The Battle of Photos vs. Videos To Boost Social Media Engagement

Video vs. photo: It’s the great social media marketing debate. Use this pros and cons list for both mediums to make the best decision for your audience.

Meaghan Federspill
min read
The Battle of Photos vs. Videos To Boost Social Media Engagement
Table of contents:

When it comes to using photos vs. videos for social media marketing, there’s a lot to consider —  your target audience’s preferences, the social platform’s algorithm, and production time and costs, for starters. While video content is quickly becoming a go-to social marketing tool, it hasn’t won the battle yet. Many marketers still hesitate to use video advertising frequently because of the higher production costs. And although customers love videos, how many will just scroll past after watching without taking action? It all adds up to one main question: Which type of content will earn the highest engagement rate? Let's go over the pros and cons of photos and images and determine which one is better for your brand and your overall content life.

Utilizing Photos Within Social Media Posts

Images offer a number of content marketing benefits, but you’ll need to weigh the drawbacks too.  

Pros of Using Images

1. Easier To Source and License from Third-Party Photography Platforms

Platforms like Shutterstock, Photobucket, and Flickr offer a wide variety of images and an easy, transparent licensing process.

2. Photos are Often Very Affordable or Free

Along with being easier to source, there are many high-quality photos available for free — as long as you cite the photographer or creator.

3. Boosts in Shares

Recent data concludes that posts with visual content, specifically pictures, get triple the engagement of text posts.

4. Instant Message Delivery

Unlike video, customers don't have to linger on photos too long to get the point of your post. They can digest your message and take action if they’re ready.

5. Differentiates Your Brand

Photos can be used to convey the tone of your message to your audience better than text alone. Brands that have unique voices have a better chance of standing out amongst the competition.

Cons Associated with Photos on Social Media

Here are some hurdles you might face while using photos on social media:

1. Often Requires Copy For Further Context

You might need to add text to supplement the visual content in your image ad, which could be easily missed or ignored by your followers.

2. Low-Quality Pictures Can Hurt Engagement Numbers

Make sure to choose the right size and resolution for each social network. Pinterest’s algorithm, for instance, takes image and video resolution into account. Plus, users won't share poor-quality pictures.

3. Fewer Storytelling Elements

Photos shared via social media generally can't have audio or voice overlays like videos, which might lead to decreased engagement.

4. Static Images are Easy to Miss

Photos can be quickly passed up for posts that are more eye-catching, like product videos or GIFs.

5. Some Consumers Don't Trust Photos

If the customer can easily find your image online, they might be hesitant to trust the legitimacy of your brand's products. Customers also prefer to see how a product works in real life before making a purchase.

Most Effective Photo Types for Increased Engagement

Photos guaranteed to attract attention include:


Busy web visitors love easy-to-digest and easy-to-read information, and there’s no better way to present it than an infographic. In fact, 90% of readers find infographics useful.

Meme Images

Depending on your audience, memes can be a big hit. According to a YPulse report, 30% of millennials and Gen Z audience members alike trade memes daily on social media.


Using inspirational quotes or testimonials from your satisfied customers can attract more attention to your image posts.

GIFs (The hybrid between photo and video)

GIFs are a perfect compromise because they're cost-effective while showcasing enhanced visual elements.

Utilizing Videos Within Social Media Posts

Pros of Using Videos

While photos can be effective in some marketing strategies, videos offer additional avenues of engagement. These include:

1. Users Spend More Time Interacting With a Video

According to one DataBox study, video ads earned a 59.3% clickthrough rate, while images only had a clickthrough rate of 29.6%. In other words, not only are customers more likely to watch your content, but they’re also more likely to click to your landing page.

2. The Audio Advantage

Of course, video is attractive because you can use voice-overs alongside text and graphics, giving you more ways to tell your story. Also, associating unique music or visual styles with your brand is a great way to distinguish your ads from others.

3. Easily Showing Customers or Followers How To Do Something

Some consumers learn more quickly from visual demonstrations compared with text. How-to videos also invite curiosity from customers who wouldn’t have normally stopped to engage with your product.

4. Videos Add Legitimacy

A high-quality video advertisement can make your brand appear more professional in the eyes of some followers.

5. Videos Leave a Stronger Impression

Platforms like TikTok have boomed in recent years, with 84 million active users each month. Viral TikToks, like a lot of video content, get cross-posted to multiple social networks, automatically expanding your brand’s reach.

Cons Associated with Videos on Social Media

Social media video marketing yields a good ROI — and 87% of marketers would agree. Still, there are some disadvantages to using video:

1. Expensive To Create and Manage

Although it depends on the type of video, video content is generally more expensive than image content. For instance, if your brand partners with a production company, a two-minute video advertisement could cost as much as $3000.

2. Captioning Is Often Required for Videos on Social Media Platforms

Adding closed captions takes time and can stress a small production team, but they’re essential to accommodate all members of your audience and reach higher engagement numbers. Nearly 7 in 10 consumers actually prefer viewing advertisements with the sound off.

3. Take More Time and Knowledge To Create

Producing a video in-house is more cost-effective, but will take some experimentation to get right. You’ll also need to budget for essential production equipment and resources, like high-quality cameras and video editing software.

4. Takes Longer for Viewers To Watch

Videos that are more than 15 seconds long are frequently skipped by consumers. Those with limited time on their hands might avoid a video advertisement, no matter how relevant or intriguing it looks.

5. Video Ads Can Be Skipped

Putting videos at the center of your social media advertising strategy might cause issues. Given the option, 65% of people skip video ads when given the opportunity. You can't just post a video and expect success. It has to grab and keep the viewer's attention quickly.

Most Effective Video Types for Increased Engagement

You can expect to attract more views if you produce these types of videos:

Explainer Videos (or How-To Videos)

A whopping 93% of millennials frequently seek out how-to videos on YouTube. Additionally, the boomer audience on YouTube continues to grow substantially. This makes it one of the best platforms to reach a diversity of demographics.

Product Demonstration Videos

Seeing your product in action can prompt an indecisive customer to make that purchase decision. Additionally, people are more likely to seek out your product after watching a demo from their favorite influencers and content creators.

“Would You Rather” Videos

These straightforward videos are great for bottom of the funnel (BoFu) customers who are ready to pick a product. A “would you rather” video showcases two different product options — while giving your brand control over the narrative — and leaves it up to the customer to decide which they prefer. Getting viewers to leave comments and shares with their answers is another way to optimize your content for the platforms’ algorithm.

Videos vs. Photos: Which One Should You Choose for Your Next Post?

In general, social media algorithms favor rich media, whether it’s a video or image. Both photos and videos can get customers talking and drive more sales. However, there are some instances where one might work better than the other. Marketing campaigns with simple concepts and calls-to-action (CTAs) don't necessarily need to be portrayed in video format. Images are a great, cost-effective option for smaller brands that lack a large advertising budget. With or without text, a strong visual will still catch your audience’s eye and relay your message. That said, social media is saturated with images. So, invest the time into creating images that stand out.  Video, on the other hand, often performs better than images on certain social platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram. Although video production can be costly, consumers increasingly prefer short-form video. So, brands can churn out video content quicker and at a higher volume than even a few years ago. Between the visuals, text, and audio, videos also provide more information in a short amount of time. Ultimately, the right medium depends on your audience’s preference and the goal of your post. If your audience is largely on Pinterest, for instance, you’d likely prioritize images over video. Or, if your product requires lots of explaining and training, you might opt to attract leads with video demos and free webinar offers. As long as you let your audience and message guide the type of content you choose, you can’t go wrong.

From Photo to Video, Let From Popular Pays Connect You to the Right Influencers for Your Brand

A trusted influencer can bring more attention and sales to your brand, regardless of your preferred advertising format. Request a demo today to see how much of a difference From Popular Pays can make for your brand.

Meaghan Federspill
Meaghan is a professional social-scroller, trend reporter, creative ideator and friendly Senior Creative Strategist at Lightricks.

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