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Instagram Automation: What You Should Automate + Tools [2024]

Learn about legitimate Instagram automation strategies and save time automating routine daily tasks, without resorting to fake engagement and bots.

Christina Newberry May 28, 2024
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Instagram automation: Should you try it? Will it get you in trouble with the algorithms, or will it help grow your audience?

The answer is: It depends. There are perfectly legitimate ways to automate Instagram posts. But there are also shady tools that can result in warnings about automated behavior.

Here, we’ll show you how to automate Instagram posting in safe and legitimate ways. This will save you time without causing problems for your account (or annoying your followers).

Bonus: Claim your free pack of 15 Instagram ad templates created by Hootsuite’s professional graphic designers. Easily customize them in Canva, and start stopping thumbs and selling more today.

What is Instagram automation?

Instagram automation is the practice of automating Instagram tasks to save you time.

Automation allows you to spend more time thinking about your Instagram marketing strategy and creating great content. That means you spend less time on chores like manually posting content and retyping the same replies to dms over and over.

Is Instagram automation illegal?

There are two kinds of Instagram automation. One involves legitimate, ethical strategies for saving time on Instagram by automating routine daily tasks. This improves the experience for both you and your followers. In this post, we’ll show you how to use these strategies and talk about the tools that can help.

Then, there’s the ugly kind of Instagram automation. The kind that involves bots attempting to automate Instagram followers by liking posts, following accounts, and auto-posting spammy comments on your behalf. We don’t recommend this type of Instagram automation. And we’re not going to cover these black-hat strategies here.

Neither type of Instagram automation is illegal, but the latter can certainly get you into trouble, because:

  • People don’t like Instagram bot accounts, and they can tell when a like, follow or comment is fake.
  • Instagram actively works against practices that degrade the user experience.
  • Shady social media automation tools regularly get shut down (leaving you out of luck if you’ve purchased services)
  • Using unauthorized bots goes against Instagram’s terms and community guidelines, so you could be putting your account at risk.

What can you automate on Instagram?

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s look at the tasks you can legitimately automate on Instagram. We’ll show you the different types of automation tools to help with these tasks at the end of this post.

Publishing and scheduling Instagram posts

The biggest waste of time on any app is constantly opening and closing it throughout the day to create and post new content.

Being able to create multiple posts, Reels, and Stories in advance is a major time saver. Scheduling them to post automatically at the ideal times is even better.

You can maximize your creativity by planning and creating your content in dedicated chunks of time. Then use a scheduling tool to slot content into your content calendar. It will post automatically at the designated time without any further input from you or your team.

Hootsuite Planner scheduled posts social calendar

Responses

Responding to messages in the Instagram app in real time requires you to be on constant alert for push notifications. You have to open the app over and over again throughout the day.

Instagram automation can help in a couple of ways here. First, for Instagram DM automation, you can set up an AI-powered chatbot.

Simons retailer virtual assistant AI chatbot

Source: @maisonsimons

Alternatively, you can set up Instagram automated messages based on specific keywords or phrases.

Or, you can partially automate your Instagram responses by directing messages to the best team member. Providing templates and auto-replies further reduces manual typing tasks while improving response times.

You can also use keyword filters to automatically hide comments that contain offensive or derogatory language. This makes things much easier for your content moderators.

Reduce response time (and your workload)

Manage all your messages stress-free with easy routing, saved replies, and friendly chatbots. Try Hootsuite’s Inbox today.

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Ads

You can automate several elements of your Instagram ads campaigns, like:

  • performance measurement
  • reporting
  • budget optimization, and
  • creating multiple ad variations.

The simplest strategy is to set triggers that automatically convert your best organic content into ads. This is essentially a hands-free Instagram advertising strategy to reach new audiences.

Change automation triggers automatically boost posts that meet your minimum requirements

Data collection and reporting

Instagram provides loads of data natively within the Insights feature. However, it can be time consuming to tap through the screens and copy and paste data into your social media report.

Fortunately, you can automate the process of analytics and reporting. Simply set up customized reports with the precise data you need. The data is automatically sent to you on your schedule in a format optimized for sharing with your team and stakeholders.

#1 Analytics Tool for Growth

Beautiful reports. Clear data. Actionable insights to help you grow faster.

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Hashtag tracking and research

There’s no need to waste your time typing in and tapping on multiple hashtags each day.

Instead, you can use social monitoring to track hashtags automatically, including:

Hootsuite Streams Instagram trending fashion hashtags

Instagram automation tools like Hootsuite Analytics and OwlyWriter AI also automate hashtag research to maximize engagement.

Video caption creation

Transcribing speech manually is slow going. But it can be done automatically in just a few taps with Instagram automation. Simply place the Captions sticker on any video Story or Reel for auto-generated captions.

Since speech to text is not always perfect, you can review the captions before posting. (Although the automated captions are usually quite good.)

You can also add automatic captions to your Instagram Reels on the Accessibility Tab under Advanced Options.

How to automate Instagram posts

Use AI to brainstorm ideas

Coming up with ideas for your Instagram content can take even more time than creating the content itself. Fortunately, AI can help you brainstorm ideas based on your existing content assets, or from scratch.

For example, Hootsuite’s OwlyWriter AI can create post ideas and captions based on a general topic or keyword. Or, you can give OwlyWriter a link to existing content on your website or blog and it will create a relevant post. You can even use it to repurpose your top posts with new captions to reach even more people.

Hootsuite OwlyWriter AI captions created for you
Craft perfect posts in seconds

OwlyWriter AI instantly generates captions and content ideas for every social media network. It’s seriously easy.

Start free 30-day trial

Pick the best time to post

Posting at the best time is critical to getting early engagement from your fans. You could try to figure out your best time to post manually by analyzing past results. Or, you could use a social media tool like Hootsuite to automate these calculations.

Head to Hootsuite’s Best Time To Publish view. You’ll see the recommended posting times for your specific account based on the results you’ve achieved over the past 30 days.

You can choose to see best time suggestions based on three different goals:

  • Awareness
  • Engagement
  • Traffic

No more mental math required.

Hootsuite heatmap Instagram business best times and days to publish

Schedule your posts

Once you know the best time to post, you can schedule your content with just a click directly from the recommendations screen. Or, you can select your own time to schedule a post directly from the composer.

If you post and schedule a lot of Instagram content, you can upload up to 350 posts at once with Hootsuite’s Bulk Upload feature.

Set up automatic boosting

To automate your Instagram ads strategy, set up automated triggers for boosted posts. You can choose to boost posts that meet your minimum number of likes, shares, reach, comments, or video views.

You set your budget and target audience just like you would for any other ad strategy. But in this case, it all happens automatically. You know your budget is always extending the reach of your top-performing content.

Boost setting ad account page objective and audience

Automatically track performance

You could manually dig through Instagram Insights. Or, you could use Instagram automation tools like Hootsuite to get a ready-to-go report with your selected metrics. This sets you up for easier strategic planning and reporting to stakeholders.

Hootsuite delivers customized Instagram analytics reports with the data that matters most to you. This is a great way of automating your Instagram data collection and reporting.

What does “We suspect automated behavior” mean on Instagram?

Have you received the dreaded warning from Instagram: We suspect automated behavior?

This warning is usually accompanied by instructions to disconnect third-party automation tools. If you don’t, you risk having your account disabled.

Note that this refers specifically to unauthorized bots and other tools that use black-hat techniques. You don’t have to disconnect authorized third-party tools like Hootsuite. Hootsuite complies with Instagram’s policies (and even has FedRAMP certification).

Like we said above, using black-hat automation tools and services goes against Instagram’s terms of service and puts your account at risk. When Instagram detects that you’re using such tools, you’ll get a warning. At this point, you really have no choice but to stop using any unauthorized Instagram automation tools, or you might permanently lose your account.

However, sometimes you might get a warning like this even if you’re not using spammy tools. For instance, some people have reported getting these messages just for using a VPN with their Facebook or Instagram account.

In this case, your best bet is to turn off your VPN before accessing Instagram. You might also get a warning if you go on a spree of liking tons of content or following or unfollowing accounts (even manually) to the point that Instagram thinks you’re using bots. In this case, taking a break from the platform should generally resolve the issue.

9 Instagram automation tools for 2024

1. Hootsuite

Hootsuite Composer new story publish to instagram

Cost: Plans start at $99/month

Best for: Entrepreneurs, small teams, and enterprise-level organizations looking to automate multiple Instagram functions alongside other social platforms.

Hootsuite is a full-feature social management dashboard with extensive Instagram automation functionality.

First, Hootsuite Composer and Planner allow you to automate your Instagram publishing and scheduling, from brainstorming content ideas through to choosing the best time to publish. (Tip: Want to try out Hootsuite’s AI content tools? Check out the free versions of our Instagram caption generator, Instagram SEO tool, and content ideas generator.)

Once you schedule your Instagram content, you’ll see it in a comprehensive content calendar that shows your Instagram posts in the context of your larger social strategy.

Meanwhile, Hootsuite Inbox allows you to view, track, and respond to all Instagram direct messages and Story mentions in one place, with built-in automations to reduce the manual input required.

For hashtag and mentions tracking automation, Hootsuite streams work to surface the conversations your brand wants to be a part of (or just keep on top of).

You can set up streams to automatically track all content posted to a relevant hashtag within your Hootsuite dashboard. You can then track and respond to posts on all hashtags from one screen.

Hootsuite’s Social Advertising features are integrated tools for managing organic and paid content side by side, including automatically boosting posts. Within the dashboard, you can easily pull actionable analytics and build custom reports to prove the ROI of all your social campaigns.

Finally, Hootsuite Analytics provides in-depth, custom Instagram reports generated automatically and sent on your designated schedule to all relevant stakeholders.

#1 Social Media Tool

Create. Schedule. Publish. Engage. Measure. Win.

Free 30-Day Trial

2. Meta Business Suite

Meta Business Suite Inbox automations

Source: Meta Business Suite

Cost: Free

Best for: Creators and small social teams who focus primarily on Meta platforms

Meta Business Suite offers some basic automation features for Instagram. First, you can schedule posts and Stories using the built-in planner. You can use this feature to schedule either organic or paid Instagram posts.

Second, you can set up automated responses in Meta Business Suite Inbox to send automatic replies when someone contacts your business on Instagram. You can add up to five keywords or phrases to trigger different responses. So, for example, if you get a lot of DMs about shipping, you could set up Instagram automated messages with links to shipping details on your website.

Learn more about how to use Meta Business Suite.

3. NapoleonCat

NapoleonCat social inbox

Source: NapoleonCat

Cost: Basic plans start at $32/month. Instagram DM automation requires the Pro plan, starting at $76/month.

Best for: Teams focused on automated moderation of Instagram comments and replies.

NapoleonCat offers a useful social inbox that allows you to manage Instagram comments and DMs, along with auto-moderation features to reduce workload. You can also use this tool to schedule Instagram content in advance.

4. Later

Later post schedule and auto publish

Source: Later

Cost: Starting at $25/month

Best for: Individuals and teams who use Instagram as their primary social media platform and focus on organic content

Later is an Instagram scheduler with solid features for content planning and scheduling organic content (but not Instagram ads). It also includes a social media inbox for managing Instagram comments, but not DMs.

See how Later compares to Hootsuite.

5. Sprout Social

Sprout Social Instagram Business Profiles graph

Source: Sprout Social

Cost: Starting at $249/month

Best for: Enterprise-level teams with a primarily organic social media strategy

Sprout Social is a powerful enterprise-focused social management tool that offers good Instagram automation features for organic content (but not ads). You can monitor comments, DMs, mentions, and tags from a unified inbox that allows team members to collaborate effectively.

See how Sprout Social compares to Hootsuite.

6. Iconosquare

Iconosquare calendar view

Source: Iconosquare

Cost: Starting at $79/month

Best for: Teams with a cross-platform organic social media marketing strategy

Iconosquare offers lots of useful Instagram scheduling features – including the option to schedule the first comment on your Instagram posts. Again, it does not allow for Instagram ad scheduling, although it does offer solid reporting for organic vs. paid content performance.

7. Tailwind

Tailwind your grid design options

Source: Tailwind

Cost: Starting at $24.99/month

Best for: Creatives and entrepreneurs looking to simplify copy and design but manage engagement manually

Tailwind is a social media management tool that really shines with its automated design and copy-creation tools. However, it does not include an inbox to manage or automate Instagram engagement. If you have the team resources to manage engagement manually but need help with content creation, this could be a good Instagram automation tool for you.

8. Brandfort

Brandfort AI powered comment moderation system removes profanity

Source: Brandfort

Cost: Basic free plan. Paid plans with Instagram automated messages filtering start at $19.99/month

Best for: Meta platform users that see a high level of engagement, especially those in regulated industries

Brandfort is an AI-powered comment moderation system that automatically flags and hides inappropriate comments on your Facebook and Instagram organic posts and ads. It’s specifically designed to detect spam, negativity, hate, and profanity. It can also detect political comments and personally identifiable information, and it works in multiple languages.

Brandfort integrates with Hootsuite.

9. Panoramiq Watch

Panoramiq Watch dashboard custom streams

Source: Synaptive

Cost: Starting at $8/month (free for Hootsuite Enterprise users)

Best for: Brands with complex hashtag and competitor monitoring needs

Panoramiq Watch allows brands to automate complex Instagram hashtag and competitor monitoring with custom streams and post management tools. You can save your results to tools like Evernote OneNote, and Pocket.

Panoramiq Watch integrates with Hootsuite.

Manage your Instagram presence alongside your other social channels and save time using Hootsuite. From a single dashboard, you can schedule and publish posts, engage the audience, and measure performance. Try it free today.

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By Christina Newberry

Christina Newberry is an award-winning writer and editor whose greatest passions include food, travel, urban gardening, and the Oxford comma—not necessarily in that order.

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