Instagram Carousel Ads: How They Work, plus 15 Creative Uses

Instagram is constantly testing on millions of profiles daily, with all that testing they have developed a much-needed new feature. Have you ever wanted to communicate an elaborate sale or contest your business is running but simply couldn’t pack all the info into one image? Well luckily Instagram saw this as a rising issue and released Instagram Carousel Ads! 

No longer are you stuck with posting about something photo-by-photo: you can now display a number of related posts together in a carousel. The business implications of doing so can be great for those that leverage this unique post type effectively.

Awhile after Instagram carousel ads were introduced, the concept was adapted for use by individuals who wanted to post more than one photo on their personal Instagram accounts (without requiring the use of ad setup and spend). The use of a carousel on an organic post is referred to as a gallery post. Says Instagram, “You no longer have to choose the single best photo or video from an experience you want to remember.”


How to Create Instagram Carousel Ads

If you want to use Instagram carousels in an ad, you have to first switch your profile over to an Instagram Business account.

Another requirement for using carousel ads is the existence of a connected Facebook business page. You can create Instagram carousel ads from your Facebook page, or through Facebook’s Power Editor.


Instagram Carousel and Gallery Posts: Guidelines for Use

Users can choose to edit up to 10 photos and videos individually or with a single filter. They can also choose the order of how they want photos to display, and can tag friends individually, by a photo. A potential caveat – when using Instagram gallery posts, there can only be one location tagged, and likes and comments will apply for the whole post, not per photo.

To make it easy for users to identify a carousel post (and to know to swipe for more), Instagram includes an icon on the post with thumbnails, similar to the one used to indicate a video that can be played.


Advantages of the Instagram Carousel and Gallery Posts

The Instagram carousel/gallery post type opens up many new possibilities for social media content creation. Rather than choose from hundreds of photo options for a single post, people can post a summary of how they feel in a few images. It helps to bridge the gap between over-posting about the same thing and clogging up your follower’s feeds, in a way that gives your post a more full-bodied story.

It’s interesting to consider the implications of posting about something in relation to Instagram’s new, non-chronological newsfeed algorithm. Using the example of posting about the same situation in multiple, separate posts – they wouldn’t necessarily be displayed in that same order to followers.

If you’ve created a chronological storyline, Instagram’s algorithm all but guarantees that it won’t be displayed correctly unless followers opt to go directly to your profile and view the posts in order. Posting instead as a set of images in a carousel helps to deal with this confusing scenario, and keeps everything streamlined and cohesive.


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Statistics about the Instagram Carousel: Gallery Posts

Since Instagram’s launch of gallery posts (non-ad carousels) in February 2017, data from the Top 500 celebrity, brand and media accounts were analyzed and it was found that:

  • 42% of brands published their first Instagram gallery post within the first week of the feature being introduced (40% of media and 24% of celebrities).
  • Marketers post an average of 0.76 gallery posts in a week (versus media, which does 1.7 posts per week and are the most active on social media).
  • Since they are still considered newly launched, Instagram gallery posts aren’t going to displace the volume of photos and videos. In fact, they only make up 4.3% of all Instagram posts.
  • Instagram gallery posts perform better than single video posts but worse than single photo posts.
  • The carousel format is popular with the finance industry, although the fashion industry gets the most interactions per carousel post.


How Companies are Using Instagram Carousels and Gallery Posts



Businesses use Instagram to promote themselves, and the Instagram carousel eliminates the need to post several photos on the feed at once about a given topic. In essence, this post format provides a bit of novelty, as it’s distinctly different from other posting formats. People can’t help but stop when scrolling their feed to interact with them.

This is useful in giving context to promoting something new, like movies or promos.

Disney uses the Instagram carousel feature to share several movie poster versions for their upcoming films, like Star Wars and Thor.

In contrast, Etsy used the carousel feature to inform people of their Labor Day sale promotion.


The Instagram carousel post with the most interaction as of this writing is Nike Football’s post showing AS Monaco’s new jersey—it garnered over 440,000 likes!


Step-by-Step Tutorials

Another type of content that takes advantage of the Instagram Carousel post type is step-by-step tutorials.

There’s a reason Buzzfeed Tasty videos are so popular: they’re quick, delicious looking and most importantly—easy to follow. They use their Instagram account, to frequently share tutorials using Instagram carousels, featuring a mixture of both video and photo. For an example, check out their step-by-step tutorial for how to make Chicken Cordon Bleu.

View this post on Instagram

This chicken cordon bleu is actual perfection ?

A post shared by Tasty (@buzzfeedtasty) on


Another industry that could make good use of step-by-step tutorials is the beauty industry. Interestingly, beauty brands are the industry that has made the least effort to adopt the Instagram carousel feature, with an average total of only 2% of their posts appearing in the carousel format.


Storytelling Tool

The Huffington Post uses the carousel feature to supplement the stories they tell with photos, like this one about the Twinsburg Twins Day Festival:

View this post on Instagram

Since 1976, the Twinsburg Twins Days Festival in Ohio has welcomed thousands of twins from around the world to celebrate what it’s like to be part of a pair. This past weekend, twins were encouraged to dress to honor their family heritage or show off their local pride. Photographer Teake Zuidema, who regularly takes pictures at the festival, asked some of them to pose for portraits. (Note that Twins Days welcomes all doubles, although identical twins tend to draw the camera more.) Seventy-year-old African-American sisters Arnette and Anette Avery, for instance, are also part Scotch-Irish and part Cherokee. Other twins referenced their #Greek, #Swiss, #Dutch, #Canadian and #PuertoRican histories. Some sets of twins highlighted their favorite sports teams or just had fun with comic book heroes. Or they came looking very sharp ― and that was surely enough. Zuidema, who recently became a U.S. citizen himself, enjoys the spirit and diversity of the festival, “At the Twins Days you meet Americans, and some non-Americans, from all different races, religions, heritages and different walks of life. To me, it also seems to be a very American thing that adults don’t mind to dress up and be seen and photographed,” he told HuffPost. He also knows why images of twins are so appealing: There’s an “extra dimension and extra power because you see everything in double.” Chris McGonigal (@kewlfocus) for HuffPost

A post shared by HuffPost (@huffpost) on


Or this story about a 10-year old girl who donated school supplies to 1000 students:


View this post on Instagram

Amariyanna “Mari” Copeny is probably the busiest 10-year-old we know.⠀ ⠀ Mari, also known as Little Miss Flint, partnered with the nonprofit organization Pack Your Back on Sunday for a school supply distribution in her hometown of Flint, Michigan. ⠀ ⠀ Students within the city of #Flint, which still faces long-term public health issues due to its ongoing water crisis, have a serious need for school supplies. So Mari stepped up to the plate. ⠀ ⠀ “I wanted to make sure kids got the best start possible to the school year and for their parents to not have to worry about having to buy supplies,” Mari told HuffPost. ⠀ ⠀ Last year, Mari started the #PackYourBackChallenge on Twitter and was able to fill 100 backpacks with school supplies. She saw 10 times that amount this year.⠀ ⠀ Organizers were able to distribute more than 1,000 backpacks to every single student that came to the event. Mari also raised around $10,000 online.⠀ ⠀ @phil.lews for HuffPost⠀ ? Loui Brezzell ⠀ #blackgirlmagic

A post shared by HuffPost (@huffpost) on


Launching New Products

If you’re constantly launching new products, like fast-fashion retailer Forever 21, it makes the most sense to collect all related photos in a single post for cohesiveness and less confusion than constantly posting about each individual piece as it comes out.

View this post on Instagram

Okay, Fall. We see you ??✨ (shop link in bio)

A post shared by forever21 (@forever21) on


Behind the Scenes

One way businesses use their Instagram accounts is to take followers behind the scenes of their operations. With Instagram carousels, they can show off more photos relating to a certain situation, satisfying fans hungry for more information about their favorite brands.  

As an example, Marvel uses their Instagram accounts to show what happens behind-the-scenes, like this post showing Chris Hemsworth and Mark Ruffalo signing stuff at San Diego Comic-Con:


To Tell Jokes

Buzzfeed is known for frequently posting funny content on their website and across their social channels, and their Instagram account is no exception. Instead of sharing several jokes or funny posts individually, they usually compile related hilarity into one Instagram carousel post, such as with this example:


To Share Memes

On a similar note, Instagram carousel posts can be an excellent way to compile a number of related memes, which are a popular medium for encouraging engagement. Another example from Buzzfeed shares several different takes on a certain meme:

View this post on Instagram


A post shared by BuzzFeed (@buzzfeed) on


To Inform

Informative posts like Refinery29’s How to Help Hurricane Harvey victims show that Instagram isn’t all about superficiality, but can also be a great platform to inform and disseminate information.


To Showcase a Product

Instagram carousels are a good way to showcase a product in a way that one photo alone couldn’t thoroughly accomplish. With the carousel feature, you can take photos from multiple angles of a product, or share different kinds of product in one post.

An excellent example of this in action is Subway’s everyday sandwiches:

Now that you can get a different footlong for just $6 each day, every day is Mmm day.

A post shared by Official Subway (@subway) on


Subway even uses Instagram carousels to show how people enjoy their products:



For Contests

The Instagram carousel can also be used for contests that require voting, much like MTV’s VMAs or posts from the Teen Choice Awards:


For Best Moments

Some of the best looks from New York Fashion Week are displayed on their Instagram account as a carousel post, as they would do in a Facebook album or magazine spread.


To give another example, Teen Vogue greeted Queen Bey on her birthday with a post showing all of her best moments:


View this post on Instagram

Happy Birthday, #Beyoncé! ??

A post shared by Teen Vogue (@teenvogue) on


For User Generated Content

To make your followers feel appreciated and seen, repost some of the user-generated content that they often tag you in as an Instagram carousel.

Canva does this well–they show off the amazing things their users make with their graphic design software:


To Show How Your Product is Made

HelloFresh gives a sneak peek of how their products are made, giving followers an idea of what kind of ingredients they use. For many, the ingredient breakdown of products is a compelling buying consideration.


For Transformations

You can also use the Instagram carousel feature to showcase transformations via before and after photos or videos, just like The Academy did, showing off how Producer Tom Luddy, director Paul Schrader, and cinematographer (and Academy President) John Bailey reunite at Telluride 33 years after making “Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters” together:


For Making A Stand

Just like TeenVogue did, for #DACA:

View this post on Instagram

The unfortunate truth about American youth is that we are not created equal. We aren't born with equal rights, or afforded the same opportunities — we are undermined by strategic laws and government policy that segment and separate us by circumstances outside our control. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy was a significant effort that afforded young undocumented immigrants the chance to work, learn and thrive in the country they call home. President Trump rescinded #DACA this week, putting an estimated 790,000 young people at risk for deportation — some to countries they've never known. They stand to lose everything they have worked for, but we refuse to stay silent while families are ripped apart and young people's lives are put at risk. If you stand with #DREAMERS, please visit to call your lawmakers and take action. ✊️?: @xoxohadas

A post shared by Teen Vogue (@teenvogue) on


How to Make the Most of Your Instagram Carousel & Gallery Posts

If you’re just getting started with Instagram carousels and gallery posts, consider the following tips for the best chance at success:

  • Visuals, captions, and hashtags are important when building a following but focus on what is most important—the visuals. Instagram is first and foremost a visual platform, so always post high-quality images that are consistent with your brand.
  • Post consistently so that you’ll appear in your followers’ feeds on a regular basis. Those that don’t post consistently are at the mercy of Instagram’s somewhat unforgiving algorithm to be seen on followers’ feeds.
  • Stay on brand, don’t follow trends. For example, if it’s not on apart of the brand’s culture to post memes, don’t do it just because another brand seems to be having success with it.


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How Companies Are Using Instagram Carousels to Increase Engagement 

Instagram carousels and gallery posts are in some way Instagram’s version of Facebook albums, that allow you to post up to 10 photos and videos. No longer confined to ads and business account use, they can also be used on personal accounts, without any ad spend.

When weaving Instagram carousels and gallery posts into your existing strategy, consider the aforementioned businesses and tactics for engaging with followers.

Which Instagram Carousel strategy do you find most interesting? Tweet at @Jumper_Media with what’s working for you!

p.s. Want to learn how to incorporate Facebook Carousel ads into your social media strategy? Check out our complete guide here.

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