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What is INSTAGRAM and how it works

What is INSTAGRAM and how it works
Shaun M Jooste

Shaun M Jooste

  • Updated:

Before you download Instagram, you may want to discover what it is and how to use it to feature your attractive images. There are many ways you can engage with your followers, and some methods include branding and monetization

So let’s get started with our guide on what Instagram is and how it works.

What is INSTAGRAM and how it works

What is Instagram?

Instagram is an extremely popular free social media platform that emphasizes mobile use and the visual sharing of photos and videos. It even hosts live streaming. 

More than a billion users interact with others on the app by following and being followed, liking, tagging, commenting, and private messaging them. You can connect with brands, thought leaders, celebrities, friends, and family, to name a few.

Anyone can easily create attractive images on Instagram. You can enhance your photos by using additions like filters and stickers. Before Instagram, it was not easy to share stunning photos. So it’s easy to see why it has become such a huge success.

Who uses Instagram?

Facebook bought Instagram in 2012. Unlike Facebook, Instagram focuses more on images than on words. Everyone is on Instagram, from celebrities, musicians and photographers, small and big businesses, cultural institutions, to news organizations.

There are also millions of influencers worldwide who sway people’s opinions on just about everything. It’s so much part of popular culture that ‘Instagramming’ is now officially a verb in English language dictionaries.

Downloading Instagram

Before you can use Instagram, you must download the app onto your device. You can get it for free on iOS, Android, and Windows devices. You can also use Instagram on your iPad by changing your App Store settings. Instagram is primarily designed for smartphones, but using it on your desktop computer, which was once unsatisfactory, has improved dramatically. 

What is INSTAGRAM and how it works

How to use Instagram

With a better understanding of what this photo platform is, it’s time to reveal how Instagram works. We’ll show you some of the finer points of using the app before giving you a few tips.

Opening an account

After downloading the app, you’ll have to open an account. The first time that you open the Instagram app, it will prompt you to create one. Alternatively, you can log in via Facebook.

To open a new account, you’ll be asked to give your phone number or email address, name, username, and password. You will be able to create several Instagram accounts without logging out. This is helpful if you want to have, say, a personal as well as a business or professional account

Setting up your profile

There’s a page on Instagram where you can set up your profile. On the profile page, you can also see who you’re following and who’s following you. It’s often the first place people visit, so you should keep your biography, profile picture and user name up to date.

You can add a link to your own or another website. You can change your settings, like your profile picture, your biography and your user name by clicking ‘Edit Profile’ at any time. If your Instagram account is for your business, you can add your location too.


Instagram allows you to choose which notifications you want to receive. You might want to know when you get a new follower, or when you receive a comment on one of your posts. Or you can turn your notifications off completely if you don’t want to be interrupted to be told what’s happening on your active account and prefer to see for yourself. 

How does Instagram work?

Instagram is a highly visual social network. When you open the app, you’ll get a feed containing posts from the accounts you follow. There’s a menu bar at the bottom that you can go to wherever you are on the app. There’s a row of buttons on the menu. This is what they do: 

  • Home: Where you can see the photos and videos posted by your contacts.
  • Search and explore: Here you can look at content from accounts you don’t follow.
  • Upload: You can upload and edit photos and videos here.
  • Activity: The icon takes you to a page where you can see likes and comments on your posts. 
  • Profile: Your profile page shows your bio and posts, and it’s where you can change your settings. 

Uploading, editing, and posting photos

To share a photo or video, tap the large plus button, then choose photos or videos from your phone’s camera roll to post. You can select up to 10 photos and videos and post them all at once. You can apply a filter to enhance your pictures. 

Lighting and color can change your pictures from bland to dazzling, and Instagram filters allow you to play around with them and enhance your photos in seconds. Once you’re happy with your photo, you can add a few more things before you post:

  • A caption: Use words, emojis, or hashtags. You can alert friends by placing @ in front of their username. You can edit or delete captions whenever you like.
  • Tag other users: Tag someone, and they’ll get a notification. You can also hide tags
  • Add location: this lets people know where your photo was taken. 
  • Post to other accounts: You can send your post to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

You can also post short Instagram stories that only appear for 24 hours. You can save them as highlights on your profile if you want them to last forever. One other feature you can use in the story settings is creating a poll for followers to vote on.

Finding people to follow

To find people to follow, you can click on the magnifying glass icon at the bottom of the app. This opens the Explore page. There you’ll find suggested posts. The choice is based on what Instagram thinks you might be interested in.

You can organize the Explore page by topic or search for other users by name. Unlike Facebook, you don’t have to send a friend request and wait for someone to answer it. There’s also an option to repost a post you like from someone else.

Here’s a quick tip on how to get more followers on Instagram. One of the top methods is improving your photos so others can like them. There are also ways to see who’s watching your IG profile the most.

What is INSTAGRAM and how it works

Instagram tips and tricks

Before you leave, you may want to check out some of our Instagram tips and tricks in these guides:

Unleash your inner photographer

Instagram is what you decide to make it. It’s a great way to express yourself. For businesses, influencers and brands, it’s a terrific marketing tool. The idea behind Instagram is straightforward. You follow accounts you find interesting, and people follow you.

You can like each others’ posts and comment on them too. You can be low-key or collect a following. How active you want to be on Instagram is entirely up to you.

Shaun M Jooste

Shaun M Jooste

I live in South Africa, Cape town, as a father of two children. I've been gaming almost all my life, with plenty of experience writing reviews and articles on the latest titles. With 15 years of experience in local government performing Facilities Management functions, I moved towards becoming CEO of my own company, Celenic Earth Publications, which serves to publish author's books, including my own. I'm a published author of horror and fantasy novels, while I also dabble in game and movie scriptwriting.

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