How Does Instagram Works: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners

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Karen Lin

Instagram 101 | May 21, 2024

Want More Real Instagram Followers?

Instagram plays a major role in capturing the attention of consumers across the globe. After Facebook and its up-and-coming rival TikTok, it ranked 3rd among the most popular social applications worldwide last year.

Brands and influencers leverage its features to build their audience base and gain traction. Despite its popularity, many are still oblivious to its goldmine benefits.

This blog post will explain how does Instagram works, including its key features and functionality.

A person holding a phone with an Instagram login page open. 

So, How Does Instagram Works?

Understanding how Instagram works is important for anyone wanting to leverage this popular social network. In today’s digital age, where visual content reigns supreme, Instagram has become a major player for sharing images and videos. Knowing its basics is helpful for a smoother and more enjoyable experience. Here are some major characteristics of Instagram:

  • Social Media Presence

Instagram is a popular social media network that enables people and companies to create and maintain a strong online presence. This is critical for reaching a larger audience and remaining relevant in a digitally driven society.

  • Marketing and Branding

Through Instagram’s marketing capabilities, companies can create engaging content, connect with target audiences, and build a strong brand presence. To do local marketing right, you must master and use Instagram Reels, Stories, IGTV, and relevant hashtags wisely.

  • Engagement With Audience

Do you want to get more exposure for your Instagram content? Leverage the power of Instagram’s algorithms and features to optimize your posts and reach a wider audience. Interact with followers through comments, likes, and direct messages to foster community, benefiting individuals and corporations alike.

  • Visual Storytelling

Instagram is a visual platform, making it an excellent place to tell stories through images and videos. Using photos and videos effectively can convey a compelling narrative and showcase products or services that resonate with your followers.

  • Collaboration and Networking

Instagram makes connecting with others in your field and collaborating on projects easy. All parties can benefit from knowing the platform’s tagging, mentioning, and content collaboration norms for more fruitful partnerships.

  • Keep Up With Trends

Instagram constantly introduces new features and trends. These updates allow users to adjust their content and methods to stay current and capitalize on new trends.

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How To Use Instagram? 

Instagram is a visual-centric social media platform. It is a powerful tool for businesses aiming to engage their audience through compelling content. When using Instagram for business, consistency in posting engaging content is essential. Understanding the basics is crucial to navigate the platform effectively.

The fundamental principle of using Instagram is to follow accounts that pique your interest. This creates a reciprocal following where others engage with your content in return. The central feature is the Instagram Feed, where users encounter a curated stream of content from the accounts they follow. Interaction with posts involves “liking” by clicking the heart icon or commenting through the comment section.

Upon launching the app, users will see a menu bar at the bottom of the screen. The bar contains various icons for navigation, including:

  • Home: The home button on the far-left leads users to their main Feed, accessible from the app section.
  • Search: Represented by a magnifying glass, this icon directs users to the explore page. They can discover accounts and hashtags and explore content from suggested accounts depending on their preferences, likes, and viewed content.
  • New Post: The “+” symbol in the menu’s center lets you create posts, Stories, and Reels or start a Live session.
  • Reels: The clapperboard symbol signifies the Reel icon. Clicking it directs users to the Reels page, showcasing short-form content.
  • Profile: The icon on the far right, typically a small circle with user profile pictures, leads users to their main page. They can view all their posts, follower information, and Reels here.

Create an engaging account with consistent content to establish a meaningful presence on Instagram. Use strategic features like Stories, Reels, and Live sessions to connect with your audience and build a dynamic strategy.

A person using Instagram on their laptop. 

How Does the Instagram Algorithm Work

Instagram uses a set of rules and calculations called algorithms to choose which posts to show and in what sequence. The algorithm aims to provide a tailored experience by displaying content that interests consumers based on past interactions.

When deciding what to display, the algorithm considers several things. It is crucial to remember that the Instagram algorithm does not operate as a simple, singular entity. It customizes its operation for each unique format, including Instagram Stories, Feed, Explore pages, and Reels.

Do you want to know how the Instagram Algorithm works? Here’s how:


Instagram’s algorithm uses a user’s previous actions to predict the kind of content that a person would like. For example, the algorithm learns from users’ behavior and displays more travel-related content if they frequently engage with such posts. It analyzes social media content through machine learning, identifies trends, sorts posts by subject, and displays similar content to interested users.


Users who open their app will see the most recent feed posts and Stories since the system emphasizes current postings. The goal is not to provide many days’ or weeks’ old content but rather current and relevant content.


Instagram’s algorithm prioritizes posts from accounts with which users interact more frequently based on likes, comments, and shares.


The content a person sees depends on how many accounts they follow. When users follow multiple accounts, the algorithm has more data points to draw. This might mean that the more accounts you follow, the more diversified your Instagram feed is. 


The amount of time users spend on Instagram also affects how their posts appear. The algorithm will display more posts from its content database when users stay on the site longer. Shorter sessions lead to compressed feeds, highlighting the most relevant content per algorithm.

A person writing on paper.

What Are the Features of Instagram?

Instagram has diverse features that cater to the interests and preferences of its user base. With a focus on visual content and seamless user interaction, Instagram continues to evolve, introducing new features.

Instagram Feed

One of the central features of Instagram is the Feed, where users can share photos and videos with their followers. The Feed displays posts from followed accounts in a visually appealing, chronological order. Users can engage with content through likes, comments, and sharing posts directly from their feeds.


The Stories feature allows users to share brief content that disappears after 24 hours. This feature is ideal for more casual and quick sharing of moments throughout the day. It includes interactive elements like polls, questions, and quizzes, fostering user engagement.

Explore Page

Instagram’s Explore Page provides a personalized discovery experience, suggesting content based on a user’s interests and interactions. The algorithm uses users’ past interactions, trending content, and popular accounts to create a personalized feed of posts and videos.

Instagram TV

The IGTV feature allows users to share longer videos, enabling creators to produce and share more in-depth and creative content. This feature benefits influencers and businesses aiming to engage their target audiences and build a presence through video content.


The Reels feature is Instagram’s response to the short-form video trend. Users can create and discover entertaining, 15 to 60-second videos set to music. This popular content form lets users showcase their creativity through engaging and entertaining short videos.


The Shopping Feature enables businesses to showcase and sell products directly on their Instagram. Users can explore and purchase items without leaving the app, streamlining the shopping experience.

A closeup shot of a woman looking at her Instagram feed. 

How Does Instagram Story Views Work?

Many Instagram users ask, “How do Instagram Story views work?” The list of viewers follows a reverse chronological order until the Story reaches over 50 views. Instagram then sorts the people based on their engagement, with the more active users appearing first.

To prioritize Story viewers, Instagram uses a proprietary algorithm that considers visits, likes, and comments. How others engage with you on the platform determines your viewership rank.

Users can see a list of everyone who watched their Story by swiping up the Story. Instagram keeps the selection criteria for the top spots undisclosed, but it ties closely to how users engage Instagram. It depends on how often you check their account and connect with their posts and Stories, and vice versa.

This order is important for marketers and companies. For those looking to enhance their Instagram engagement, this insight will help strengthen connections and social media presence.

Here are the reasons why Instagram management service agencies and social media managers should take notice of Story views:

  • Optimize Content Strategy: The top viewers are your devoted followers. Identify their preferences for valuable insights, including hashtags, content formats, and ideas for maximum engagement.
  • Re-engage Audiences: Explore the bottom of the viewers list to understand less-engaged followers. Analyzing their views aids in tailoring strategies to boost engagement.
  • Quality Prospects: Top Story viewers indicate strong interest, making them prime targets for lead-generation efforts.

A man in a blue shirt is taking a selfie.

How Does Instagram Monetization Works?

Monetizing an Instagram account is a great way for influencers and brands to make money through social media platforms. To make money on Instagram, it’s important to understand how Instagram monetization works.

1. Instagram Partner Program

Instagram Partner Program monetizes content through brand-sponsored content, enabling individuals and businesses to earn money. Brands reach a wider audience by partnering with creators or people with many followers. They can connect with Instagram influencers via marketing sites or directly work with artists and brands.

2. Instagram Shop

Instagram also has a feature called “Instagram Shop,” which lets businesses sell their goods through the app. This e-commerce feature lets users look at goods and buy them without leaving the app. It is a great way for businesses, especially those that sell things online, to make more sales.

3. Instagram Creator Fund

The Instagram Creator Fund is another program that helps content creators earn money. This gives money to artists who make interesting content for the site. Creators must regularly produce high-quality content and have a certain number of followers to be eligible.

4. Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is another way that Instagram artists can make money. Affiliate links let people sell goods or services and give creators a cut of every sale from their special link. This method works especially well for producers with a loyal, involved public that trusts their suggestions.

5. Instagram Live Badges

With tools like Instagram Live Badges, Instagram Live has also become a way to make money. Viewers can buy badges to support their favorite artists during a livestream. In return, creators get a cut of the money made from selling badges.

A person is holding dollar bills. 

How Does Instagram Verification Work?

Instagram verification is a sought-after status, demonstrating one’s credibility and authenticity on the platform. Users can follow a simple set of instructions to get verified. To request verification for your Instagram, go to your settings and tap on “Request Verification.”

Instagram verifies accounts with a blue checkmark if they meet specific criteria. Users must provide their account name, title, and a government-issued ID for personal accounts or business documents for business accounts.

Instagram analyzes user data, paying special attention to their followers and activity. Adding a  profile photo, bio, and content that complies with the rules increases the chances of approval.

It is important to note that there is no fee involved in Instagram’s verification process. Be cautious of any third-party services that claim to offer verification for a fee. When Instagram verifies an account, it displays a blue checkmark to provide an added layer of trust. Users place great trust in verified accounts and accept their recommendations wholeheartedly.

To fully leverage the benefits of “blue tick,” understanding how Instagram verification works is very crucial. The blue checkmark on an account increases its visibility and credibility and clearly indicates authenticity. Verified accounts are easily identifiable, making locating and engaging with real individuals or organizations simpler for users. This verification is crucial in preventing impersonation and helps users quickly identify genuine accounts from fake ones.

Remember that the verification process may take a considerable amount of time. Instagram carefully examines every request to verify account legitimacy. To increase the chances of successful verification, users remain active, adhere to the platform’s guidelines, and engage with their audience.

A closeup shot of a green tick.

How To Shop on Instagram?

If you’re wondering how to shop on Instagram, don’t worry – Instagram has made it easy. Shopping for products and making purchases on Instagram is now a seamless and engaging experience.

The Instagram Shop is the central hub for in-app shopping. To begin the shopping journey, users can tap the shopping bag icon on the bottom menu bar of their profile. This leads them to a personalized shopping feed, displaying products from accounts they follow and other curated recommendations.

Users can explore various categories within the Instagram Shop, discover new brands, and view collections. Tap on a product to open a detailed view with pricing, seller links, and additional information.

Instagram has also introduced the Shop Tab, a dedicated space for shopping accessible from the home screen. This feature streamlines the shopping experience by allowing users to explore a variety of brands and products effortlessly. The Shop Tab tailors recommendations based on users’ preferences, interactions, and previous shopping behavior.

Through the Support Small Business sticker on Instagram Stories, users can directly link small businesses for their followers to access. This feature helps smaller brands get attention and encourages users to support independent sellers.

For those interested in purchasing directly from posts, the Checkout on Instagram feature simplifies the process. Some businesses offer in-app shopping, allowing users to browse products and make purchases without leaving the app. This streamlined checkout experience minimizes friction, making it more convenient for users to buy products they discover on Instagram.

The Saved Collection feature allows users to curate a personalized shopping list. Users can save products from posts to view them later.

Instagram’s shoppable features also extend to Instagram Live Shopping. Brands and influencers can feature products during live streams, allowing viewers to purchase products in real-time.

A phone showing an Instagram profile beside a red bag and a perfume bottle. 

What Is Shadow Banning?

It is important to discuss the negative aspect of Instagram, which is shadow banning. This practice impairs a user’s visibility on Instagram and other social networks. Alternatively, to permanent suspension, the platform can handle infractions of community norms, unacceptable conduct, or illegal content. The objective is to reduce spam and online abuse without negatively impacting user experience.

During a shadow ban, users can post if their reach remains low. Since the site limits the posts’ exposure, other users have difficulty finding them. The tactic aims to prevent users from realizing their limits so they don’t modify or bypass their behavior.

Overusing hashtags, uploading offensive content, participating in spamming conduct, or breaking community rules are all grounds for shadow banning. Instagram can also shadow-ban accounts suspected of using bots or putting other users’ security at risk.

Shadow banning hurts a user’s online reputation by making their content less discoverable and attracting fewer likes and comments. Users get frustrated and confused if they see a decrease in interaction.

Since Instagram keeps the details of its algorithms under wraps, it is difficult to detect a shadow ban. Users can see engagement data, confirm their posts are visible in hashtag searches, or request confirmation from their followers. However, the lack of transparency in content moderation practices raises concerns about the impact on freedom of expression.

The concept of shadow banning is still up for dispute despite its stated goal of promoting a positive online environment. 

A close-up image of a man holding a phone.

Optimize Your Online Impact With Path Social

Instagram has over a billion users, and its audience will continue to grow. If you’re an influencer looking to grow on the platform, it’s important to understand how does Instagram works. This will allow you to use different Instagram features to their full potential. Observe and learn about Instagram’s algorithm to maximize the impact and iterate your strategies accordingly. Once you are familiar with the user interface, you can start posting gradually.

Amplify your Instagram presence with Path Social. Our unique AI-targeting platform actively promotes your content to the right audience, ensuring user engagement from the right audience. You’ll also notice a significant increase in your followers. So, there is no need to wait – start growing your Instagram community with Path Social.