Having an Instagram account for your business is just the beginning, to know how to reach new customers, build a community and grow your account, you have to start with the basics and understand the terminology. Whether you're totally new to Instagram or simply trying to get to grips with how it works, learning how to speak the Insta lingo will give you a deeper understanding of the platform and help you reach your social media marketing goals.
Here is our beginner’s guide to Instagram terminology to give you a good foundation on which to build:
The algorithm is Instagram’s highly complex set of rules and signals that ranks content and determines to who your content is shown to. There are several algorithms for different parts of Instagram (reels, feed, stories, explore page, etc) that are always changing and being updated by Instagram. While it is impossible to beat the algorithm, it is possible to understand what it prioritises and use this information to help optimise your content.
Your Instagram bio is the section underneath your profile picture where you can add a short summary about you or your business (150 characters max) a link (e.g. to your website) and location.
The words you add below a graphic, image or video to further describe what it is about, add context and give further value to your audience. You can add wording, hashtags and tags to captions and they are a great place to show off your expertise and brand voice. Captions should be structured so they hook people in to read more and then end with a call to action to encourage engagement. Not sure about how to write impactful captions? Take a look at rapidely – we give you 64 pre-written captions a month for your industry you can then customise for your business.
Instagram gives you the ability to archive posts so they are no longer seen on your profile. Unlike deleting them entirely, your likes & comments will be retained. You can access & view your archived posts via your archived folder where your expired stories can also be viewed.
Instagram DM (Direct Message) allows you to send messages, videos, posts and images privately to someone or a select group of people. DM’s are great for connecting with people on a more personal level and are also great for boosting your engagement.
Anything that involves interacting with accounts on Instagram including likes, shares, comments, DMs, saves, follows, etc. Engagement is an important part of building a successful Instagram account as the algorithm pushes out content that gets lots of engagement!
The number of unique users that saw your Instagram post or story on any given day. Often confused with Impressions (see below).
The number of times your post was shown to users. Often confused with reach, impressions are the total number of times your content could have been seen.
Instagram stories expire after 24 hours but Instagram highlights gives you the opportunity to save stories to your profile so they can be viewed at any time when people visit your account. You can have several highlights of your choosing which should include information your potential customers would like to see (e.g., About, Reviews, behind the scenes, Services, Products).
People who follow your account so don’t miss any of your fabulous content! Also referred to as your audience. Your followers won’t necessarily always be shown your content so it is important to encourage engagement to ensure your content is prioritised by the algorithm and shown to as many followers as possible.
A hashtag is a combination of letters, numbers (or emojis!) preceded by the # symbol (e.g., #InstagramContent). They are clickable and when tapped, will take you to other posts which have used that particular hashtag. They are used to categorize content and make it more discoverable.
Instagram gives you the ability to tag different locations in your posts, reels and stories. Again locations are clickable and will take you to other content using the same geotag. Great for discoverability particularly for local businesses!
Instagram Influencers are users who have an established audience and credibility and are viewed as experts or leaders in their niche. They have the ability to “influence” or persuade others on the platform because of their status, trustworthiness and authenticity. Brands will often use or employ influencers to advertise their products or services as they can tap into their engaged audiences.
Instagram Lives are a way to connect with your followers in real-time (aka live!). When you go live, your followers will see your profile picture in a colorful circle with the word “live” on it next to where stories appear. Followers can then tap to view your live, comment, ask questions or even join in! You can have up to 4 people on a live so they are a great way to collab with others and tap into their audiences. Lives can also be saved to your profile so viewed later on by anyone who missed them.
A carousel is a post that contains more than one image or video (10 max) which you swipe through to view. Carousel posts interestingly have the highest engagement rate of all formats on Instagram and are a great way to teach your audience something, share advice and create saveable content.
Reels are the short-form video format on Instagram and are Instagram’s answer to the popular platform TikTok. Reels are designed to be entertaining, educational or inspiring and are currently favoured by the algorithm to help you reach new audiences. Typically, they use trending audios that allow users to lip-sync, dance, share info, tips or the behind the scenes of their business.
Instagram story stickers are elements you can add to your stories that allow your audience to interact with your story. They are useful to find out more about your audience, their opinions, likes & dislikes and also to boost engagement. Examples include the quiz, poll, slider, link and questions stickers. Looking for some ideas on how to use story stickers for your business? Take a look at Rapidely where we share weekly ideas for your industry.
A meme is an image or video (often from pop culture or trending themes) which are used alongside wording to represent a specific audience’s thoughts or feelings.
Filters are overlays for posts, reels & stories which enhance your image or video to make it more visually pleasing. There are so many filters that can be used in different ways to make images and videos more fun, change the look of them or add special effects and transitions.
Instagram gives you the ability to save posts you like to refer back to at a later date. Underneath a posts graphic, you will see a small flag symbol which when tapped, will add the post to your “saved” folder (which you can organise with different collections). An important metric in measuring engagement, creating saveable content for your users can help to boost your engagement and let the algorithm know people are finding your content valuable.
Instagram gives users the ability to share someone’s post or reel to your own story to alert your followers to view it or to individual users via DM if you think it is something you think they would find interesting. Creating shareable content is a great way to increase your visibility and get more eyes on your posts.
Your Instagram feed is the main newsfeed you will see & can scroll down as you open the app (accessed by the home symbol on the bottom left of your screen). Your feed will show you posts and reels shared by the accounts you follow as well as paid ads, hashtags you follow and content Instagram thinks you may enjoy based on the types of accounts you engage with.
There you have it! Once you familiarise yourself with the lingo, you can put into action an effective strategy to help you grow on the platform. To make your business a success using Instagram, you should make it a priority to continually educate yourself on its features, updates and how it works. Why not follow our Instagram account where we share daily tips, news on all the latest updates and content ideas so you keep up to date with what’s new and never run out of inspiration?