How the Instagram Carousel Update Changes Social Media for Businesses

by Emily Oswalt on April 17, 2017

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There's a new feature Instagram added, a carousel designed specifically for your posts, and it's a very good idea. Here's what we know and how to use it.

A Tale of 2 Carousels

There are two types of "carousels" that can apply to Instagram, and to forestall any confusion we're going to clear this up right now. Traditional Instagram carousels refer to carousel ads, in which you submit an ad on a platform like Facebook or Instagram that have several different slides or versions, often with the same message and logo. These images are put in rotation in the ad space, which keeps viewers from getting board and allows you to offer more varied visual content to meet the needs of different target audients.

That is not what we're talking about.

There is a new carousel feature that Instagram adopted that allows your posts (not your ads) to function as carousels of rotating, slide-like images or short videos that people can review within a single post.

You can put up to 10 photos/videos in a single swipe-base carousel collection: Viewers will be able to tell if a post is a carousel because it will have a row of blue dots at the bottom that indicates you can swipe to see more. 

Why You Should Use a Carousel Post

The goal of a carousel perspective is to tell a better story, to draw viewers more deeply into the experience. That's good news for brands! It means you can layer your posts with a series of pictures that gives far more information about an activity, site, product, project, etc. A single image can be provocative, but it can't say much about a process or a series of steps. A carousel can, and that really opens up the field. You can also tag individual people in each photo while having overall captions and hashtags that apply to the whole rotation.

From a marketing perspective, carousels are also easier to use in many cases. When putting together a post, you don't have to decide on a single best photo/video to use. You can take the several top options and put them all together for maximum effect, without crowding out the news feed.

The Best Situations for a Carousel Post

Obviously there are some things that carousels don't work well for. A single shot of a landscape or environment is usually enough – several similar shots aren't going to add much more. But here are a few considerations for carousel-worthy shots.

  • A product DIY: Separate the DIY steps out into pictures, adds some on-photo text, and you've created a mini manual!
  • A construction site: Take shots of construction throughout the schedule, and toward the end you have a collection of photos that show the project from day one to final building.
  • Data flow: If you are offering a new app or device, create a series of photos that show how data is transferred, used, and stored.
  • Events: Several high quality photos can typically give a better idea of a fun business event or trade show than a single picture, especially if multiple activities are involved.

What to Watch for in the Future of Carousel

Now that you're sick of seeing the word "carousel," we're going to wrap up with a quick look to the future. Instagram is likely to keep this feature while adding more usability: For now only square format images are accepted, but this is likely to expand. Instagram will also be looking at how the carousel affects appearance in the news feed. Will carousels get better placement than single photos? Expect another post when we find out.

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Emily Oswalt

As social media manager at 21 Handshake, my passion of social media shines through to bring awareness to your brand. From the latest hashtag trend to engaging influencers, my desire is provide the best content to get your target audience talking online.