A Beginner’s Guide to Instagram

Just getting started with Instagram? We have created this beginner’s guide to Instagram to help you with everything you will need to make Instagram work for you or your business.

What social media entity is owned by Facebook, has 800 million monthly users, and has a higher audience engagement rate than Facebook and Twitter combined? If you said Instagram, you’re right. Roughly 71% of businesses use the tool as part of their marketing strategy, and roughly 80% of users follow a brand! If you run a photography or other visual arts business, you’re probably already on Instagram, but no matter what kind of industry you’re in, the service should be part of your social media strategy.

Signing Up For Instagram

Instagram is primarily a mobile-only application. While there is a website interface, it contains extremely limited functionality in that although you can view your feed and update your profile, you can’t post any content. When you launch the app for the first time, it will take you through the account setup process.

Step 1: Download and Launch the Instagram App

Download the Instagram app by going to the App Store on Your Mobile Phone. Once it is installed, open it.

Step 2: Connect the App to Facebook

Once the app is opened, click on the Sign Up prompt. Enter your e-mail, and then connect your account to Facebook. This step will come in really handy both for when you want to post directly to Facebook from Instagram, and for finding people to follow that you personally know.

Step 3: Switch Your Account to Business

If you plan on using Instagram as a tool to market your business, then you’re going to want to switch your account from Personal to Business. Doing so will let you view insights and stats relating to your engagement, will keep your profile set to “public”, as well as let you add a business address, phone number, and store hours.

To do so, find: Settings > Switch to Business Account.

For inspiration on how to run a successful Instagram business page, check out these 7 Great Instagram Business Accounts.

Instagram Basics

After signing up for an account, the next step is to follow some other users and look at their photos. Like Facebook, Instagram uses an algorithm to determine what content to show you and when, so don’t panic if someone suddenly drops out of your timeline.

To see more of the accounts you care about, simply engage with their posts and, if you never want to miss someone’s post, turn on notifications. To do so, click on a post of theirs, and then choose Turn on Post Notifications from the menu.

Find People to Follow

Because you’ve already connected your Instagram account to Facebook, you should be automatically prompted to individually follow people in your friends list.

However, if you want to search for users not in your personal contacts, click on the magnifying glass icon at the bottom of your screen and Instagram will show you some videos, Stories (we’ll get into those in a minute), and photos by users they think you might like.

Other ways to find people to follow include searching for hashtags (#exploreNL or #loveStJohns if you’re looking for Newfoundland-specific content, for example).

Symbols

When you first download the app and start looking around, the amount of different symbols and imagery can be a little overwhelming. Refer to the infographic below for a quick overview of Instagram symbol meanings:

instagram icons meaning

Engage

Now that you have a little more information about the basics of Instagram’s symbols and buttons and when to use them, it’s time to start engaging with content. When you see a photo you like, you have many choices for how you can choose to engage.

Like: To like a post, either double tap the photo itself or touch the heart icon underneath the photo.

Comment: To leave a comment, tap the speech bubble underneath the photo, and type in your message.

Stories: To post a story, slide right, and click the plus button. These are available for 24 hours, and are a quick and fun way to engage with your audience without worrying about posting at “optimal times”.

Highlights: Create permanent stories to stay at the top of your Instagram page, called “Highlights”, where your audience can quickly access the main points of any event you wish.

Direct messaging: When sending photos or videos over direct message, you can choose to have them “disappear”, after a selected time: View Once, Allow Replay, or Keep in Chat.

Saving posts: If you want to save the image to come back and look at later, click the bookmark icon. You can save images on your feed, or while looking through another user’s profile.

Explore: Check out the explore page to find content and accounts that suit your business. The explore page shows popular content which is curated to your interests. Getting your content on the Explore page will drive much more traffic!

IGTV: View and post video content with IGTV. This feature works a lot like the Explore page, where curated video content populates onto the page. IGTV also has its own separate app, but again, more on this later.

Getting Your Instagram Profile Right

Before you start posting, take some time to get your profile looking sleek and polished!

An Instagram profile consists of a display name, a profile picture, a 150-character description, Story Highlights (once again, we’ll get to those in a minute), an e-mail option, and a link. Unless you’re one of the few users with a verified account (which you probably won’t have upon first signing up), this is the only link you have to work with in all of Instagram.

Arguably, the two most important parts of your profile are your description and your link. In your description, say as succinctly as possible what your business does and include a call to action. This call to action can include signing up for your recent e-book, checking out your blog, or joining your mailing list. Instagram also let’s you put hashtags in your description, so put some relevant ones in there if it fits and help guide people to your profile naturally!

When choosing a link for your profile, choose something that will send users directly to your latest project (you can change this link as many times as you’d like.) You can use emoji’s in your description if it helps your message and tone.

Additionally, if you have more than one business and, subsequently, Instagram profile, Instagram now let’s you add clickable links to another profile in your bio!

If you’re blogging for business, we recommend always creating a post that draws attention to your latest article and refer people to your profile to find the link. Also, while using a shortened URL might seem appealing, we advise against it, as people are less likely to click on a link if there’s no context to let them know where the link will take them. That bit.ly link could be for anything without accompanying text.

For a more in-depth look at how to optimize your Instagram account for business, sign up for our FREE Ultimate Guide, here!

Guide to Instagram

Planning Your Instagram Content

The key to building a high-conversion Instagram account is planning. Success does not happen by accident.

Create a social content calendar and work on your content in batches. Not only is this more efficient, but it allows you to group your posts together in a way that makes sense. No more random “one-off” posts. Batching also gives you the freedom to set it and forget it, allowing you to focus on other areas of your business rather than trying to think of something to post each day.

Take a deeper dive with this article: How To Plan Instagram Content

Posting Your First Instagram Photo

So now that your account is all set up and you’ve engaged with some other posts, it’s time to get posting!

Select the plus icon in the bottom middle of the screen to start the process. The most recent photo from your camera roll will be selected, but you can scroll to choose another. If you want to take an in-the-moment shot (how we all used to use Instagram back in the day), click on the word Photo at the bottom of your screen for stills, and Video for motion.

Tip: To stand out on someone’s Instagram feed, post colourful and engaging photos to draw the eyes of your audience!

Tap the round button to take a photo, or hold it down to take a video. You can then choose one of multiple Instagram filters to apply to your picture. There are over 20 available filters to use, and by choosing the same filter or style of filters for every photo you post, your posted content will become instantly recognizable to your audience, and your profile will look uniform.

You can also tap on Edit at the bottom of your screen to do more fine tuning, such as adjusting brightness, saturation, contrast, and more. Once you’re happy with the look of your photo, tap on Next in the upper right corner of your screen.

Unless you’re a celebrity, you’ll want to include a caption with your photo. Share a thought about the photo and leave your audience with something that invites engagement, such as asking a question. Include hashtags, but try not to go #overboard!

Tip: People love personal, authentic stories!

If other Instagram users appear in your photo, you can tag them. If you write @username in the caption, or tag someone in a photo, they will be notified of the post and can engage with it. If you have a personal, private account, however, they will only get a notification if they’re following you.

As part of this process, you should also geotag your photo by tapping on Add Location. If your location doesn’t automatically pop up, you can search for it. Did you know that posts with a location receive roughly 79% more engagement than posts without?

Additionally, if you’ve successfully hooked up your Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr accounts, you can simultaneously share your photo to one of these platforms by swiping the appropriate toggle right so that it turns blue.

The moment of truth… tap that Share button!

Guide to Instagram

Posting Your First Instagram Story

Instagram Stories are photos and videos that show in a different feed and only last for 24 hours before disappearing into the ether.

To post a story from your timeline view:

> Tap either on the camera in the upper left corner or your own profile picture underneath a camera if there’s a + on it.

> Tap on the white circle once to take a photo, or hold down to take a video.

Additionally, if you take a look at the horizontal menu at the very bottom of your screen, you’ll notice some additional features such as Type, Live, Boomerang, Superzoom, Rewind, Hands Free, and Stop Motion. Each of these options have distinct functions so play around before you post to see what works best for your needs! If you’re into selfies, switch your camera around so you’re using the front one, and then click on the smiley face icon to the left of the photo button, this will give you some fun filters to play with!

 

If you’re interested in learning more about how to leverage Instagram stories, sign up for our FREE Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Instagram for Business, here.

Now start building your story!

Instagram Stories Stickers

 

When you’ve created your background, you can add text or draw by using the two tools in the upper right corner: brush for drawing, Aa for text. If you wish to jazz up your post, click on the square smiley face “Sticker” icon, which will allow you to add stickers and GIF’s. Add filters to your posts by swiping left on the photo itself; there are eleven to choose from!

When you’re happy, click the right arrow in the white circle and tap the empty circle next to Your Story to add it to your public story.

Sneaky tip: you can add photos from your camera roll by swiping up while in camera mode. You’ll see photos and videos that were created or saved within the last 24 hours.

Instagram Story HighlightsIf you wish to save any of your stories as Instagram “cornerstone content”, and have them appear on your profile indefinitely, save your preferred story, go to your profile and click on Story Highlights, then press the + to add a new story!

Bulk Posting: To add multiple pictures to your story at once, simply click the multi-image icon in the top right of the page when posting a story, and choose what content to add.

See Who Has Viewed Your Content: Open on your story, and swipe up on the screen to see which usernames have viewed your content.

 

Instagram Live

Following Facebook’s lead, Instagram now has the ability to broadcast live via Stories. Once a live video has ended, it is no longer visible in the app.

To start a live video, tap the camera in the top left of the screen, or swipe right from anywhere in your feed. Then, tap Live at the bottom of the screen, and again for Start Live Video.

From here, you can see how many viewers you have at the top of the screen as well as the comments at the bottom. To turn off comments, tap the three horizontal dots, and then select Turn Off Commenting. You can even choose to hide your live stories from specific viewers. To do so, follow: Gear Menu > Story Settings > Hide My Account.

When you’re done, tap End in the top right, and then tap again to confirm!

Guide to Instagram

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IGTV

Instagram now has a video platform to play with. Much like the Explore feature, IGTV curates its content based on what’s trending, and what your personal preferences are. You can create your own channel for others to follow, or you can follow other users. The videos can be up to 10 minutes for regular account users, or one hour for large accounts.

Click the IGTV button on the top right hand corner, on the Instagram app to view videos curated to your preferred content. Alternatively, IGTV has its own separate app where you can watch videos. Trending videos will show up on the “popular” channel.

How to create your own IGTV video: Go to View Your Channel > plus button > Select video to post > add title and description > Share

Tip: when adding a description, don’t forget hashtags!

Instagram Reels

The Instagram app has just released their latest feature, called Instagram Reels. Not to be outperformed by the rise of TikTok, Instagram now allows you to create 15-second video to music for sharing on your story and the Explore page.

Make your reel. Choose from a variety of effects to edit your video:

  • Audio/Music
  • AR Effects
  • Speed
  • Timer and Countdown

 

Share your reel. If you have a public account, you have the chance to be “Featured” on the Explore page.

  • Go to share screen
  • Add caption, cover image and hashtags as you would for a regular Instagram post
  • Click share

After your reel has been shared, it will appear as a featured reel in the “Reels” tab of your Instagram profile. If you share the reel to your feed, it will also show on your Instagram grid, however, can be deleted from your grid if you wish.

For a deeper dive into the benefits of using Instagram Reels for your business, read our blog post about it here.

Instagram Ads

Utilizing Instagram Ads for your business is an important part of any social media marketing strategy! With them, you’ll be able to target an audience to drive awareness to your brand, have potential customers learn more about your products or services, and help drive conversion.

Instagram allows business accounts to post photo ads, video ads (up to 60 seconds), carousel ads, and stories ads. The best part is, you can run your ad simultaneously with Facebook!

Tools for Management

If doing all the editing, writing, and tagging in the moment seems too daunting a task, don’t worry, there are tools to help!

Because of bots and security, Instagram is very restrictive with what it allows third party apps to do on the platform, and the rules are always shifting.

Tools that let you follow and unfollow from the app and monitor your followers have been barred. If you’re going to use 3rd party tools, ensure that you stay aware of changes that could affect them.

Despite the restrictions, there are a couple of tools that will help you organize. For prepping and automating your content, we like HootSuite and Later.com. Another one of the reasons to switch to a business account is that you’ll be allowed to set up automated posting through a trusted 3rd party tool.

Strategy

Due to Instagram being a visual medium, you’ll need to be creative in the way you engage with customers. As with any social media platform, the more you interact and engage with your audience’s posts, the more they’ll interact and engage with yours. Consider staggering your best content over a period of time to naturally build engagement.

Most brands release one to three posts a day, but you should experiment with your content and see what better engages your audience; if it’s at a specific time or day or with a specific hashtag. It’s also important to note that the current Instagram algorithm likes it when you keep your posting regular and that if you post only sparsely, you could see your engagement drop.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Sheldon Payne | Marketer (@paynesbrain) on

Despite its status as a visual medium, Instagram is incredibly versatile in the kind of content that you can post. If you’re a writer or publisher, post images of inspirational quotes from your material. If you’re a construction company, post a video explaining what to look for when purchasing a house.

Instagram may not be as robust in features as other social networks, but what it is capable of it does efficiently. It’s the perfect way to subvert the traditional business/customer relationship by having the personality and culture of your company on full display.

Hashtags

An Instagram post with one or more hashtags receives 12.6% more engagement than posts without. Hashtags serve as a way for Instagram to organize its content, and for users to quickly find and link with things of interest. Having hashtags encourages your content to be found in the hands of users most interested in it, so make sure to only use hashtags that are relevant! For a more in-depth look at using hashtags, sign up for our FREE Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Instagram for Business here!

Instagram HashtagsDifferent kinds of hashtags: While it’s important to use hashtags, it’s doubly important to use only those that are relevant. Some classes of hashtags are:

  1. Community hashtags: these are most commonly used, and connect people with like-minded content such as: #marketing, #newfoundland, and #digital.
  2. Branded hashtags: these can be custom hashtags which are specific to your own brand, allowing users to quickly identify any content relevant or made by you. It also strengthens brand image. These can be things like #newfoundmarketing, for instance.
  3. Campaign hashtags: These hashtags are specific to campaigns, projects and events. They can help users quickly and easily find content relating to a certain campaign, instead of digging through a brand’s profile.

Stuck on which hashtags to use? Do a little digging into your competitors, industry leaders, and followers. Searching for hashtags is a great way to find trends in your industry! Look at which hashtags they tend to use, and follow the trends. Just remember-trends don’t last forever. It’s always good practice to keep up to date on which hashtags are currently relevant in your industry!

 

If you are looking for a tool to research hashtags, using a tool like Flick can help you find, manage and optimize your Instagram hashtags.

If you are on Instagram, we would love to follow you to see how you are using your account to grow your business, you can follow us here Newfound Marketing Instagram.

We hope this beginner’s guide to Instagram has been helpful. If you would like to take your Instagram to the next level, learn more about Sheldon Payne’s Instagram Training.

 

 

Now that you’ve got the basics down, it’s time to take a closer look. Read more on how to develop your online presence:

How to Schedule Instagram on a Desktop with Facebook Creator Studio

How to Find the Best Instagram Hashtags For Your Industry

How to Develop A Social Media Calendar For A Year

How to Improve Instagram Stories

 

Check out other beginner’s guides, to optimize your social media:

Beginner’s Guide to Facebook Stories

Beginner’s Guide to Facebook Ads

Images taken from Pexels

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8 thoughts on “A Beginner’s Guide to Instagram

  1. I still don’t understand why there’s a plus sign next to my Instagram photo. How do I get rid of it ? Why doesn’t my Instagram name appear as “following” someone, after I started following them? Thanks

    1. Hi Judith!

      If this is the plus sign on your own profile, it is for your highlights. You can add highlight reels to this section of your profile. For instance, if you wanted a “travel” highlight reel, simply click the plus sign and add the photos you want :). If this is not the symbol you’re referring to, just let us know!

  2. Instead of square, I’m trying to post/load a landscape format photo, (watched a video on this, looks easy). But on my android instead of bottom middle icon being a camera it’s just the + sign. ?

  3. Asking questions are truly good thing if you are not understanding anything entirely, however this post presents nice understanding even.

  4. Awesome post. Thanks for sharing so informative and detailed stuff about Instagram. There were some topics which I had yet to know, now I find myself hundred percent updated.

  5. This is a very helpful guide for them who are new to Instagram. As I am a newbie this article is very helpful to me to use Instagram. Thanks for the wonderful piece of article. I learned many new things from this article about Instagram.

  6. I have two accounts. One account has the plus sign at bottom the second is covered by the camera icon. I can’t download from photos.

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