Social Media

Videos vs. Images: Which Drives More Engagement in Facebook Ads?

Which performs better on Facebook–images or video? Here’s what 26 marketers say works best as two of the most popular Facebook ad formats go head-to-head.

Elise Dopson Elise Dopson on March 14, 2019 • 13 minute read

62% of marketers find Facebook to be the most important social media channel for their business–yet content organically posted to Facebook Pages only reach about 16% of fans.

This is why so many brands advertise on Facebook. Not only to reach more of their following but to reach the larger market, too.

But, just like any advertising campaign, crafting an effective Facebook ad that actually reaches your audience isn’t luck–it’s the result of testing.

From ad creative to call-to-action copy, it all needs careful consideration (and testing) in order to maximize the potential of every campaign.

And when it comes to ad creative, the image–and more recently the video–is often the star of the show. But, is one more effective than the other?

We wanted to drill down and see whether image-based ads are still driving engagement, or whether emerging video trends have impacted the success rate of video-based Facebook ads.

So, we asked 26 marketers whether they use video or text-based most often.

The results were (almost) evenly split, as 52% of the marketers who responded say they leverage video more so than images, and the remaining 48% said the opposite. 

image vs. text: most-used for facebook ads

But surprisingly, almost 60% of those marketers said video tends to drive more engagement:

images vs. text: most clicks

Audi Westmont‘s Laura Gonzalez is one of those marketers who prefers video-based ads: “Even though images still drive traffic and clicks, providing video gives users more insight into who you are as a brand.”

As does Alex Vdovenko of Down the Hatchet, who says: “We’ve done some testing with both video and images, and video continues to work best. We create short videos of people throwing axes at our location, and others immediately want to watch and click on it. This continues to work well for us as we keep switching ad creatives over time.”

But why do videos tend to perform better? These marketers one strong theory.

“Video content by far generates more engagements with our users”, says Taylor Hurff of 1SEO I.T. Support & Digital Marketing, who believes the benefits boil down to the fact “videos force scrolling users to stop and pay an extra second of attention to the post before understanding the gist.”

He says: “As consumers, we’ve gotten better at digesting content while scrolling, making it easier to scroll through images without giving the posts the time of day. With videos, you inherently have an extra second to grab the user’s attention. Capitalizing on this with engaging video content to back it up is key.”

James Marques of Iconic Genius agrees: “In most cases, people can digest a photo in a second or two. A video grabs more attention and causes people to focus more on the video.”

*Editor’s note: Need an easy way to track and visualize which Facebook ad campaigns are performing best? Grab this free template and see which campaigns are performing best, and more importantly, which specific ads are driving low CPCs and seeing high impressions.

Do video-based ads actually work?

It’s all well and good to know the justification behind video-based Facebook ads performing well.

But you want to know what ‘well’ means–and whether the results they’re generating will be on-par (or beat!) those you’re already seeing, right?

These three businesses have seen incredible results from their video-based campaigns.

A 2x increase in clicks

Malin Wijenayake, a Paid Ads Specialist on the team at seoplus+, says: “Video ads typically trump image ads in terms of engagement”.

…So much so that “in one particular case for one of our fitness-related clients, an image ad for a product received 777 link clicks, whereas a video for the same product received 1432 link clicks — almost double.”

An increase of conversions by 20-30%

ClearPivot‘s Chantelle Stevenson is another marketer raving about the results video-based ads have generated.

Stevenson says: “We have found that videos exponentially drive clicks over images when it comes to Facebook ads. […] We have found our clients to have 20 to 30% more conversions when utilizing video over images when it comes to Facebook ads.”

A boost of CTR by 2-3x

Remember how we discussed the theory behind video-based ads?

William Carrillo of Ledger Bennett doesn’t think it’s solely down to the fact videos attract more attention in a crowded feed.

Carrillo thinks it’s because “Facebook as a company, is pushing to be a video-first platform and often prioritizes video assets to align with that mindset. Facebook traffic is 90-95% mobile and vertical video formats allow for much more real estate on the screen than horizontal videos. This allows for more visibility and better opportunity to produce a click.”

Since actively testing the difference between video and static images, he says: “The findings showed that video assets drove an 11% higher conversion rate than statics.”

But if that wasn’t already good enough, William explains: “Not only did video drive stronger conversion, but also generated the most efficient cost per lead, and 75% of the overall click volume. This is also consistent in customer engagement campaigns. Throughout various iterations and tests with my client, we found that videos consistently drove 2-3x higher CTRs than statics.”

A CTR increase of 47%

Cardinal Digital Marketing‘s Alex Membrillo is another marketer who’s seen a rise in CTR with video ads.

“For a recent A/B test for a client in the travel and tourism industry, we found that with all other factors being the same, the Video Ads generated a 47% higher CTR, despite Facebook generating a higher Reach (i.e. Impressions) for the Image-based Ad,” Membrillo says.

“Additionally, we found that the CTR from people who viewed the video was over 10 times greater than people who saw the ad but did not view the video.”

Fancy getting in on the action? Here is advice from eight marketers, who share how you can maximize the videos you’re creating to see similar results.

1. Keep it simple

“I have noticed that videos which are short (less than a minute) and use subtitles or text overlays tend to work better,” Shafi Khan of Optiux Marketing explains.

Khan says: “Videos with texts helps the ad watchers understand about the product/service being promoted and convinces them to click to know more. If we go by the numbers, videos bring 20 percent more clicks than the image and also has a multi-fold share count.”

2. Use subtitles

We Accelerate Growth‘s Conner King agrees with Shafi’s advice to “keep videos ads no longer 3 minutes (4 at a push)”, but he also recommends to “use subtitles where possible” because “the avg. person has there phone volume set to low / off”.

(He’s right: It’s expected that 85% of all video content uploaded to Facebook is watched without sound.)

3. Show something unique

Take a wild guess on volume Facebook content you’re competing with. I’ll bet your answer is “somewhere in the millions”–and you’re right.

To date, Facebook users have made over 2.5 trillion posts–making a lot of noise on the platform.

But Srish Agrawal of Infographic Design Team thinks that should be your motivation, rather than an obstacle, to create video-based Facebook ads: “Most people on Facebook are just rapidly scrolling through updates, so you need to make a video that is very visually appealing within the first few seconds, and makes them want to keep watching.”

Srish says: “For Facebook Ads, we’ve definitely seen much better results with video ads. From what we’ve experienced, you need to make them short and eye-catching.”

4. Target TOFU audiences

Chances are, you’re targeting different audiences with your Facebook ads.

And by that, I don’t just mean people with different interests; I mean people lingering at different stages within the marketing funnel:

marketing funnel for facebook ads

Carma Levene, who forms part of the team at Carma The Social Chameleon, says video ads should be targeting people towards the top of the funnel because “video will potentially get more clicks on the ad (people clicking to play, tagging a friend, etc.) but definitely in my experience a lower CTR.”

Levene says: “I put it down to the fact that you’re asking people to watch a video – they’re passive video watchers. They might remember your brand and have a passing interest but they don’t have a high intent to do anything about that while they’re in video watching mode.”

“That’s one of the reasons it’s so effective to use Video at the top of the funnel – you can separate the longer watchers as having a higher intent and retarget them with other ad formats to help more [move] them down the funnel.”

Jackie Kossoff also uses this approach: “In my opinion, the level of user action required by an ad matches the engagement level of the ad medium. Attending a webinar or event is a high-engagement call to action, which matches the high-engagement medium of video. Likewise, a quiz or PDF download is a lower-level call to action, which matches the lower engagement level of images.”

Jonathan Aufray of Growth Hackers summarizes perfectly: “[…] Videos are better for views, engagement (Likes and comments) but images are actually better for clicks. People will watch videos and spend more time watching your ads but images are more easily scannable. When scrolling, people will decide within 3 seconds if they want to click your photo ads whereas it will take them more time when it comes to videos.”

In the end, the type of video you’re creating depends massively on the people viewing it.

5. Retarget video viewers

Are you following Carma’s advice and using Facebook video ads to target TOFU audiences?

Two of our marketers say you can maximize those results even further–and nurture those video viewers until they convert into customers–by retargeting them with future campaigns.

“Also, through video ads, you may create audiences based on the engagement that they had with your video”, explains Gray Group International‘s Violeta Morales, because “this is highly useful for retargeting purposes.”

Here’s Paul Fairbrother of AdEspresso explaining how he puts that into practice: “I use a 10-second video view audience based on the last 7 days and retarget them with a direct response ad, preferably including an offer.”

Is there still space for image-based Facebook ads?

At one point, Facebook image ads were all-the-rage.

“There was a period of time (when videos were new on Facebook) where videos drove more clicks for me”, says The Advisor Coach‘s James Pollard.

However, Pollard now reports “that effect has died off and images are now driving more clicks”–something he thinks is because “an image has more potential to provide a pattern interrupt to get a person to stop scrolling and pay attention.”

Referencing a survey done by Visual Objects, Clutch.co‘s Kristen Herhold backs this up: “Next to offers/promotions, images are the top content type to influence people to click on a link on social media. Images are most likely to influence 25 percent of people to click through to a website from social media. Videos are third, at 16 percent. Videos are still a successful content type, but images are more successful at driving clicks.”

visual-objects-research

Evan Roberts of Dependable Homebuyers is a marketer using Facebook image ads, after discovering that “most people scroll quickly through their Facebook feeds on their mobile device. This means that we are only given a fraction of a second to grab the attention of a potential home seller when they scroll past our ad.”

But here’s the real question: Why is he favoring image over beloved video-based ads?

Evan says: “With video, this is not enough time to create a compelling call to action, but with images, we have more control over what is shown to the client and that gives us a better chance of converting a click.”

The time investment for video vs. image ads

Cardswitcher‘s Christopher Fear thinks “images will work better for some approaches and videos for some approaches.”

Yet Fear continues to say something really interesting:

“Whilst videos can be better for driving clicks and engagement they are often more labor intensive to create, taking a long time to craft into something usable and requiring a fairly high level of investment.”

…We wanted to know whether that was the case for other advertisers, so we dug deeper. Our survey found the majority of video-based Facebook ads take between 2-6 hours to produce:

how long to create a video-based facebook ad?

Whereas an image-based ad, on the other hand, took less than an hour:

how long to create an image-based facebook ad?

“We only run image based Facebook ads, simply because of how little time it takes to create and test multiple image ads,” says Sam Schuler of Instasize.

However, Schuler adds: “If video production was more streamlined or we had a backlog of video content that could be formatted for Facebook ads, we definitely would, but currently the time it takes to create video content for ads outweighs the conversion rate benefit.”

Video vs. image ads: Which works for your audience?

If you’ve reached this point and are still confused as to which type of Facebook ad will work, don’t panic.

The majority of our marketers have a preference–but we have a handful of seasoned advertisers who advise you to take a deeper look at your business, product or services before deciding.

“Between video vs image ads, it definitely depends on the product/service you are promoting”, says SL Development‘s Afshan Santi.

“The best way to find out which drives more click activity is through testing both against each other. We do this by keeping the text & call to action the same & changing only the creative type (image vs video). This creates a controlled test & helps to optimize for the best click/conversion activity.”

Isabella Federico of Webizz agrees–answering “it depends” when asked which format drives the most clicks: “Behind any creative strategy there must be a compelling product or a brilliant idea. Both targeted to the right audience.”

Here’s the process Isabella uses to identify potential audiences: “We can use an interesting Facebook feature to come out with the best ad creative (video or image) for them: the Facebook Split Testing Tool. This feature allows you to create A/B test not only for ads, but also for audiences, placements and delivery. This way you can identify the best creative for a specific audience.”

Jesse Särmö of Advance B2B agrees with both Isabella and Afshan, explaining why split-testing campaign creatives is a fantastic idea:

“In the end, you can’t say directly which drives more clicks. It really depends on the content. We have cases where images perform better and cases where video perform better. It’s all about testing what works with different campaigns and with different targeting.”

You don’t have to stop there, though.

Ampmycontent‘s Daniel Daines-Hutt summarizes with an idea to repurpose video while split-testing: “It can take hours to create a video ad, not including testing any different variations. What do I recommend? Test and find a winning image ad–test the copy, CTA, etc.–then turn it into video and see how it performs.”

There is no definitive answer

As you can see, the line between image and video-based Facebook ads can get pretty blurry.

But regardless of which format generates the most clicks, Kent Raju, author of The Trick of Advertising, says you’ll need to double-check the clicks you’re encouraging are from the right people.

Raju says: “You want people to take a specific action on your website, not just traffic. And since you are paying for each click on the image or video, you better make sure there are as few clicks by the wrong audience as possible. Five high-quality clicks are always better than 5000 low-quality clicks.”

About the author
Elise Dopson
Elise Dopson Elise Dopson is a freelance B2B writer for SaaS and marketing companies. With a focus on data-driven ideas that truly provide value, she helps brands to get noticed online--and drive targeted website visitors that transform into raving fans.
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