Static images are as fundamental to social media as the hashtag or the like button. Static image posts revolutionized the way we share images online—from creating a culture of selfies, memes and compulsory food photography to reimagining how brands could relate to audiences.
The rapid rise of short-form video content eclipsed static posts in early 2020, when TikTok and Reels took over popular culture—but now we’re wondering if static posts are making a comeback with Instagram returning to its photo-sharing roots and Meta launching its nostalgia-inducing network, Threads.
We investigated the role of static content as the likely reigning king of social content and how it compares to video, and asked Jackson Alder, Senior Digital Strategist at PFLAG National, to weigh in.
Are audiences and marketers experiencing video post fatigue?
Burnout rates are high for social media teams. According to a Q4 2022 Sprout pulse survey, more than half of social media professionals are either experiencing burnout or have experienced it within the last one to three months. Lack of bandwidth and resources were cited as the biggest contributing factors.
The demands of video production are taxing creators and marketers under pressure to maximize their consistency in hopes of being favored by fickle algorithms. As early as 2019, CNN was already reporting on the burnout rate creators on YouTube experience, often filming, editing and posting multiple long-form videos each week. The New York Times published an exposé centered around creator burnout on TikTok in 2021, explaining the mental strain of constantly producing new short-form videos.
It seems audiences have stopped engaging with video content like they used to, suggesting they too may be experiencing video fatigue. Even last year, 61% of consumers found static images to be the most engaging in-feed content. At Sprout, our metrics reveal static posts are our highest engagement drivers. At the time of publishing, eight of our top 10 highest engagement-generating posts from 2023 feature static images, like carousels and data visualizations. The other two are text-only posts, which makes a compelling case for these tried-and-true formats.
Other brands are seeing this same trend. As Alder puts it, “As marketers, we’re always looking at what’s engaging, and what’s making folks interact on social media. I think the shift [toward static] is because video was the previous trend that made people stop and engage. It’s looking like it’s not as much of an engagement-driver these days, so we’re all just trying to find what is.”
Are static posts as effective as video content?
With our team’s social data and anecdotal evidence from other brands, we see that static posts can be more effective than video content when it comes to generating engagement. But that’s only scratching the surface of what it means to be effective on social.
Most social marketers are upping their investment in static and video content, suggesting that both are vital for overall success. A Q2 2023 Sprout pulse survey found that 59% of marketers are focusing more on images in 2023. By comparison, 53% said they are upping the quantity of 5-15 second videos this year, and 49% are creating more 16-30 second videos.
Always use your strategy and performance metrics to find your ideal content mix, and weigh the pros and cons of each content type. Your brand might be looking to boost discoverability with audiences on video-first platforms like TikTok. Or your data might indicate your audience behaves differently than ours.
By using an analytics tool like Sprout Social’s Post Performance Report, you can filter for your highest performing posts to see how static content compares to video and other post types. These results will help you determine which formats you should prioritize across networks.
4 examples of inspiring static content strategies
If you want to experiment with incorporating more engagement-worthy static content into your strategy but don’t know where to start, use best practices from these four brands in your content ideation and development. Each brand produces static content that feels unique and modern, and it makes up a core part of their social presence.
PFLAG is the nation’s largest organization dedicated to supporting, educating and advocating for LGBTQ+ people and those who love them. On social, they use static content to fulfill their mission. As Alder describes, “We’re an education and advocacy [organization]…Static images are often the most accessible way to share content, which is a priority for us. Video isn’t very accessible by comparison.”
Static content like branded graphics and quotes makes up the bulk of PFLAG’s content. “We lean heavily into static images and gifs, with video content being fairly minimal unless we’re at an event. The big reason for this is safety. With all of the anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and laws being passed in our country, we must prioritize the safety of our PFLAG families. That means that we can share quotes from those families, but oftentimes can’t share photos,” Alder explains.
Their static posts on their national and regional accounts all feature on-brand colors and graphics that stand out in feeds. The PFLAG team uses Canva as a central hub for streamlining content creation for their team, and the hundreds of volunteer-led chapters across the country.
This boosts the efficiency of PFLAG’s team, Alder says. “For us, incorporating static imagery means it can be used in a variety of ways and platforms. We’re a small team, and being able to re-use content in email or on other platforms is helpful for us.”
Apply it: Use static formats, like carousels and graphics, to educate your audience. By templatizing these content types in a program like Canva, you will save your team time and make it easy to ensure brand consistency.
2. Seemore Meats
Seemore Meats is a women-owned meat company that makes sausages with fresh vegetables and humanely-raised meat. On social, their brand excels at leaning into cultural moments and creating their own.
Their fantastical, whimsical and often meme-ified static content is distinctly on-brand, while clearly speaking the language of social. It’s obvious the Seemore team knows who their audience is, and what type of content will make them engage.
Apply it: Static posts don’t have to be boring. If it fits your brand persona, experiment with infusing your product into cultural moments and memes that will resonate with your audience.
IKEA, the iconic Swedish home goods and furniture brand, builds rapport with their audience through sharing images that feel warm, cozy and aesthetically pleasing, like their Instagram page demonstrates. It all feels distinctly IKEA, and the swoon-worthy photography elicits giddy praise from their audience.
On other networks like X (formerly known as Twitter), IKEA takes a human-first approach to their static content. They maintain the same elevated photography style, while turning the camera on designers and other team members behind their brand.
Apply it: When everyone else goes lo-fi, try something more high-brow. High-quality photography and staging might be the best approach for showcasing your product. Whatever you do, make sure your content has a look that is undeniably yours.
The brand behind milk’s favorite cookie is irresistibly playful and creative with their static posts. OREO content often features their products in absurd, comedic scenarios that draw laughs from audiences who are in on the joke.
They used this approach when they rolled out their first post on Threads.
OREO also brings their community center stage by reposting user-generated content, like this Tweet featuring dogs named OREO.
Apply it: Use your brand identity to inform how you approach static content. Surreal scenarios aren’t right for every company. Use your brand style guide as a starting point to hone the right look and feel.
Make room for video and static posts in your calendar
So, is static content back to reclaim its seat on the throne? The answer is, it depends. While static posts can generate high engagement for some brands, going all-in on static might not be right for yours. Ultimately, there’s room for more than one monarch in the social media royal court.
Find the right content mix by listening to your audience and measuring what works. Invest your time and talent strategically to improve your performance, without overtaxing your team’s bandwidth.
Up next: Check out our visual content guide for tips to create social content that is distinct, memorable and impossible to scroll past.
What is a static social media post?
Static social media posts lack movement and aren’t interactive. Photos, infographics, memes and screenshots are common examples of static social posts.
What is the difference between static and dynamic posts?
Unlike static posts, dynamic posts capture motion or allow user interaction. For example, long and short-form videos, quizzes and polls.
What are the benefits of static posts?
The benefits of incorporating static posts into your content line-up include: less strain on your team’s bandwidth, longer content lifespans through repurposing and standing out in a sea of video content.
What types of posts get the most engagements?
This ultimately depends on your audience, industry and unique performance. Turn to your metrics to learn if static, video or other content types are powering your social wins.