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Instagram Automation Tools, Software, and Tips to Do It Right

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

Christina Newberry October 4, 2021
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Instagram automation is one of those topics that can divide friends, family, and coworkers. Should you do it? Should you not?

The most hotly debated form of Instagram automation involves shady tactics like bots auto-posting spammy comments. We’ll be upfront. That’s not the kind of Instagram automation we’re going to cover in this post.

Instead, we’re going to explore legitimate, ethical strategies for saving time on Instagram by automating many of your routine daily tasks, without resorting to fake engagement and bots.

No more debate—that’s an Instagram automation strategy everyone can agree on.

Bonus: Download a free checklist that reveals the exact steps a fitness influencer used to grow from 0 to 600,000+ followers on Instagram with no budget and no expensive gear.

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 strategy and creating great content, and less time on chores like opening the app to post multiple times per day or combing through Insights.

This kind of Instagram automation is a legitimate way of maximizing time and effort while using Instagram in an entirely authentic way.

Of course, like we said above, there’s also that other kind of Instagram automation: the kind that involves bots attempting to automate Instagram followers by liking posts, following accounts, and commenting on your behalf.

The idea is for the bot to do what you’d do yourself to earn Instagram engagement and grow your account if you only had the time.

As we’ll explain in more detail later in this post, this is not a strategy we recommend. Why? Because:

  • People don’t like bots, and they can tell when a like, follow or comment is fake.
  • Instagram actively works against practices that degrade the user experience.
  • Such shady automation services must try to evade detection or else run the risk of getting shut down (and they do get shut down regularly, leaving you out of luck if you’ve purchased services)
  • Using bots goes against Instagram’s terms and community guidelines, so you could be putting your account at risk.

What can be automated 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 automation tools to help with these tasks at the end of this post.

Scheduling and publishing posts and Stories

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 and Stories in advance, then scheduling them to post automatically at the ideal times, is a major time saver.

Stories captions

Since 40% of people watch Instagram Stories with the sound off, it’s a good idea to include captions for any video Stories that include speech. This is also a great way of making your content more accessible.

Transcribing speech manually is slow going, but it can be done automatically in just a few taps with Instagram automation.

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, so you get customized reports with the precise data you need, ready to circulate to your team or other stakeholders.

Handling DMs

If you have a large Instagram following and produce engaging content, odds are you’re going to get plenty of direct messages. It can be tricky to stay on top of them manually, but Instagram automation options can help you respond efficiently.

Customer service

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

With an Instagram automation tool for customer service, you can automatically direct Instagram service requests and queries through to your customer service team and connect the data to your CRM.

Hashtag tracking

Whether it’s a branded hashtag, a UGC contest hashtag, or simply industry hashtags you want to keep an eye on, 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 through a social media dashboard.

Ads management

You can automate several elements of your Instagram ads campaigns, from performance measurement and reporting to budget optimization to creating multiple ad variations.

The DOs and DON’Ts of Instagram automation

Here are some basic rules of thumb when thinking about your best Instagram automation strategy.

DO: Automate repetitive tasks

Instagram automation is all about cutting down on tasks you do multiple times per day that eat up a few seconds to a few minutes each time. Think about this as reducing your total number of taps required to accomplish the same tasks.

DO: Reduce the need to switch between apps

Knowledge workers switch between apps on average 25 times per day. That’s a lot of time lost simply moving between tools.

Instagram automation lets you choose the information you want to come to you, rather than opening and closing multiple apps every day to seek it out.

DO: Consolidate time spent

Say you have an average of one hour per day to dedicate to Instagram content. Do you think you’ll accomplish more if you spend (a) one uninterrupted hour creating and scheduling content, or (b) 10 six-minute increments creating and posting content throughout the day?

For most people, the answer is (a), by a landslide, since you can focus on the task at hand, have all your tools ready to go, and just settle in to do the work.

DON’T: Use bots to buy Instagram followers

We’re going to lump all the various sins of Instagram automation into one big don’t here. It’s pretty simple: Stay away from bots, and you’ll avoid the worst kinds of Instagram automation.

In case we haven’t convinced you yet to give up on Instagram automation bots, here are a few insights from experiments we’ve conducted to see how they work.

Way back in 2017, when we ran a bot experiment for the first time, we saw an account go from 338 to 1050 followers using a tool that has since been shut down. While that may seem like impressive Instagram growth, we also had plenty of cringe-worthy moments. Here’s Hootsuite writer Evan LePage on the ickiest one:

“I [automatically] commented “your pics > my pics” on a selfie of a boy who was clearly in middle school. In fact, his Instagram account was composed of only four pictures, three of them selfies. I felt uncomfortable. The teenage boy told me I was being modest.”

In 2020, we tried experimenting with how to automate likes on Instagram again. Since Instagram has got better at detecting bots, this time, we saw only 8 new followers after trying several different tools over the course of a week. Here’s Hootsuite writer Paige Cooper summing up the experience:

“I got 8 new followers, many of whom seem fairly fake themselves, a handful of Story views, and about 30 likes total. Weeks later, I also have a creeping suspicion that my accounts are now permanent bot-magnets, even if my credit card isn’t getting charged.”

Paige also got an Instagram notification of a suspicious login attempt when linking one of the bot tools.

If you won’t listen to us, listen to Instagram:

“We want the content you see on Instagram to be authentic and to come from real people, not bots or others trying to mislead you. Starting today, we will begin asking people to confirm who’s behind an account when we see a pattern of potential inauthentic behavior.”

As mentioned, Instagram is getting progressively better at detecting bot activity. So are Instagram users. So we’ll say it one more time. Bots are not an effective or viable method of Instagram automation.

13 Instagram automation tools to do it right

You know what Instagram automation is, why you want to do it, and how to avoid getting into hot water. Now, let’s look at some Instagram automation tools to help you implement a white-hat Instagram automation strategy.

1. Facebook Creator Studio

If you have a Business or Creator account on Instagram, you can use Facebook Creator Studio to schedule Instagram posts or IGTV (but not Stories) ahead of time.

This is a built-in, free way to automate Instagram posts.

2. Facebook Business Suite

This is another free, native Facebook tool that allows you to schedule Instagram Stories from a business account. The editing options are pretty basic, but this can be a good way to start experimenting with automating your Stories.

Learn more about how to use both Creator Studio and Facebook Business Suite in this video:

3. Hootsuite Composer

Wondering how to automate Instagram posts from a personal account? Or how to access more features than the native platform tools provide?

We’ve got your back with the Instagram scheduling feature within Hootsuite. We’ve also got a whole blog post dedicated to helping you schedule Instagram posts.

For the quick version, check out this video:

You can also create multiple posts in advance and upload them in bulk using the Bulk Composer.


4. Hootsuite Best Time to Publish

Using the Hootsuite Best Time To Publish view, you can 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

Log into your Hootsuite account for a sweet surprise 👀🎉 #hootsuite #socialmedia #socialmediamanager

♬ original sound – Hootsuite

5. OwlyWriter AI in Hootsuite

Did you know that Hootsuite also comes with OwlyWriter AI, a built-in creative AI tool that saves social media pros hours of work?

You can use OwlyWriter to:

  • Write a new Instagram caption in a specific tone, based on a prompt
  • Write a post based on a link (e.g. a blog post or a product page)
  • Generate post ideas based on a keyword or topic (and then write posts expanding on the idea you like best)
  • Identify and repurpose your top-performing posts
  • Create relevant captions for upcoming holidays

Using Hootsuite OwlyWriter AI to write an Instagram caption: Typing in the subject and selecting the tone from a drop-down list.

To get started with OwlyWriter, sign in to your Hootsuite account and head to the Inspiration section of the dashboard. Then, pick the type of AI magic you want to see in action.

OwlyWriter AI in Hootsuite. Main screen with available choices: Repurpose your top posts, start from scratch, get inspired, turn web content into posts, get your holiday calendar ready

For example, if you’re not sure what to post, click on Get inspired. Then, type in the general, high-level topic you want to address and click Get ideas.

Generating social media post ideas in Hootsuite's OwlyWriter AI

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OwlyWriter will generate a list of post ideas related to the topic: 

AI-generated social media post ideas in Hootsuite's OwlyWriter AI

Click on the one you like best to move to the next step — captions and hashtags.

AI-generated social media post captions in Hootsuite's OwlyWriter AI

Pick the caption you like and click Create post. The caption will open in Hootsuite Composer, where you can make edits, add media files and links, check the copy against your compliance guidelines — and schedule your post to go live later.

AI-generated post idea in Hootsuite Composer

And that’s it! OwlyWriter never runs out of ideas, so you can repeat this process until your social media calendar is full — and sit back to watch your engagement grow.

Start your free 30-day trial

6. Stories Captions sticker

You can add automatic captions to your Instagram Stories with a couple of taps using the Captions sticker. Place the Captions sticker on any video Story for auto-generated captions.

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

You can also add automatic captions to your Instagram video posts and IGTV on the Accessibility Tab under Advanced Options.

7. Hootsuite Analyze

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

Rather than digging through Instagram Insights, you’ll get a ready-to-go report with your selected metrics that you can use for strategic planning and reporting to stakeholders.

8. Hootsuite Inbox

Hootsuite Inbox allows you to view, track, and respond to all Instagram direct messages and Story mentions in one place. You can also assign them to other team members to respond directly from Inbox.

9. Panoramiq Multiview

This app allows you to track and respond to comments, photo tags, and mentions for multiple accounts all in one place. It’s a great Instagram automation tool for simplifying engagement on Instagram without involving bots.

10. Heyday

Heyday helps automate basic customer service on Instagram using artificial intelligence.

But wait — didn’t we tell you over and over again not to use bots?! Yes, in the case of interacting with content on the Instagram platform. However, to manage basic customer service requests, AI chatbots are very helpful for both the customer and the company.

When service requests require a personal response, Heyday passes the query to a customer support team agent. It also integrates social customer service with your CRM, so you automatically have all customer data and information about past interactions at your fingertips.

11. Hootsuite Streams

Hootsuite streams are an important social listening and hashtag monitoring tool that surface the conversations your brand wants to be a part of (or just keep on top of).

Rather than manually looking up hashtags within the Instagram app (and on other social media platforms), 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.

12. Hootsuite Social Advertising

Hootsuite Social Advertising is an integrated tool for managing organic and paid content side by side. Within the dashboard, you can easily pull actionable analytics and build custom reports to prove the ROI of all your social campaigns. 

With a unified overview of all social media activity, you can easily make data-informed adjustments to live campaigns (and get the most out of your budget). For example, if an ad is doing well on Instagram, you can adjust ad spend across other platforms (Facebook and LinkedIn) to support it. On the same note, if a campaign is flopping, you can pause it and redistribute the budget — all without leaving your Hootsuite dashboard.

13. Pictory

Pictory will help you automate video content creation. Using this AI tool, you can turn text into professional-quality videos with just a few clicks. 

How does it work? You copy and paste text into Pictory, and AI automatically creates custom video based on your input, pulling from a vast library of over 3 million royalty-free video and music clips. 

Pictory integrates with Hootsuite, so you can easily schedule your videos for publication without ever leaving their dashboard.

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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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