What is Instagram?

Instagram is a very popular social media site and a free photo and video sharing network, that along with WhatsApp, is owned by Facebook. The Instagram App is available on iOS, Android and Windows and is free to download and use. Instagrammers can share photos and videos with family, friends and followers. If you’re not familiar with Instagram, this is how it works.

Early days of Instagram

Instagram was launched in October 2010, by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, on iOS only at that time. By April 2012, Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion in cash and stock. That same month, Instagram became available on Android, alongside website access with limited features becoming available in November of the same year.

After two months, the social media platform had one million registered users, ten million after a year and by January 2020, over a billion people were actively using the app monthly. (Omnicore Insta stats)

Until 2015, a singular posted image was in a set square frame of 1:1 and 640 pixels. In 2015, a few things changed. Images were up to 1080 pixels, you could include more than one picture or video on a post, ‘Stories’ was created (to rival their biggest competitor Snapchat) and direct messaging was also introduced. And so Instagram grew…

How do I set up an account?

As with most of the social media sites, setting up an Instagram account is free and easy. Download and open the App on whichever device you are using (if you are using a desktop, you cannot upload and share content, such as pictures or videos).

Once you have opened the App, you can sign up using your existing Facebook login details (if you have an account) or by email, creating a username and password for the site. Once you have done this, you can create a profile with a picture, your name and a bio. Here, you can also add a link to your website if you have one.

Your account can be set to ‘private’ which means anyone who wishes to view your profile has to request to follow you and you can approve the request if you are happy to do so. If your profile is set to ‘public’, anyone can see everything you post.

Notty tip: For safety and to stop fraudsters stealing your identity to sell on the Dark Web, keep your profile private.

As with other social media sites, there are options to ‘like’ a post, add a comment and share. There is also a function in which you can directly message someone privately.

The advantages of Instagram

This platform is one of the easiest to use and is one of the fastest-growing networks. Instagram allows you to engage, pitch a product, follow people and be followed and you can block, unfollow or report posts or users if you feel they are a danger or offensive. People have been known to create false accounts in order to snoop on others, anonymously, so to have the option to report this type of account, let alone others, is a bonus.

Instagram works so well partly due to current trends around mobile photography and the ‘selfie obsession era’. Instagram has a wide range of filters that you can apply to your photographs, alongside different layouts and being able to add multiple photos at once. Each photo can be edited in a number of ways, such as sharpness, colour, highlighting and even shadow tints.

Photos and short videos (up to one minute in length) can be posted directly through the app or shattered to Instagram through your mobile phone’s Gallery. Any photos can be tagged geographically and shared with other social media sites at the same time. For longer videos, there is IGTV (Instagram TV).

Due to the huge audience reach and user interaction, Instagram excels more than other networking sites at business advertising and also for social media influencers.

Posts can also be prescheduled to target your audience when they’re most likely to be on the site, such as the commute home, even if you’re not! A topical blog post can be scheduled to coincide with the national news or a marketer can set up a poll to coincide with the lunch of a product.

Instagram has a strict privacy policy and you have to be 13 years of age or older to have an account.

The drawbacks of Instagram

Instagram works best only on a mobile. There is a desktop version but it lacks most of the things that the mobile app can do.

As most users will agree, Instagram is addictive and can cause issues. This overuse can cause mental health issues in some people, such as addiction, FOMO (fear of missing out) or even depression and anxiety. This can be, in part, due to seeing others’ lifestyles projected how they wish to be seen.

One Instagrammer faked a photoshoot in an Ikea store to show how easy it is to pretend you are someone living a glamorous lifestyle travelling to all the 5-star places! And don’t forget, it is possible to buy followers! So just remember, that person may not be quite so genuinely popular.

The use of filters etc can hide a multitude of flaws but if you suffer a lack of confidence or are impressionable, you don’t always see it quite so laterally. Instead, you yearn to be slimmer, prettier, more popular etc, just like those you follow and this is so detrimental to mental health because what you see isn’t always the truth.

As strict as the privacy policy is, it is quite easy to save or screenshot others’ photos. You have one of two choices with your pictures- all public or all private, you cannot choose which for each photo. If you choose public and your photos are of high quality, they can be stolen and used by someone else.

For businesses and enterprises, the advertising reach and potential are superb. Not so much if you just want to scroll to see what your friends have been doing. You can feel overwhelmed with advertisements at times.

What does the future hold?

The future is looking fairly golden for Instagram. Users are continually on the rise and this doesn’t seem like it will slow anytime soon.

Instagram may face competition from the likes of TikTok but Instagram closely monitors competition and has never been afraid to ‘up’ the game and make changes when necessary and trends change.

Establishing trust is a big point for Instagram and users can now have more control over which third-party companies their data is shared with. The page will show users what information is being requested and who has access to what and also any other connected apps that have expired or lapsed that you may need to cancel.

While seizing momentum, shopping in-app is getting easier and will continue to do so. For the vendor, it is just as easy to sell and your site linked to your profile. With the advent of smaller businesses getting better exposure, it’s likely that users will turn to micro- or nano-influencers for retail recommendations, putting their trust at a lower but more authentic level. Invariably, this leads to lower costs too.

For influencers and users alike, Instagram is a force that shows no sign of slowing just yet.

As with all social media, you can’t take back what you post, there will always be a digital footprint. Keep checking your online personality score and social media scores regularly.