What’s Instagram & Why is it so Popular?

13 Jan

Although Instagram has only been around for a little over three months, you’ve most likely heard of it, if not used it.  For those of you in the former category, I’ve got an overview for you of what it is and why I think it’s so wildly popular. Instagram is a photo-sharing app for iPhone.  Sorry Blackberry & Android users, it’s not available for you yet.  One of the reasons Instagram is based on the iPhone is because of its amazing camera.  So people are already taking lots of great pictures with their phones, why not try to make them more interesting?

Here’s a bit about the brief but amazingly quick ascendancy of Instagram:   

  • Launched on October 6
  • #1 in the App Store within 24 hours of launch
  • iPhone App of the Week
  • Holds the record as quickest to reach 1 million downloads, occurring on December 21
  • Launched 7 new languages
  • An Instagram photo made the cover of the Wall Street Journal

So why is everyone flocking to Instagram?  What does it actually do?

Easy to Get Started:  Got to the App Store, Download, Set up account, choose a username and upload a profile pic.

Photo Sharing:  You can take pictures within the app or use photos that already exist in your camera roll.  You can give your photo a title, which is helpful and fun.  Photos can be instantly shared, not only on Instagram, but also facebook, twitter, Flickr, Posterous and Tumblr.  You can also connect with your foursquare account and tag your photos with location.  By default, photos are public on Instagram.  If you want people to have to ask permission before they follow you, set to private.  To date, I don’t follow anyone with a private account.  That’s what facebook is for.

Photo Manipulation:  The ‘cool’ factor of Instagram is the fact that they have 11 different filters you can use to up the interest of your pix.  Even boring photos can look amazing with some of these filters.  Instagram has tweaked their filter selection since launch and there are indications that eventually you will be able to purchase additional filters.  Filters range from retro to futuristic.  When you factor in other photo manipulation apps like Diptic, Camera+, Photo Mess and 360, the possibilities are endless.

Social: Instagram, like any other social network, is based around having friends or followers.  On Instagram you ‘follow’ people.  At the top of your profile (or anyone’s profile) you will see the username, profile pic, how many photos have been uploaded, how many followers the account has, and how many they are following.  When you follow someone, their photos show up in your stream. The only other things you can do are ‘like‘ photos and comment on them.  Both are appreciated.  People ask questions in the comments, like ‘where was this taken’ or ‘what app did you use for that?’.  Once you get into using Instagram, you will see how laid back people are and how much fun they are having.  It’s currently a very friendly community.

Finding People to Follow: Instagram lets you see which of your twitter and facebook friends are using instagram and easily start following them.  There is also a ‘Invite Friends’ feature, but that simply links to your address book ~ and the rest is up to you.  Instagram will also suggest users if you like.  My two favorite ways of finding people to follow are 1) the Popular Page and 2) Seeing who is leaving interesting comments on pix I like.  The Popular Page shows you which pix currently have the most Likes.  You will inevitably find 2 cat pictures, 3 sunsets and  4 with really amazing lines (people seem to like symmetry).  You can click on any photo on the popular page and see all the other photos posted by that person, and many times you will want to follow.  It takes a lot of followers to end up on the popular page, so they’re usually pretty good photogs.  From there, I might look at the pix of some of the people who are leaving comments that I think are a) funny or b) similar to my thinking.  Following may ensue.  I also tend to look at the pix of people with interesting user names like ‘kyotosong’ or ‘lioness_in_maui’.  In general, Instagram is not about ‘promoting your personal brand’.  You will, however, find some superstars on Instagram, if you consider tech geeks to be superstars.  Scobleizer and Paris Lemon have accounts, as do Jack Dorsey and Ev Williams.  And a must follow is NPR ~ amazing pix.  National Geographic joined Instagram but has yet to upload a photo. They are, however, taking comments on what you would like to see.

So that’s the gist of how Instagram works.  What makes it so wildly popular?

The photographs.  You will find some of the most amazing photographs you have ever seen on Instagram.  The tools we now have allow almost anyone with a decent eye to take beautiful, crisp shots.  That’s not to say you won’t find the everyday and mundane on Instagram, because you will.  But as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  All the more important to be careful who you follow on Instagram, because its all about who’s in your feed ~ what do you find interesting?  Some people take shots of nothing but weddings, or landscapes, or horses.  Determine what is is you want to look at, or look at whatever strikes your fancy.

There’s no Klout on Instagram. Just because you’re Paris Lemon doesn’t mean you’re going to have a million followers on Instagram.  It’s all about the pix.  So post the pictures of your dog, or the socks you’re wearing or the street signs you pass on the way to work.  It’s OK here.  And no one cares if your follower/following count is upside down, in fact most people’s are.  You can go away from Instagram for a week or two and nobody will notice.  You can peek in and take a look when you want…post some pix when you want.  No one is going to unfollow you.  And if they do, big deal.  No pressure here.

A running documentary of your life. I’ve post 150+ pix in the past two months and I like looking through to see where I’ve been and what I’ve done.  You’ll like it too.

The Community. My experience on Instagram has been extremely pleasant and enjoyable.  I’ve never seen negative comments on people’s pix.  But I have seen people with large followings using those followings to try to do something good ~ ie raise awareness and possibly donations towards those affected by the flooding in Queensland, Australia.  I’ve talked to other Instagram’ers from China and Hawaii, and follow people from Amsterdam, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.  It’s a very global community and has a flat-world feel.

An Education on our Shared Humanity. This is my favorite part of Instagram.  Getting a glimpse into the everyday lives of people who I’ll  never meet, who live in completely different cultures than I do.  What I’ve found is not so much how different we are, but how alike we all are.  People all over the world celebrate weddings and birthdays, cherish their children and pets, appreciate a nice sunset or beach scene, like to drink (yes, they do) and are obsessed with food.  I love looking at pictures from China and seeing the dichotomy between Old China and New China.  And you can find something that fascinates you as well.

Instagram is a keeper.  If you like using Instagram, share with me how you use it or what you’ve learned from looking at all those pix.  If you have a question on using Instagram, or suggestions for some great people to follow, I’d love to hear from you too.


Posted by on January 13, 2011 in Mobile Apps, Social Media, Uncategorized


Tags: , , , ,

34 responses to “What’s Instagram & Why is it so Popular?

  1. David Mielcarek

    March 25, 2011 at 12:26 AM

    Good post, enjoyed reading it but didn’t find your instagram name in it (and KellyLux does not come up in a search!) – I want to follow you 😉

    I am a photographer. I shoot weddings for a living but love doing personal projects as well. Instagram has been a source of incredible inspiration for the past few weeks. A quick, delightful visual escape whenever I feel I need it during a day. Sometimes it’s three minutes and just a glance into my insta-friends lives and sometimes I get lost for hours. It’s addictive! Especially for visually sensitive people. If you care to look there’s a blog post on my website with some recommendations for my favorite instagram artists to follow.

    • kellylux

      March 25, 2011 at 8:15 AM

      Hi David, I’m still a big fan of Instagram…my username is klux. But I’m no photographer, so don’t expect big things 😉 I will definitely stop by your site to check out those suggestions. I’m definitely a ‘visually sensitive’ person, and I think you’re right on in your assessment of Instagram’s appeal to people like us. Have you heard of the new photo app Color? The way these things are evolving is amazing: Take care! Kelly

  2. Meredyth Friend

    March 27, 2011 at 7:56 PM

    Thank you for your very helpful post. I am going to follow you on instagram. I haven’t been using it that long, but i only have one follower, and it is definitely giving me a compex. I am by no means a professional, but I do love to take pictures of everything.It is really fun to see what other people like to take pictures many styles, and the range of subjects is amazing. i love the NPR pics…I always checked those out on mylaptop before instagram.
    Thanks again,
    meredyth friend

    • kellylux

      March 27, 2011 at 8:10 PM

      Don’t get a complex! It’s hard to find people on instagram, especially if your twitter or facebook friends aren’t using. My name on instagram is klux. What’s yours? Thanks for taking the time to read and comment 🙂

  3. Chase

    May 23, 2011 at 9:33 PM

    Hey Kelly,

    Any word if it will be available for BB anytime soon?

    • Kelly Lux

      June 1, 2011 at 8:13 AM

      I believe Android is next up. Unfortunately, the inferior cameras on the Blackberry platform don’t lend themselves well to this kind of application… :/ I’m a former BB user.

      • ric alexander

        September 7, 2011 at 3:59 PM

        With blackberry bringing out new phones, namely the torch models, Is it now possible that it will be released for this phone? Unlike many, i cannot justify buying/switching phones for one app. At the end of the day my laptop with photoshop can create more than any of these apps, It is easier to do it direct however, so this app would be a bonus.

      • Kelly Lux

        September 7, 2011 at 4:19 PM

        Ric, I’m pretty sure that Instagram is creating an Android app, not sure about Blackberry. The thing about Instagram is not so much the functionality of photo editing, but the community that surrounds it. It’s something you have to experience to appreciate. Thanks for commenting!

  4. Sunroo

    June 1, 2011 at 7:48 AM

    Can my facebook friends find me on instagram even if I’m not sharing on Facebook? If so, is there a way undo that and disconnect my instagram account from facebook ?

    • Kelly Lux

      June 1, 2011 at 8:13 AM

      Your facebook friends can find you, but only if they are on Instagram as well. You do not have to connect Instagram with any other account, so I believe if you disconnect, they won’t be able to find you. Good luck!!

      • brennie

        October 10, 2011 at 10:01 AM

        My instagram is not linked with my facebook account but somehow, my facebook friends can still find me (notification: Your FB friend ______ just joined instagram as ______, then they followed me. How can I fix this?

      • Kelly Lux

        December 15, 2011 at 11:16 AM

        Sorry to respond so late, but I don’t use this blog anymore. Perhaps because your friend’s account is linked and it can see that you are friends? Not sure about this.

  5. Sofia

    September 22, 2011 at 10:47 PM

    Hi Kelly,
    maybe you can help me. I downloaded Instagram app, but I can’t figure out how to set up an account.
    Can you give me a hint of how to do it?
    Thank you,

    • Kelly Lux

      December 15, 2011 at 11:17 AM

      Hi Sofia,

      Are you still wondering how to set up an Instagram account. Since you posted this question so long ago, I’m assuming you figured it out 🙂

  6. a

    October 4, 2011 at 5:40 PM

    this seems really cool! im gonna get the app. C:

  7. MamaBear

    January 6, 2012 at 10:28 AM

    I see people doing collages with their instagram photos. Is that part of the app or are they using a different platform for creating collages that they post on their blogs? I ask because being able to use instagram in a way that will make blogging quicker is one of the determining factors in whether I get an iphone this time around or stick with the droid.


  8. Kyle

    May 23, 2012 at 1:30 AM

    In all honesty it is just as easy to use a digital camera, then a website like for auto editing. Albeit I do enjoy the quickness of instagram (:

  9. Unknown

    May 31, 2012 at 2:51 PM

    Thanks! Very helpful

  10. Yaw Kusi Ampofo

    September 22, 2012 at 4:05 AM

    My samsung phone (sgh 168i) doesn’t support this app.
    Is there a possiblity for accessibility a day coming?

  11. Nikki

    October 3, 2012 at 7:15 AM

    Is the app free ???
    Getting a smart phone this week HHHMMM Thanks

  12. callie

    October 22, 2012 at 8:43 PM

    i want to get instagram soooooo badly but my mom wont let me! grrrrrrrr ):

  13. Virginia Darwin

    October 29, 2012 at 12:53 PM

    Is there anyway to minimize the amount of data usage that the instagram uses? Yikes, I went over this month not knowing how much it uses.

  14. /b/ro

    November 12, 2012 at 3:57 PM

    If a stupid iphone has a great camera then what about N8? can we call N8’s camera “the hubble telescope”, please?

  15. Hipster

    December 28, 2012 at 4:01 PM

    Instagram is okay, but because of the licensing terms there’s a risk they’ll steal your personal photos for their own use. I’ve been using Hipsta Hipster Cam for doing photo filters on my iPhone lately, it has some nice new effects, and they pledge to never look at / use / steal your photos. You can still share on facebook and twitter really easily with Hipsta Hipster camera too.

  16. Neha Alvina

    April 2, 2013 at 10:23 AM

    So nicely you had stated about instagram…. sadly m late to be on dat :/ 😛

  17. Chardonnay

    April 11, 2013 at 11:07 AM

    Hi Kelly just wondering which Instagram is it there is quite a few could you help me.

  18. nur

    December 25, 2013 at 11:58 AM

    hello guys, im one of instagram big fans and user..why my samsung grand quatro cant make a video perfectly. It become stuck at choosing cover video. Im definitely upset 😦 thank you ..

  19. Rody Lane

    January 11, 2014 at 3:41 PM

    Greatest info shortlist, wish for more intro’s like this, little new at age 52, there is much to figure out on my own, and it is so easy to lose time! -My God- Social Lux pretty awesome, will follow klux, not instagram’d yet tho- just adding my appreciation as I Google information- Rody


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