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What You Need to Know About TikTok Carousels

In this article, we’ll cover TikTok carousels – what they are, what they look like, and why you should make them.

May 1, 2024 10 min readFlow
Photo of Tamilore Oladipo
Tamilore Oladipo

Content Writer @ Buffer

An image (or 35) speaks a thousand words. Swiping through a well-made carousel is one of the few pleasures on social media, and TikTok’s is no exception. Even better, the TikTok algorithm seems to have a knack for recommending the perfect carousel, making it a breeze to navigate through the end of your recommendations.

Carousels have been popular on Instagram and LinkedIn and are now being prioritized by TikTok, making them a must-add to your content. In this article, we’ll cover TikTok carousels – what they are, what they look like, and why you should make them.

A TikTok carousel (also known as ‘TikTok photo mode’) is a sequence of up to 35 images, usually posted chronologically, that communicates a story or series of events.

Now, TikTok has had the photo format for quite a while – since September 2022, to be exact. So, if you’re wondering how to get TikTok photo mode, you should already have it. But in February 2024, social media expert Lia Haberman shared something users had been seeing on their feeds.

In an interesting turn, TikTok is pushing “photo posts” more, promising users more visibility in the algorithm and the coveted For You page. Specifically, they highlight that creators will see “2.9x more comments, 1.9x more likes, 2.6x more shares.”

If your first thought is that it’s odd for a video-first platform to push images so much, I’d wonder if you were in my head. But it’s led to creative exploration and diversified my feed, so as a user, I’m not complaining.

Some users have chosen to repurpose the Instagram photo dump, some to share their daily lives, and others to create platform-specific memes that fully exploit the new feature.

Images for TikTok carousels need to be in PNG or JPG format. TikTok isn’t quite like Instagram and LinkedIn, as you don’t need to do much to your images to get interest and attention – Canva doesn’t need to see you.

You can’t upload videos in the TikTok carousel format. While most photos uploaded from your camera roll will align with the specified dimensions, the ideal size should be 1080 x 1920 pixels with an aspect ratio of 9:16 or 1:1, but a 4:5 ratio will also work.

Why you need to be making TikTok carousels

Creators aren’t a monolith, so TikTok carousels allowing more creative expression beyond video is a great thing.

There’s also the obvious benefit of a boost in the algorithm, at least for now. As we already noted, TikTok's algorithm may prioritize carousels under certain conditions, offering increased exposure compared to other types of content. Leveraging this can be crucial for growth, especially when trying to reach a new audience or boost your presence on the platform.

Here are some other reasons incorporating TikTok carousels into your content can be a game changer:

  1. Increased engagement: Carousels allow you to tell a deeper story than a single post ever could. This narrative style keeps viewers swiping, significantly boosting interaction rates through likes, comments, and shares. And given that TikTok's algorithm favors engagement, carousels can enhance your visibility and keep your content circulating longer on users' FYPs.
  2. Greater creative freedom: Unlike standard video posts, carousels let you mix and match up to 35 images in a single post. This format opens up creative possibilities – from step-by-step tutorials to before-and-after sequences or thematic photo dumps.
  3. Storytelling and emotional connection: TikTok is all about connection, and carousels are a perfect tool for storytelling. Creating a sequence of images can evoke emotions and build a narrative that resonates with your audience, fostering a stronger connection and brand loyalty.
  4. Infinite versatility: Whatever you're into – fashion, food, fitness, or finance – carousels can be adapted to any content niche. This versatility makes them indispensable tools in your TikTok content arsenal.

Whether you aim to increase interaction, showcase your portfolio, or tell a captivating story, carousels are a low-cost way to deliver creative and engaging content on TikTok.

How to make and post a TikTok carousel

TikTok carousels are easy to create and post. To make your own, follow these steps.

Open TikTok and tap the “+” button to create a new post. Your screen should open to your front or back camera already on “Photo” – if it isn’t, swipe to select "Photo".

You can either take a photo right then and there or select “Upload” on the right side of your screen to choose pictures from your Camera Roll.

Swipe to the “Photos” section of your camera roll and tap "Select" in the top right corner of your screen to add multiple photos. Select as many photos as you need – you can add up to 35 photos. Then, tap “Next”.

Add music, filters, stickers, etc. Since you can’t add voiceovers to TikTok carousels (yet), this is a great opportunity to use a trending TikTok sound.

Post your carousel!

6 ideas for TikTok carousels

Here are some ideas for your next TikTok photo or carousel post.

1. Craft a classic photo dump

Embrace the simplicity and spontaneity of a classic photo dump with TikTok carousels. This laid-back approach showcases your everyday moments and lets your personality shine through. 

@natashahmedx has a distinct visual and personal style that always comes through in her. You’ll immediately recognize her photos from the digital stickers and pops of red featured throughout as shown in her photo dump.

Compile a series of images that capture snippets of your day, interesting sights, or behind-the-scenes action. @edngai showcases his apartment and the items around it through distinctly edited images.

Photo dumps generally feel more genuine and less curated, which can help build a more authentic connection with your audience. It's a perfect way to share life updates, celebrate milestones, or just give an unfiltered peek into your world. Remember, the charm of a photo dump lies in its randomness and relatability, so keep it casual.

2. Share reviews

Strike a balance of information and entertainment with reviews. You can review anything – films, products, books, or experiences. This format lets you break down different aspects or features in separate images, providing a thorough and engaging review.

@choplifeduo’s restaurant reviews are distinctly designed and immediately catch the eye of anyone curious about restaurants in their area of focus, Lagos, Nigeria.

Add captions to clarify your thoughts or highlight the pros and cons, making it easy for viewers to grasp your opinions quickly. @kacorporategirly is well known (and trusted) among the “corporate girlies” of TikTok, so her reviews on different sneakers to wear around the office are taken seriously. She uses text and emojis to add her opinions.

This method informs and adds an interactive element to your content, encouraging viewer interaction and trust.

3. Make recommendations

TikTok carousels are perfect for making personalized recommendations, whether it’s your favorite books, top travel destinations, or must-try products. @hannagetshired uses screenshots of different remote job boards as well as text, providing additional context to share recommendations to her audience.

Use each slide to showcase a different item, providing details about why it stands out. Enrich your carousels with personal insights and tips that add value to your audience’s experience. @_theconnoisseur shares a gift guide of different price ranges and diverse items.

This visually engaging format captures attention and positions you as a go-to source for trusted suggestions.

Jump on the latest TikTok trends by adapting them to your carousels. This can be a creative way to participate without blending into the sea of similar content. @toketemu participates in a trend popular with couples.

Use each slide to put your unique spin on a trend, whether it's a fashion challenge, a popular meme format, or a viral recipe. @setactive participates in the classical art trend with their carousel.

This approach keeps your content fresh and engaging, ensuring you stay relevant and connected with the TikTok community.

5. Tell a story

Harness the power of TikTok carousels to tell compelling stories that captivate your audience. @chickenandbreadzine share how the magazine and community around it came to be.

Use each image to unfold a part of your narrative, whether it’s a personal journey, a humorous anecdote, or a fictional tale. @esmiejp shares the journey to getting her book published.

This segmented storytelling approach allows for suspense and detail, drawing viewers deeper into your world. Engage your audience further by weaving emotional elements and captivating visuals throughout the carousel.

6. Show off a transformation – or progress on one

TikTok carousels are ideal for showcasing transformations or ongoing progress in any area of life. @_bennelson_ showcases his apartment transformation journey.

Use each slide to document different stages and highlight significant changes, whether it’s a fitness journey, home renovation, or business growth. @bespoke_gems shows a short but impactful carousel showing their first, second, and current office to highlight how much the business has grown.

This visual storytelling format allows your audience to see real results and developments over time, providing a powerful and motivational narrative. @buffer highlights 13 years of retreats in one carousel.

Engage viewers by sharing insights and tips for each phase, enhancing their understanding and appreciation of your journey.

Get creative with TikTok carousels

The great thing about TikTok carousels is that there are no rules for what will engage your audience. That’s also the bad news – there’s no exact format to adopt to guarantee success. Regardless, here are some tips to help enhance your carousels while figuring out what works for you.

  1. Use text to add context and enhance your story, but keep it concise to ensure it’s easy to read at a glance (and motivates your audience to swipe).
  2. There’s no “perfect length” – it’s all about the story you tell. Don’t be afraid to use up all 35 picture slots – or just 2.
  3. Maintain visual consistency – when you find something you can apply to your work consistently (the black and white filter, a certain image editing style), you can immediately grab the attention of anyone who comes across your content.
  4. Ensure all images are high-resolution and visually appealing. Blurry or low-quality photos can detract from the overall impact of your carousel – unless it’s on purpose, in which case, do you.
  5. Make sure your visuals are self-explanatory, or use captions to convey necessary information since users might view your carousel without sound.

My final advice is to post your carousels when your audience is most active on TikTok, which you can determine through analytics to maximize visibility and engagement. You can find your best time to post in your analytics or follow our recommendations in: When is the Best Time to Post on TikTok in 2024?

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