What Is Instagram and How It Works: a Beginner’s Guide

Instagram is a free social media application that is similar in many ways to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Instagram can be downloaded onto mobile devices from the Apple iTunes Store and the Google Play Store.

Instagram, as a website, has limited functionality; it is mostly used for personal images that users post and see in order to interact with friends and family. It, like other social networking websites and apps, can be used to promote your company, website, or blog.

Instagram is frequently compared to Facebook, but just for photos. This is a reasonably true description now that Facebook incorporates hashtags. It links users in a quirky and fun way, and the ease of use encourages users to stay on indefinitely.

Instagram is where people share their best and worst moments, and because everyone appears to have a phone with a camera these days, it is perfectly adapted to a modern, fast-paced existence. Instagram allows users to stay in touch with family and friends, as well as make new ones. Instagram does not categorize the accounts you follow into groups such as friends, family, colleagues, and so on. Instagram is really easy to use because everything is in one place.

Instagram is now used by over 90 million users. Instagram has not only revolutionized photo sharing and social media in general, but it has also cleared the way for commercial opportunities.

In this article, you will learn more about Instagram and how it works.

What is Instagram?

Instagram is a social networking platform, it was designed with the idea of sharing photos and video. Initially, it was kicked off on iOS devices in October 2010.

It was then released for Android devices in April of 2012. Just like most of the social media platforms we have now, Instagram gives you the ability to follow individuals whom you have an interest in. When you have followed them, it develops a feed on your homepage so that you are able to see recent posts from the people you follow.

It also enables you to comment on posts and to like them. Instagram also has a story feature, similar to the snapchat story. It stays for a 24-hour period after which it expires and disappears. Also, you can also send a direct message to another in private.

You can as well, check out their profiles to view things you find interesting. Now, let us get down to the technicalities of how Instagram works, but before we do that, let us first learn how to create an account.

How to Create an Instagram Account

The first step in creating an Instagram account is to download the Instagram application. Go to your Google Play Store app if you have an Android phone. Use the App Store if you have an iOS device. Run a search in any of these stores and download immediately. You can start using the app now that you’ve downloaded it.

Select the icon that resembles a camera. That is the Instagram application. If you don’t want to download the app, you can access Instagram from your computer. However, what you can accomplish on your PC is limited in comparison to what you can do on your mobile device. Next, we will talk about signing up.

Signing Up

You have to provide some information before signing up, but you have the opportunity of making a choice in some of them, and we will talk about them below:

  • Include your mobile number: here you will type in your number and the creation of your account is underway. If this your first time of using Instagram, it may be the best choice to create the account with your number. This information will be accessible to you at all times and it is easier to log in.
  • You could use an Email Address: if you have created an account before, this may be the ideal option for you since you can use another email address. It is also good because it makes it easier for you to receive notifications when you have two accounts which you want to keep separate.
  • Sign-up through Facebook: if you already have an account with Facebook, this is a very quick and stress-free method of creating an account. It will also make it very easy for you to follow those you know because it will give you access to all your Facebook friends who are on Instagram.

The three methods listed above can all be used to sign up very easily. Just pick any of the methods you prefer and you can move to the next step of picking a username.

Choosing a Username

Your choice of a username is very important while creating a new Instagram account. You may be faced with uncertainty while choosing a username. Don’t fret it, you can change it whenever you want. A good username can make your account unique, even increase the number of followers you have. Your choice of a username should depend on what you are using the account for. Use a name that can be easily searched for.

Picking a profile picture

Haven carefully chosen a username, you need to put up a picture on your profile. If it is a personal account, you could use a great selfie. If it is a business account, choose a picture that informs the viewer what your business is about. You can also use graphics. Just use any picture you are comfortable with.

Whatever picture you finally choose will be what the users will see first. Whenever you upload on Instagram will have your profile picture beside it. This is why you should be careful while you choose your profile picture. After choosing a good picture, next thing is to follow the people you know.

Begin by following those you know

When your account is ready, the next thing to do is begin using Instagram. Search for your friends’ accounts and other accounts that interest you and hit the follow button. Make sure that people close to you are aware that you have an Instagram profile. When you follow people, you will get a follow back. As time goes on, your Instagram account will become more and more successful. The next step is to learn how to easily move around the platform.

How Does Instagram Work?

Now that you have created an account and followed people your home page will become active. This is where you will view posts from friends and people you have followed. At the top of the page, you will see the newest stories uploaded by your friends. By just tapping on it, you can begin viewing the stories. If you want a direct message to another user, click on the Messages icon. Tap on it to begin writing a new message or go through the messages you already have there.

1. To begin posting on Instagram

To create a new post on Instagram, hit the Plus icon at the center of the toolbar at the base of the app’s interface. There, you can choose to take a new picture or video. You can also select an image, or multiple images, your gallery to make a post.

After taking a picture, you can use any of the filters to make edits on your photos. Finally, you can make a comment on the upload, you can also tag people, and include the location you want.

You can also share your uploads to other platforms if you want. Once you hit the Share button, your picture will appear on your followers’ feeds. Now that you have learnt how to make posts on Instagram, you also need to learn the feature of Instagram, so that you can get the maximum experience off it.

2. Adding Photos and Videos

You can choose to share photos or videos on your Instagram account. This is the main point of setting up an account on this service. What you upload will make a huge difference in a lot of things. We will be getting into details regarding that later on.

First let’s take a look at exactly how you can upload. The first choice is to take a picture through the camera button at the center of the panel. This connects to the camera of your device. You can now take a picture or video through this. The app also allows you to shoot or upload videos.

These have to have a minimum length of 3 seconds and can extend up to 15 seconds. When you shoot a video, you can click on the record button to start. If you want a continuous segment, just keep your finger on the button the entire time you are shooting.

If you want multiple different clips, just remove your finger where you want to stop. The second option is to upload something that is already saved on your camera roll. Although you previously had to crop your images to the square that Instagram required, things have changed.

You can now use pictures with any ratio without having to cut or add to them. Once you choose what you want to upload, you can go ahead and edit if you choose. Then all that left to do is to upload.

3. Editing

Once you select your photo you can choose to use it in its original form or better yet enhance with some editing. Instagram has some amazing filters that can change the look of your image in different ways. You can choose to use the readymade filters that are built on the app or do it yourself.

Increase or decrease features like the brightness or contrast and make the picture look much more professional. Tilt shift is another great editing option that will allow you to give a type of altered depth of field. You can choose between the horizontal bar or circle when you sue this and rotate your picture for the best effect as well.

The lux effect is like an auto-enhancing option. It enriches the image when you click on the sun icon. You can increase or decrease the depth of this as well. You can also edit the pictures on other photo apps and upload onto your Instagram profile. The choices are nearly unlimited when it comes to this.

4. Filters on Instagram

The service has ready to use filters for any pictures the user wants to upload. You can choose to use the original photo that you click through the application. You can also upload pictures that you have stored on your device from before. As opposed to using the photos in their original form, these in-built filters can help you enhance or modify the look of it. The following descriptions of the Instagram filters will help you get a better understanding of how each filter will modify your original image.

Normal: This is the primary choice of keeping the photo as it is.

Lo-fi: This filter helps to enhance the warmth of the temperature and increases the level of saturation. This will in turn make the shadows more prominent and enrich the colors.

Earlybird: This popular filter gives the picture the look of older days. The tint is sepia and the warmth of temperature level increases.

Amaro: This puts the focus on the center of the image and also increases light in it. Rise: The light on the subject is softened and a glow effect is placed.

Inkwell: The image is converted to a black and white visual with no other modifications.

Sutro: The edges of the picture are given a burnt affect while highlights are increased. Any purple or brown points on the image are focused upon with stronger shadows.

Mayfair: This adds a subtle pinkish tone and the center appears brighter due to the vignette effect at the edges. A border is added in a black slender line.

Sierra: This gives the image a softer look and makes it appear faded.

Valencia: This gives the image an antique effect as the warmth of the colors is increased along with exposure levels.

Nashville: This is meant to give a picture a certain nostalgic feel by giving it a subtle pink tint. The contrast is decreased while exposure and temperature levels are increased.

Toaster: This makes the picture look aged by adding a prominent vignette and burn to the center.

Perpetua: This is a good filter for portraits as it adds a pastel effect to the image.

X-Pro: This adds a tint of gold and increases the vibrancy of colors. The contrast is increased and the edges gain some vignette effect.

Cream: This adds a hint of both warmth and chill with a creamy effect.

Walden: This is yet another popular filter that adds a yellowish tint to the image and increases the level of exposure.

Aden: This increases the tint of blues and greens in the picture.

Slumber: It decreases the saturation level and emphasizes the black or blue hues in the picture. A haze is added to give it a dreamy retro effect.

Ludwig: This decreases the saturation slightly and increases the light.

These are some of the basic Instagram filters that are used. There are a few more and you should also notice that they often add new filters with the updates on the app.

5. Sharing

The screen where all the sharing options are displayed appears once you have finished editing the image. You can add a caption to go with the picture or video. Adding hashtags will allow the picture to be visible when people search for those particular categories.

You can also mention people in the caption with the @ sign and then their username. You can also tag people on the image. Another option is to mention the location of where the image was taken. You can then choose to share the picture on other sites like Facebook or twitter when you upload on to Instagram. You can do this before or even after uploading the image on your profile.

6. Connect your Instagram account to other social media sites

Instagram can be used all by itself and is definitely more than enough. However, the whole point of social networking is to connect as far and wide as possible. You also have the option of connecting your Instagram account to other social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Flickr, Mixi, Weibo, Tumblr and VK. You can connect this by linking the profiles under settings.

Go to your Profile and edit the Sharing Settings under that tab. You can then choose to which network you want to link your account. This will allow you to share any Instagram post from your profile to the linked social network as well. You have the option to share or not but the link is enabled if you should choose to do so.

If you do share it on any other platform, any other people you are connected to you there can view the post. However, the privacy settings will still be valid on your actual Instagram profile.

Instagram’s Features

Instagram has plenty of features and it keeps adding more. These features can be highly beneficial to marketers. Some of the important features that are at your disposal are shown below.

1. Video Features

This feature is similar the normal photo posts you know. Instagram also offers a video post feature. These videos have a length of 60 seconds. You can also add a caption and a filter. Also, just like in the photo uploads, you can also add your location before your upload.

As opposed to photos, videos draw more engagement from other users. For brands who want to make the most of the Instagram algorithm which uses the engagement of your posts to determine if your content should be visible or not, it is important that you leverage videos to increase your engagements.

2. Live Video

Live videos have a different concept from other video posts. However, it has a great feature you can take advantage of. Whenever you are recording a live video, your followers are sent a push notification that you are about to record a live video.

When click on this notification, it redirects them to view your live video stream, and they can like or comment on the video in real time. However, immediately you finish making the live video, it disappears. This is an effective method for marketers who want to make their brands unique and transparent.

3. Mute Accounts

With this feature, you can stop post notifications from any account you want. This is convenient when you don’t want to follow an account but do not want to see their posts either. This feature also helps you keep up with the accounts you are interested in without having the distractions from other accounts you are following.


The Instagram TV is an Instagram application. It enables the user share videos that are up to an hour in length. This is similar to one TV episode. This is very convenient for users who are into video content creation. Content creation is one of the fastest rising innovations in content marketing. This is because 8 out of 10 businesses have begun to explore the possibilities that abound in video marketing.

5. Emoji Slider Polls

This feature enables you to use emoji to let users take a poll on something you want their opinion on. If you are a marketer, this holds great possibilities for you. You can post a product and ask your users to rate it. From this, you already have an idea of what your users want before releasing the product. This will help you cut costs.

6. Stories

Just as we mentioned before, the stories feature has similarities to snapchat. Many users enjoy making use of stories, and this has led to a lot of improvements and updates. Some of the different ways to use the story features are:

  • Mention other users: you can tag or mention other users in your stories. Just type @ and it will suggest possible users to tag, then you can search for their names. You can also include mentions to your stories or on the images. You can also use it to tag locations as well. When another user tags you, you will get a notification via your DM and then, you can upload the story as well.
  • Add tags that can be shopped: if you sell products or services, you can actually tag your products to your story so that your users can click on them and make purchases. This makes it even easier to advertise your product via a live action content.
  • Upload more than one story: you can upload plenty of videos and photos to your story. This can save you a lot of time as marketer or social media marketer. This is because you can upload ten images or videos at the same time.

The features mentioned above are just a tip of the iceberg. Instagram offers many more features. This is your opportunity to take advantage of these features to make your marketing more effective. 

Final Words

Instagram is a great place to be if you’re an aspiring influencer, photographer, or social media user. Getting started is easy, so if you’ve been piqued by this guide, have a go.

You can delete your Instagram account at any time if for whatever reason you decide it isn’t for you. That’s it.

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