How to Investigate Individuals and Companies Using Instagram

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Provides a step by step guide for Professional Investigators on how to research individuals and companies using Instagram. Shows you what information is available and provides step-by-step guide. …

Provides a step by step guide for Professional Investigators on how to research individuals and companies using Instagram. Shows you what information is available and provides step-by-step guide. Part 1 of a multi-part series.

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  • 1. How-to Guide to: Instagram
  • 2. Company Introduction On October 6, 2010, a social media site unique from all the others was created. Within two short months of its launch, this site grew to over one million users, and the following year it expanded to ten million. Few were surprised when it hit the fifty million mark less than a year later, and although relatively new to the social media scene, Instagram has quickly become a favorite among social media users. Instagram hit the news stands in mid 2012 when they sold to Facebook for an impressive $1B, even before a viable revenue stream had been established. But with its current 150 million users posting over 55 million photos per day, the price tag begins to seem more reasonable. Users are still growing on the site, as is the valuable information left publically available to those who know how to properly excavate the site. In essence, Instagram is a photo sharing site and app that allows users to post images and videos instantly, add hashtags and filters, tag friends and comment on images. Instagram’s images are uniquely square, following technological ancestors such as the Polaroid and Kodak, and come with a suite of filters to give images a “vintage” look. With just over 3 years of service, Instagram has a lively, engaged user base that shows no sign of letting up. Username Password Value to Investigators Instagram is valuable to Investigators because: Instagram is one of the most useful social media sources of mobile based photographs available. Given the sheer size of Instagram (150 million active users sharing 55 million posts daily), investigators tasked with finding
  • 3. identifying information can understand the immense opportunity the site offers. Though many social media sites incorporate images and videos, none offer these as core elements to the sharing process in the way that Instagram manages to do. 150 million users growing at 55 million daily Location Based Information: San Francisco, California 13% of Internet Users Geographic Distribution: U.S. urban areas Media Available: Mobile Photographs Followers & Following Location Tags User Comments User Demographics by Age: 18 - 29 28% 30 - 49 14% 50 - 64 3% 65 + 2% User Demographics by Race: White, Non-Hispanic: 11% Balck, Non-Hispanic: 23% Hispanic 18% User Demographics by Gender: Male 10% Female 16% For instance, while a user might Tweet a text update on their whereabouts or activities, on Instagram he or she would be encouraged to share an image alongside text. Images often contain identifying information, specific locations, associated persons and other useful pieces of information. Those seeking to verify fraud or locations of subjects gain physical evidence which can be useful in cases and insurance claims. Additionally, users often link their Instagram accounts to other social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Finding these links to other accounts of the user often reveals true names, usernames, locations, whereabouts, activities and other information essential to investigations. More often than not, Instagram and Twitter users share the same username between both sites.
  • 4. Investigators are able to find a Twitter account through an Instagram and vice versa. Combining information from multiple accounts also gives investigators a more robust data set, as each social media site offers unique types of information. Using Instagram for Investigations There are two methods of investigating on Instagram. Method 1 is for investigators who do not have an account on Instagram, and Method 2 is for those who do not have an account. In order to conduct successful investigations on a regular basis, it is advised to obtain an Instagram account. Investigating without an Instagram Account A number of third party providers provide user and hashtag information regarding Instagram. Based on SMI’s experience, iPhoneogram does the best job locating individuals. To use iPhoneogram, go to Navigate to the bottom of the homepage and toggle selection pull-down to “username”. Enter either a full name or your best guess at the user’s user name. You must not have spaces given the syntax of Instagram. For example, enter MarySmith. View the images and decide if you have located your subject or rerun another name/user name. Assuming you have located the appropriate individual, you may be able to view his or her photographs via iPhoneogram without logging into Instagram. This is a function of the user’s privacy settings.
  • 5. Investigating with an Instagram Account The Instagram app currently provides better search capabilities than the Instagram website. SMI recommends that investigators begin their search by downloading the app to an iPhone or Android device. To access Instagram’s website or to get the app, go to to access an iOs App or Android app or login directly to Instagram’s website. To log-in, go to “Log-in” on Instagram site. To download the App, choose your system and download the App. Searching Using App 1. Download the App Download the app from the Apple Store or Google Play onto your phone. 2. Create an Account Information regarding users and their photos is not readily available to those without an account. In order to begin the searching process, you must create an account. Follow the prompts to create a free account and you will be able to search the site. 3. Go to Explore Tab in App Navigate to the Explore button at the bottom of the app. This will take you to the ‘Explore’ screen which should be auto-populated with random images.
  • 6. 4. Search Navigate to the search bar and select either ‘Users’ or ‘Hashtags.’ ‘Users’ allows you to search for individual names and usernames, while ‘Hashtags’ allows you to search for particular or popular themes tagged in images. The ‘Users’ tab also allows you to search using a first and last name, making it possible to find individuals with unknown usernames. Profile images are also available while searching, meaning investigators can cross reference subjects to correctly select the individual out of other possible matches. Companies and organizations may also be found using the ‘Users’ tab. Note: direct Instagram searches enable users to search with spaces. Using the previous Mary Smith example, it can be seen that MarySmith and Mary Smith bring back different results 5. Results Once you find your subject, the following information is available for each profile: Photographs and certain meta data including the date the image was uploaded are viewable. Photographs may also have likes and comments associated with them along with the username of the individual that made the comments. Followers, or lists of individuals, that “follow” your subject showing their user ID and their profile photo are available. The Following list, or the list of individuals or companies your subject follows, will include their user ID and their profile photo may be viewed. The User Name and the actual name if provided can be seen.
  • 7. Photographs by Geotags which show the location where the images were taken by the individual may sometimes be available. Searching Using Web You can log into Instagram via As of October 2013, Instagram does not offer the ability to explore users and hastags using web access. Instagram’s web access lacks the functionality to search for subjects via users or hastags. Therefore, SMI recommends that you search Instagram via its App or use iPhoneogram. Conclusion Instagram is a powerful social networking site that focuses on sharing videos and images uploaded by users. As a user content driven network, it offers high value, publically available information ideal for filling in gaps in investigations. When used properly, Instagram can offer a treasure trove of useful, non-intrusive information as well as connections to an individual’s or organization's accounts on other social media sites. Combined with additional profiles, investigators can gain an understanding of an individual’s character, location, activities, as well as helpful identifying images. We hope that you found SMI’s How-to Guide useful for manually searching Instagram. If you prefer to automate searching Instagram in addition to other social media sites and the open internet, SMI’s solutions can save you the time of searching as well as the need to learn how to search social media sites, Google, and other open internet sites. Call or email us for a no cost evaluation or demonstration. SMI 700 River Avenue Suite 323 Pittsburgh, PA 15212 Ph: (888) 299-9921 Fax: (888) 236-2057 © Social Media Information, LLC