The Ultimate Showdown: Image vs. Video for Instagram - Which Content Type Reigns Supreme?

08 June, 2023

When it comes to Instagram's algorithm, knowing whether a video (or a Reel, as videos have become on Instagram) or a static image will perform better can feel like a guessing game.

Is it true that one is better than the other? We break down how Instagram works when it comes to both mediums.


Fun Fact: 75% of brand posts are static images on Instagram.


The Ultimate Showdown: Image vs. Video for Instagram - Which Content Type Reigns Supreme?

What’s the difference between images and Reels?


Reels are short-form videos that are typically 15 to 30 seconds long and are designed to be highly engaging. Reels can also be a good way to leverage popular trends or challenges to increase engagement and reach. They typically tend to generate higher engagement and capture users' attention more effectively than images, thanks to their dynamic nature, storytelling capabilities, and ability to convey complex information.

Images can also be used to create a consistent brand aesthetic and establish a recognisable visual identity. However, images can be limited in terms of the amount of information they can convey, and they may need to be more engaging and shareable than reels.

While videos offer a more immersive and memorable experience, images are often more suitable for quick consumption, easy sharing, and conveying simple messages or visuals in a concise format on social media.

The Ultimate Showdown: Image vs. Video for Instagram - Which Content Type Reigns Supreme?

The Benefits of Video


Using videos on Instagram offers several benefits:

  • Increased Engagement: Videos have a higher potential for capturing attention and engaging users compared to text or static images. They can evoke emotions, tell stories, and provide a more immersive experience. People are more likely to watch and share videos, leading to increased reach and engagement with your content.
  • Improved Brand Awareness: Videos enable you to showcase your brand's personality, values, and unique selling propositions effectively. They allow you to tell your brand story, show off your products or services, and explain their benefits.
  • Viral Potential: Compelling and shareable videos have the potential to go viral on social media platforms. If your video resonates with viewers, they may share it, leading to an increase in exposure and potentially attracting new followers or customers.
  • Enhanced Communication: Videos provide an opportunity to communicate your message more effectively. Visuals, combined with audio, enable you to convey complex ideas, demonstrate processes, or present tutorials in a concise and engaging manner.


The Benefits of Images


Using images on Instagram can provide a number of different benefits:

  • Visual Appeal: Images catch users' attention quickly and can make your social media posts stand out in a crowded feed. We are naturally drawn to visuals, and incorporating eye-catching images can make your content more appealing, increasing the likelihood that users will engage with and share your posts.
  • Improved Brand Identity: Consistently using images that align with your brand's visual identity helps reinforce your brand identity and create a cohesive online presence. By using consistent colours, styles, and themes in your images, you can establish a recognisable brand and make a lasting impression on your audience.
  • Versatility: Images can be easily repurposed across different social media platforms and formats. You can use them in various ways, including profile pictures, cover photos, thumbnails, infographics, and more. This versatility allows you to maintain a consistent brand presence while adapting to the specific requirements and features of each platform.
  • Mobile-Friendly: As a significant portion of social media users access platforms through mobile devices, images are particularly well-suited for mobile viewing. They load quickly, require less data compared to videos, and are easily consumable on smaller screens, ensuring a seamless user experience.

The Algorithm


Fun Fact: Reels now make up over 20% of the time users spend on Instagram.


Both types of content are valuable, and it is possible to gain reach with either. However, the most significant factoring difference is the platform’s algorithm. Most people think there is one algorithm for both, but in fact, there are two separate ones for determining reach.

The content shown on a user's feed is based on two factors: your interactions and account activity. This is for accounts you follow and users that follow you. We’ve broken down some of the ways Instagram ranks Reels - please note that these aren’t the only variables involved in whether your followers see your content.

  • Information about the post - Instagram has an advanced AI that assesses what your content is based on the “information” you provide about the post. This includes the description, caption, any hashtags and the audio.
  • Your Activity - Consistency is critical. This doesn’t end with posting your content either; it includes interacting with your followers and other accounts regularly. Doing so makes you part of their interactions, therefore leading your content to appear on their feeds more.
  • Your Interaction Activity - The key to getting your content seen by more people is to interact with others as much as possible. Likes, comments, mentions and tags all play a vital role here. Getting creators to talk about your brand also works hand in hand with this, as it leads to more eyes on your content.
  • Author Information - Instagram likes to determine whether users will be interested in your content based on all the above factors.

Reels are the place to be when it comes to discovery and improving your brand awareness.

Typically, social media algorithms tend to favour videos over static images, as they tend to keep users on the platform for longer periods of time. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok all prioritise video content, with their algorithms often promoting video content to a wider audience.

When to use Video vs Image


When deciding between videos and images, it will depend on the following factors to resonate with your type of content and audience:

  • Content Strategy: Determine the type of content that aligns best with your brand and resonates with your target audience.
  • Audience Preferences: Some audiences prefer quick, visually appealing images, while others engage more with longer-form or interactive video content.
  • Platform Usage: If your audience primarily accesses the platform via mobile devices and consumes content on the go, shorter videos or images may be more effective.
  • Resource & Budget: Creating high-quality videos may require more time, equipment and editing compared to images, which could be the deciding factor with your budget.


Brand awareness


Images: Static images can effectively convey your brand's visual identity and create a strong first impression. They are ideal for showcasing your brand's logo, product packaging, or unique design elements.

Videos: Videos allow for more dynamic storytelling, enabling you to engage your audience and communicate your brand's personality. They are great for showcasing behind-the-scenes footage, brand stories, or capturing moments that reflect your brand values.

Recommendation: Both images and videos can be used for brand awareness. Consider using images for static branding elements and videos for more immersive storytelling.


Product launch


Images: High-quality product images can highlight your new product's features, design, and packaging. They are effective in capturing attention and generating initial interest.

Videos: Product launch videos can showcase your new product in action, demonstrate its benefits, and create excitement. They offer a more engaging and interactive experience.

Recommendation: While images are crucial for presenting the product visually, videos can provide a more comprehensive understanding and generate excitement during a product launch.




Images: Eye-catching visuals with compelling captions can effectively communicate promotions, discounts, or special offers. Images can quickly grab attention as users scroll through their feed.

Videos: Videos can demonstrate the value of your promotion in action, showcase multiple products, or provide a step-by-step guide. They can be beneficial when the promotion involves interactive or experiential elements.

Recommendation: Both images and videos can be effective for promotions. Consider using images for quick attention-grabbing posts and videos for more detailed explanations or demonstrations.


Educational content including step-by-step instructions or how-to guides


Images: Images can be used to convey concise information, infographics, or visually appealing charts. They are effective for presenting key points or illustrating step-by-step processes.

Videos: Educational videos allow for in-depth explanations, tutorials, or demonstrations. They can engage viewers for a longer duration and provide a more immersive learning experience.

Recommendation: Educational content can benefit from both images and videos. Images work well for concise information, while videos offer a more comprehensive and interactive learning experience. Users may digest information better if it’s explained through sound, but others may need to visually see what you’re showing or explaining in images.

Remember, the choice between images and videos ultimately depends on your specific goals, target audience, and the message you want to convey. A combination of both can often be a powerful strategy, allowing you to leverage the strengths of each medium and cater to a wider range of preferences.

The Ultimate Showdown: Image vs. Video for Instagram - Which Content Type Reigns Supreme?

The most engaging types of in-feed social content


A recent survey by Rival IQ shows that the type of content with the most engagement is Carousels. Their report mentions that Instagram often re-serves Carousels to people that didn’t initially engage with a photo or video. This basically means that Carousels can provide an excellent opportunity to make several touchpoints with your viewers.

The Ultimate Showdown: Image vs. Video for Instagram - Which Content Type Reigns Supreme?

Graph sourced from the 2022 Sprout Social Index


The graph shows that short-form videos are the best option for brands. With bite-size video content being the most in-demand, it’s more apparent than ever that viewers can’t get enough of it. This doesn’t discredit away from the fact that Images are a close second behind short-form videos.

This data doesn’t clearly answer which type of content is better. However, it does show that it is important that your content strategy includes several different formats.

We’ve provided a posting strategy that we think would work best regarding the information we’ve just learnt:

If you post seven days a week:
3 x Reels
4 x Static Images
You can flip these around if you feel the Reels are outperforming feed posts.

If you post on weekdays:
2 x Reels
3 x Static Images

It's important to note that the effectiveness of video content also depends on several factors, such as the quality of the video, the length, and the subject matter.

The Ultimate Showdown: Image vs. Video for Instagram - Which Content Type Reigns Supreme?

Things to consider when deciding between images and video



What’s your message?


It's beneficial to begin with identifying the message you intend to communicate, followed by selecting the most suitable medium to convey that message effectively. For instance, if your aim is to provide a brief, daily update to your audience, posting a photo could be more fitting. Conversely, if you wish to elucidate a more intricate concept or deliver educational content, posting a video might prove to be more advantageous.


A/B testing


It is advisable to trial an A/B test to analyse engagement data and make meaningful comparisons. Numerous platforms provide access to engagement analytics, simplifying this process considerably.

In addition to comparing overall video and photo engagement, it can be valuable to assess engagement across specific formats. Differences in engagement may be influenced not only by the type of media but also by the content's specific details and format. Consider investigating whether your audience prefers familiar language or formal tone, gifs or vlogs, morning or evening posts, and other similar factors. This analysis will offer insights into your audience’s preferences.


Be mindful of the platform


Platforms where users swiftly scroll through media often witness higher engagement with photos, while platforms where users actively seek out specific or detailed content may favour videos. Additionally, it is crucial to take into account the demographics of the platform's user base to align your content with their preferences.


Understand your audience


Gaining a thorough understanding of your target audience and their online behaviour can provide valuable insights into whether you should prioritise photo or video engagement. Consider, for instance, that individuals interested in DIY home projects are more inclined to engage with infographics or short videos.

On the other hand, those with a keen interest in video games may show a strong preference for long-form videos and streaming content. By identifying these patterns, you can tailor your content strategy accordingly to engage with your specific target audience effectively.


Use both formats


In many cases, utilising both photos and videos on social media can be the optimal choice for your business, especially if you offer a diverse range of content. When the message you aim to convey varies, it's advisable to select the presentation format on a case-by-case basis.

Posting a combination of formats is particularly advantageous for businesses with limited resources, such as access to third-party professionals and equipment. In such situations, it may be most practical to choose the type of media for your social media based on the resources available at the time.




So, to answer the question of “Reels or Posts?” - it's impossible to give a one size fits all answer. The results will come from taking our advice, which is built based on the information Instagram has provided and applying it to your strategy - this will, in turn, show how your audience and the algorithm respond via analytics. By balancing each format out in your strategy, you’re likely to get the best results out of both.

Putting creators first can enhance your social engagement strategy regardless of the type of content you post. The content and audience they bring drive those all-important interactions you want and need to the algorithm.


Want to learn more about how to maximise engagement on Instagram? Get in touch.