Do Instagram Carousels Raise Engagement?

Wednesday 13 September • By

Scott Ayres - Social Media Lab

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Introduction

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.

Background

What are Instagram Carousels you might ask?

This is 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.

It’s a really cool feature and many users are finding creative ways to display their products with the Instagram Carousel. 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 one of players holding puppies on National Puppy Day:

Paws your day to swipe through these #NationalPuppyDay photos.

A post shared by Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) on

The idea many marketers believe is that by posting an Instagram Carousel you’ll increase curiosity of users and get them to swipe through the images, Like them more, comment more, etc.

If they do that then your account is more likely to show up for users according to Instagram’s algorithm.

So that’s exactly what I want to test.

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!

instagram carousel survey

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.

Instagram Carousels Hypothesis

Plan of Attack

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.

Both accounts regularly post to engage their active fans.

I’m also going to take a look at some popular Instagram accounts and gather some data to compare the engagement on their Carousel posts and regular posts.

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, seeing as I don’t have access to their Insights.

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):

It’s suddenly water slide season!! #texas #spacewalk #spring #gatesville #waterslide #waco #kids

A post shared by Space Walk (@spacewalkctx) on

The Data

Let’s start by looking at the raw numbers of this experiment Then let’s check out the percentage difference between Instagram Carousel posts and regular posts.

Below will be the average of posts made in both categories.

Space Walk:

  • Carousel posts: 201 Impressions, 161 Reach, 8 Likes, 0 Comments, 8 Engagement (4 Carousel posts)
  • Regular posts: 216 Impressions, 169 Reach, 24 Likes, 2 Comments, 26 Engagement (4 Regular posts)

That’s a 6.94% drop in Impressions and a 4.73% drop in Reach!

Agorapulse:

  • Carousel posts: 251 Impressions, 194 Reach, 52 Likes, 6 Comments, 58 Engagement (2 Carousel posts)
  • Regular posts: 266 Impressions, 203 Reach, 57 Likes, 4 Comments, 61 Engagement (4 Regular posts)

That’s a 5.98% drop in Impressions and a 4.43% drop in Reach!

It’s obvious that on both accounts regular photo posts with 1 image had more Reach and engagement than Carousel posts.

Instagram Carousels Lower Reach

The 2 accounts averaged a 6.46% decrease in Impressions and a 4.58% decrease in Reach.

What about famous accounts?

Let’s take a look at a few social media experts first.

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. That way our data is as solid as can be.

@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:

Starbucks:

  • Carousel posts: 190,333 Likes, 1451 Comments (3 Carousel posts)
  • Regular posts: 234,333 Likes, 700 Comments (3 Regular posts)


Dallas Cowboys:

  • 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) was higher on regular photo posts. The Carousels did not have any increased engagement and in many cases had a much lower engagement. Comments were higher on the carousel posts on a few of the accounts though.

So it kinda “hurt” the accounts.

Remember Instagram uses an algorithm now 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.

Instagram Carousels Chart

Space Walk:

  • 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)

Agorapulse:

  • Likes: Carousel posts had a 8.77% decrease compared to regular posts
  • Comments: Carousel posts had a 60% increase compared to regular posts

@InstagramExpert:

  • Likes: Carousel posts had a 3.27% decrease compared to regular posts
  • Comments: Carousel posts had a 20.83% increase compared to regular posts.

@Mari_Smith:

  • Likes: Carousel posts had a 20.95% decrease compared to regular posts.
  • Comments: Carousel posts had a 10.53% increase compared to regular posts

@iSocialFanz:

  • Likes: Carousel posts had a 17% decrease compared to regular posts.
  • Comments: Carousel posts had a 30% decrease compared to regular posts.

Starbucks:

  • Likes: Carousel posts had a 18.78% decrease compared to regular posts.
  • Comments: Carousel posts had a 107.29% increase compared to regular posts.

Dallas Cowboys:

  • Likes: Carousel posts had a 13.14% decrease compared to regular posts.
  • Comments: Carousel posts had a 61.89% decrease compared to regular posts.

Instagram:

  • 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%!

Instagram Carousels Decrease

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.

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