Comparing Advertising Formats on Social Media: Videos, Pictures and Text

Comparing Advertising Formats on Social Media: Videos, Pictures and Text

March 8, 2016 12:24 pm

Comparing Advertising Formats on Social Media: Videos, Pictures and Text

Before choosing a social media platform on which to advertise your product, your brand must decide which format — video, pictures or text — will drive the most engagement.

To complicate matters, each platform is constantly evolving and adding new features, making it difficult for brands to stay current on where to focus their marketing efforts.

By and large, YouTube and Facebook reign supreme for video, while pictures excel on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. The written word, when unaccompanied by images, tends to spur the most viewer engagement on blogs and Twitter.

More than ever, customers are looking for brand personality — something that’s clever, catchy or stands out from their daily inundation of advertisements. So before spending your entire marketing budget on social activations that lack a clear platform strategy, take a step back and explore which format will align best with your key messaging and campaign goals.


Categories that excel in video: Digital products, automotive, merchandise/apparel, services

Best video-centric social media platforms: YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Vine

If a picture is worth a thousand words, one minute of video is worth 1.8 million, Forrester’s researchers argue. Video, the single most powerful social media tool, drives the most engagement, with only growth projected in its future.


YouTube alone boosts viewer action by 10 times, according to Google Meta Analysis. The study, which analyzed 89 U.S. brands that ran Brand Lift, showed viewers who watched at least 30 seconds of TrueView ads (YouTube’s skippable ad format) were 23 times more likely to visit or subscribe to a brand’s channel, share the brand’s video or watch more by that brand.

Video not only offers extended playtime, but also serves as a blank canvas for messaging opportunities.

Meal-delivery company Blue Apron, for instance, hired video influencers to prepare meals on cameras and show viewers how appetizing their food looks. While pictures may have sufficed, their decision to launch video raised the stakes of their engagement and appeal; last November Blue Apron’s sales recently surpassed an annualized rate of $100 million, Forbes estimates.

The King of Video: YouTube vs. Facebook vs. Snapchat?

YouTube has certainly solidified its place as the world’s video encyclopedia but Facebook’s video offering has been booming too. In November 2015, the social network hit 8 billion daily video views, which doubled from earlier that year.


Snapchat, the app with quick, self-destructing clips, shouldn’t be ruled out of contention either. This month Snapchat matched Facebook’s 8 billion daily video views and these metrics are even more astonishing when stacked against its user base. With only 100 million daily users, Snapchat’s binge watching is utterly disproportionate (great news for advertisers), compared to Facebook’s 1 billion daily users.

However, the playing field isn’t exactly level. Facebook counts a mere three seconds of watch time as a “view,” whereas YouTube tallies a view only after 30 seconds of watch time. Facebook has also snuck in the autoplay feature, which starts videos automatically, adding to its bolstered viewership. Acknowledging that views are advertiser’s most highly prized metric, Facebook’s Instagram recently announced it will now show video views in addition to likes. As for Snapchat, the moment you open another user’s snap, a view is added.

Because of this discrepancy in how platforms define viewership, the following metrics are widely hailed as more important indicators:

  1. Engagement
  2. Total time spent watching
  4. Conversion

Winning the Engagement Race

So, how do engagement rates of video-centric social platforms compare?

Among the powerhouses, Facebook surprisingly outstrips YouTube. According to a 2015 study by the reporting firm Locowise, native videos posted on Facebook drive 97 percent more engagement than YouTube videos and 75 percent more than Instagram. As a result, a rising tide of brands have been turning to Facebook to kickstart their video campaigns.


Another reason advertisers may consider launching video campaigns on Facebook is that it’s easy to target specific groups of consumers. With a wealth of profile information, brands on a budget can segment incredibly narrow demographics and geographics for trial campaigns.

Meanwhile, due to the scarcity of Snapchat’s engagement metrics (only the Snapchatter knows how many views their snaps receive), marketers have yet to fully embrace the platform.  Similarly, Vine’s “loop count” has been difficult to measure from an impact standpoint.

Takeaways on Video

A towering 80 percent of all consumer Internet traffic will be video by 2019, according to a study by Cisco. When it’s difficult to showcase the look and feel of your product through pictures, video titans YouTube and Facebook are the clear, time-tested choices. But don’t consider these two players mutually exclusive. Both are essential for your brand and capitalizing on their strengths will yield the biggest results for your marketing strategies.


Categories that excel through photos: IT/Computing, Services, Collectibles, Books & Magazines

Best photo-centric social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest

Viewers’ eyes gravitate toward images. Whether scrolling through news feeds on commutes or couches, people are more likely to click on a link that contains a photo than only text. Photo marketing is ubiquitous and much of the power of platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest rests on the fact that image-driven messaging is relentlessly consumed.

With the largest audience, Facebook still reigns as the top photo-sharing platform. Everyone from the Silent Generation to today’s iGeneration are making noise on the social network, spending an average of 40 minutes per day on it. Its integrated share option can be a huge networking assist, too. If a user loves a product image your brand posted, he or she can immediately share it on his or her wall or send it to a friend.

It’s no surprise that the most shared posts are those with photos. Facebook pictures garner 104 percent more comments, 53 percent more likes and 84 percent more click-throughs on links than text-based posts, according to Fast Company.

Instagram Dominates Engagement

Instagram, the most influential social media app among young Millennials, is a pictorial heavyweight as well. Fashion brands in particular have reaped the benefits of its jaw-dropping engagement. Instagram boasted 63 percent engagement among U.S. fashion brands in 2015, dwarfing Facebook (9 percent) and Twitter (2 percent).


As a mobile-first outlet, Instagram is poised to ride the wave of increasing phone use over the next five years. In fact, eMarketer forecasted Instagram’s mobile ad revenue to climb to $2.81 billion by 2017.

Pinning Perfection


In the ecommerce realm, product images are a necessity, and Pinterest, a site whose bedrock is visual appeal, is vying to be a frontrunner. Roughly 74 percent of social media orders placed on antiques and collectibles are done through Pinterest, while 29 percent of books and magazines orders and 22 percent of I.T./ computing orders are done via pins as well.

Best of Both Worlds?

Of course, the bulk of advertisements incorporate both text and visuals. It’s crucial to add writing to your post to equip the promotion with a call to action, which is just as key for driving engagement as a high-resolution image or a question-based post. Just remember to keep it short and sweet, since Facebook posts below 250 characters perform 60 percent better.

Twitter follows the same trend. Tweets with images bring in 18 percent more clicks and 150 percent more retweets than tweets without them, according to Bannersnack.

Additionally, according to Buffer, the posts that perform the best utilize self-explanatory pictures (i.e. posts that can be understood without accompanying text).


Infographics epitomize the success of the hybrid approach. Eye-catching and insightful, the graphics deliver action-worthy statististics with an aesthetic allure. The reason they’ve been so effective is they play into our culture’s need to be entertained while being educated. It doesn’t hurt that they’re also ideal for sharing.

Takeaways on Photos

If your products or branding have eye-catching visuals and design, opting for picture-driven platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest is a worthwhile choice.


Categories that excel in text: E-tail/Catalogs, Home & Office Furnishings, Home & Garden, Gifts & Specialty

Best word-based social media platforms: Twitter, Blogs

When you have an ad that’s clever enough, a few words are all you need.

After all, the original influencers were writers who, only a couple of decades ago, sowed the first seeds that eventually blossomed into what we consider influencer marketing today.  Blogs sprung up in the late ‘90s, when people were posting experiences and personal editorials on their websites. Not long afterward, blogs developed followings, which grew into dedicated communities, and the rest is history.

The written word can often tell compelling stories. Travel tales, rags to riches advice, health tips — whatever the journey, there’s a story that goes along with it.

Sparse Yet Strong


Twitter, which brings in over 120 million unique monthly visitors, is one of the most effective social media platforms that relies on text-based formats.

Around 18 percent of social media orders placed for e-tail and catalogs come from Twitter. The same slice of the pie applies to home and office furnishings, while 13 percent of both home and garden as well as gifts and specialty items are done through Twitter.

Rave Reviews

Blogs are a fantastic outlet for detailed reviews. Sure, unboxing videos on YouTube might be helpful to see the product, especially if the aesthetic is part of the sale but a well-crafted, informative write-up may express everything a customer needs to know about a product or service in more eloquent and precise terms.

Not to mention, the written-word format is the easiest for search engines to index. Since Google queries are text-based, many people still click on written websites more frequently than videos or pictures.   

As discussed, the most effective approach is often the image-text hybrid. That doesn’t necessarily mean your brand needs to include both formats in every ad; naturally, pictures or video can accompany text-based posts.

So, Which Format Fits Your Brand?

Whether it’s a YouTube video campaign highlighting a new children’s product or Instagram posts promoting fashionable rain boots, choosing the right format can mean the difference between an overwhelming campaign success or incredible failure.

Click here to contact Trending Family for help deciding on the best format for your brand’s social media advertising campaigns.

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