Beginners Guide to Instagram: Everything you need to know

This beginner’s guide to Instagram is going to comprehensively look at all of the options Instagram offers its users. Once you’re done here, you’ll be able to create a profile that will absolutely kill it on the gram.

Instagram can look like a simple platform, where you just post pictures and wait for the hearts to start flying around as the world likes what you’re posting.

It is much more powerful than many give it credit for, however, with many brands using it to expand their reach massively and many people earning their living purely on Instagram alone.

These people are known as Influencers, and one of the first steps to becoming a successful influencer is by getting to know the ins & outs of this awesome platform.

We’re going to look at everything individually, that way we shouldn’t miss anything vital.

Beginners Guide to Instagram Posts

First up we have Instagram posts, these can be 1 of 3 things, either an image, a group of images (slideshow/carousel), or a video.

Instagram Image Posts

Image posts are the most commonly found on the platform, with 95 million being uploaded every day. Images were previously required to be square, but that’s no longer the case.

Now you can upload vertical/portrait images with an aspect ratio of 4:5, landscape/horizontal images with an aspect ratio of 16:9, and then anything in between.

In your profile overview, the images will still be displayed as square however, this may be something to consider when posting.

How to post an image to Instagram

Once you’re in the app, click on the (plus) icon at the bottom and in the middle of your screen, then select which image you want from the gallery and select ‘next’ at the top of your screen.

Next up you can add a filter by scrolling through the options. Once you’re satisfied with your image, you can select ‘Next’ once again.

On this final screen, you can include a caption, location, tag others in the image and can share your post on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr if you so wish and those accounts are already connected. If you do not want any comments on a specific post, by selecting the ‘advanced options’ you can disable them.

All that’s left to do is then to select ‘Share’ in the top right corner of your screen.

Filters

These are pre-set changes that are made to your image. They can be used to attain a certain ‘look’ to all of your posts or just to make them pop. You do not need to use a filter though, in fact, most Instagram images are without a filter.

If you do choose to use one, however, you can adjust the intensity of the filter by double-tapping on it. This is useful if you like the effect, but it’s a little too strong. At the bottom of your screen, there will also be an ‘edit’ option. These are more advanced editing tools that can alter the look of your image on Instagram.

Captions

The description of your image. You can include text, emoticons, links to other profiles & hashtags. Any URL links you post here will not be hyperlinked however, this means someone will have to manually copy it into their web browser.

You can include up to 30 Hashtags in your caption to increase the possibility of your posts being found.

If you link to another profile by using their @username, they will get a notification of you mentioning them in the post. This is different from tagging someone as discussed below.

Location

A geographical location, generally where the image was taken.

Tagging

By tagging someone’s @username, the user will be notified and the image will be visible in the ‘tagged’ section of their profile. If you’re tagged in an image, you can either remove the tag, select that it doesn’t show on your profile, or leave it be.

Sharing on Facebook

Once you’ve connected a Facebook page you can choose to share the post to that page at the same time.

Beginners Guide to Instagram Carousels (Multiple Instagram Image Posts)

These can be known as carousel posts, slideshows, or multiple image posts. The name gives it away, these are posts with multiple images. When viewing them on Instagram you can swipe sideways to go through the various images or videos. These are useful when you have a range of images to showcase and for viewer retention.

Get more tips on viewer retention and reach for your Instagram here.

How to post Instagram carousels

Very similar to posting a normal picture, the only difference comes when choosing your image.

By holding in your selection for around a second when picking an image, the image will become highlighted and the number 1 will appear in a circle on the right. This means it is the first image in your carousel. You can then continue to select the rest of the images in the order they should appear.

If holding in your selection doesn’t work, you can also select the ‘multiple image’ button that appears at the bottom right of your image/video preview.

Once your selection is made, click on ‘next’ and then you can apply a filter to either the entire group, by selecting the filter below the images, or to individual items by selecting the icon on the bottom left of the image. Once everything is looking crisp and likable, hit the ‘next’ button and the rest is just like a normal image.

Beginners guide to Instagram

Video Instagram Posts

Video posts on Instagram can be up to 1 minute in length and should fit the image ratio and dimensions. These videos play automatically when hovered over and will appear in followers’ feeds just like normal images.

How to post videos to Instagram

Posting a video to Instagram is slightly different from images but follows the same process.

First, click on the (plus) button at the bottom of your screen when in the app. Next, you’ll select whichever video you’re looking to upload. If you want to share the fullwidth video, as opposed to a square video, you can click on the ‘diagonal arrow’ button on the bottom left of the preview screen.

Once you’ve decided on this, select ‘next’ and then you’ll be presented with the familiar filter screen. You can now apply a filter if you so wish. At the bottom of this page, you will also notice ‘trim’ & ‘cover’. When selecting ‘trim’, you can adjust where the video starts and ends. If you select ‘cover’, you can select which frame of the video should be your cover. This will be the image that is seen when scrolling through your feed and is shown on your profile.

Once you’re satisfied with all of these settings, you can select ‘next’ and then complete uploading just like a normal image.

Instagram Profile

Your profile page is where all of your posts are displayed. Your profile picture is on the top left, on the right of that is how many posts you have currently published on your profile, then how many followers you have, and how many people you are following.

Below this, you have the ‘edit profile’ button, where you can make changes to your profile like changing your profile picture, your username, display name, website, bio, etc. This is also the only place that you can insert a URL link*, so use it carefully!

*apart from Instagram stories, but more on that later.

Below your profile picture, your name will be in bold, followed by your bio and website. Some accounts will also have a category displayed, these are business accounts and are free to set up.

Click here to find out how to set up your Instagram Business Profile.

Moving further down the profile page, next you’ll see your Highlights… If you have any saved that is, otherwise you will either see nothing or there will be the option to save highlights.

The grid

Beneath your website, there will be 4 buttons. On the far left is the grid view and on the right of that is the list view. These are just ways that you can view posts in your feed, it won’t change anything for viewers of your profile. You can view other profiles like this as well.

The next icon to the right is your tagged posts. By selecting this you can see all of the posts that you are tagged in. You can then also remove tags or hide posts from your profile by; selecting them, clicking on the 3 dots in the top right corner, and then selecting post options. You can also view other users’ profiles like this and see what posts they have been tagged in.

The last icon of the four is your saved posts. These can be either your own posts, or other users’ posts that you want to look at later, share, etc. To save a post, open the desired post, and then click on the ribbon icon on the right just beneath the image/video.

Saved posts can also be organized into collections for easier use. Only you can see what you have saved.

Instagram Stories

Stories are another way of sharing content. Unlike posts, you can generally get away with sharing a lot of stories every day. Stories disappear after 24 hours from your profile and feed unless you add them to highlights. Videos in your story can only be up to 15 seconds long, however, you can include as many as you’d like.

If your account has more than 10 000 followers, you can also include direct URL links in your story (and if you don’t, there are some workarounds).

How to add to your Instagram Story

To upload an image or video to your story, swipe to the right on the home screen in the app or click on the camera icon found at the top left of your screen. You can now either record a video/take a photo or swipe up and select an image or video from your gallery. Multiple images can then be selected, much like you would a regular post. Instagram Stories should be in the aspect ratio 9:16, if they aren’t however, you can pinch out your screen to fit it correctly. Any blank space will then be filled with whichever color is on the borders of the image/video.

When editing an image for your story, you can choose from a range of options found at the top or swipe up for a variety of gifs, icons, emoticons, etc. Once you’re happy with your image/video, you can select either the ‘Save’ button to save it to your gallery for later, the ‘+ your Story’ button to add it to your story immediately, or you can click on ‘send to’. Here you can select users that whom you’d like to share your story directly.

Beginners guide to Instagram

Highlights

Highlights are a way to group stories and save them to your profile.

These show for longer than the regular 24 hours that stories are visible. To save a current story to your highlights; click the ‘highlights’ button whilst viewing the story, and then either create a new highlight or save it to an existing highlight. You can also save stories to your highlights that have already been archived, these can be found right at the top of your profile page with a clock-styled icon. You’ll go through the same process as you would with normal stories in order to save these archived ones. You will still have to open the story to view it and then save it.

Beginners Guide to IGTV

IGTV is a way of uploading videos between 15 seconds and 10 minutes in length. Some verified and large accounts are able to upload videos up to 60 minutes in length, however.

All IGTV videos are meant to be viewed vertically, so only videos between the ratios 4:5 and 9:16 are allowed. In order to upload videos to IGTV, you need to first create a channel.

How to create an IGTV Channel from Instagram

From your home screen on the Instagram app, select the TV icon at the top, this is the IGTV button. Select the settings icon next to the search bar and then choose ‘create channel’. Go through the prompts and your channel is set up.

How to upload videos to IGTV from Instagram

Once you’re in the IGTV area, click on your profile image to open your channel. Then click on the plus button to add a video. Select your video, either upload a cover or choose a frame from the video. Then add a title and description and you can also share it on Facebook or simply post it directly to your IGTV channel.

Beginners Guide to Instagram Explore (Discover)

This is the icon found at the bottom of your screen, next to the home button in the Instagram app. Here you will find popular images and videos that Instagram will suggest to you. You can also filter by categories like animals, food, etc. below the search bar. When you are in a category, you can also view related hashtags to find more great content.

The search bar at the top can be used to find a specific user or hashtag. It should auto-populate as you type, and this auto-population will be in relation to your specific profiles interactions, not necessarily the number of followers an account has.

Instagram Direct

Instagram direct is basically the messaging platform built into Instagram. It’s the easiest way to contact another Instagram user in private. You can access Instagram directly by selecting the (paper plane) icon in the top right corner of the home screen. You can also message people you are following directly from their profiles. Posts can be shared whilst viewing the post by selecting the (paper plane) icon below the image/video and then selecting the user you want to share it with.

Avoid bulk messages and being spammy as this will result in future messages moving to the spam area of Instagram Direct. You may also receive a warning from Instagram which can result in account termination.

Following Instagram users & being followed

Following

If you want to see future posts by another user in your home feed, you can follow them. Simply click on the blue ‘follow’ icon in their profile. Once you’ve followed them, a list of similar accounts may also pop up below that may be of interest to you.

Instagram no longer shows chronological posts in your home feed, meaning they show you what they believe you will like the most. If there are a few specific accounts that you want to see in particular, like their posts.

This way you won’t miss anything new from them. You can do this by double-tapping on their image or tapping the heart icon with their images/videos.

Followers

Followers are users that want to see your future posts and stories.

If you do not want your profile to be public, meaning that anyone can follow you, go to your profile, tap on the 3 dots in the top right corner and then scroll down to ‘account privacy’ and enable ‘Private account’.

Now you will be notified of users wanting to follow you and only users you authorize can see your profile and posts.

This is only available for personal accounts, however.