Beyond Selfies: 8 Clever Ways You’re Not Using Instagram

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Jill Chen/Stocksy)

We all know that Instagram is a great place to show off your social networking skills, but it can also be a valuable visual resource if you know how to use it right. Along with loads of helpful hashtags, location tags, and images, the social media app is brimming with untapped advice to aid your shopping and travel endeavors.

To prove our point, I’ve rounded up some of the more savvy, albeit unexpected, ideas for using Instagram images and tags to your advantage. From dress codes to sample sales, here are eight ways to use IG to up your shopping and travel game.

1. Search a restaurant’s location tag

Looking for any easy way to scope out the food (the real food—not the styled website pics) at a restaurant before you go? Simply search a restaurant’s location tag to catch a glimpse of everyone’s food posts to give you an idea of what to order once you get there. It’s like peeking over at the next table’s dinner, but from the privacy of your own home.

2. Figure out what to wear

Turns out a simple IG search can help you get dressed before you go out. Search the hashtag for photos from an event (like a concert or music festival) to get a sense of what other people are wearing. Better yet, search tagged pics from the city you’re about to travel to or posts from patrons at the restaurant where you have reservations so you can figure out the dress code.

3. Anticipate crowds

Whether it’s tagged pics from a packed restaurant or an IG story live from the line at a sample sale, the more posts that turn up when you search a destination’s location or hashtag should be a pretty good indicator of how busy or not a place is.

4. Check out hotel rooms

Before you book a fancy hotel room (or deeply discounted one) do yourself a favor and search photos tagged with a hotel location to see what the rooms really look like inside. It’ll help you determine if you’re really getting your money’s worth, of if the deal truly is too good to be true.

5. Find fun stuff to do near you

Stuck inside on a Saturday night with nothing to do? Or worse, on vacation with no clue what to see or where to go? Lucky for you IG allows you to search posts tagged near your current location (by enabling location services and using “near current location” function) so you can get the firsthand scoop on all the fun stuff happening around you.

6. Be a more informed shopper

Before you splurge on a pricey piece of clothing or furniture, search IG for real pics of the product to give you an idea of how it really looks or fits. Some retailers actually encourage customers to share their personal posts via a unique tag (think: #mywestelm or #topshopstyle), so can see how something might look in real life.

7. Create a virtual wishlist

Last year, Instagram launched a bookmark tool that allows you to save images to a private list of saved posts on your account. Translation: You can forge your very own visual wishlist of all the awesome brands and products you come across on IG, by simply pressing the flag icon in the bottom right-hand side of a pic.

8. Follow designers and stores

In addition to keeping up with the latest trends on social media, following your favorite designers and stores on Instagram is a slick way to stay in the loop with upcoming sales and product releases. Just remember to sign up for post notifications so you don’t miss out on any flash sales or promo codes.