An Intro To Instagram
If you are reading this and you are curious about Instagram, you are not alone. Instagram has taken the world of social media by storm. In fact, Instagram grew so rapidly that no less than Facebook bought it out for a billion-dollar deal.
Make no mistake about it, Instagram is one social media platform that you cannot afford to ignore, overlook or neglect. It is a big deal if you are trying to build some sort of brand on the internet.
What is Instagram?
Instagram, in a nutshell, is a social media platform where users upload pictures and videos. Along with this content, users can comment and share their reactions. Instagram enables users to post emojis that highlight their feelings regarding either the content or the comments of other people on that content.
Instagram helps people store their photos and videos online. Not only can these users quickly find their materials, but people who follow them can also rapidly access such materials. They only need to click the user account of the person or brand they are following to see all the previous posts they made. As you can well imagine, this collection of functionalities help users from all over the world build a community around content that they share an interest in.
For example, if you’re big on Chihuahuas and you post photos and videos of your pet Chihuahua, don’t be surprised if you attract the attention of fellow Chihuahua lovers from all four corners of the globe. If you click on their profile, you can see a picture or two of Chihuahuas. This is how Instagram is able to help people develop community relationships around content they are mutually interested in.
How Does Instagram Work?
Here is a blow by blow description of how this social media platform operates.
Users Upload Video or Picture Content
The heart and soul of Instagram revolves around the content people share. If you take photos with your mobile phone, it only takes a few clicks for your photo to end up on your Instagram account. It also takes only a few taps for you to not only describe the content that you just uploaded, but also categorize it using hashtags.
Uploaders Pair Content Hashtags to Categorize Their Content
I can’t downplay the importance of hashtags. What’s the point of uploading content when people cannot find it? Hashtags are crucial for the effective operations of Instagram.
I know it sounds like a stretch, but without hashtags, Instagram probably would not have gotten as popular as it has. It’s just not going to happen. There’s no way people can find content that they are interested in. There’s no way all that content-based community formation could take place.
How? There is no mechanism that enables people to find each other as well as the content that they are interested in. When users upload videos or pictures, they can quickly find and select or compose hashtags that categorize their content. This enables others to find that content.
Other Users Find Posts By Doing Keyword Searches
If you don’t upload stuff on Instagram, you can still enjoy the platform by simply searching for stuff posted by other people. You can enter keywords and Instagram will find relevant hashtags or relevant posts for you. It can also return relevant user names. You can find accounts that specialize in the type of content you’re looking for.
One wonderful thing about Instagram is that you don’t have to have a clear idea of the specific hashtag used to describe the content you’re searching for. You only need to include partial words and Instagram will auto suggest hashtags, which you can then use in your search. This makes the whole content search process so much more efficient and faster. You don’t have to be some sort of mind reader or category expert for you to find the content you’re looking for.
Other Users Can Like Posts
As I mentioned above, Instagram is all about building community around certain types of content. One effective way of doing this is to enable people to express their satisfaction or support for content.
This is as easy as double-clicking on the image and a heart icon will momentarily appear, which indicates that you have successfully liked that piece of content. Simultaneously, the like count or the number likes for that piece of content goes up when you double-tap on the image.
Other Users Can Follow Users Posting Content
Just like Twitter, and, in many situations, Facebook, other users can follow other users based on the content they post. Again, going back to the Chihuahua example, if you notice that this one person keeps posting the most awesome Chihuahua pictures, you can click on that person’s profile and choose to follow that person.
This way, when you open Instagram, there’s a chance that you would see that person’s updates. You don’t have to actively search for that person’s content using hashtags. This, of course, opens a tremendous opportunity for brand following.
If you’ve ever been on Instagram, you would be able to quickly notice that certain accounts actually have large followings. That’s not an accident. Somehow, some way, they have developed a reputation for posting quality content in certain niches.
In many instances, these accounts have become personalities or celebrities who other Instagram users would naturally want to follow. Whatever the case may be, they’ve developed solid brands around their Instagram user accounts. If they can do it, you can do it too, because Instagram enables users to follow each other.
Instagram Doesn’t Support Live Links
Please keep in mind that Instagram, unlike Pinterest, doesn’t allow people to click on pictures to go to a website or blog. When you’re on Instagram and you’re consuming content, there is no link paired with that content that takes you to a place outside of Instagram.
There is only one exception. When people post content, their profile link is clickable. When users click on your profile, they go to your Instagram profile, which tells the user a little bit more about yourself and your interests.
One of those fields allow you to enter your link. For example, if you’re a Chihuahua puppy blogger, you would post lots of Chihuahua pictures. When people like your content, they check out your profile, figure out what you’re about, and they would quickly see that your profile links to your blog.
You only have one link. When they click that, that is the only time people would leave Instagram to go to your blog, website, Shopify store, affiliate link or wherever else you want them to go. You are given a tremendous amount of freedom regarding that link. Use it very carefully.
Domain Names or URLs on Content Posts are Not Clickable
With all the above said, keep in mind that you can still post domain names with your content. You can say, “If you like this blue Chihuahua, visit my collection of blue Chihuahua pictures and videos on this website,” and you enter the domain.
That domain is not clickable, but that doesn’t prevent users who truly enjoy your content to copy and paste that domain into a browser and load your site. Of course, since this takes more effort, you probably won’t get as much traffic from content paired with your non-clickable domain than if the link was live.
Users Can Draw Attention to Other Users Through Shoutouts
By this point, you’re probably wondering, how do you become an Instagram celebrity? How do you attract thousands upon thousands, if not millions, of followers? Well, one of the most effective ways Instagram celebrities build their following is through a process called shout-out exchanges.
When one account gives you a shout-out, they post your handle on their message to their followers. For example, if your account is @bluechihuahua, the person doing a shout-out would say, “If you like awesome Chihuahua pictures, check out my buddy @bluechihuahua,” and your handle would appear with an @ label. When people see that, they know that they only need to click on that to go to your Instagram profile and they would see your content as well as the link to your blog or website.
Don’t underestimate the power of shout-outs. If you get a shout-out from a very influential account with thousands, if not millions, of followers, you can bet that a lot of people would start following you too. Their followers only need to click on your handle, and if they like what they see, they can click the “follow” button, and you get yourself a new audience member. This is how Instagram accounts promote each other.
How to Build a Following
To build a solid following on Instagram, you need to post quality content. The bottom line is that you need to create a community of people who are truly interested in the category of your content. This increases the likelihood that these people would want to visit your blog or buy stuff that you are promoting. They’re not just curiosity seekers.
How do you do this? Well, post quality content in specific categories that people are interested in. This is the key. Make sure you use hashtags that are specific to your target audiences. The way to figure this out, of course, is to do a lot of hashtag research on Instagram and look through different content to see which hashtags are most associated with the content categories you want for your brand.
Next, you should get mentioned by accounts that already have a following. Now, unfortunately, in many cases, you would have to pony up some cash for this. Unless you find influential people who are just so impressed by the quality of your content, for the most part, you’re going to have to pay to play. Of course, you have to be very selective as to who you pay to do a shout-out for your account.
Next, you should also work the traffic generation power of your other online properties. Maybe you already have a blog or an online store or a website. Maybe you have a network of social media accounts. Whatever the case may be, link to your Instagram profile from those places.
Promote your Instagram profile there. This way, you can drive traffic from those places to your Instagram profile. Also, through your profile link, you can drive traffic from Instagram to your main shop website, blog or even on other social media accounts.
How Does Instagram Make Money?
Now that we have a fairly clear understanding of how Instagram can drive traffic to your online store, blog or website, and possibly make you money, what about Instagram itself? How does it earn its bread and butter? Well, as you can well imagine, it operates pretty much like Facebook. It’s all about ad revenues.
If you have downloaded and installed Instagram on your mobile phone, you can quickly see that there are ads that show up. That’s the main way Instagram makes its money. People scroll through their feeds and they see ads placed by Instagram’s parent company, Facebook.
It may seem simple, it may seem straightforward, but this is actually a powerful way for Facebook to make money. As more and more people get interested in Facebook advertising, Facebook automatically offers Instagram ads to people advertising on their main platform. This adds dollars to Instagram.
If you want to know why people use Instagram, please read Why YOU Should Use Instagram.