Like most successful social media platforms, if it isn't easy to use, it probably won't make it, but after my Three Reasons You Should Try Instagram post, I figured I shouldn't direct you into unknown waters without giving a few tips and and practices to help avoid feeling lost.
- Getting Started: You have to have a Smart Phone to use Instagram. You can access open your account online, but Instagram is a smart phone only app. Visit www.instagram.com to open your account, set up your profile and download the app for your iPhone or Android. You do NOT have to do any of this online, so if you prefer, you can simply download the app and get set up.
- Name, Bio and Picture: When you do start your account, include both your full name, a bio and a picture. I find it helpful when deciding if I should follow someone if their full name and a picture is part of the profile, so unless there are extenuating circumstances that demand anonymity, let us know who you are.
- First things first: After you have set up your account and downloaded the app, open it up and explore the app itself. After a few clicks around you will find out where each button takes you. I have some suggestions below, but I would suggest just taking a few pictures and playing with the filters and focus settings while getting a feel for your camera. Soon you will discover the artist within.
- Find friends: Once you have wandered around the app, you should now find some folks to follow. Even though your app may say that you can find folks via Twitter, you can actually only find friends via your contact list, your linked Facebook account and by username/name. I have found that the "Find Friends" feature works really well, so consider connecting your Facebook to your Instagram account.
- Which camera to use: In the app, you will need to select in the setting if you will use the Instagram camera or your phone one. I have used both setting, but have settled on my default camera because it gives a little more flexibility. You do have to remember that Instagram post square pictures, so you have to keep the subject in a square area of the picture.
- Taking your first picture: No secrets here. Find something or someone that captures something unique, interesting or puzzling and snap away. Seriously, if even taking pictures seems daunting, this might not be the platform for you. You can also grab pictures that you have taken before by sharing from your phones photo gallery. This is particularly helpful when you don't have to edit and post, but will want to share later.
- Editing the image: After you take a picture, the Instamagic begins. You can use the crop square to choose the exact image, use the filters to create the effect you like, choose what to keep in focus and add some brightness. In the screen shot to the right -- Still trying to get used to the idea that I have have a child old enough to drive -- I used the lo-Fi filter, blurred everything except the face and added a little brightness. After you have played around and are satisfied, you hit in the top right hand corner and the final image will be created.
- Captioning: Now that you have created your latest masterpiece... or are just gloating about the awesome dessert you are about to devour, you should caption it. Captioning is where you let us into your mind a bit. Any image is going to be seen through the lens of the viewer, but you should give the view a little idea about why YOU thought it was worth sharing.
- Tagging: Now that you have added a caption you should tag your pictures with some of the more widely used tags in order to connect with more people or add unique tags that you think will help bring the picture to life. You can go back to each picture and tag in a comment line if you don't want to include tags in the initial caption. Here are the top 10 general tags that I would add to a picture if you want your photos to be seen more widely: #instagood #instamood #instahub #igaddict #ignation #followme #igdaily #instadaily #bestoftheday #picoftheday #photooftheday #webstagram #statigram and then here are some other popular tags: #food #dog #pet #me #beautiful #food #sky #cute. Keep in mind that more tagging will not generate more followers and some see over-tagging as spammy.
- Tag limit: Each picture can only have 30 tags to avoid tag spamming, so be somewhat discerning when you do tag.
- Sharing and geo-tagging: If you are one who does not want to share your locations, past or current, Instagram geo-tagging is opt-in, so you have to check the box in order to share your location. In the picture to the right, the box for geo-tagging is checked. After you opt-in you can search for the exact location via Foursquare. For sharing on other services: Twitter, Facebook, etc. you also have to opt-in. This is particularly helpful so you are less likely to accidentally share on other platforms.
- Uploading: When you have finished choosing all of the options -- do not worry, the process gets easier and quicker the more you do it. -- just hit UPLOAD and your pic will be be uploaded and will show up in the photo stream of all who follow you.
- Twitter/Instagram Username Dilemma: Like other social media platforms, you can mention other users by including the @username in your comment. Be sure to do this if you want that person to know that you have mentioned them, especially on a photo that is not their own. When sharing a picture that includes an @username via your twitter feed, be sure that their Instagram and Twitter usernames are the same. Otherwise, some stranger will get notified on either platform that they have been tagged and they will wonder why. Not that this has ever happened to me ;-)
- "Like" and double-tapping: As you see pictures via tags or through the people you follow, be sire to show some love by "Liking" the pic. To like a picture, you can either hit the ♥ or just double-tap the picture and it automatically "likes" it.
- Commenting: If a picture touches you in some way that warrants more than a "like," I know that I always appreciate comments people leave. If you want to reply to someone else's comment be sure to use their @username so they are notified that a comment has been left from them.
- Interaction: In general, like all social networks, the more interaction the better experience or everyone. This does not mean that you have to follow everyone who follows you, but taking the time to respond to comments and liking people's pictures is a good general practice on Instagram as on other social networks.