How to Schedule Instagram Posts

How to Schedule Instagram Posts

Consistency is key to nailing your Instagram strategy. And an Instagram scheduler is your best tool for making that happen.

With one billion monthly active users and 15 million business profiles, it’s not easy to rise above the noise. Instagram no longer shows posts in reverse-chronological order, but uses an algorithm that rewards posts that get lots of engagement.

Whatever your business goals—more followers, more leads, brand awareness—you’re aiming to become a welcome, if not outright beloved, part of your audience’s daily life. Ambitious, right?

Scheduling your posts has a ton of benefits, and it’s simple to set up. Once you’re done you can free up your time to work on the bigger picture: getting results with your Instagram marketing plan.

Bonus: Download a free checklist that reveals the exact steps an adventure photographer used to grow from 0 to 110,000 followers on Instagram with no budget and no expensive gear.

Benefits of scheduling Instagram posts

1. Use your time wisely

The optimal time to post to reach your audience isn’t always the most convenient time for you.

Scheduling ahead of time will save you spending your Saturday morning dredging up a half-baked post. Instead, you can block off a few fresh hours to craft your week’s narrative, create and schedule the posts, and turn your attention to the next task.

2. Cultivate a consistent look and feel

Crafting several posts at once makes for a unified aesthetic and voice.

Consistent colour palettes, hashtags, and captions are important: 60 percent of brands use the same filter on their Instagram posts, according to a Webdam report. Why? Because colour affects emotion, which affects behaviour.

What do you want people to feel when they see your brand? What tone are you hitting with your captions? Are you achieving an emotional ping with every post?

An Instagram scheduler allows for a bird’s eye view of your creative planning.

3. Upload visuals from your desktop or laptop

Yes, as social media managers we’re often glued to our smartphones, but there are advantages to creating posts on the big(ger) screen.

Avoid the extra step of emailing yourself that huge video file, or that photoshopped image fresh from the design team. Whether you’re managing one account or twenty, save yourself a file management headache.

4. Encourage engagement

A successful Instagram feed is like a compelling story that never ends.

Build flow and relevance for your followers by thinking medium- and long-range, without sacrificing daily quality. New research by Union Metrics confirms that engagement doesn’t dip with increased posting. In fact, posting more frequently may be the only way to ensure followers see your posts, given time zones and the mysteries of the algorithm.

Post more, but always follow the golden rule: all killer, no filler.

5. Gain followers

Brands that post seven times or more a week increase both engagement and follower counts, according to this study. They also noted that follower counts increase four times as fast when brands post once a day rather than once a week. Attracting new followers takes thought and work, and scheduling posts helps with the work so you can focus on the thought.

Convinced? Let’s get started.

How to schedule instagram posts (for business profiles)

Instagram announced at the beginning of 2018 that single photos can now be scheduled to post directly to Instagram. Finally, no more dropping everything to click through on that reminder notification.

This is fabulous news for those of us used to setting 3 a.m. alarms to hit the morning commute in another time zone.

That said, this feature is for business profiles only, so if you haven’t already converted, now is the time.

Step 1: Convert your account to a business profile

Aside from direct publishing, business profiles on Instagram can access some useful advanced features.

For instance, Instagram Insights will show you when your followers are online, what city they’re in, and their age and gender. You’ll also get a contact button in your profile, the ability to promote posts, and the ability to add links to your Instagram Stories.

Converting your Instagram profile to a business profile is pretty easy:

  • Tap the ellipsis button on your Instagram profile.
  • Tap Switch to Business Profile.
  • Select your business’ Facebook Page (ensure you’re an admin on your Facebook Page, otherwise it won’t appear on the list).
  • Ensure your Instagram account is set to public.
  • Ensure all your contact information (address, email, phone number) is accurate.
  • Tap done!

Step 2: Add your Instagram business profile to your social media management platform

We’re biased, so we’re going to show you how to schedule Instagram posts using Hootsuite. Adding your Instagram profile to the Hootsuite dashboard is simple:

  • Tap your profile icon and select ‘Add Social Network.’
  • Select your Instagram business profile.
  • Tap ‘Connect with Instagram’ and input your credentials.

If you’ve just converted to a business profile, you’ll need to re-authorize the connection:

  • Tap your profile icon.
  • Select ‘Manage social networks.’
  • Select your Instagram business profile.
  • Tap ‘Connect with Instagram’ and follow the prompts.

Step 3: Craft your post

In the Hootsuite dashboard, tap New Post and select your Instagram profile from the dropdown menu.

Upload your photo and tap Edit with Creative Cloud to fine-tune it with advanced image editing tools like cropping, overlays, or filter effects.

Captions drive engagement, so pay close attention to the text box. Great copy can add context, flash your brand’s winning personality, and inspire your followers to take action (say, participate in a contest or follow a link). Use these tips, ideas and strategies for stellar Instagram captions to perfect your copywriting game.

The text box is also where you can add user handles and hashtags (technically you can use up to 30 hashtags, but research shows engagement only improves up to around 11).

You can also enter a link. To use a link shortener like Ow.ly, select Edit Link Settings, then Customize.

As for editing (arguably the most important step of all), Hootsuite Business and Enterprise users can use the Approval function to get multiple eyes on a post before it goes public.

Step 4: Schedule your post

In the dropdown menu at the bottom of the screen, select Publish on Schedule Date to queue up the post for later. According to Hootsuite data, the best time to post on Instagram tends to be between 12 and 1 p.m. on weekdays, but our scheduler will automatically choose the optimal time for your followers.

You can also customize the time and date if you have something specific in mind.

Once you’ve finalized the details, tap the blue Schedule button.

Step 5: Wait for your post to be published to Instagram

That’s right, no more hovering over your phone at 2:59 a.m. waiting for that push notification!

Alas, if you’re publishing an album of photos or video, you’ll still need to manually complete the posting process when the time comes.

Video recap: How to schedule Instagram posts with Hootsuite

Here’s a quick, easy overview of all these steps in action:

How to schedule Instagram posts (if you don’t have a business profile)

There are definitely some good reasons for not converting your account to a business profile on Instagram. Influencers or personal brands might not need the sales-oriented perks business profiles offer.

If you prefer to keep things authentic and organic, you can still save time and keep organized by using a social media management platform like Hootsuite to schedule your Instagram posts. Here’s how.

Step 1: Add your Instagram profile to your social media management platform

  • From the Hootsuite dashboard, tap your profile icon and select Add Social Network.
  • Select your Instagram business profile.
  • Tap Connect with Instagram and input your credentials.

Step 2: Craft your post

In the Hootsuite dashboard, tap New Post and select your Instagram profile from the dropdown menu.

Upload your video or image(s). Tap Edit with Creative Cloud to access visual editing tools. You can also polish the details later in Instagram.

While Instagram is made for gorgeous visuals, captions are crucial for rustling up engagement. The text box is worth some deep thinking: what’s your voice? Who is your audience? If you’re looking to hone your copywriting skills, our guide to writing the perfect Instagram caption is full of creative examples and granular advice.

The text box is also where you can add user handles, links (including shortened links via services like Ow.ly) and hashtags (our advice: not too many, keep them relevant).

Bonus: Download a free checklist that reveals the exact steps an adventure photographer used to grow from 0 to 110,000 followers on Instagram with no budget and no expensive gear.

Get the free checklist right now!

Step 3: Schedule your post

In the dropdown menu at the bottom of the screen, select Publish on Schedule Date to queue up your post for later.

You can customize the date and time to suit your audience. According to Hootsuite data, the best time to post on Instagram tends to be between 12 and 1 p.m. on weekdays. If you’re not sure, test out different times and compare the results.

Step 4: Publish your post

You’ll receive a push notification from the Hootsuite app on your phone when it’s time to publish.

Double-check your copy and follow the prompts to the Instagram app.

What’s the difference between Instagram scheduling and Instagram automation?

You’ve probably come across Instagram automation services before. They promise huge numbers of new followers and amazing engagement. Too good to be true? Well, yes.

In short, Instagram scheduling refers to posts, while Instagram automation refers to likes, follows, and comments.

At first glance one should be as simple as the other, but it turns out the human touch isn’t that easy to fake. Automation services will monitor hashtags and users for you, and automatically like, follow and comment according to your parameters.

We tested out some popular Instagram automation services on a team member’s personal profile. While the bots did indeed find followers, they didn’t exactly build an engaged community.

Allowing bots to write comments for you can result in awkward, foolish, creepy or just plain phony “interactions.” And Instagram users are canny: even likes and follows can be transparently fake when they come out of the blue. Why risk alienating the people you want to engage with?

On top of that, Instagram itself disapproves of attempts to game their system, and will block or disable your account if you’re acting like a spammer (e.g., posting identical comments, following en masse, liking posts at an excessive rate).

Scheduling posts crafted by a human being is entirely different than relying on a bot to act like you. Brands especially should avoid Instagram automation: the potential damage to your reputation is just too high.

Instead, put in the work and build a real connection with your audience.

Best practices for scheduling Instagram posts

1. Don’t be spammy

While research supports the advantages of posting more frequently, be respectful of your followers’ feeds. For instance, post related images as photo albums, not one-offs.

And follow the 80/20 rule when it comes to promotional content. This means 80 percent of the time you aim to entertain, inspire, or educate the audience—and only promote your brand 20 percent of the time.

2. Don’t schedule too far in advance

While it might be tempting to get all your social media “done” in one fell swoop, don’t.

The best laid plans often go awry, and social media is never really done, is it? Schedule too far in advance and your joke could end up between posts about international tragedy, or your big product announcement might get lost in the thick of the latest celebrity baby buzz.

Few brands can afford to appear tone deaf, irrelevant, or outright monstrous these days. Keep a finger on the pulse, and adjust your post schedule as needed.

3. Edit your posts

If copy-editing isn’t built into your workflow already, it should be.

Hootsuite’s Business and Enterprise users can create Approval systems for their teams, but even if you’re a one-person shop, always make time for a second glance.

This is less a matter of fussiness and more a matter of brand life or death. Saying “everyday” when you mean “every day” might earn a raised eyebrow or a click of the mute button from a certain subset of users. But it could be much worse: confusion, unintentional hilarity, or flat-out offensiveness.

For more editing tips, and some prime examples of the nightmarish repercussions of not editing before you post, consult our editing tips for social media managers.

4. Interact with your audience

Now that you’re saving so much time using an Instagram scheduler, use some of that time to build up your community. If you asked a question, respond to the answers. If you posted a poll, share the results. Spend some time liking and commenting on other folks’ posts, too.

A little bit of personal attention goes a long way. (Especially if you’re not a bot.)

5. Analyze and adjust

The more you post, the more data you have on how well you’re doing.

To access Instagram’s native analytics, you need to convert to a Facebook business profile. However, there are lots of Instagram analytics tools for business, including Hootsuite’s, that can help you pinpoint what your followers are loving, and what leaves them lukewarm.

Look at your engagement rate to adjust content (dogs or cats? Wait, sloths?), or your reach percentage to adjust when you post.

Don’t worry, if you’re a business profile using Hootsuite’s Instagram scheduler, it will tell you automatically what time of day is best to post at. This kind of information is increasingly crucial, especially when you’re laying out ad dollars to promote posts, and need to measure concrete returns.

Save time managing your Instagram presence using Hootsuite. From a single dashboard you can schedule and publish photos directly to Instagram, engage the audience, measure performance, and run all your other social media profiles. Try it free today.

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