Deep dive into Instagram carousels vs Reels for brand marketing.
Instagram has become one of the leading channels for brands to set up marketing campaigns on. But it’s no longer restricted to just promoting deals and discounts; brands are now using the platform to create content targeted at educating and engaging their target audience.
Two popular Instagram content formats for the same being – Carousels and Reels.
In this post, we’re sharing our take on what we think is a good Instagram format for marketing, and what you should be using based on what your business goal or objective is.
Instagram carousels vs Instagram Reels
In the sections below, we’re going to start with the absolute basics of what the two formats are, what they look like and then what you can use them for. But we do recommend experimenting with both of them on your own as the results may vary based on which industry you are in, what you sell and who you sell to.
What are Instagram carousels?
Instagram carousel posts are a powerful visual storytelling content format. It allows brands to include ten images or videos in a single post. This enables them to take their audience on a journey through each slide. You can share a step by step guide, before and after pictures, a collection of photos, and more!
This allows for more creative freedom and engaging ways to captivate viewers and provide a comprehensive narrative.
Instead of relying on one post to convey a message or share a photo, you can use a series of visuals that complement each other and tell a more compelling story.
Benefits of Instagram carousels
- Carousel posts have higher engagement rates compared to regular posts. This means more people are likely to comment, like, share and save these posts.
- You can create content that has a visual flow and narrative. This allows for a more storytelling style of content that engages the audience more immersively.
- It allows you to mix and match types of content on each slide. You can start with a photo that hooks the audience and then lead them into photos that act as a segway into a video on the fourth slide.
- It improves the dwell time of your audience on a post; which means you’re able to hold their attention for a longer period of time.
Brands using Instagram carousels
Brands can use carousel posts in many interesting ways. And some brands have nailed it! Here are some Instagram carousel examples we love:
1. Offer perspectives
When you can only add one photo to showcase your product, you are limited by how you want to display it. But when you add up to 10 images, you have many more options to show the product from different perspectives.
In the example below, you can see how Etsy, a shopping marketplace shows one of the products listed on its site. They can ask customers to swipe to see more photos too.
Similarly, Rare Beauty also uses Instagram carousels to give a closer look into their lip color shades.
2. Convey information
In the example below, the clothing brand, GAP uses the carousel feature to talk about a store with exclusive vintage GAP clothes.
They have a fun image in the beginning that is different from their usual images and lead into the clothes people can purchase in the other slides included.
3. Show transformations
Adding slides allows you to quickly post before and after images for new stores, interior design, health updates, and so much more. In the example below, Apartment Therapy used the carousel posts feature to show the captivating before and after effects of renovating a home.
What are Instagram Reels?
Instagram Reels is a feature that allows users to create and share short videos on the platform. These videos can be up to 90 seconds long and include artistic elements like filters, effects, and audio.
With Reels, users can showcase their creativity and entertain their followers. Additionally, they can be discovered by a broader audience on Instagram through the Explore page or while randomly scrolling through reels.
Benefits of Instagram Reels
- The Instagram algorithm favors reels. This means whenever a brand uses it correctly, it can reach a wider audience, boosting engagement.
- Reels have great potential for virality by using the right Instagram reels hacks and features, or sometimes with the right music or trend at the right time, your videos can blow up on Instagram.
- Reels are often habitual entertainment for users. Once someone starts watching reels, they might keep scrolling because of how engaging it is. This way, your video can also reach new audiences easily, getting you new followers.
Brands using Instagram Reels
Reels, when used right, can help a business transform its marketing. Here are some examples of brands that are using it the best:
1. Showcasing a product
Product videos are always helpful for a launch. This collaborative video between Fenty Beauty and Sephora features a visually appealing video of Fenty products. Immediately, you can see the colors used, and the video quality is aimed at making the products the video’s highlight.
2. Product use cases
While it is great to show product images, showing exactly how to use them can appeal to the customers more. Especially when it comes to clothing – there are multiple ways to style any item. In this reel example by Everlane, the brand utilized user-generated content and showed how to create a matching set for the summer only using their products.
3. Entertain the audience
Video is a great format to be creative and fun. One brand that can be closely associated with those terms is Duolingo. The owl mascot of the app is known on social media to be a menace in the most fun way while also engaging the right audience.
In the example of reels below, you can see how it promotes the product of the math app and, simultaneously, can make viewers laugh!
Instagram Carousels vs. Reels – What’s Better?
Instagram reels and carousels both have their purposes for a good Instagram marketing strategy.
But which is better for Instagram marketing? That answer is a little more complicated – let’s get into it.
So it’s been observed that the reach rate for carousels has declined over the past year. But it’s worth noting that carousels still generate the highest number of comments, regardless of your account size.
Instagram reels, however, have been consistently favored by the algorithms and are also incredibly engaging. They have an average engagement rate of 1.95%, more than twice that of other content types.
Additionally, as people’s attention span is hard to grasp in today’s digital world, short-form video content is becoming increasingly popular. Since reels allow users to create engaging and entertaining videos that can go viral, they are great assets to grab users’ attention.
But this doesn’t mean Instagram carousel posts are supposed to forget to bite the dust. Carousels allow for versatility, storytelling, and more engagement in comments, likes, and more.
If you think about account sizes, carousel posts gain the most number of comments for smaller accounts, and larger accounts get more saves than comments. However, reels generate a higher number of saves for smaller accounts. And today, saves are an important metric in the Instagram algorithm for marketers.
These differences clearly show that it isn’t how one is better than the other, but rather which is suitable for what type of account and content.
Therefore, brands must experiment with both formats to find what works best for their marketing objectives. Understand the purpose of each format, you cannot create a reel for everything, nor can you only stick to carousel posts.
Take advantage of Instagram’s tools to maximize your reach and engagement. Using a combination of carousels and reels, you can create a well-rounded Instagram marketing strategy to help you stand out in a crowded online space.
How to choose the right Instagram content format?
Choosing between Instagram reels and carousels can be overwhelming, considering how every other brand or influencer seems to have nailed it. But remember, you just have to create content that resonates with your audience the most. Here’s how you should pick a format:
- Connect with your audience: Take the time to understand your target audience and what they enjoy engaging with the most. This will help you create relatable, useful content for them and develop a deeper connection with your target audience.
- Assess your content with care: Consider your content’s visual aspects, storytelling potential, and interactive features. Think about how each format most suits your content and attracts your audience. Or you could even choose based on the topic – some are better shown as videos and some with a more elaborated way on a carousel.
- Be mindful of your resources: Consider the time and money required to create content in each format. While Reels may require more time and financial investment for video editing, carousels can be faster with a collection of photos or videos. Considering how consistency is important in social media, you don’t want to be stuck creating just one reel that never performs well.
- Define your goal thoughtfully: Determine what you want to achieve on Instagram, such as increasing reach, boosting engagement, or generating saves – each has different purposes. Reels are great for maximizing reach, while carousels are effective for generating engagement and saves. Make a decision based on your preference and priority.
- Experiment and measure with curiosity: Continuously test both formats to see what works best for your audience and content. Analyze metrics like reach, engagement, likes, comments, shares, and saves to get insights on what your audience is reacting to the most with social media analytics tools like Radarr.
No matter what you choose, do it with an audience-first approach!
Instagram Carousels vs. Reels – the argument can be endless – however, whatever you choose, remember to create it with the audience in perspective.
You could create a reel using the latest audio, and it could reach millions of viewers, but that will only promise conversion or followers if it is curated in a way that resonates with your target audience.
Therefore, creating the right content, picking the right format, and understanding your audience is essential. This is where you need to leverage social media listening, monitoring and analytics tools. They give insights into your audience’s likes, dislikes, and preferences – giving you a chance to create content that engages them.
Want to learn how you can get better at creating Instagram marketing content?