Looking to streamline your Instagram posting workflow through a scheduler app? Great idea– you know you need it. Let us give you the breakdown on finding one that works for you in 2020.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed by keeping up with the constant demand of posting consistently to your Instagram account? We know it’s no easy task to keep up with content analysis and management.
Not only do you need to review metrics and analytics to find out when posts are performing well, you then need to make sure they go out at the observed time and with captions.
You know that you need the active social media presence, you know you need a great marketing strategy with analytics, and you need them to work together to deliver that return on investment that you’re looking for.
Posting all of this content by yourself manually every single day can get real old, and fast. Luckily, we’ve got many options out there for finding an automatic scheduling system which will allow you to plan out your posts, upload them to the scheduler, sit back, and watch them go live.
You want to capitalize on your time and maximize your workflow, and an Instagram scheduler will do just that.
They allow you to easily post ready-to-go content, schedule content to be posted at the optimal times for your audience, and leave behind the repetitive posting process that you’ve already been through countless times.
Nothing is worse than feeling stressed and pressured when posting content to your account at down-to-the-wire moments, and schedules allow you to avoid that mortification altogether. You’ll be able to clearly and easily monitor what content you’re putting out to your audience, when it’s going out, and because of this, you’ll be able to stick to your IG strategy without feeling disorganized or random simply to meet your posting requirements. You’ll not only save time, but gain clarity and peace of mind.
Once you start using a tool to put your content scheduling into place, you’ll be able to stay focused on your social media objective as well as keep a cohesive brand image through consistency.
Best Free and Paid Instagram Scheduler Apps 2020
Are you excited yet? This article will help break down a variety of topics, including:
- Picking the best Instagram scheduler
- Scheduling tools with auto-post
- Instagram stories scheduling and auto-post
- Hashtags and comments
- What to keep in mind when choosing a scheduler
- A breakdown of the best free and paid Instagram scheduler apps on the market (as of August 2020)
Let’s jump right in!
Picking the Best Instagram Scheduler
As with any other aspect of social media, there is no one-size-fits-all answer, and the same goes for Instagram schedulers.
You’ve got content. You know you need to get it out there. You know you need a scheduler. So, which one do you choose?
There’s no shortage of options on the market, so there are many things to keep in mind.
You’ll definitely want to have weighed all the options before making your selection, and we’re here to help.
What’s Your Primary Posting Channel, and Are You Cross-Channeling?
The first principal consideration you need to make is which channels you’ll be using to post, and if you want the ability to post to a variety of channels.
In the current market, Instagram holds the top spot for businesses and marketers alike, as well as influencers; it holds a plethora of analytics and business tools to help be successful and find an optimal return on investment. That being said, there is still value in using a cross-platform marketing strategy, and if this applies to you, it’s something you’ll need to take into account when weighing your scheduling options.
You also may want to consider which option works best for your brand; maybe for market A, Instagram is the best way to gain reach and return on investment, but for market B, more target audience members are active on Facebook. This is something you’ll want to decide on.
Regardless of whether or not you choose a scheduler for cross-channeling, you’ll want to decide on you primary platform for posting, as most schedulers cater tools to one platform over the others.
You’ll still have support for scheduling on the other platforms, but if Instagram is your primary platform and you choose one that is built with a Twitter focus, you may be missing out on some Instagram-unique tools, such as “link in bio” integration.
For all intents and purposes, we’re going to assume that the primary focus will be on Instagram.
Caveat: Make Sure You Have a Business Profile
In order for schedulers to work with Instagram, you’ll need to ensure that your profile is set to a business account.
It’s very simple (and free) to change your account to a business account, and Instagram gives you the step-by-step on how to change your Instagram to a business account.
There are many other benefits to having a business account, especially the features for insights and analytics! You definitely won’t regret the change.
Scheduling Tools That Auto-Post to Instagram
In the past (pre-2018), Instagram had prohibited third-party apps from posting content automatically through their API (Application Program Interface). You’d receive a notification to remind you to post the content, and you’d have to go in and make sure the content went live.
Now, Instagram offers apps the opportunity to work with an alternative API on business accounts which allows those third-party apps to now automatically post this content for you without having to go in and schedule.
Great! Now we’re in business.
The only downside to this is that most scheduler apps don’t allow this feature for stories or carousel posts, they only offer this auto-post feature for single photo or video feed posts.
That’s not to say that you can’t program them into the scheduler, but they won’t auto post. You’ll have to go in when you get the push notification to make them live.
There are still scheduler options that could potentially include these features for stories and carousel, but we’ll get into that a bit later when we look at individual schedulers.
Auto-Posting for Stories and Carousel Posts
Just want to clarify this a bit– the majority of the schedulers out there don’t offer auto-posting for stories and carousel posts; they may try to sound like they do, which is why you want to make sure that you’re clear on what type of services they actually offer.
Most schedulers will be able to “plan” these types of posts, but will need you to open up your account and post them at the time you’ve indicated them to remind you.
While still helpful, ultimately it doesn’t take away the hassle of having to go in yourself at various times of the day and post.
As for carousel posts, you may be asking, what does that even mean? If you are, no worries. Carousel posts are a type of feed post (released in 2017) that allows you to create “albums” in one post, where users can scroll to see more photos. This can be especially useful if you have a collaboration or a campaign, an event, promotions that you want to release, or some cohesive unit of photos.
Furthermore, since Instagram story posts are only visible for 24 hours and have a lot of engagement features for users, sometimes, people want to keep their stories posts more “in the moment” and spontaneous; if you plan to do this, the auto-posting won’t be such a big deal here. If your primary need for a scheduler is based around posting single photos and videos to your account, the occasional carousel post and your daily stories could be manageable if that’s the strategy you’ve chosen.
If not, and you feel you’ll rely heavily on the need for carousel and stories posting, you may want to consider a scheduler that includes this feature, such as Sked Social.
Scheduling Posts With Product Tags
For businesses with online stores or product offers, it’s probable that you’re using product tags in your posts. If you’re not, you’ll definitely want to consider it.
Having your content equipped with product tags helps prompt your followers to click to buy, and this can make the process so quick and simple they’ll be even likelier to complete the checkout process right then and there.
The one thing about scheduling posts with product tags is that not all schedulers have this feature either; you’ll have to keep your eye open to see which one may offer it, such as Sked. That being said, if you only use product tags once in a while, it won’t make much of a difference if you need to go in and add the tags manually later, once the post is live.
You can schedule posts with hashtags in the captions, or in the comments, depending on the look you’re going for.
It’s debated on which is best, but ultimately it depends on what you feel works for your content.
Schedulers have a variety of options for adding captions and/or comments, so if you typically add your hashtags in the comments you’ll want to ensure that the scheduler you choose has this feature available. Struggling to find relevant hashtags? There are apps for that.
Scheduling Posts From Different Devices
Usually, we think of Instagram as a mobile platform, but for scheduling purposes, you aren’t limited to using only your mobile phone.
If you prefer, you do have the option to schedule posts from mac or pc, and many schedulers will allow you to use the website with a companion app if you choose to use it on your mobile device as well.
That being said, the apps are usually limited in features compared to their desktop counterpart, which may or may not be a big deal depending on where you’re doing the bulk of your scheduling.
Some people prefer to work with their content on their mac/pc for editing purposes, which will mean that scheduling from their laptop or desktop will be a better option for ease of work. If the majority of your work is done via mobile phone and you have most of your content ready on your mobile device, you’ll want to choose a scheduler that has a rich mobile scheduling app.
Last Thoughts: What To Consider When Choosing an Instagram Scheduler
Here we’ve talked about a variety of features that are important when choosing a scheduler. In addition to those features, you also want to keep in mind the following, as they are logistically important to your decision:
- Budget: How much are you looking to pay for a scheduler, and what is reasonable for your budget? While you may need a wide range of features, you want to make sure that you find the best option while staying within your price range. You’ll see a wide variety of options here, so make sure you know what’s attainable for you.
- Features: Alongside budget, you want to identify what are the main things you need your scheduler to do, and find one that will most effectively meet those needs.
- Platforms: What’s your primary posting platform, and do you need any cross-platform posting options?
- Collaboration: Will you be working with others, and does it matter if you are able to work effectively together with the features?
- Ease of Use: Ultimately, you’re going to need to be comfortable using the tool; is it user-friendly and easy for you to navigate? Does it save you time, or cause you a headache? Make sure you know how to use the tool, or can learn and will be efficient using it.
Now that we’ve laid out the groundwork for selecting the best scheduler for your brand or business, let’s take a look at some of the top Instagram schedulers in 2020.
Later (Free and Paid Options)
Later is a popular option for Instagram scheduling. It is Instagram-centered, but does offer scheduling services on Facebook, Twitter, as well as Pinterest. You can manage all accounts in one place, and it also allows you to manage multiple accounts and access groups, which is useful in separating content when you are managing multiple accounts.
The interface is very user-friendly and pleasing to the eye, and it offers you a nice media library to keep all of your content stores. This is great, especially for collaborating or if you need quick search access to your content.
It also has a variety of different visual calendar views. If you are a visual person, this is a great scheduling platform as it is easy to navigate through looking at the different layouts.
All in all, Later offers a lot of great features in a pleasing visual setup, and also allows for easy collaboration across team members. You can also add the first comment to scheduled posts, which is great if you like to add your hashtags that way. You are also able to add location tags.
That being said, it doesn’t allow you to auto-post stories and carousel posts, nor include product tags.
As for pricing, Later does have a free option, but it is limited to a certain number of posts per month (30 posts per social profile, which would average about 1/day). You also won’t have access to analytics, which is pretty much vital when using your scheduler. If you’re serious about growing your social media platform, and depending on your needs, the three paid options could be worth checking out, as Later is one of the more affordable scheduler options out there.
All monthly options are billed annually, so you’ll be locked into whichever option you choose via the one-time payment.
For more details and a visual breakdown, check out the pricing scheme on the Later website, which is also accompanied by a FAQ.
Sked Social (Paid Options Only)
Sked Social is one of the most comprehensive Instagram schedulers out there, and if you’re looking for all the tools in one spot, Sked could be a great option for you.
The main focus of Sked Social is Instagram, with support available for Twitter, Linkedin, and Facebook as well.
The most valuable feature that Sked Social offers is the ability to schedule and auto-post not only single photo or video posts, but also IG stories, carousel posts, as well as product tag addition to posts. This really does set Sked Social apart as many platforms do not offer this.
If your priority is not having to post things yourself, Sked is probably your go-to.
In addition to these features, and like Later, Sked Social has a great visual platform for calendar view and scheduling posts.
You’ll also be able to add first comment hashtags and use an in-app photo editor, among many other things, such as location tags.
Sked does offer collaboration tools, and you’ll also be able to review analytics and best posting times.
In terms of pricing, you’ll see quite a jump up from Later. There is a free 7 day trial to start, so you can make the best decision for you, and they have four pricing tiers ranging from $25-$260 monthly. You can pay for the package in a one-time annual payment, which will earn you a discount of 16%. Take a look at their website here.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive scheduler and your budget is pretty flexible, Sked Social is a great contender.
Buffer (Paid Options Only)
Buffer is a great option for no-frills people who don’t need as much of a visual platform. They get the job done with direct options for scheduling posts and analyzing results. With their main focus on Instagram, there is also support for Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.
You can comfortably schedule posts through Buffer’s browser or via its mobile app. They also have a link in bio tool, possibilities for collaboration, as well as tools for planning story posts, among other features like adding location. They don’t post your stories automatically so you’d have to go in and do that yourself after scheduling.
Ultimately, Buffer is one of the newer tools on the market, but has been developing super rapidly. They are one of the most reliable scheduling tools on the market.
The one thing about pricing with Buffer is that the posting and analytics are priced separately; if you don’t add on an analytics plan, you won’t get to see any of those metrics that are so vital to ensuring optimal posting success.
There are 3 tiers in both the posting plans and analytics plan. The publishing plans start at $15/mo, then jump quite drastically to $65 and $99 per month. The first 2 options allow for up to 8 accounts, while the $99 option allows up to 25 accounts, so if you’re a social media manager with multiple clients you’ll need to keep that in mind.
It’s a bit frustrating for the Analytics plans; there are 2 options, but the cheaper option ($35) allows for 8 accounts while the more expensive option ($55) only allows up to 10. That is to say if you’re using the $99 option with over 10 accounts, you won’t have analytics on all of them. This is something that you’d need to clarify with Buffer.
If you decide to pay annually, you can save up to 20% on plans.
Sprout Social (Paid Options Only)
Alongside Sked Social, Sprout is truly a comprehensive scheduler. It gives you so many options and offers you a variety of services in addition to simply scheduling, like in-depth analytics, engagement tools, as well as “listening,” which offers insight on marketing strategy.
It has a great interface for selecting posting times and optimizing them for the most likely times at which they will reach your target audience.
They also facilitate easy collaboration with team members and offer support for platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+.
Although sprout has many positives in their comprehensive offerings for optimizing social engagements and analyzing trends, there are still a few shortcomings.
Unfortunately, Sprout does not offer the ability to auto-post stories, carousel posts, or add product tags. This may not be the dealbreaker,
You are not able to add location tags on Sprout, and it doesn’t allow you to post hashtags in the first comment.
Perhaps the most deterring feature of Sprout Social is the price– the cheapest option is going to come at a fairly steep $99 per month. That is limited to five social accounts; they offer two other options at $149 and $249 per month, with the $249 monthly plan including up to 10 accounts. The included features become more sophisticated with each plan, as one would expect, and they offer a 30-day free trial before committing to buy.
HootSuite (Paid Options Only)
HootSuite is another heavy-hitter, as they say, of Instagram scheduling and analytic services. It is quite well-known and has a reliable track record for the services that they provide.
They offer services on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
HootSuite makes it super easy to upload posts from wherever you are with a very user-friendly interface on both their browser and mobile platforms. They also allow for bulk posting in huge quantities.
HootSuite is one of the oldest services out there, which means that it’s become stuck in it’s ways, so to speak, and hasn’t gotten all the updates that some of the new platforms may have. For instance, you can’t tag location, other accounts, products, or first comment hashtags.
In addition, you can’t even schedule Instagram stories or carousel posts; you must do those manually, and without reminders.
HootSuite used to have a free option, but that has changed to a few pricing options, starting at $29, offering a middle option at a pretty steep jump to $129, and a third option that doesn’t give you pricing (almost positive that means it’ll cost you a pretty penny).
The good news is that they do offer a free trial, so you can check them out and see how you feel.
Making a Decision: Choosing the Best Instagram Scheduler for You
We’ve gone through a plethora of options and services here, and with options like Later, Sked Social, Buffer, Sprout Social, and HootSuite, you have plenty of features and price points to weigh in and make your final choice.
These are by no means the only options out there, but they are definitely some of the top selections as of today, and for good reason. They’re all very reputable and you won’t have to worry about that if you do in fact select one of these.
The good news is that most platforms offer free trials, so it may be a good idea to test a few out and see which one is a good fit for you. It’s essential that you feel comfortable and confident using it; the better you feel using it, the easier your posting experience will be.
Keep in mind your needs– what features are an absolute must-have for you? Are you looking to collaborate or manage multiple accounts? What is a realistic price range for you on a monthly or one-time annual basis?
As we said from the get-go: nothing is one-size-fits-all for social media success. Maybe a few people you know loved Sked, but you just didn’t feel right using it, and you thought Later was more your style. There’s no right or wrong here, and you’ll be the one using it, so make the choice that feels right for you and most aligns with your needs.