new content format for Facebook that brands and advertisers should seriously consider when building their Facebook campaigns. This new format, when done right; is inherently interactive, highly engaging and has a lot of potential to surprise and delight your fans.

So what did this exciting, trailblazing post look like?

This is how the image appears on your News Feed. Check out the original post here.

Sure, the post is not a looker; but I bet you touched the ant, like the millions of people who saw this on their News Feed. It’s no surprise that many variations of the “touch the ant” quickly popped up and spread in similar fashion.

if you’re like one of the many millions of people who saw this on their Facebook News feed, you probably immediately touched the ant! if you did, the full image expanded, revealing the punchline:

These exploding images are not a feature Facebook intentionally built. Rather, they’re exploiting Facebook’s automatic photo cropping that prevents really long images from taking up too much News Feed real estate.

When we first saw these, we were excited about the possibilities for exploding images and started doing a bunch of tests. We asked ourselves, how can we elevate this past low-quality memes? How can brands and publishers use this format in new and innovative ways?

What have we learned?

  1. Find the right use cases for you.

When we first had internal discussions about testing exploding images; the ones that had gone viral generated a similar first reaction: “that’s clickbait!”

It became clear that showing specific high-quality use cases for these images was the best first step for us to take. After much trial and error, our most successful use cases were Trivia Cards and Editorial cards that gave people more context, if they want it.

Here’s a sample of some of the exploding images that did the best for us:

2. Exploding Images blow away regular images.

After a week of limited testing of our first use cases, we got some amazing results. Exploding Images performed significantly better on people reached (a 37% increase on average). Where they really shined was in interactions and engaged users.

3. Exploding Images can be an even more light weight version of Facebook Canvas or Instant Articles

From a user perspective exploding images are similar to Facebook Canvases or Instant Articles. They’re a light weight format that promises more content in exchange for a click.

Although similar, in our experience Exploding Images gave us far greater design freedom compared to those two other formats, and for users, exploding images also have significant shorter load times.

4. There’s still a lot left to discover.

Our early tests yielded awesome results. However, our biggest takeaway was just how much room there is to experiment and be creative with this format. So we’d love to see what other brands and publishers do with it.

If you want to get started here’s some tips:

  1. Download a free template here. It’s a simple png file with all the appropriate margins and guides to make sure your files crop correctly.
  2. Brainstorm your use cases and be creative. Plan to test lots of different ideas.
  3. Upload your Exploding Image on desktop Facebook only. Images uploaded through Facebook mobile are cropped differently, and it ruins the effect.
  4. Test and iterate. Double down on what works and try a new round of testing.