Instagram: The Simple Glossary, the 19 terms you HAVE to know!

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Image by @cmykchicago


This glossary could have been named ‘A Dummy’s Guide to Instagram,’ ‘but really – even long term users of the photo-sharing platform may not be entirely familiar with all of its aspects or related terminology. That is, we hope this short glossary could be as useful to you as much as, say, your 70-year-grandad attempting to understand this ‘new Instagram thing.’

Bookmark this short glossary of some of the key ideas, processes, and concepts associated with Instagram – because, after all, who knows what quiz night trivia might soon include!

First thing’s first…

1. A ‘post’

  • A ‘post’ simply refers to an image uploaded to Instagram.
  • A ‘post’ may include a caption, a geo tag and also tags of other users.

2. A ‘like’

  • Instagram (like many other social networks) is based on receiving likes, and liking other users’ photos.
  • You might ‘like’ an image by double tapping the image itself, or by clicking the ‘like’ button to the bottom left of the image.

3. Your ‘username’

  • Often referred to as your ‘handle’ your username is the name of your account – which people will type to find you, and which is also the address to view your profile online at[username] or[username]

4. A ‘follower’

  • Much like many other social media platforms, Instagram is based on ‘followers.’
  • A follower is a user who follow your account, and consequently sees every photo you publish on their feed.

5. A ‘bio’

  • The ‘bio’ section (the area below your ‘name’ on your profile) is an area designated to writing a small description about yourself, or about your brand.
  • You can tell a lot from a ‘bio’ – too many emojis and phrases like ‘shout outs 4 shout outs’ or ‘follow me!’ might be warning signs for you though.

6. ‘Filters’

  • The filter is perhaps Instagram’s hallmark.
  • Somewhat revolutionising photo editing, before Instagram became the community platform for sharing and connecting it is now, many used the app to simply add vintage style effects to their personal photos.
  • In short – there are 20 filters which are each a unique combination of different elements: including exposure, colour balance, and contrast. Some filters also include frames, and can be added over a photo to the degree you choose. In fact, rather than using a filter at all – many people choose to manually edit their photos through Instagram’s manual editing options instead.


Photo by @thepeacockpaper


7. The hashtag

  • A word becomes an active ‘hashtag’ when it has the symbol ‘#’ before it – and will appear in blue. Check out the #ink361 hashtag for some cool photos!
  • The ‘hashtag’ has been one of the innovations brought by both Twitter and Instagram to social media; allowing users to connect with others, and discover images based on a common word or phrase.
  • A hashtag can create a trends, and is often also used by marketers or event organisers to build a collection of images under a specific hashtag.
  • If your posts are public, adding a hashtag to your photo allows your photo to be found by searching the hashtag, or by clicking on the hashtag once you have posted the comment. 

8. A ‘caption’

  • Adding a caption to an image can be one of the most important aspects to contextualise, explain or capture someone scrolling through their feed.
  • Unlike Twitter, the number of characters is far less limited.
  • The caption is the breeding ground for the hashtag, and provides an opportunity to link photos to their relevant subject matters.
  • To create paragraphs, users often create their captions under a word processor like the ‘notes’ app on an iPhone in order to format, and then copy this into the Instagram app.


Photo by @margaret__zhang



  • Simply, a user can comment on another users photo.
  • However there is a key difference with interaction between Instagram, and say, Facebook. In order to receive a notification, you must be tagged by your ‘username.’ As a result, you will not simply receive a notification as a result of another user commenting on the same photo as you (which, after all, is perhaps this is a blessing – if you, alongside three thousand others, are commenting on a photo by @KimKardashian).

10. Your ‘feed,’ ‘gallery’ or ‘album’

  • Many refer to a user’s collection of photos (posted to their profile) as their ‘feed,’ ‘gallery’ or even ‘album.’

11. The ‘posts’ figure on a profile

  • This is how many photos you, or another user, have posted in total.
  • This may be an indication of how long someone has been using Instagram, or it may just show how frequently they post.


Photo by @alice_gao


12. The ‘News feed’

  • Accessed by the ‘home’ button on the Instagram app, this shows a feed of the images from those you follow as they are uploaded, and so appears in chronological order.

13. Your personal ‘activity’ feed

  • Your ‘activity’ tab will show you: when a user likes or comments on one of your photos; when a user mentions your username in a comment; when your photo is posted to the popular page and when you are tagged in a photo by another user.

14. The ‘following’ activity feed

  • This shows a feed of photos that people you are following have liked or commented, and also accounts they have started following.
  • This is normally limited to only showing around 5 minutes worth of information, after which no more history can be loaded.


Photo by @alexstrohl


15. The ‘explore’ tab

  • This tab facilitates two important features: searching and discovering.
  • Firstly, in terms of discovering: the explore tab defaults on the ‘photos’ category, displaying a collation of images (that were once solely the most popular photos on Instagram at that moment), curated as a selection of images from users similar to yourself or those suggested to you (based on who you already follow). This makes each users’ ‘explore’ page unique. The other category of ‘people’ shows a similar list of people, in particular showing users from your other social networks, such as Facebook friends you are not yet following (and perhaps who’s 10,000 cat photos don’t require your attention!)
  • The top of the explore tab also allows ‘searching:’ allowing you to search by hashtag or by user. This allows you to explore hashtags based on relevant interests, events or themes; and searching by ‘user’ allows you to stalk or seek out any user on Instagram based on their username.

16. Suggested Users

  • The team at Instagram select – based on an unknown but very much publicly debated criteria – a selection of users who become recommend as ‘suggested users’ to new users creating a profile.
  • Suggested users are also followed by @Instagram for the period of which they are ‘suggested.’
  • Typically, users remain ‘suggested’ for around 2 weeks and can experience an influx of attention.


Photo by @garypeppergirl


17. Private VS public

  • Upon signing up, and indeed, even after, a user must choose between having a ‘private’ or ‘public profile’.
  • The essential difference is that public profiles can be viewed and followed by any user. Private profiles, on the other hand, require acceptance after a request is sent to follow.
  • What you intend to use your profile for, and how you feel about privacy – will inform this choice. See more info on the Instagram privacy page!

18. Instagram ‘direct’

  • This feature allows you to send to a photo to single user, or a group – privately.
  • This image doesn’t appear on the news feed, search results or on any users’ profile.
  • The image you send can be edited in the same way as a post.

19. A ‘Geotag’

  • A ‘geotag’ is the location attached to an image, which corresponds to a longitude and latitude on a map.
  • A list of local locations appear based on your position as determined by your device’s location services. If not already existing, ‘Geotags’ can be created by a user.
  • ‘Geotags’ allow your photos (If public) to be viewed alongside all other photos ‘geotagged’ at this location.
  • ‘Geotags’ are a useful way to see images of the food at a café, the photos taken at an overseas fashion event, or even to collate a series of images geotagged at your own made bed (that is, for the days you just don’t leave).


Photo by @chiragushka


Article contributed by Alex (@alexjplester), he has continued to seek creative outlets throughout the rigidity of his studies in a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws at the University of Western Australia. A passion for design, style and travel have become the natural subjects for his photography. He is continually inspired by the ever growing community of Instagram, while personal editorial projects (@thepeacockpaper) and external opportunities in styling and creative direction have continued to provide creative relief. His photographic portfolio can be found at




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