Instagram In An Instant: A Beginner’s Guide

I’m late to the Instagram party. Like very late. (like 50 million people late – fashionably so?) But it was time to jump into the pool and I’ve been doing some digging on everything you need to know as a new Instagram user, because, that’s me too!

What is Instagram?

Instagram is a social media network based around the sharing of photos. What makes Instagram different is the integration of the social component, you can interact with other users, follow their lives and adore their photos. Even if you’re not an Instagram user, you’ve no doubt seen it all over the web usually characterized by the distinct filters and frames available.

How Popular is Instagram?

To put it mildly, it’s stinking huge, 50 million users and counting with an average of 5 million photos uploaded a day. It’s on pace to hit 100 million users by it’s second birthday which took Facebook 4 years to do. Crazy, huh? (No wonder Facebook recently bought it)

What’s the Instagram Lingo?

Starting fresh in a new social network is like entering a foreign country. There’s a new language to learn, customs and a culture all it’s own. Instagram is no different. I won’t delve into the cultural side just yet, as still a noobie myself, it takes some time to get the lay of the land.

The lingo on the other hand is pretty easy. Unlike Twitter (where I took a 3 month break after I first started because I was confused as all get out) Instagram is a snap, literally (you can laugh, I won’t tell). There are 3 basic interactions, the “like,” the comment and the follow. Liking works the same as facebook and acts as a general thumbs up, comments are just that and following other users causes them to show up in your “stream”.

Your stream shows off all the photos of people you follow as they are uploaded to Instagram so following people that interest you would be the main idea, that’s the best way to get something out of the network quickly. If you’re on other social networks, like Twitter and Facebook, Instagram coordinates with those services to help you discover people you already know and can be configured to post to those networks too.

Instagram also utilizes the #hastag as a labeling tool. It may be the only thing that can really through a new user for a loop, especially is they haven’t played with Twitter much. Essentially, a hashtag is just a way to group and label items with similar characteristics. For example, when people have photo themes on the organizer will assign a hashtag to the theme and that way everyone who uses it will be able to be discovered by searching that specific label.

How to Make Picture Collages with Instagram

One of the coolest things you’ll notice right away is the use of collages in Instagram. After looking high and low it became evident that this wasn’t an Instagram feature but actually another app entirely, called Diptic. It’s $0.99 and lets you easily set up a collage using your photos and then post the whole sha-bang to Not vital to the experience, but cool nonetheless.

Non-Mobile Instagram for Computer

The thing about instagram is that it’s primarily mobile. Interactions take place there, your photos come from there, and it’s not something easy to keep up on or browse if you’re hanging out at home on the computer, right? Not any more.

Instagram for your computer is here (and has been for awhile, did I mention I was late?)

For awhile now, you can set up accounts with different services (that aren’t affiliated with Instagram) to accomplish a number of different things, the least of which is browsing your stream at a desktop.

Most services offer similar features with a few differences here and there. In my opinion, it really comes down to what interface you like best.

Here’s a list of my favorites that I’ve discovered in my travels the past few weeks: offers a vanity url to help others access your feed, like most other sites I’ll mention here (it’s a very in demand feature) but it also has an easy rss option so that people can subscribe to it, even if they aren’t Instagram users themselves – very cool.

It offers stats and of course you can check out your photo stream but it’s unique in some tools that it offers users: timeline cover collages and a timeline app box. With a few clicks can put together a fabulous cover image for your Facebook profile all made from your own photos.  The app box simply shows your latest photos and publishes them straight to your Facebook profile (Instagram itself can do this as well but if you prefer the styling of the app box that may be the way to go.)

Ink 361

Ink361 gives you the benefit of exploring your photo stream on the big screen along with a vanity URL option so you can share your photos easily.

Ink361 has a really cool list of tips and services that are available for like photo book publishing and more.

Judging by Facebook likes and a few other metrics, Followgram appears to be one of the most popular.

With an easy to use interface, Followgram is a breeze to use, provides the vanity URL right at the top of the page and also has code for a follow button easily accessible.

You can also browse through popular photos from the whole community and search based on #hashtag or keyword.

Last but not least is which stands out based on it’s very different layout and comment prominence. From web rankings, it also appears to be the most popular choice for using Instagram on computer.

Just based on the layout, I find myself commenting more than just looking which is the basis for building any social network. You do have the option of different layouts, but the default, pictures above, was my fav.

There are also some really handy share buttons (Pinterest anyone!?)  under each photo to really help you spread the word when you find a photo you love. Very nice touch!

A very robust search feature has also been launched through, called Search.Stagram. It’s a really cool service that can help you explore anything you can imagine. Planning a trip? You can search your destination ahead of time and find some must-see sites.

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