What Is Instagram and Why Should You Be Using It?

Here's what Instagram is all about and how people are using it

The Ultimate Guide to Instagram
The Ultimate Guide to Instagram

What is this trendy thing called Instagram that all the cool kids seem to be into? It's been around for a few years, quietly picking up traction mostly because of a new obsession with mobile photography. Instagram is a social networking app for sharing photos and videos from a smartphone.

An Intro to Instagram

Similar to Facebook or Twitter, everyone who creates an Instagram account has a profile and a news feed.

When you post a photo or video on Instagram, it displays on your profile. Other users who follow you see your posts in their feed. Likewise, you see posts from other users you follow.

Instagram is like a simplified version of Facebook, with an emphasis on mobile use and visual sharing. Like other social networks, you interact with other users on Instagram by following them, being followed by them, commenting, liking, tagging, and private messaging. You can also save the photos you see on Instagram.

Because there is so much to know about Instagram, here's a list of helpful articles to help you navigate the social media platform. The Ultimate Guide to Instagram will help you uncover the most hidden tricks of the platform and help you connect with others in different ways.

To use this guide, open the links in the navigation pane. It's separated into eight sections. Each section contains articles filled with tips and hints.

Instagram photo gallery on phone in hand
Grinvalds / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Devices That Work With Instagram

Instagram is available for free on iOS devices, like the iPhone and iPad, as well as Android devices, like phones and tablets from Google, Samsung, and others.

It can also be accessed on the web from a computer. However, uploading photos and videos, and sharing existing content with other Instagram users, is only possible from the mobile app.

Create an Account on Instagram

Before you can use the app, Instagram asks you to create a free account. You can sign up with your existing Facebook account or by email. All you need is a username and a password. You can change your Instagram email address anytime.

You may be asked if you want to follow friends who are on Instagram in your Facebook network. You can do this right away or skip through the process and come back to it later.

It's a good idea to customize your profile by adding your name, a photo, a short bio, and a website link if you have one when you first get on Instagram. When you follow people and look for people to follow you back, they'll want to know who you are and what you're about.

Use Instagram as a Social Network

On Instagram, the main intention is to share and find the best photos and videos. Every user profile has a followers and a following count, representing how many people they follow and how many other users are following them.

Every user profile has a button you can tap to follow them. If a user has their profile set to private, they must approve your request first.

When your profile is created and set to public, anyone can find and view your profile, along with your photos and videos. Set your profile to private if you only want the followers you approve to see your posts.

Interacting on posts is fun and easy. Double-tap any post to like it or add a comment at the bottom. You can also click the arrow button to share it with someone using Instagram Direct.

If you want to find or add more friends or interesting accounts to follow, use the search tab (marked by the magnifying glass icon) to browse through tailored posts recommended to you. You can also use the search icon at the bottom to look for specific users or hashtags.

Apply Filters and Edit Your Instagram Posts

Instagram has come a long way since its early days in terms of posting options. When it launched in 2010, users could only post photos through the app and add filters without any extra editing features.

Today, you can post through the app or from existing photos or videos on your device. You can also post photos and videos up to one full minute in length, and you have several extra filter options plus the ability to tweak and edit.

When you tap the middle Instagram posting tab, you can select the photo or video tab to let the app know whether you want to post a picture or take a video. If you don't want to capture it through the app, use the Library to select something you saved.

Adding a filter to an Instagram image

Instagram has 40 filters you can apply to photos and videos. Some additional photo editing options let you straighten the image, adjust things like brightness and warmth, and overlay color. For videos, you can disable audio, select a cover frame, and, if you use the iOS app, trim videos. Or, try Instagram Reels to create 15-second video clips.

Share Your Instagram Posts

After you apply an optional filter and make some edits, you're taken to a tab where you can fill out a caption, tag other users to it, tag it to a geographical location, and simultaneously post it to your other social networks.

Once it's published, your followers can view it and interact with it in their feeds. You can delete a post or edit the post details after you publish it by tapping the three dots at the top.

You can configure your Instagram account to have photos posted on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr. If these sharing configurations are highlighted, as opposed to remaining gray and inactive, your Instagram photos are automatically posted to your social networks after you select Share. If you don't want your photo shared on any particular social network, tap one so that it's gray and set to Off.

View and Publish Instagram Stories

Instagram has a Stories feature, which is a secondary feed that appears at the top of your main feed. It contains photo bubbles of the users you follow.

Tap a bubble to see that user's story or the stories they published over the last 24 hours. If you're familiar with Snapchat, you may notice how similar the Instagram Stories feature is to it.

The Your Story, Gallery, and Select Multiple buttons in Instagram

To publish your story, tap your photo bubble from the main feed or swipe right on any tab to access the Stories camera tab.