Instagram is a free photo and video sharing social network, created in 2010 and acquired in 2012 by Facebook.
Since its inception, Instagram has been through various – minor or major – transformations, and is now one of the most popular and used social networks. Anyone can sign up for it for free.
While it originally only contained photos and was only accessible through a phone, it now is available on any device and you can publish images, videos and stories (see below) alongside captions. There is also a video conferencing feature called Instagram Live Rooms.
By making a quick search on Google Trends, we can see that Instagram is constantly increasing its popularity. Instagram even outperforms Twitter – probably because it is an entirely visual medium and images and videos are usually very popular and engaging.
Types of Instagram Account
When creating an Instagram account, you usually start by setting up a personal account. This type of account is for anyone and everyone. A personal account allows you to make your account and posts public (so everyone can see) or private (so you can choose who can see them).
However, if you are running a corporate account (or feel like creating a personal brand on Instagram), you can switch your account to a business account. A business account on Instagram provides you with basic analytics and data for your posts, your activity in the last 7 days and some extra features.
[Here are Instagram’s instructions on how to switch to a professional account]
You also now have the choice to turn your account into an Instagram Creator account. A Creator account is intended for celebrities, and influencers (large and micro). With a Creator account you get most of the same Business features, and then some more on top.
With the Creator account, you get daily stats of your Follow/Unfollow ratio, demographics breakdowns and your audience’s characteristics. You can also sort your DMs into 3 categories: primary (you get notified), general (you don’t get notified), requests (by people you do not follow).
[Here are Instagram’s instructions on how to switch to a Creator account]
Whether you are a new or experienced user, there is one important thing we need to say to you. Your Instagram account needs to have a persona. If you are using Instagram for business reasons, this is so that you can more effectively target and talk to the buyer personas you (should) have created for your company. If you are using Instagram for personal reasons, this is so that people can get an idea of what you are about.
Wait… what does that mean?
It means that your Instagram account should have certain consistent characteristics. Basically, your Instagram account needs to have a defined tone of voice, attitude, and style, and one that is likeable to your potential customers or followers.
I’ll put it this way – when people follow an account, they do it for a reason (they like something about it). If all your posts are completely different from one another, it makes it harder for people to decide whether or not they like your account.
These are the basic things you need to set up to have an Instagram account.
Your Instagram username can be a maximum 30 characters and it needs to be spot-on with your personal or business brand. Do not overuse special characters, as it will make it difficult to be found by your followers. Your username is a big part of how people see you on Instagram, so choose carefully.
Your Instagram profile can be a maximum of 150 characters. This is your chance to engage people visiting your profile.
Use the limited space wisely and make every character count by writing something witty, clever, and brand-oriented.
3. Contact Information
Firstly, add your email address (your most professional one) to let people contact you. Secondly, add your website/blog URL, or your Facebook profile URL. Last, but not least, hide your phone number (if it’s not necessary for your goals) as there is no need to share it if you don’t want to.
Work out the ER of accounts or posts with our Instagram Engagement Rate Calculator >
An Instagram post can be one picture, a group of pictures or a short video (with a maximum length of 1 minute).
A good Instagram post should follow a lot of rules including: use natural light, find bright vibrant colours, use symmetry and the 3X3 rule, experiment with your picture’s angle, add some action, food, animals etc.
To help understand all of this, here is an example of a good Instagram post:
If you want to improve the quality of your posts, you will also need to learn how to edit an image for Instagram. It’s not as easy as it looks! Because of this – your early posts probably won’t be great – but be patient and it will bring in results sooner than you think.
All these tips will help you engage your followers and increase your audience as well.
An Instagram story can be a picture or a video (maximum 15 seconds). Whatever you post to your stories will remain there for one day (24 hours). You can share your story with all your friends or create a “close friends” list and share some stories only with them.
Good Instagram Stories can have flaws, be more personal, fun, and portray some daily stuff you do, or include quotes from one of your favourite poets.
Your Stories should be … well your story, to be honest.
The fun part of Instagram Stories is that there are a lot of extra features and effects when taking a picture.
You can ask questions, create polls, add questions, quizzes, gifs and more. At the moment effects on pictures are going crazy! It all started with people adding some flowers on their heads in images, but now you can find out which Pokemon you are, when you are gonna die, or you can see your face on the Statue of Liberty!
Please note: don’t just randomly use your stories all the time. People won’t be as entertained as you might think they will be!
Another thing you can do with Instagram Stories is to create highlights for each experience (like your trip to Barcelona, or your high school reunion). And if you don’t know what to do next… well you can create targeted polls to get insights from your audience for your next posts.
Instagram Television (IGTV)
This is a tricky one. IGTV… hasn’t impacted things the way that the Instagram team hoped or expected. Not yet anyway. IGTV is meant to be the answer of the “Facebook family” to YouTube, as it allows you to upload up to 1-hour video content.
While it hasn’t reached its peak yet, IGTV will surely be a trend soon enough as it is integrated with Instagram, but it stands as its own application as well. As it is integrated with IG, you can have direct access to the content of people you follow already, and you can also explore popular videos.
When using Instagram, you can find interesting accounts and users on the “Explore” section. This section is created based on your past activity and shows you posts related to things you are interested in. For Instagram fans, it is a kind of a personal goldmine of content you will like!
Also, if you feel like interacting a bit more, instead of a story, you can go “Live”. This means broadcasting directly to Instagram live from your phone. Instagram will send notifications to your followers that you are now live, and if your “Live” is long enough, it will be integrated into your IGTV.
Tagging on Instagram
Hashtags are not ignored or forgotten on Instagram. They are used A LOT, and because of the way Insta surfaces content to people just browsing they are very effective. There are different approaches to using hashtags.
My approach is to use hashtags when needed and never over-hashtag one post. The ideal is approximately 5 hashtags per post (not too general, not too specific), so you can be found by other people as well. If you want to find appropriate hashtags, find posts like yours and see what hashtags they are using.
Some people recommend adding your hashtags in the first comment underneath your post or in the caption, and there are advantages to both depending on your type of account according to studies.
Another way to increase your audience is to add a location in your post. By adding a location tag people who are searching for posts in your area will be able to see your post as well.
If you want to be more inclusive do not forget the newest trend: account takeovers. An account takeover is when a micro-influencer, a public figure, or a celebrity (or anyone really) takes over the running of an account for a day, a special event, or a weekend. The point of this is to give something special to your followers!
For example, an Instagram account about tips by local guides and storytellers organizes weekend takeovers in different cities around the world. Each one becomes a beautiful and specific travel guide, which is exactly the sort of thing the account’s followers want.
There are a lot of Do’s and Don’ts for using Instagram properly, but every user can adapt to its audience’s needs and create a visual content strategy.
The main idea, though, is that you want your account to be pleasant, reliable and exciting for your audience.
So, you have to respect your brand identity. You need to post relevant content, and content that people want to like and share on their stories – but only when it stays true to your brand.
This brings me to the principle of “consistency”. Followers need to feel your vibe, even if they don’t know your brand. And to do that, you need to be consistent with what you share and what you allow in your posts and stories.
And finally – as you expect people to engage with you, you need to engage with them. Interaction is crucial to engaging your followers and making them feel a part of your story. And the truth is that your audience is your co-writer in your story. Without them, you wouldn’t be able to keep writing your book.
So, engage with them, like posts and stories that mention your account, and reshare some of their stories.
If you follow these principles, you will never be out of trend (and eventually you will be able to create your own trends).
So, what is Instagram, really?
Instagram is a mentality, a way of communicating your identity to your audience, through different forms of visual content.
Instagram is a modern, up-to-date way of writing chapters of your book, and letting a great audience be part of it.