Home / Blog / Instagram Tips / What Is Instagram? A Comprehensive Guide to the Popular Social Media Platform

What Is Instagram? A Comprehensive Guide to the Popular Social Media Platform

Published August 11, 2023

Instagram is a photo-sharing platform that owes its success to its user-friendly interface, an excellent algorithm that quickly picks up on each user’s interests, and innovative features. Although it’s been on the market for ten years, many users are only now discovering the app’s numerous charms. If you are one of those people, you’ve come to the right place. Our extensive guide will give you all the pointers you need to use Instagram successfully!

Instagram’s Brief History

Instagram wasn’t initially imagined as a photo-sharing app — in fact, its founders, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, were working on a check-in app named ‘Burbn’ due to their love of whiskey. This app would allow users to check in at various locations, earn points for each check-in, and post pictures of their hangouts with friends.

Unfortunately, the idea didn’t quite take off among users. The features were too complicated, and the learning curve too steep, making most people focus on the photo-sharing components instead. When the founders noticed that, they decided to shift their priorities as well, and that is how their new app, Instagram, was born.

When Instagram came out for Android and iPhone in 2010, no one could have imagined how big it would become. But only two years later, in 2012, the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, took notice of the platform’s rapidly growing popularity and decided to purchase it. Though some people considered it a mistake at the time, it was clearly a good move — the app is currently the world’s fourth most popular social media platform.

Photos may still dominate the Instagram landscape, but they are no longer the only feature the platform can offer. Nowadays, users can also post videos, live stream, shop, promote their brands, tag people and locations, and interact with their followers and friends in a number of ways. In fact, it’s hard to imagine life without Instagram in 2023!

Key Facts About Instagram in 2023

In an online landscape dominated by countless big and small social media apps, ranking as the fourth most popular platform in the world is quite a feat. That becomes twice as impressive when we consider that Instagram has been around for thirteen years — an eternity in Internet time. Still, if you want to understand the full scale of Instagram’s impact, the following stats will put it all in focus:

  • Instagram is the most downloaded app in the world, beating TikTok, Facebook, and WhatsApp to claim the first spot;
  • 1.39 billion users visit the app daily, and that number skyrockets to above two billion when we look at monthly use;
  • American users spend 30.1 minutes on Instagram every day;
  • Almost half of the American adult population uses Instagram;
  • Instagram ranks as Gen Z’s favorite social media app, defeating even TikTok;
  • The app is the number one platform for connecting with brands;
  • Approximately 35% of users are projected to make a purchase on Instagram in 2023;
  • The most followed Instagram account, right after Instagram itself, is Cristiano Ronaldo (@cristiano), with over 585 million followers;
  • The most liked post on Instagram is footballer Leo Messi’s carousel of photos celebrating the Argentinian victory at the FIFA World Cup in 2022, which gathered almost 76 million likes;
  • Top earners on Instagram, such as Cristiano Ronaldo, make approximately $2.5 million per sponsored post.

Instagram’s Key Features in 2023

To retain its position as a favorite social media platform for so many years, Instagram had to develop and change, improving its existing features and user interface and introducing new functions. As a result, Instagram in 2023 is not entirely the same as it was in 2020 or the years prior. Similarly, future versions of the platform will likely go through other changes and tweaks. But for now, let’s take a look at the features the app currently offers.

Photo and Video Sharing

Instagram’s basic feature — photo-sharing — is still alive and well and as popular as ever. To upload a photo or a video in a post, all you have to do is tap the plus icon in the bottom sidebar visible upon opening the app. Instagram’s simple photo editor allows you to adjust its brightness, contrast, and saturation, as well as apply filters. Once you’re done editing, write a caption, add the location or tag people, and publish the post to your feed.

Of course, you don’t have to post one picture or video at a time. Instead, Instagram users frequently create carousels, compiling up to ten photos in one post. That’s an excellent way to drive engagement, and it allows you to be extra creative.

As for video sharing, Instagram allows you to upload up to an hour of footage in a single post. However, your followers typically only see 60-second previews, as they have to click on the video to watch the rest.

Instagram Stories

Instagram may not have been the original creator of stories (it was Snapchat), but it popularized this feature so much that every social media platform now has it. Stories are disappearing posts designed to share snippets of your day or thoughts you don’t want to keep on your profile forever. When you create a story, your followers can view and interact with it like with a regular post, but all that vanishes in 24 hours.

Over time, Instagram stories have become increasingly creative, to the point that it can be more fun to make and view stories than regular posts. Nowadays, you can post picture slideshows and layouts, upload short videos, add music, insert stickers and text, or create collages.

In addition, you can make your stories particularly interactive by including polls, Q&As, quizzes, and countdowns. And if you don’t want your hard work to disappear after 24 hours, Instagram allows you to compile all your related stories into Highlights and keep them on your profile forever.

Instagram Reels

Although Instagram’s focus has always been on sharing photos, the advent of TikTok seemed to have somewhat changed the platform’s direction. In 2020, Instagram introduced Reels, a section focusing on short-form videos, designed to compete with the increasingly popular Chinese app. Reels have since achieved enormous success, with the most viewed Reel reaching 289 million views. As a result, Instagram now has a separate Reels tab, allowing users to scroll down an endless stream of short videos, much like they would on TikTok’s For You Page.

In fact, if we compare Reels and TikTok, similarities are much more obvious than differences. Instagram has also introduced various editing tools, enabling users to create Reels on the platform instead of resorting to a third-party app. Now you can add effects and filters, insert music, stitch clips together, and more. And recently, the green screen feature became available as well, making it impossible to avoid TikTok comparisons.

Live Streaming

Nowadays, all social media platforms have a live-streaming feature, and Instagram is no exception. Once you gather a substantial following, you can turn on the live stream[2]  and interact with your watchers in real time. Before the live stream begins, you can give it a title and choose your audience. Instagram allows you to stream completely privately for practice or invite only select people if you are not ready to go fully public.

Once you do go public, you’ll be able to see who’s watching, invite guests to your live stream, answer the audience’s questions, and read the chat in real time. Upon ending the live stream, you can save it in the archive or delete it from your account — that’s entirely up to you.

Like, Comment, Save, Share

Social media is all about interaction, and this element is strongly present on Instagram as well. As you scroll down your feed and browse posts by the recommended accounts and the accounts you follow, you’ll notice several options available on each post. Let’s quickly go through each one:

  • means leaving a heart on someone’s post to show them you like their content. The person whose post you liked will receive a notification of your action. As of now, there is no way to dislike a post on Instagram;
  • Comment allows you to interact with the post or the poster in more depth by expressing your opinion below the content. You can also like and respond to other people’s comments;
  • Share enables you to send a post to a specific person or people or add it to your story. That’s only possible with public accounts, and you can’t share a post to your account’s feed;
  • Save is a feature that lets you bookmark a particular post so you can return to it and view it again later. All your saved posts are compiled in a special section on your profile that only you can see;
  • is a button you tap when you want to see another user’s posts on your feed regularly. You can follow your friends, celebrities, and various pages and brands.

Personal Messages

Instagram also functions as a free messaging service, allowing you to interact privately with your friends and followers. Similarly to many other messaging apps, you can send messages, pictures, stickers and gifs, record voicemails, leave reactions, and even use video or voice call features. And if you want an extra level of privacy and security in your chats, the disappearing messages feature is easy to activate.

Additionally, you can create group chats and post short notes all your followers can see and respond to for 24 hours. In other words, Instagram DMs function in the same way as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger — not surprisingly, considering they all now belong to the same company.

Instagram Shopping

As mentioned before, Instagram is the number one platform for connecting with brands, and it’s likely to keep that position thanks to its excellent shopping features. Verified brands can tag their products in posts and use various functions for advertising their shops and increasing their outreach. Recently, Instagram introduced the “Checkout on Instagram” button for US-based businesses, ensuring that customers don’t have to leave the platform to make a purchase!

Unlike TikTok, Instagram isn’t categorized into niches and subcultures, so it may be more difficult to understand what kind of content is met with success. Still, non-celebrity accounts with thousands of followers do exist, and they are definitely doing something right. To give you an insight into the type of posts that are popular on Instagram, we’ve compiled the following list.

1. Travel Posts and Stories

Who doesn’t like to see an exotic jungle or a beautiful view from a New York skyscraper on their feed? Travel content tends to perform really well on Instagram for several reasons — it’s unique, educational, and beautifully shot. Add to that a few witty remarks or “10 best restaurants in Japan” style of tips, and likes just keep pouring in!

2. Memes

The great thing about memes is that they can be made for every situation, be it a political debate, a new popular Netflix show, or to make fun of the latest Internet trend. Moreover, they have great shareability and potential to go viral, and they aren’t limited to photo format either. So, you’ll find thousands of meme accounts covering all sorts of styles and topics, as well as millions of people following them.

3. Tutorials

Do you want to learn how to cook a new meal? Or are you more interested in makeup application techniques? Whatever the case, Instagram is there to help, with “how to” posts taking up a high place on the list of the most beloved content. Learn all about fashion, DIY tips and tricks, gardening, arts and crafts, and more.

4. Fan Pages

Fan culture may be at its strongest on Twitter, but Instagram doesn’t lag far behind. Aside from the official celebrity and influencer accounts, you will find plenty of pages posting fanart, edits, and other fan content on a daily basis. Famous actors, musicians, writers, and even fictional characters all get their fan pages which can often amass thousands of followers!

5. Educational Content

If you thought Instagram was only mindless entertainment, you were very wrong. The app is full of educational pages offering fun facts about science, geography, history, different cultures, languages, and more. However, the keyword here is fun — don’t expect to find exhaustive, in-depth research papers on any of these topics. Instead, educational content is presented in an easily digestible way that can be consumed quickly. Yet, it’s undeniable that you can learn something new!

Start Your Instagram Journey

Instagram’s versatility, variety of features, and willingness to change and adapt have kept it as one of the most popular social media apps for years. As things stand, we don’t expect it to go anywhere in the next decade, so it’s not too late to hop on the trend if you haven’t already. You don’t have to post regularly or strive to become an influencer. Just connecting with your friends and family and supporting them through the screen when you can’t in person is enough.

Revitalize your Instagram profile using Buzzoid. Buy Instagram likes, followers, and views.

More Reading on Instagram Marketing

  1. Instagram Story Ideas
  2. Instagram’s Pinning Feature
  3. Disabling Instagram Suggested Posts
  4. Restricting Someone on Instagram
  5. Top 10 Most Liked Instagram Posts
  6. TikTok vs. Instagram
  7. How to See the Posts You’ve Liked on Instagram
  8. How to Change the Background Color on Your Instagram Story
  9. How to Add Multiple Photos to an Instagram Story
  10. The 2023 Collection of Instagram Captions
  11. How to Stop Instagram from Auto-Saving Posts to Your Camera Roll

Grow your Instagram
with Buzzoid

Learn more
Written By:
Jessica is a writer who specializes in social media, marketing, and digital strategy. She is a graduate of Antioch College and earned her MBA at Boston College’s Carroll Graduate School of Management, specializing in STEM Management. Her work has been published in numerous academic journals and mainstream publications. She lives in New England with her husband, two children, and three dogs.
You may also like:

Want to grow your Instagram faster?