** DISCLAIMER: We re-tested in June of 2018 and will include those results at the very end of this experiment **
Are Instagram Carousels Good for Engagement?
Are you like me?
I constantly try every method known to man in an attempt to get more people to see our content, engage with it, and hopefully buy from us.
But most of the time the effort is futile and I’m just frustrated.
Luckily most of the social media platforms realize our pursuit for engagement and are constantly adding features to help us attain those goals.
Instagram is one of the best at this — and today I want to test a new feature called Instagram Carousels.
The Background on Instagram Carousels
What is Instagram Carousels you might ask?
Carousels are a feature Instagram released in early 2017 allowing users to upload a combination of 10 photos or videos to the app instead of just 1.
Many users are finding creative ways to display their products with Instagram Carousels. So instead of multiple posts to show an event, product, etc you can do it in 1 post with many photos.
This post for example from Sciencewows shows you how to make Rainbow Silly Putty just by swiping through the images.
The Dallas Cowboys posted a cool and cute carousel of players holding puppies on National Puppy Day:
Marketers believe that by posting an Instagram Carousel you’ll increase the curiosity of users and get them to swipe through the images and engage more.
If they do that then your account is more likely to show up for users according to Instagram’s algorithm.
Does posting an Instagram Carousel Cause More or Less Engagement?
I asked this question in a VERY large Social Media Managers group and to my surprise 100% of those that responded thought Instagram Carousels would cause less engagement!
I think they are wrong!
Hypothesis: Posting an Instagram Carousel will result in an increase in engagement, primarily in Likes, as well as result in an increase in Impressions and Reach.
Testing Instagram Carousels
To get some data on Instagram Carousels I’ll be posting carousels on the @Agorapulse Instagram account as well as an account for my small, local business. (please note that as of 2019 the local business account is no longer active due to selling the business.)
We’ll also gather data from popular Instagram accounts.
On the Agorapulse account and my business account I’ll be able to see Impressions, Reach, Likes, Comments, and Engagement rate. For the other accounts that aren’t mine I can only see Likes and Comments.
I’ll compare Carousels to non-Carousels and draw a conclusion.
Here is a Carousel posted to Agorapulse:
Here is one posted to Space Walk (my small business page):
Instagram Carousel Data
The 2 accounts averaged a 6.46% decrease in Impressions and a 4.58% decrease in Reach when posting Instagram Carousels.
What about popular accounts?
Since I obviously didn’t post these I had to go back sometimes 3-4 months to find Carousels posted by these accounts. After getting the data for the Carousel I then got the data for the regular post immediately before or after the Carousel.
@InstagramExpert (Sue B. Zimmerman):
- Carousel posts: 237 Likes, 29 Comments (3 Carousel posts)
- Regular posts: 245 Likes, 24 Comments (5 Regular posts)
@Mari_Smith (Mari Smith):
- Carousel posts: 200 Likes, 21 Comments (7 Carousel posts)
- Regular posts: 253 Likes, 19 Comments (7 Regular posts)
@iSocialFanz (Brian Fanzo):
- Carousel posts: 112 Likes, 7 Comments (7 Carousel posts)
- Regular posts: 135 Likes, 10 Comments (7 Regular posts)
Here are a few national brands I drew data from:
- Carousel posts: 190,333 Likes, 1451 Comments (3 Carousel posts)
- Regular posts: 234,333 Likes, 700 Comments (3 Regular posts)
- Carousel posts: 37,350 Likes, 322 Comments (4 Carousel posts)
- Regular posts: 43,000 Likes 845 Comments (4 Regular posts)
Instagram (yes THE Instagram account on Instagram):
- Carousel posts: 461,222 Likes, 3224 Comments (9 Carousel posts)
- Regular posts: 1,053,111 Likes, 5146 Comments (9 Regular posts)
Hopefully you see the trend with each of these accounts.
On every single one of them the Engagement numbers (as well as Impressions and Reach) were higher on regular photo posts. The Carousels did not have any increased engagement and in many cases had much lower engagement. Comments were higher on the carousel posts on a few of the accounts though.
Remember Instagram uses an algorithm so the more someone engages with your posts the higher the chance they’ll see your next post.
Let’s break that down in percentages to really get a better feel of the numbers.
- Likes: Carousel posts had a 67% decrease compared to regular posts
- Comments: Carousel posts had a 100% decrease (0 comments) compared with regular posts (average of 2)
- Likes: Carousel posts had a 8.77% decrease compared to regular posts
- Comments: Carousel posts had a 60% increase compared to regular posts
- Likes: Carousel posts had a 3.27% decrease compared to regular posts
- Comments: Carousel posts had a 20.83% increase compared to regular posts.
- Likes: Carousel posts had a 20.95% decrease compared to regular posts.
- Comments: Carousel posts had a 10.53% increase compared to regular posts
- Likes: Carousel posts had a 17% decrease compared to regular posts.
- Comments: Carousel posts had a 30% decrease compared to regular posts.
- Likes: Carousel posts had a 18.78% decrease compared to regular posts.
- Comments: Carousel posts had a 107.29% increase compared to regular posts.
- Likes: Carousel posts had a 13.14% decrease compared to regular posts.
- Comments: Carousel posts had a 61.89% decrease compared to regular posts.
- Likes: Carousel posts had a 56.2% decrease compared to regular posts, the worst performer of all accounts researched!
- Comments: Carousel posts had a 37.35% decrease compared to regular posts.
Other than the accounts with more comments on carousel posts every other data point tells me carousels way underperformed compared to regular posts.
The average decrease in Likes of all accounts studied was 25.64%!
[Tweet “According to research by @agorapulse Instagram Carousels resulted in a 25.64% decrease in Likes!! #smm”]
Was I Right About Instagram Carousels?
Now that all the data is in we need to see if my hypothesis was correct.
You’ll recall it was: Posting an Instagram Carousel will result in an increase in engagement, primarily in Likes, as well as result in an increase in Impressions and Reach.
Based on the data I would say it was not accurate at all.
Every account studied had a major drop in Likes, Impression and Reach.
Sure, comments were up for some of the accounts. But the majority of the engagement that happens on Instagram is Liking the post, I’d say Carousels are a failure and did not produce any positive results.
Impressions and Reach being lower was a huge red flag for me as that number being lower means fewer eyeballs even had a chance at seeing my carousels.
Closing Advice about Instagram Carousels
If you’re looking for more engagement on Instagram, and we all are, I wouldn’t recommend posting Carousels to accomplish that.
It’s a cool idea to use when you want to group related photos together, or a series of pictures.
But other than that you’re better left posting those shots as individual posts and getting more engagement that way.
UPDATED DATA FROM JUNE 2018 RE-TEST
One of the challenges we face with our experiments is ensuring the data is still good months later.
So I re-tested Instagram Carousels on the Agorapulse and Space Walk accounts to see if the results were still relevant.
The quick answer is YES!
To re-test I posted a few carousels to each account:
- 4 to Agorapulse
- 2 to Space Walk
Since this was simply a re-test to ensure the reliability of the initial experiment I felt this amount was sufficient.
I then gathered data from these carousels as well as posts before and after them to compare, as we did in the first study.
Here’s what I found from the re-test:
- Agorapulse– Likes on carousels were 10.73% lower than regular posts (an even larger difference than before). Comments were actually higher on the carousels by an average of just 1 per carousel). A shocking result on the re-test was Reach was 11.18% lower on carousels as opposed to regular posts!
- Space Walk – Likes on carousels were 23.96% lower than regular posts, comments were 16.67% lower and Reach was about even.
This data further cements our original findings that Instagram carousels are not good for engagement and shouldn’t be used.
The action of swiping left is un-natural for Instagram users and is likely the reason why they don’t fair well.
So there you have it! Instagram Carousels still suck!