Instagram is the visual queen of social media. It’s the ideal social network to express yourself through pics and vids as you tell your story and showcase your talent.

Instagram is also one of the most popular social media platforms.

Cristiano Ronaldo has over 254 million people watching his Instagram content while Ariana Grande has 216 million fans and followers as one of the most famous singers globally.

Whether you want to get noticed, go viral, become an Instagram star or simply want to join Instagram for the fun of it to share your experiences with other users, we’ve put together this guide to make it as easy as taking a selfie.

We’ll explain how to set up your Instagram account, how to share a post on Instagram, different types of posts and we’ll touch on how the content you share can influence the perceptions people have of you.

An influencer is someone who can influence an audience by posting on social media about a specific product. Almost like a social media celebrity.

Instagram Icon
The Instagram app can be downloaded from most smartphones or your desktop and this is the icon to look out for - Image by Alexander Shatov on Unsplash
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Getting Started

Instagram is incredibly easy to use. All you need to get started is a smartphone or a laptop. Download the app onto your phone using the app store or simply google 'Instagram'.  Once you select ‘create new account’ it will guide you through the process where you complete your personal information.

This will include info like your email address, your first, last name, a username, password, your picture and bio (more about that later). There are also optional fields like a telephone number or your website and the business accounts have different functionality to enable them to market their accounts to Instagram users.

The next time you log on you might have to sign in again, so be sure to choose a password and username that you will remember.

Your Online Identity

Social media allows you to share only what you want to share with the world. Many people use it to showcase their talent to the world and some people become social media influencers where they end up reviewing products and create engaging content, and get paid for it.

To become an Instagram star will take a lot of creativity and consistent posting on Instagram. A good Instagram account will help you gain followers, but it’s important to allow your personality to shine through and have fun while you are doing it.

Fun Instagram
One of the best ways to create a stunning Instagram account, is to make it as unique as you. - Image by Ermal Tahiri on Pixabay

Brands and companies take a considered approach with their social media marketing, the best time to post on Instagram, the type of posts and how all these reflect their brand identity. Your approach to your own personal account can either be a ‘go-with-the-flow’ approach where social media is just another channel for expressing yourself, or you can think about the type of content you want to send out and the image you’d like to portray.

An online profile and identity is linked to the following aspects:

  • Your profile pictures
  • Your bio or description
  • Your username  
  • What you post (read further for more ideas)
  • Who you follow

If you plan to become someone that’s trending on social networks, or you want to make money from becoming an influencer, then you will have to be a lot smarter, considered and structured in your approach to Instagram. But, you can worry about that after you are comfortable with the basics and you’ve posted your first Instagram photo.

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Following Others You Like (Celebs, Friends & Family)

A great way of figuring out who you’d like to follow is to consider your interests. If you are interested in celebs you can follow one of your big Hollywood stars or a famous pop star.

Some people find great fitness tips and exercise ideas on Instagram, others find content that suits their career, like interior design. You can also follow accounts about kittens, dogs, nature or any type of content that inspires you and makes you smile. If you are an artist and are looking for ways to show people your art, Instagram is a great way of showing followers from across the globe your process, projects and skills.

Instagram will also make suggestions of accounts you can follow.  These recommendations become more accurate the more people you follow and posts you ‘like’ or comment on.

To get you started, take a look at the Top 20 Instagram Accounts of South Africa.

Instagram and Famous people
Most celebrities know that Instagram is a good way to stay in contact with their fans and followers. Image by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Navigating Your Way Around Instagram

The moment you log into Instagram you'll land on the homepage of your account. From this opening page you’ll see three icons next to the Instagram logo on the top-right.

Here's what they mean:

  • The plus sign is a shortcut to posting on your page, while the heart icon shows you the recent activity on your page like the images people liked and commented to and new followers to your account.
  • The last icon, the tiny paper plane, is for your direct messages (DMs).  This is where people send you direct private messages and you can categorise them once you become more proficient in Instagram.

Instagram stories of people you follow appear in the circles at the top of your home page and as you scroll down the various posts of your followers start to appear.

You won’t necessarily see all the posts of all your friends and Instagram will show you content based on the people you follow, their general popularity, whose content you engage with most and also how many people you follow.

To 'like' posts on Instagram is easy and quick; you can double tap on the picture and the ‘heart icon’ will turn red or simply directly tap the heart icon. You can also post a comment or send a DM to the person using the icons underneath each post.

At the bottom of the screen you will see a variety of tabs and functions.  Here’s a description of each so that you can access the content you’d like with a single click:

  • The house icon on this page is for ‘home’ and this is where you can see photos from accounts you follow. The more you engage, that’s liking or commenting on someone’s picture, the more the Instagram machine will include their posts in your feed.
  • The magnifying glass icon is used to search for accounts or content on Instagram. This is useful if you are searching for a specific account like Miley Cyrus, a company or even your friends.
  • The middle icon (film icon) can be used to access short videos that are fun and creative way for people to share their Instagram videos with the world
  • The tiny handbag icon at the bottom is for the ‘shop’ where you can connect with small businesses and brands you like
  • The last icon on the bottom right is the personal profile icon. This is where you can see how many posts you’ve published, who your followers are and who you are following. It’s also where the physical posts you’ve published will appear and it is a lot of fun to sometimes just scroll through your feed to remind yourself of all the good times you’ve had. Here you can also configure your profile, add friends from Facebook or your contacts.
Easily Navigate from home page
It's easy to navigate your way around Instagram from your Homepage and they appear similar on your laptop and smartphone.

Ideas for Content or Types of Posts

There are so many different visual ways in which you can express yourself on Instagram and the more familiar you become with Insta, the better you will know how a certain situation lends itself to specific content. Allow yourself to play and be creative in how you build your Instagram life by using any of the following:

  • Instagram Posts are standard images or short videos. The size of your picture will have to be in a square, or you can take an image once the Instagram app is opened.
  • Instagram Stories will only show for a limited time, and you can choose who sees your Stories.
  • Instagram Reels are short video clips
  • Instagram Live is like a live broadcast where you show people as things are happening in the moment.

To make your posts or stories more interesting you can use one of the many filters that Instagram has on offer.

Simply click on the ‘+’ icon and select an image from your phone, take a quick selfie or video before sliding through the filter options. Add text and icons to your image if you want to and lastly add a description or your comments on the post. This is where you tell people what is happening in that specific post.

Talent on Instagram
Showcase your talent or post what you are passionate about - Image by Jonny Clow on Unsplash

Unsure about how to use Instagram hashtags?

A hashtag is used to bundle content under a certain category.

So if you search for content, or anyone else in the world uses the same hashtag, all content related to that hashtag will be called up.  Make the hashtag you use therefore relevant to your post to appear less spammy. If you post about your yoga class you can use hashtags like #yoga #yogi or #fitness.

The more you post and engage with other people’s posts, the more they will engage with you and the more you will appear as a ‘recommendation to follow’ for others.

Warnings About Instagram Usage

Instagram can easily become a popularity contest, where people hunt for followers and Instagram likes to make them feel good about their posts and their lives.

Your mental health always comes first so remember that Instagram needs to make you happy.

Unfollow people who bully you online, follow people who make you feel happy, and be careful that you don’t become your Instagram account because you are a lot more in real life than the pictures and ‘likes’.

Another last warning, always think about what you post. Is it portraying you correctly and are you being respectful and sensitive to other people? There were cases in the past where social media posts led to legal action due to its negative impact on other people. So, imagine you are speaking to the public and only say what you would in a public forum and this would probably guide you in the right direction.

To Insta is to have fun and express yourself.

Remember that you are doing this for you. Create great memories, tell interesting stories and post about the things that you feel passionate about.

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Mauritz

Writer and qualified yoga instructor, who is passionate about health and well-being.