How an Instagram dinosaur comic tells stories, makes shareables, and sells merch in a single post

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Instagram/@dinosandcomics

· 4 min read

I’m a sucker for a cute li’l web comic. I’ll swipe right past Instagram thirst traps and brand Reels just to find an alien explaining humanity or a mouse in perpetual existential crisis. And while I love the art form, the lesson today comes from these artists’ mastery of Instagram carousels for both storytelling and sales.

Take the d’aww-inducing @dinosandcomics, which shares the most adorable ’saurs you’ve seen to its 3.4 million Instagram followers. In just one Instagram carousel, it posted:

  • a swipeable comic strip
  • a shareable all-in version
  • a push to merchandise

That’s a whole lotta elements in a single post, each of which serves a unique purpose. Let’s look at how the dinos pull off the trifecta + what your brand can learn from them.

Today’s example: a very supportive dinosaur

Let’s pick one specific dino post to break down. How about “I’m nervous”—183,000 likes can’t be wrong, right?

Here’s the full carousel, split apart into individual images.

Instagram/@dinosandcomics

Now let’s talk about the individual tactics at play.

Tactic #1: simply using the carousel format

I could make a strong argument that every single non-Reels Instagram post should be a carousel. The IG algo rewards engagement—swipes on a carousel count as engagement—and the feed often repopulates carousels you scrolled past into the feed with a different photo headlining. From Hootsuite:

“Because carousels are interactive, users spend more time looking at them than at traditional Instagram feed posts. This tells the algorithm that your target audience finds your content interesting and valuable and can lead to more people seeing your posts in their feeds.”

Sure, the artist could toss a simple four-panel up and call it a day, but by extending the post through carousels, @dinosandcomics gets additional at-bats for engagement.

Instagram/@dinosandcomics

Tactic #2: a swipeable story

When more than 100 million photos are uploaded to Instagram each day, there’s nothing more important to getting recognized than having a highly readable, highly noticeable post.

Take a look at the opening frame from this carousel compared to the four-panel version.

Instagram/@dinosandcomics

See how the dino on the left is four times larger? More importantly, that “I’m nervous” dialogue is also 4x bigger. It’s a more legible T. rex (maybe my favorite sentence ever). That clarity matters when we’re mindlessly scrolling.

A Social Media Newsletter by Jack Appleby

The carousel format also offers an interactive storytelling play. The artist is asking the user to swipe to reveal the plot and the punchline—that’s a whole different delivery than getting the whole story in one frame. There’s a joy to processing panels individually. I certainly smiled at the butt line.

Tactic #3: a shareable for the DMs

While swiping through the comic is a fun way to read, each panel of the carousel requires the context of other slides for a full understanding. That’s fine for storytelling, bad for social sharing.

The solution: The fifth slide is a four-panel of the full comic. That might seem repetitive, but it’s actually brilliant. By having one slide with the entire comic, it instantly becomes more shareable. You can DM the four-panel to your crush, knowing they’ll understand the full piece without any additional clicks. You can throw the full comic on your story to share with friends.

Tactic #4: a chance to make $$$

The forever question of social media: When and how do you make the hard sell to your audience? @dinosandcomics figured out a way to show off its merchandise with every single Instagram post.

At the end of each carousel, it shows the characters adorned on coffee mugs, sweaters, and all sorts of merch. It’s almost a full funnel in a single IG post! And no reader would balk at the promotional images because they’re starring their favorite characters. What more perfect moment to encourage a purchase than immediately after tugged heartstrings? Can confirm, you’ll end up buying, gifting, and watching a cute cry.

Instagram/@dinosandcomics

How to apply to your brand

I’m a big believer in looking outside of brandland to learn new social tactics. Whether it’s an artist, a musician, a creator, or just your close pal, everyone uses social media just a little bit differently. Some questions worth asking yourself for brand social:

  • How can you make more of your brand posts into carousels?
  • Are your carousels telling a compelling story? Do they have purpose?
  • Should you toss a promotional image to a sale/product as your final carousel slide?

Now tag yourself, I’m dino on the couch.

A Social Media Newsletter by Jack Appleby