A Guide to Instagram

What does Instagram do?

Instagram is an online mobile photo-sharing, video-sharing and social networking platform that allows its users to take pictures and videos, apply digital filters to them, and share them on other social networking services, such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr.

Instagram is a photo-driven platform. The photos featured are meant to spark conversations about the photos themselves or the people and issues featured in the images. The platform also transforms users into photographers by giving them simple editing tools that give photos distinctly artistic looks. 

After you upload your photo or video, you can share with either all your Followers or directly with an individual Follower.

Who does Instagram reach?

Instagram has more than 150 million monthly users and 75 million daily users. Thirteen percent of all Internet users are on Instagram.

  • Young. Over 90 percent of Instagram users are under the age of 35. Instagram is perceived as the new platform for younger generations.
  • Mobile compatibility. A mobile device is necessary to upload to Instagram, so compatibility is crucial. Users are evenly divided between Android and Apple device owners.
  • Gender. Users skew heavily toward women, who make up 68 percent of Instagram’s user base.
  • Urban. Usage leans toward urban areas. Seventeen percent of U.S. adults in urban areas use Instagram, compared to eleven percent in suburban and rural areas.
  • Ethnicity. African American and Hispanic users are more active on Instagram than their white, non-Hispanic counterparts in the United States.

What do I need to use Instagram?

  • Technology: Smartphone (iOS/Android/Windows)/tablet, Instagram application, Internet connection
  • Staff: Basic knowledge of cameras and smartphones
  • Suggested Frequency: At least once a week

What can I share on Instagram?

You can share photos and videos (3–15 seconds) on Instagram.

How should I use Instagram?

Instagram has a useful guide online to help you get started. Instagram further enables linking this content to other social networks.

Why should I use Instagram?

If you have content that is primarily visual—photos and short videos (3-15 seconds)—and you aim to reach a younger audience, Instagram may be the right platform.

What are the strengths and limitations of Instagram?


  • Vivid. Powerful images can create an emotional connection with the audience.
  • Engaging. Organizations can engage Followers by requesting them to share images that further storylines and support campaigns.

When a user Follows your account, your photos and videos will appear on their Instagram home page.

  • Small investment. With a smartphone, you can share stories from the field in real time.
  • Hashtag. Stories and content are organized and searched using hashtags on Instagram. You can also follow Hashtags just like you would follow a specific user in your Feed.
  • Chat. Instagram has a chat option, which increases engagement with Followers.
  • Repurposing. Images posted on Instagram can be simultaneously published on other platforms.
  • Young. Instagram is heavily used by those under 35 years old, particularly teenagers.
  • Compatible. Instagram works on iOS, Android and Windows.
  • Gender. Women use Instagram more than men.
  • Urban. Instagram leans toward urban users: 17% of U.S. adult residents in urban areas use Instagram.
  • Video engagement. 


  • Limited control. Other users can easily repurpose images without giving proper recognition to the original author or owner.
  • Image production costs. Using Instagram as a major platform could require an investment in photography.
  • Limited calls to action. Unlike many tools and platforms, calls to action using links aren’t activated, and KPIs can be hard to measure.
  • Mobile-friendly content. Content must be optimized for mobile viewing, as most users access the platform through mobile devices
  • Urban. Instagram isn’t as popular with rural populations as it with urban populations.
  • Older generations limited. Instagram’s main user base is under 35 years old.

What story formats work best on Instagram?

Photos and short videos (3–15 seconds) are supported on Instagram, but currently photos are the most popular. Users can also add a short video to their “Story,” which is targetted to their followers and disappears within 24 hours. 

What’s the most effective way to share stories on Instagram?

Plan ahead and build editorial calendars. Keep photos and videos in stock.

How should I engage with users on Instagram?

  • Post. Share quality photos and videos with your audiences, either in your Feed or Story.
  • Like. Like photos of users with similar interests.
  • Comment. Respond to comments on your photos and videos.
  • Chat. Increase engagement by chatting with your Followers through direct message.
  • Hashtag. Create and use compelling hashtags.
  • Questions. Include questions in your captions to engage users.
  • Quality over quantity. Instagram doesn’t need constant updates—1 to 2 times daily is ideal.
  • People and faces. Images showcasing people and faces get the most notice. 
  • Variety. Don’t repeat content often. Try to share different photos and videos.

How can I increase visibility on Instagram for my content?

  • Tag others. Tagging influencers or the subject(s) of your photos can draw attention to your content and help to personalize it.
  • Use hashtags. Create new hashtags along with using existing hashtags. Hashtags make your content easily searchable.