Learning to schedule Instagram posts in advance is the easiest way to save time on the platform so that you can focus on what matters.

Whether you’re the owner of your own business or the manager of a global team, the more complex your Instagram marketing efforts are, the more helpful a scheduling tool becomes. That’s because consistent, high-quality content is easier to plan, craft and share when some of the grunt work has been automated.

In this article, we’ll go through the best Instagram scheduling tools for Business, Creator and personal accounts, so that you can spend more time focusing on your greater goals.

Visual learners: Watch this video for demos of how to schedule Instagram posts and stories with Creator Studio and Hootsuite. Everyone else: keep reading.

Bonus: Download our free, customizable social media calendar template to easily plan and schedule all your content in advance.

How to schedule Instagram Posts (for Business accounts)

Brands with business profiles can use third-party apps like Hootsuite to schedule posts across multiple social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Pinterest.

Before you start, make sure to switch to an Instagram Business or Creator account — it’s free, and it only takes a minute. If you’d rather stick to a personal account, we have a section for you coming up.

1. Add your Instagram Business account to your social media management platform

If you’re using Hootsuite, it’s easy to link your Instagram account. From the Hootsuite dashboard:

  • Click your profile icon in the bottom left corner
  • Click Social Networks and Teams
  • Click + Private Network in the bottom-left corner
  • Choose Instagram from the list of networks, and then click Connect with Instagram
  • Input your account credentials

Add Instagram business profile to Hootsuite account

For more details on this process, check out our very thorough help article.

2. Compose your Instagram post

In your Hootsuite dashboard, click the Create icon, then select Post.

Compose Instagram post in Hootsuite dashboard

In the Post To field, choose your preferred Instagram account from the list.

Select preferred Instagram account from list

Now go ahead and upload your visuals (or select them from your content library). You’ll also want to write an engagement-driving caption, add your hashtags, tag relevant accounts, and add your location.

Your draft will show up as a preview on the right.

Hootsuite upload visuals or select from content library

If you haven’t already prepared your image for Instagram, go ahead and click Edit Image to crop your visual to the required aspect ratios (that is: 1.91:1 or 4:5), filter it, and otherwise perfect it.

Bonus: Download our free, customizable social media calendar template to easily plan and schedule all your content in advance.

Get the template now!

Even if you’re a one-person team, don’t skip this step. Instagram is an image-focused platform and nailing your Instagram aesthetic is fundamental to winning over your audience.

Edit Instagram image to required ratios and add filters

3. Find the best time to post

Posting at the right time can help you reach your audience when they’re online — and early engagement tells the Instagram algorithm that people like your content (a.k.a. gives it a nudge to surface it in more users’ feeds).

Hootsuite’s Best Time to Publish feature shows you your best time to post on Instagram based on your posts from the past 30 days. It groups them by weekday and hour, then calculates the average impressions or engagement rate to identify the time slots where your posts had the highest impact.

To find your best times to post, save your post draft and follow the instructions below:

  1. In the left-hand side menu, click Analytics.
  2. Then, click Best time to publish.
  3. In the dropdown menu at the top of your screen, select the Instagram account you’re posting to.

You will see a heatmap highlighting your best times to post (based on your account’s historical performance). You can switch between two tabs: “Build awareness” and “Boost engagement” to find the time that will work best for your specific goals.

4. Schedule your post

All right, now comes the easy part. Click Schedule for Later in the bottom right, and select the date and time you’d like your post to go live. If you skipped the step above and didn’t go to analytics to look up your best times to publish, you will see a couple of recommended posting times once you select a date. You can pick one, or manually set a time.

screenshot showing the feature in Hootsuite

That’s it! You can review your scheduled posts in the Hootsuite Planner, and edit them there before they go live, as well.

Wait for scheduled post to be published to Instagram

How to schedule Instagram posts (for personal accounts)

Finally, let’s take a look at the Instagram scheduling process for those of us using personal profiles.

If your Instagram profile is neither a creator nor a business account, don’t worry. You can still schedule your posts, there are just some extra steps involved. In short: Hootsuite sends you a mobile push notification at the scheduled time, which reminds you to log in and tap publish.

1. Add your Instagram profile to your social media management platform

For self-evident reasons, we’ll pretend that your preferred management platform is Hootsuite. From the Hootsuite dashboard:

  • Click your profile icon in the bottom left corner
  • Click Social Networks and Teams
  • Click + Private Network in the bottom-left corner
  • Choose Instagram from the list of networks, and then click Connect with Instagram
  • Input your account credentials to integrate the accounts.

At the same time, you’re going to want to set up the ability to use mobile push notifications. Follow these steps on your phone:

  • Download the latest version of the Hootsuite mobile app onto your phone
  • Open the Hootsuite app, tap your profile icon in the upper left corner, go to Settings, then Notifications
  • Find your Instagram profile in the list and ensure Send me a Push Notification is on

2. Compose your post

You know the drill: write a good caption, use the right hashtags, tag relevant accounts, and add your location.

If you want to level up your posts, check out our list of Instagram marketing tips. Or else read up on the latest Instagram trends in 2020.

3. Schedule your post

Here’s the key difference between business and personal accounts: scheduling your posts for a personal account requires publishing via mobile notification.

You’ll still want to check your Instagram analytics and make sure you select the best time to post.

Go ahead and pick your time and date, then click Schedule.

Schedule Instagram posts for non-business profiles

4. Publish your post

When the time comes, you’ll receive a push notification on your phone to remind you to post to Instagram. Note that this is essentially the same process for scheduling your Instagram Stories (no matter what kind of account you have).

The process for posting looks something like this. The Hootsuite app will take care of most of the work, but you need to open Instagram, paste your caption in, select your photo, et cetera. Not tough brain work, but do schedule five minutes to triple-check that everything’s right.

Publish Instagram post non-business profile

And voila! You’ve done it!

How to schedule Instagram posts with Creator Studio

If you have a Business or Creator profile on Instagram, you can use Facebook’s native Creator Studio to craft and schedule Instagram posts from your computer. Note that it’s currently not possible to post or schedule an Instagram Story from Creator Studio. To do that, you’ll want to check out our post on how to schedule Instagram Stories.

In general, Creator Studio is a good tool if you’re only posting to Facebook and Instagram (and don’t mind not being able to schedule Stories). But most social media pros can save a lot of time and energy using a social media management tool and handling all social channels from a single dashboard.

A tool like Hootsuite will help you schedule content to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Pinterest from one place. Here is how Creator Studio compares to Hootsuite:

comparison of Hootsuite and Creator Studio

To schedule Instagram posts from your computer using Creator Studio, follow these steps:

  1. Link your Instagram account to Creator Studio.
  2. Click Create Post.
  3. Upload your visuals (photos or videos — you can upload multiple files to create a carousel post).
  4. Craft your post (write your caption, add emojis, mentions and hashtags).
  5. Click the arrow beside the blue Publish button, and select Schedule.

Using Creator Studio to schedule Instagram posts: Step 2

That’s it! Now you can lean back and check your DMs.

Best practices for scheduling Instagram posts

If you’re ready to take the plunge and get real efficient with your posting habits, these tips will help keep you ahead of the game.

1. Post at the best time

In general, posting when your followers are online is key, because the Instagram algorithm prioritizes recency. This means that, generally, a newer post will show up higher on your followers’ newsfeed than an older one.

But, the right Instagram analytics tool will tell you when your audience is most likely to be online and/or engage with your post.

For the Hootsuite social media team, that time is 8AM-12PM PST, or 4-5PM PST on weekdays. For you, it might be different.

Luckily Hootsuite’s Best Time to Publish feature can show you your best time to post on Instagram based on your posts from the past 30 days. It groups them by weekday and hour, then calculates the average impressions or engagement rate to identify the time slots where your posts had the highest impact. Then it suggests the best times for you to post moving forward.

Followers online by hour for Instagram in Hootsuite's Best Time to Publish feature

It will also suggest time slots that you haven’t used in the last 30 days so that you can shake up your posting habits and test new tactics.

2. But don’t schedule too far in advance

If we’ve learned anything in 2020, it’s that the world is changing faster and faster.

When it comes to Instagram scheduling, going much farther than a week in advance can start to increase the risk of something going sideways. You don’t want to cause a social media crisis for your brand by posting something insensitive. In fact, if something unexpected occurs you may need to pause your posting calendar entirely and use your social channels to communicate through a crisis.

Our advice: keep your finger on the pulse, and stay nimble.

3. Be ready to press pause

If you do schedule your posts far in advance, it’s not the end of the world. Sometimes you need a full two weeks of vacation!

Just make sure you’re using an Instagram scheduler that allows you to press pause on all upcoming content if a crisis or emergency suddenly occurs.

With Hootsuite, pausing your scheduled social media content is as simple as clicking the pause symbol on your organization’s profile and then entering a reason for the suspension. (This is actually one of our favorite Hootsuite hacks.)

Pause button in Hootsuite dashboard

Source: Hootsuite

4. Don’t get spammy

Yes, the miracle of Instagram scheduling means you can now increase your quantity of posts without sacrificing quality. But should you?

The short answer is “maybe.” The long answer is “maybe, if you can maintain consistent quality at that pace over the long term.”

But great engagement rates have more to do with consistency than frequency. Remember that the Instagram algorithm prioritizes good relationships: if your followers are engaging with your content, the algorithm will show more of it to them.

5. Optimize and edit

No matter how busy you are, make sure you take a fresh look at that copy before it goes live.

And for big teams with a lot of moving parts, an internal multi-stage approval system is ideal for preventing a gaffe.

But though words are important to any social media post, visuals are key on Instagram. Get yourself an Instagram scheduler that allows you to edit your photos in the same dashboard you publish from. It’ll save you that much more time and ensure that your images are fully optimized before you post.

Shout out to Hootsuite’s image editor, which can crop your image to the correct size for any social network. It also has an extensive filter library (useful for those of us who would rather leave photo editing up to the professionals). Watch the video below for a preview of the tool.

6. Analyze and adjust

The best part about scheduling Instagram posts is that it frees up your time to take a look at the big picture. What’s earning likes? What’s falling flat? Maybe you could even run some A/B tests, get mathy about it. Choose your preferred Instagram analytics tool and get cracking.

Use Hootsuite to schedule Instagram posts at the best time, respond to comments, track competitors, and measure performance—all from the same dashboard you use to manage your other social networks. Start your free trial today.

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