How Birchbox, Carnival Cruise and more use the Instagram album feature

Within a week after Instagram introduced an album feature that lets users upload up to 10 videos and static images in one single post, brands like Birchbox and Carnival Cruise Line are already testing it. While those companies aren’t getting metrics like swipe-right rate and click-through rate, they think Instagram album is a “great” engagement tool.

Carnival Cruise — in collaboration with its agency Arnold Worldwide — made its first Instagram slideshow last week, with three still images forming a panoramic view of a cruise docking by the pier. This post has outperformed similarly themed unpaid content, according to Arnold. Javier Yuanis, social marketing manager for Carnival Cruise Line, thinks that collage allows the brand to engage with its existing fans without saturating their news feed, as well as use more user-generated content to tell multiple stories.

Finally! More room for all these beautiful views. SWIPE! #carnivalbreeze #carnivalcruise

A post shared by Carnival Cruise Line (@carnival) on

“The Instagram album lends it well to sequential storytelling,” said Yuanis. “Organic is an opportunity for us to interact with existing fans while paid is good to attract new followers.”

Birchbox, Benefit Cosmetics and men’s underwear brand Mack Weldon have all used carousel posts to promote new products and partnerships in their initial tests.

Birchbox’s first unpaid carousel post starts with an image of Reese Witherspoon and ends with a close-up of beauty box curated by the actress. It was designed to help generate excitement for Birchbox’s March partnership with Witherspoon-owned fashion brand Draper James. Lorelei Orfeo, senior manager for content and social for Birchbox, explained that Instagram album is great for tutorial posts that educate followers on how to use a product and Birchbox’s new partnerships. Her team aims to publish at least one carousel post a week, with a mix of polished assets and behind-the-scenes that show the lifestyle perspective of Birchbox.

Benefit Cosmetics created two carousel posts last week when it announced three products. One features a portrait of a model followed by two images of the Benefit brow pencil used to get the look, while the other is led by a product shot of Benefit quickie contour stick and ends with a five-second stop motion video. Benefit is still playing with the optimal number of images and videos in one album, but three seems to be the sweet spot right now, said Adriana Parada, creative manager for Benefit.


Parada also thinks that Instagram album is a nice workaround by showing followers a decent amount of content in a cohesive storytelling way without getting penalized by the platform’s algorithm.

Of course, this collage format is not new to advertisers as they already had access to Instagram carousel ads last year. But Collin Willardson, director of content marketing for Mack Weldon, who used Instagram album to introduce his company’s new four-way short last week, thinks that Instagram treats carousel ads the same as it does with non-carousel ads, although with paid, advertisers can get metrics like CPM, click-through rate, conversation and engagement.

“From my experience, I haven’t seen a carousel ad do better or worse than a non-carousel ad, like I do on Facebook,” said Willardson. “So for now, we do both, as they both keep my engagement up.”

As followers get more familiar with swiping on unpaid content on Instagram, Laurin Hicks, digital brand manager for Benefit, expects that the performance implications on paid carousels would increase, as well.

Homepage image courtesy of Arnold Worldwide.

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