Instagram recently announced a new feature informally named “collections” that allows users to aggregate ten photos or videos into one post. In the Instagram app, the post appears as a swipeable gallery effectively linking sets of related photos and videos for easy consumption.
Collections is a pretty awesome new feature for a social network that appears to be second only to its parent network in usage (according to Pew Internet at least), and that boasts engagement metrics either superior to or slightly lower than Facebook, depending on who you believe.
Instagram is clearly one of the most powerful social media platforms, and collections is a demonstrably different way to contextualize your posts on the network. What I want to do with this post is demonstrate how to post to collections, some generalized best practices around contextualization, and to show how to embed Instagram collection posts to a third-party site.
How Instagram Collections work
The collections feature on Instagram allow you to upload up to 10 photos or videos in the same post. For example, if you posted previously about an event the posts would necessarily have been individually parsed. Collections allow you to contextualize your pictures within an individual post.
When you’re in the Instagram app and go to upload photos, you’ll now see the option “select multiple” or perhaps just two superimposed squares. Pressing this button brings you to your phone’s photo gallery allowing you to choose a series of photos or videos. When you choose media to post, you will see small numbers appear in the left corner of each selection. The displayed number is the sequence that the media displays within the post gallery. For example, ‘1’ would be the first item in the gallery, and so on.
Once you’ve selected and sequenced your images (note that you need to crop your photos during this selection), you go on to applying filters, metadata, and sharing preferences to your images (the standard Instagram stuff). Once posted, the gallery appears as a single post in your Instagram feed with the first sequenced media displayed and dots at the bottom of the post communicating that the post is a gallery rather than a single post.
Of course, this is a new feature, but there are some best practices that we can intuit from other places:
1. The first media in a gallery is the most important.
Just like a headline or a featured image for written content, the first media piece in a gallery draws attention to the rest of the gallery. And for that matter, media earlier in the sequence is more likely to be viewed than subsequent media. First is paramount, but queuing more engaging media prominently in the collection will increase its likelihood to be seen.
2. Mind your context
It takes a little more effort to swipe through a gallery than to swipe down an Instagram feed, so it’s important that each collection is assembled with context. Just as people dislike clickbait headlines and photos, it will test people’s patience to have the primary image in your gallery disparate from the rest of the content within the post. That said, I guarantee someone is already posting bait-and-switch content for Instagram collections (#sad).
As with any new feature or technology, have a means to gauge the performance of these posts. Note that because collection galleries are contained within a single post, post engagement doesn’t differentiate between media within a collection (a “heart” or comment is attributable to the post but not the individual media pieces within the post collection). Perhaps using a gamification system to have users show media preference or some other creative means of media attribution would be useful.
4. Mix media
Blending images and video is commonplace on platforms such as Facebook and Snapchat, and makes the content more diverse and exciting. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of media (the relative risk is probably pretty low). Mixing video and images makes content a bit less predictable and can increase interaction with a post.
As with all Instagram posts, you can embed collection posts rather easily. I made an example post from the New York Public Library’s public domain photos to demonstrate what an embedded “collection” post would look like:
The takeaway from this is that Instagram collections aren’t just media to share on the social platform. It also allows you to leverage Instagram as a third-party media host for your organic sites. For most businesses, an asynchronously loaded Instagram collection post will load much faster than a self-hosted gallery. And the interaction with the post will be more public than it might be in a self-contained content piece.
There are plenty of reasons to use the embed function, and the desktop version of Instagram makes embedding very easy. Aside from direct engagement, it is the only option offered on the Instagram desktop.
Instagram collections is a very intuitive extension of Instagram’s platform. It allows communications and marketing professionals to contextualize their posts in a very consumer-friendly way. And it allows for mixing video and images within a single Instagram post and easy embedding to third-party sites.
Is it going to significantly change the way that people use and consume on Instagram? Perhaps not. But from a content perspective, it is a powerful way to communicate more information to people within a concise contextual framework. Learn about how journalists are using multimedia in Cision’s 2017 State of the Media Report.