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I pride myself on being a fairly early adopter of social media, but the one network I have been really slow to get on board with is Instagram. Partly because I was a Flickr fan for a long time, but also because I went through a period of wanting to put my photos on my own website.
Relying on third-party servers can be risky sometimes, if they decide to shut down. So I started and stopped with various Instagram accounts, unable to decide.
However, being Facebook-owned, Instagram is unlikely to be going anywhere, so I finally took the plunge and committed to trying out Instagram properly. It’s quite a cool site, and it’s been helped by the multitude of MakeUseOf Instagram posts containing hacks and advice.
We’re always covering the best awesome Instagram tricks and ideas. But I decided I would offer you ten tips and tricks I found that will specifically help turn you into a professional on the social network.
Use Instagram on the Web
For a long time, Instagram didn’t have a web version for users. It was all strictly iOS devices only. But then came the Instagram Android app and the official Instagram web version, so now you can have your own profile page to link to and from.
You can link to your main web presence (in my case, my own website), you can edit your profile, see who liked your photos (click the heart logo in the top right hand corner), and discover uploads from people you may know.
And if you go to the main Instagram page, you can see all of the recent uploads from your Instagram followers (provided you’re logged in, of course), and a search box is provided if you are looking for something in particular. Bookmark searches of your favorite tags so you can browse them throughout the day while you’re supposed to be working.
The only thing you can’t do on the web version is upload photos to your account. Whether or not that is an upcoming feature is anybody’s guess.
Use Instagram Widgets
For some crazy reason, Instagram does not provide official widgets, for embedding on websites. You CAN embed single images from Instagram (go to the options on a photo’s page to grab the embed code), but Instagram does not have any fancy looking widgets to show grids of photos. Flickr and Pinterest do it, but not Instagram. Utterly weird.
But as usual in these situations, where one does not offer a service, many third parties are eager to jump in and provide that service instead. I have tried a lot of widgets, but the one I liked the best was LightWidget. It’s the only one which is totally free. Others either don’t work, or are paid ones which are not worth it.
Using LightWidget is very easy. Just log into Instagram on the LightWidget site (no worries, you log in with a token. LightWidget does not see your password). Then enter your username in the box specified, and your pictures will show up. Choose from the various options on the right-hand side, and use the two arrows on the right of the photo box to resize the box. This allows you to see how it will look at a certain size.
But if you have a WordPress site, then it gets much easier, because there are various plugins available for embedding Instagram feeds. The highest rated of them is Instagram Feed (highly original name, eh?), and I use it on the front page of my site.
The widget is highly configurable, and if you are willing to pay $39, you can get the Pro version and unlock even more features, such as filtering, showing comment counts and like counts, and a lot more. Personally I am fine with the free version, as I am a tight-fisted Scotsman who peels an orange in his pocket. You however may want a bit more oomph with yours.
Use Instagram Hashtag Tools
Hashtags on Instagram are the backbone of the social network. It is how people and pictures are found, and legendary memes created. A fad started by Twitter (mimicking IRC channels), it has now spread to other social networks, most notably Instagram and Facebook (although to a much lesser extent on Facebook).
Before you look at any tools however, you need to understand some of the most common hashtags on Instagram. A quick Google search will throw up a multitude of lists, but the most in-depth one I have found is from the Huffington Post, which lists the top 100 hashtags being used on Instagram today. It is rather pointless copying them here and going over old ground, so check out that HuffPost article to see which hashtags you should be using.
But there are also other tools you can also use to make your hashtagging much easier and more convenient. First, there is the iPhone keyboard which I have previously talked about, called Tagsdock. Download and install the free keyboard, and then when you are adding a photo to Instagram on your phone, switch to Tagsdock.
After choosing your category and sub-category, you will then be presented with suggestions of hashtags. Tap on the one you want, and it will immediately be added to your photo description. Scroll right for more suggestions. Obviously don’t spam your photo description with irrelevant hashtags. Choose the most relevant ones, and if you want to add your own, tap the globe-like icon on the bottom-left, and that brings up your normal keyboard again.
Another interesting site is Websta. This provides a lot of analytical tools for Instagram, including about tags. Websta offers a basic free account, and more advanced paid accounts. But the free account is quite useful on its own.
For example, you can see how often you have used certain tags, which tags have received the most likes and comments (and see the photos associated with those tags), and the top 100 “Hot” tags.
There ARE other hashtag sites such as RiteTag, Iconosquare, Hashtags.org, Hashtagify.me, and Hashatit.com. But they either heavily focus on Twitter or they cost money which I don’t think is really worth it.
Get Notifications When Your Favorite People Post
If you follow a lot of people on Instagram, you probably don’t want the constant ping, ping, ping of notifications, every time someone posts a photo of their navel lint. But if you have a small circle of favorite people and you want to know when THEY post something, you can tell Instagram to notify you for those people only.
Unfortunately, you can’t put people into a group, Google Plus-style, and turn on notifications for the whole group. You need to switch on notifications individually for each person. Thankfully it’s very easy.
Visit the user’s profile, and then tap on one of their photos. Click the three dots in the bottom right-hand corner of the photo, and select “Turn on post notifications” from the menu that appears. Rinse and repeat.
Use Instagram as a Photo Editor (Without Having to Post Anything)
Did you know that you can use Instagram for editing your photos, without uploading anything to the site? So if you are looking to spice up a photo you just took with filters or another editing feature, you can do so, without it going on Instagram.
The secret is this — first, turn on the “Save Original Photo” setting in your Instagram account. Then put your phone on airplane mode, so the Internet is shut off, preventing uploads.
Now go ahead and upload the photo to Instagram. When it’s there, do your required editing, and press “share”, as if it was going to the site. But because the phone is in airplane mode, and therefore has no internet connection, you will get an error message saying the upload failed.
But if you look in your phone’s photo gallery, you will find your edited picture. Just be sure to remove it from the Instagram app before you turn your internet connection back on. Otherwise that photo of you in just your Spiderman pants is going to go viral.
On this note, in iOS you can also now upload to Instagram directly from your gallery, as long as you don’t want to add filters. Just find a photo you like, go through the familiar iOS “Share” process, choose Instagram, add a caption and you’re done.
Make Line Breaks in Your Instagram Captions & Bio
You may have noticed, when typing a caption or sprucing up your bio, that the return key on your phone’s keyboard has disappeared. Therefore you are probably squeezing everything together, without any line breaks, which makes people disinclined to read what you wrote.
So how do you put those line breaks back in? It’s as easy as 123 — quite literally.
When you want to put a line break in that corking caption or blistering bio, just press the 123 button at the bottom of the keyboard. Now look to your right. What do you see? Yessss…the return key! Hit it, baby.
Send Photos Privately to Your Friends
When posting photos to Instagram, you don’t have to share those pics with everyone. If you like, you can share them with individual users or groups. You can also send a photo that you or someone else has already posted. A bit like a retweet, really.
Sending messages to your private groovy network is very easy. Upload and edit the photo as usual. When you get to the Share page, you will see two options at the top. The one you want is “Direct“.
When you tap that, you will then be given a list of your followers. Tap the ones you want the photo sent to, then press the green SEND button.
Once the picture is off into cyberspace, it’ll start a direct message with that person or group. To read your direct messages, you can click the mailbox icon at the top right of your homepage.
Switch Between Multiple Accounts
Like I said at the beginning, I have gone through various Instagram accounts up to now. What if I want to use one of them every now and then for specific uses?
You may or may not know that Instagram now allows you to add and switch between multiple accounts (up to five). You don’t have to log out of one and log into another. It’s as simple as tapping a drop-down menu and choosing the account you want to go to. But you need, at a minimum, Version 7.15 for iOS or Android.
To get started, go to your profile and tap the gears icon in the top right hand corner. Scroll down the settings list until you see “Add Account“.
This will then bring up a login screen. Type in your login credentials for the account you want to add.
And…voila. Your drop-down menu to switch between accounts awaits.
Download the Parents’ Guide to Instagram
If you are a child, being on social media can be great fun, but it can also have a veritable supply of minefields. Whether it’s peodophiles, flashers, serial killers, or Donald Trump, there’s always some dodgy characters hanging around online. As a parent, you should rightfully be concerned about what your child is getting into when they make an Instagram account.
Instagram recognizes this concern, so they have produced The Parents’ Guide to Instagram. Simply go to Instagram Help, scroll down to “Safety” and then drop down the menu for the Parents Guide. This is the English version of the Parents’ Guide to Instagram (PDF), and in that aforementioned “Safety” menu you will also find links for versions in other languages.
Block Someone on Instagram
It happens to the best of us — we all end up following a nutter or two. They send us weird photos, strange messages, and we start to get creeped out. So if someone is starting to annoy you, you can block them from ever seeing your stuff ever again. And you won’t see theirs.
So let’s say that my MUO colleague Mihir is really annoying me with his pictures (you’re not really, Mihir. You’re just the designated example). We need to go to his profile by tapping his username. Then at the top right-hand corner, you will see three dots. Tap on that to get a menu, and right at the very top is “Block User“. Select that and you’re nearly done.
It will ask you if you are sure. Select “Yes I’m sure”, and sure enough, Mihir is now gone. Don’t worry Mihir, I’ll bring you back in a minute (maybe). When you block someone, they are not told by Instagram, so you don’t need to worry about any hard feelings (unless they read your articles).
I’m really starting to get into the whole Instagram thing, and if social media is what you dig, then you should get onto Instagram too. It’s where all the cool kids hang out.
So those are my 10 favorite Instagram tips and tricks that’ll turn you into a pro. Did I miss out any good ones? If so, please set me straight in the comments.
Image Credit: Attribution-Free Images, Courtesy Of PixaBay