By Carley Knobloch

Updated December 20, 2017

Learn everything you need to know about Instagram in this Socially Connected video.

We all use our smart phones to take pictures now. And if you have a smartphone, then you're going to love using Instagram. It's like having a camera, a dark room and a huge social network all in one simple app.

What is Instagram?

More than 800 million people around the globe use and love Instagram, a mobile photo sharing social network. Think of it like a museum where you put your pictures in and anyone can visit.

While you can view Instagram accounts on your desktop, laptop or other device that is not a smartphone, you need your phone to upload pictures and participate in the community. You can like, comment on, share and save other users' photos.

How to use Instagram

Download the Instagram app on your phone for free and then sign up for an account. From your home on the app, you can click the "+" sign to upload a photo. Choose one photo to upload or select multiple to share in one post. You can even make a collage.

Once you decide which image or images to upload, choose an effect. Your image will stay the same if you select "normal," but there are also effects like "Clarendon," "Moon," "Lark," "Slumber" and "Ludwig" that can make your photos look different. These effects can give your photos a retro, funky, old fashioned, professional or fun feel. You're also able to adjust the contrast.

Once you've modified the look of the image, you can add a caption and hashtags, tag people in it, include the location, and upload it to Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr. Advanced settings let you turn off commenting. The last step is to click "share" and you're all done.

Being an active member of Instagram

When you sign up for Instagram, make sure you actively participate in the community. Find and follow your friends, fan, family members, business colleagues and clients. Upload relevant images regularly for your business or enjoyable ones from your personal life.

Utilize hashtags in the captions as well. You can see which hashtags are popular when you start typing a # and then the word into your caption. For example, if you type in #dog, popular hashtags like #dogs, #dog and #dogsofinstagram will pop up. Only use relevant hashtags to attract people to your page.

You can see your new followers and your account activity under the heart icon on your Instagram. Click the heart, and then "You," and you will be able to look at mentions, new follows, people you should follow and comments on your photos. If you click "Following," you can see your friends' activity.

Using Instagram for more than pictures

Another key feature of Instagram is "Stories." These are short videos or photos that last only 24 hours. If you want to give your friends a short update from your daily life, Stories is the place to post it.

The social network also has a direct messaging service if you want to connect with your community. You're able to send text, photos and a heart emoji to people within the service. You can find it in the upper right hand corner of your app underneath the arrow option.

Now that you have signed up for Instagram, have fun posting your awesome photos on the social network!