Long gone are the days when your only option on Instagram was to post a single filtered photo to your feed. Now we consider single photo posts, carousel photo posts, and feed video posts to be standard feed posts on Instagram. Reels don't fall in that category because they have the option to only be shared to the Reels feed, and Stories don't count because they never hit the feed. Our friends at Later analyzed over 81M Instagram feed posts (excluding Reels & Stories) to figure out which kind of posts will get you the highest engagement possible.
So ... What Type of Instagram Post Gets the Most Engagement?
Later started their study with analyzing 44M feed posts from January 1, 2021 - February 28, 2022, and the answer was extremely evident to Later: carousel posts. Carousel posts came in first, single photo posts came in second, and surprisingly - feed videos came in dead last.
With Instagram's new emphasis on video (announced by the head of Instagram Adam Mossseri in June 2021), we were surprised to see video's engagement coming in last for this data set that overlapped with Mosseri's announcement.
To double check their work and see how it compares to historical data, Later analyzed an additional 37M Instagram feed posts (again - excluding Reels & Stories) that also included posts from 2020. Check it out below:
As you can clearly see, engagement rates have been steadily dropping for all 3 types of feed posts from 2020 - 2022. While the engagement rates are dropping for carousel posts as well, carousel posts have still been winning the engagement game for the last 3 years.
Why Are Engagement Rates Dropping?
The culprit is clear: Instagram Reels.
Instagram has made it no secret that their algorithm is pushing Reels content above all else. They have to prioritize short form video content if they want to win people over from TikTok. Have you noticed recently that when you scroll your home feed on Instagram you're seeing more and more suggested content - not content from people you've decided to follow? And if your home feed is anything like ours, that suggested content consists overwhelmingly of Reels.
So it make sense. Your carousel posts, single photo posts, and feed video posts aren't getting as much play time on the home feed, which means your followers have less of a chance to engage with them.
But Why Are Carousels Getting the Highest Engagement?
The number one reason we think carousels get higher engagement is because they show up in the feed multiple times instead of disappearing into the ether when someone scrolls by without engaging. Have you noticed that a carousel post will show up in your feed multiple times - showing you different slides each time - if you don't swipe all the way through it the first time you see it? If you've never noticed that, you will now.
That time it takes to swipe through a carousel post is another key reason carousel posts get higher engagement. The algorithm pushes posts that users spend more time viewing. It takes a lot longer to swipe through 10 photos than it does to scroll past one photo.
Both of these factors mean that carousel posts are shown to more people, which means there are more opportunities for engagement.
Yes - video content is extremely important for success on Instagram, especially Reels. But if you aren't in a place where you can pump out video content, try instead to up the amount of carousels you're posting.