Social media algorithms have changed dramatically over the past decade.
Just a few years ago, you could post content to your Instagram profile and reach the vast majority of followers, because of your Instagram feed, and get high Instagram engagement.
Now, you’re lucky if you reach a third of them with a standard Instagram feed post, particularly when you don’t include multiple images.
What does Instagram consider when assessing engagement?
When deciding which position to place a business’s content in, Instagram’s algorithm takes engagement-related metrics, such as comments, likes, and bookmarks, into consideration. By making those metrics a priority for Instagram users, you’ll increase your Instagram reach — and, therefore, greater return on investment (ROI).
So, what type of Instagram content gets the highest engagement rates? There are several to choose from — static images, Instagram Stories, Reels, IGTV … the list goes on.
This guide shares how to drive engagement with one of the most underused content formats for Instagram and social media marketing: Instagram carousels.
What is an Instagram carousel?
An Instagram carousel is a newer feature where businesses can share up to 10 images or videos in a single post.
So, how do you drive engagement to your carousels?
1. Create an eye-catching first image
The first slide of your carousel is the most important. It’s the first image a user sees in their feed and could be the difference between them scrolling through your carousel and scrolling past it.
There is no “best practice” to create an eye-catching first image in a Carousel post that will stop a user’s scroll. Follow the brand guidelines you’ve already created for your business’s Instagram account (i.e., colours, fonts, or image filters).
2. Share before and after content
Instagrammers LOVE transformations. So much so, that the hashtag #beforeandafter has been used on more than 22 million Instagram posts.
Certain weekly trends revolve around this before-and-after concept. Take the hashtag #transformationtuesday, for example. Every Tuesday, Instagram users share their transformation posts – no matter the subject — using the same hashtag.
This type of post lends itself perfectly to carousels. To make it work, you need only two images in the carousel (though you can of course use more, if relevant). Simply share a photo before your project, followed by the completed after pic for your Instagram carousel post.
3. Showcase your products in detail
Don’t have before and after photos to share with your Instagram followers? Another way to use carousel posts to drive engagement on Instagram is by putting your own products or services at the forefront.
Some 81% of shoppers use the Instagram app to research products or services before purchasing them. Help them through that journey with a carousel to:
- Tease a new product launch.
- Showcase a high-value product.
- Profile a product relevant to a trending topic.
Not only does this raise awareness of your product on Instagram, but it could also have a positive impact on your Instagram conversion rate.
4. Share a list with your followers
Listicles are one of the most popular types of content. In fact, 36% of readers prefer list-based headlines over how-tos, tutorials, and question-based headlines. Implement this knowledge in your Instagram marketing strategy to create list-based carousels, and showcase one item on your list on each slide.
Stuck for ideas? Here are some examples of lists you can create carousels for:
- A checklist.
- A repurposed list from a recent or high-performing blog post.
- A shopping list.
- A to-do list.
- A top tips list related to your industry.
- A list of facts or stats.
5. Share a recipe, tutorial, or step-by-step process
A carousel is a great way to share a step-by-step type of content, such as a tutorial or a recipe.
To make it easy to understand and follow, have each step of the process on its own individual slide of the carousel. This keeps things clear and encourages users to swipe through the entire carousel to view the entire sequence.
Although recipes might not be relevant to your business, there’s almost certainly a process or tutorial you can share to engage your users.
6.Include a “swipe left” instruction in your caption
Though primarily a visual platform, you can’t underestimate the importance of a good caption to accompany your Instagram post. And when it comes to carousel posts, there’s a cheat code to drive even more engagement on your post — explicitly asking your followers to “swipe left” through the carousel.
Research found that posts that include a “swipe left” message in the caption have an average engagement rate of 2%, compared to the 1.83% average for all posts.
7.Add a CTA on the final slide
If you’re using Instagram as a social media marketing platform, you’ll no doubt be looking to improve business metrics like sales or leads.
Earlier, we mentioned that the final carousel slide has the highest engagement rate of all. To drive your users into action from your carousel posts, include a call to action (CTA) on the final slide that instructs them to do something.
Let’s put that into practice and say you want to capture an Instagram follower’s email address off the back of your carousel. In that case, make the last slide a CTA like, “Send us a DM saying ‘e-book’ to read it.”