What Is Instagram? – Unpacking the World’s Biggest Image and Video Sharing Site

Do you want to see what your favorite influencers are up to online? Log onto Instagram and find their account….

Do you want to see what your favorite influencers are up to online? Log onto Instagram and find their account. Founded in 2010 by Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom, Instagram is the world’s most popular photo and video-sharing social media platform.

With close to 1.5 billion global users, Instagram enjoys the biggest share in the mobile-dedicated photo and video-sharing market. Mark Zuckerberg saw the potential in the platform in 2012, acquiring it for a staggering $1 billion. Today, Instagram operates under the Meta umbrella.

Instagram is fun for personal users and a viable platform to add to any social media marketing strategy. Whether you’re a teenager, grandparent, influencer, small business, or corporate, Instagram is free to download to your device or desktop.

This post unpacks everything you need to know about Instagram. We’ll look at how to get the most out of using the app.

What Is Instagram? – Unpacking the World’s Biggest Image and Video Sharing Site

Starting on Instagram

So, where do you start on Instagram? You need to download the app and create an account. Let’s go through the basics of setting it up to prepare for your first post.

Download Instagram and Create an Account

The Instagram app is available for iOS, Android, and Windows devices. Log into the Google Play or Apple App Store, and you’ll find it in your recommended apps. If it’s not in the recommended section, type “Instagram” into the search bar. The app is available for free download.

Open the app after it finishes downloading. Some phones come with Instagram preinstalled on the device. The app works on tablets like the iPad, and you can use it on desktops, with limited functionality (more on that in a moment).

After completing the download, open the app and log in using your Facebook account, or choose to create a new account. Creating a new account is a straightforward process. Follow the prompts and enter your email address, phone number, full name, username, and password.

The app allows you to create multiple accounts and manage them from the login dashboard. This feature is beneficial for marketers using various profiles for different clients. The desktop client had limited functionality during the early years of the app, but it’s improved over the years.

Today, Instagram users can access the app through their desktop, with the same user experience as a mobile device. Taking a photo and posting it directly to the app is the only thing you can’t do on the desktop client. You’ll need to upload an image file from your drive instead.

When uploading photos from your desktop to Instagram, you won’t have access to editing tools like filters. If you want to dress up your photos on your desktop before posting, use a tool like Canva to add your enhancements before posting to IG.

Set Up a Profile

Next, it’s time to set up your profile. Your profile displays your Instagram handle, for example, “@newuser.” You can add your profile picture, type a short 150-character bio, and leave a link to your blog or your “Link in Bio” tree. You’ll also see a “follower” count and a “following” count.

Your profile acts as a touchstone to your account when new users decide if they want to follow you. If a user finds your post on the Explore page and taps it, they’ll look at your profile pic and read your bio. They’ll look at the posts displayed below your bio information and decide.

You can make changes to your profile by clicking the “Edit Profile” button in the top right corner. Business Instagram profiles allow users to add a location tag to their profile page.

Set Up a Profile

How Does Instagram Work?

Instagram is a visual social media sharing website. While it originally started as a photo-sharing app, it has progressed to add a range of video-sharing services over the years. Now, users can post short or long-form videos to IG.

When you open the app, you’ll find the main feed, filled with image and video posts from people, brands, and companies you follow. You’ll see the menu bar at the bottom of the screen, along with five function buttons. Here’s a breakdown of the five buttons.

Home – The main feed where you can scroll through the content posted by people you follow.

Profile – This button sends you to your profile page to access your settings.

Search and Explore – This magnifying glass icon sends you to the Explore page to find new user content.

Activity – This heart icon lets you view activity updates, such as likes and comments on your posts.

Upload – The “+” icon lets you upload content from your camera roll to the app.

Instagram allows private users, businesses, and brands to create accounts and upload content to the platform. The only rule is you must follow the IG community guidelines and terms of service or risk being banned or temporarily suspended.

Instagram doesn’t allow sexual or adult content on its site nor permit posts promoting drug use or sales, violence, and bullying. The IG team will remove your account from the platform if you violate these guidelines.

How to Post and Edit Photos on Instagram

Instagram offers a seamless, simplified user experience. To create your first image or video post, tap the “+” icon at the bottom of the screen. This action opens the camera roll on your device, where you can select the photo or video you want to post.

Instagram lets users post up to 10 photos and videos in a single action. You have the option to add filters to your images, altering them to enhance the visual experience for your followers. Filters offer visual pre-set overlays that change your posts’ color, contrast, and aperture.

For instance, you can turn your color photos to a black-and-white appearance by tapping the “Willow” filter. After selecting the filter, you can add the following to your posts to create more impact with your followers.

Adding Captions on Instagram Posts

You have the option to add a caption to your images and videos. Captions allow you to add up to 2,200 characters, including emojis and hashtags, describing the theme and purpose of your post.

You can mention friends or other IG users by adding their usernames with the “@” symbol in front. You can edit or delete captions at any time after posting.

Tag Users

Instagram allows you to tag other users in your posts. They’ll receive a notification in their activity tab, allowing them to view your content.

Add Your Location

Adding location tags to your post lets users know where you took the video or image in your post. When users click the location tag, it pulls them into the corresponding location feed, where they can view other public posts from the same destination.

Share with Your Social Media Accounts

You can simultaneously publish your Instagram posts to your other social media accounts. Link your Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr accounts and get more reach from your posts.

Understanding the Instagram Explore Page

The Instagram “Explore” page allows you to search the platform for users, hashtags, and interests. Tap the magnifying glass icon on the ribbon at the bottom of the page, and it opens the Explore page. You’ll find another feed of suggested posts you might like based on what the IG algorithm thinks you’re interested in viewing.

You can organize the content appearing on the Explore page by topic. Unlike Facebook, you don’t have to send a friend request to someone you want to follow. Open their profile and click the “follow” tab to follow someone. Unclick it to unfollow the user.

If you tap the “followers” icon in your profile, it lists all the accounts following you. You can choose to follow back by tapping the character icon next to their profile. Click the “Following” tab to see everyone you’re following. Tap the character icon to unfollow users.

If you find a ‘Private” account, you’ll need to send them a follow request. The user has the right to accept or deny the action. With a public profile, anyone can see who is following you or who you follow.

Understanding the Instagram Explore Page

How to Send and Receive Direct Messages (DMs) on Instagram

Instagram has an internal messaging system on its platform. You can connect and chat with users that follow you through the direct messaging feature. If you send a DM to a user that doesn’t follow you, they receive the message in a separate “message requests” folder.

They’ll have to accept your message to start a conversation with someone that doesn’t follow you. To access your DMs, tap the “airplane” icon in the home feed. The app pulls you through to the users you’ve messaged previously.

Tap the “pen and paper” icon in the top right corner to create a new DM, or tap the camera icon to launch a video chat. You can send basic text messages, images, videos, and GIFs in your DMs. You also have the option to like messages or delete them.

Using Instagram’s In-App Video-Sharing Features

Originally, when launching the app, you had the option to post images and videos. Today, there are several other features added to the Instagram user experience. The popularity and rise of the short-form video-sharing app TikTok caused the IG team to pivot into a more video-focused user experience.

Here are the in-app videos sharing features on Instagram.

Instagram Reels

Instagram Reels is the platform’s response to the meteoric rise of TikTok. Reels let users record and upload short video clips with a maximum length of 15-seconds. Post-production features for your videos allow you to edit, add text and music, and insert visual effects.

Tap the camera icon in the top-left corner of your home screen, and select “Reels” in the slider at the bottom to record a video. Tap the magnifying glass at the bottom to open your Explore page and find Reels made by other users.

When it opens, you’ll notice the first post is bigger than the others. You can tap to play the video or scroll through the feed to find other Reels videos from other users.

Instagram Live

The Instagram Live feature lets users “Livestream” their video content. It’s a great way to promote interest in a live event, a live seminar, a trade show, or to just let your followers know you’re having a fun afternoon at the county fair.

Users watching your live stream can send you messages in real-time and support your content by smashing the heart button to show their approval. Open Instagram and tap the in-app camera screen to launch the IG Live function.

Select “Live” in the ribbon at the bottom of the screen. Live streams have a maximum length of an hour. The default setting in IG Live allows you to view messages during your stream, but you can turn them off in your settings.

The app notifies you of new live streams from people you follow. If you start receiving too many notifications to handle, you can change your settings to disable these notifications.

Instagram Live

Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories was the original video-sharing function within the app. Add your Story by clicking the “+” icon in the Stories menu bar. When creating a story, it’s important to note that it only stays active for 24 hours before disappearing. It’s similar to Snapchat snaps.

Stories are mixes of short-form videos and images presented as a slideshow and accessible through your home feed, and they offer a bevy of additional functions available to users. Add animated stickers and cartoons, text and song lyrics, quizzes and polls, and links to charitable funds and donation campaigns to enhance your posts.

Tap the camera icon in the top-left corner of your home feed to create a Story. You can take a live video or photo or choose media to add from the camera roll on your device. After selecting your media, you can add your creative elements.

The Story disappears from public view after 24 hours, but it saves to your Archive after expiration. (more on that in a moment). You have the option to pin your Story to your profile, providing a permanent presence for visitors to watch.


IGTV is a platform dedicated to long-form video posts. Users can upload 15-minute videos using mobile devices or up to an hour in length using the desktop client.

IGTV is available in-app and has an independent app for iPhone and Android devices. Tap the magnifying glass icon in the bottom ribbon to open the app. Tap “IGTV” at the top of the screen.

Privacy and Security Features on Instagram

Social media is a scary lace if you don’t know how to use it properly. Users should take their privacy seriously when using Instagram. Here’s everything you need to know to keep your Instagram experience as safe as possible.

Instagram allows users to control who views their posts. You’ll need to set your account to “Private” as the best option for managing your online presence. Only people that follow you can view your posts when you implement this setting.

You have gatekeeping powers on a private account. People must send you a follow request for approval when using this feature. You can also add more privacy to your account by implementing the “Close Friends list.” This feature lets you choose a select list of users that can view your IG Stories.

You also have the option of setting an age restriction on your account. Implementing this feature blocks user from a specific age group from viewing your posts.

How to Change Personal Account Information on Instagram

You can change your username on Instagram at any time. Tap your profile picture in the bottom right of the screen to visit your profile. Tap “Edit Profile.” Type in your new information and hit “Submit.” This action won’t remove any of your followers, but people searching your old username won’t be able to find your account.

If you close the email account associated with your Instagram account, you’ll have to update that information on the platform. Tap “Edit Profile” and scroll down to the “Email” field. Enter your new email address, then click “Submit.”

Tap “Settings” in your account profile. Tap “Security” and “Password.” Enter your current password and then your new password. Hit “Save” in the top right, and the platform activates your new password.

How to Change Personal Account Information on Instagram

Backing up Your Instagram Account

Do you have a lot of content on Instagram? These days it’s considered “cringe” to have loads of posts on your account. Fortunately, you can back up your old posts and remove them from your IG to clean up your feed. The backup feature is also useful if you experience a hack on your account and someone deletes your posts.

Like other social media platforms, IG allows you to back up your content. You can save your images, videos, comments, messages, and profile information within the app. Unfortunately, you can back up your Stories that expire without saving them.

Tap the “Settings” menu in the app and select “Download Data” to download your content from Instagram. Complete all fields in the form, and the IG team will email you a copy of all your Instagram content in a few days.

Protect Yourself from Harassment and Bullying

Like other social media platforms, Instagram utilizes a set of community guidelines and policies surrounding content posted on IG and engagement surrounding content posted by users. If you find yourself being targeted by online bullies, you can notify the IG team of this activity.

Some users state it takes a while for the admin team to take action on your reports. In the meantime, you can disable your comments to prevent people from commenting on your posts. While it’s a great tool for reducing bullying, it also reduces engagement on your content.

Instagram promotes content receiving engagement to the ‘Explore” page, giving you a better chance of your posts going viral.

Wrapping Up – Is Instagram Losing Ground to TikTok?

Instagram is the world’s most popular social media platform for sharing image and video-based content. With close to 1.5 billion users, the app dominates the space. Or does it? The reality is TikTok is closing the gap between the two at a rapid pace.

Its success with short-form video content saw Instagram launch a series of new features to its platform to retain its user base. Instagram maintains its popularity with top-level celebrities and influencers, so it’s not going anywhere soon.

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