In early 2017, Instagram announced its new multiple-image posting feature, also called a “carousel.” It lets you post up to 10 photos in a slideshow or an album. This is an exciting tool for brands and businesses: It’s designed to maximize engagement, refine storytelling, beautify your feed, and even optimize ad placement.
Along with the proven success of Instagram Stories, the carousel will likely be a hit with users and evolve as more engage with it (rather than the lukewarm reception to recent updates rolled out by Facebook and Twitter).
We’re just seeing the beginning of what can be done with the multi-post carousel. Here are few ideas to help you get creative with your posts.
Before carousel, if you wanted to showcase several products in one Instagram post, you had two choices: You could fill your feed with multiple posts that would accumulate likes and attention separately from one another, or you could do a single post featuring several images in a collage. The former is a less coherent strategy, while the latter defeats the purpose of showcasing your products because your audience has to zoom into them individually.
The carousel lets you create a scrollable catalog in one post. Retailers have used it to display seasonal and color options, as well as showcase details for a single item.
Those who use Instagram’s Stories will be familiar with the format: Multiple-image posting lets you post several images or videos in a sequential series, which means you can use it to show events in the order they happened. Instagram’s press release shows an example of documenting a surprise birthday party from the moment the birthday girl walks in.
Create a post that relies on a sequence of events, such as a how-to with each image or video detailing the steps in a process. Connect on a deeper level by putting your audience into the experience your product or service can create for them.
The carousel solves a major problem: clutter. Say you want to share a variety of moments from your product launch. Some of these photos are professional masterpieces, while others are candid and maybe a little goofy. Goofy is good, as it can humanize your brand. On the other hand, when you populate your feed with too many “just for fun” images, you end up diluting your content.
With multiple-image posts, you can offer more photos to someone who’s interested enough to click through, and provide the primary highlight for one who’s less interested. Additionally, the album feature lets you display a panorama for images that don’t fit into a single square.
Because you can post up to 10 photos OR videos, you go even deeper and over-deliver. Just like with photos, carousel video posts let you get around Instagram’s limits. Each video on Instagram has a time limit of one minute. Put ten videos into a single multiple-image post and you can post up to 10 minutes of video content in a single post.
Not sure which ad to post? Put up 10 in a carousel post in Instagram and let dynamic ordering arrange them according to performance. This is the most business-specific component of the carousel feature, and it has powerful implications in terms of clicks and conversions. With a quick view of what works and what doesn’t, your turnaround time on a campaign is reduced and the effectiveness of your team is multiplied.
It could be as simple as showing people around your retail space or posting the menu to your restaurant. Share suggestions for ways to make the best use of your products and services.
Even better, encourage your customers and online audience to get in on the Instagram action. For example, DD Hammocks has a devoted social media following, and their fans frequently use multiple-image posts to share their hammock and tarp setups and views from their camping adventures.
It’s popular advice: “Show, don’t tell,” and “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Marketers know to talk about the benefits, and what the product does for the customer, rather than its features.
With multiple-image posts, you can show the difference between using your products and services—and not. Vesper, a startup that connects offices with administrative personnel, recently posted some before/after photos from a disorganized closet that one of their placements reorganized. The benefit of their service—placing hard-working administrative professionals—is plain to see in an interactive, interesting, and completely sales-free format.
Currently, you can only add one caption per post, including a multiple-image post. However, there are creative ways to work around this and tell a story with text, images, and videos. Upload photos or graphics that include text that drives the viewer to swipe to the next image in the post and continue reading. In each image, share benefits, specs, or other information, and offer a discount code or other call to action on the final image. Using this method you can gauge engagement and test how many images you should use in a multiple-image post.
Most importantly, match the message to the medium. You have to take into account the way your audience engages with the platform, what they’re looking for, what they wish they saw more of, and what they don’t want to see.
On Instagram, you’re competing for attention with millions of other photos. The platform is designed to be best used as a mobile platform, so you want to make sure you post images that can be viewed appropriately on a very small screen. The primary advantage of the multiple-image posting feature is that, once you capture your audience’s attention, you can do more with it.
When it comes to suiting your content to the medium, remember: Instagram is a place to have fun. It’s where people post selfies, pictures of their meals, and personal bests in the gym. Viewers want to be entertained by the accounts they follow, and it’s up to you to devise a strategy that keeps your followers’ attention. Use the multiple-image posting feature—the carousel—on Instagram to deepen engagement, include bonus material without overwhelming your followers’ feeds, and experiment with graphics, text, videos, and calls to action. So get creative, play, experiment, and work with the feature to find new ways to delight your audience.
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