Last updated: 27th February 2018.
So you finally decided to take this whole social media thing seriously for your business.
Nobody wants to be left behind, and there’s no doubt – your business needs to be on social media. You’re probably already on Facebook and Twitter – and maybe Pinterest and LinkedIn – but what about some of those other networks you keep hearing about, specifically Instagram?
Isn’t it just for teens and photographers?
There’s a lot of buzz around Instagram these days, but the last thing you want to do is spend your time learning a new platform, only to find that everyone has moved on to the latest and greatest social network that you aren’t on.
Well, Instagram is owned by Facebook, and they paid a billion dollars for it in 2012 – so unlike some networks with an uncertain future – it’s a safe bet they’re going to be around for a while.
But with running a business, dealing with clients, customers, non-billable tasks and quite possibly employees, who has the time to dedicate to yet another social media platform?
Despite what you may have read about Instagram’s stance on automated posting tools, there are still a handful of quality tools you can use to boost your Instagram presence and start recruiting prospects – and sending traffic to your website.
Awesome news! Instagram now allows auto-posting from third party tools.
So, we can say goodbye to the old method of pushing updates to our phone and then having to manually publish them.
The only catch is that you need a business profile. Fortunately it’ll take only a few moments for you to convert your account. Just navigate to the cog wheel of your Instagram profile screen and click ‘switch to business profile.’ – Job done!
Right now, we’ve confirmed that Tailwind*, Sendible* and Hootsuite* have this functionality already. And we’ve been told that Buffer and Later will have this feature soon. Once we have all the details, we’ll update this post.
1. Buffer for Instagram
Buffer is a wonderful time-saver when it comes to managing your social media accounts. It lets you publish and schedule upcoming posts on multiple social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest – and provide in-depth analytics on your social campaigns.
Buffer’s Instagram integration is a little bit different, though.
Instagram doesn’t allow services like Buffer to publish posts on your behalf. You’re going to need a mobile device with the Instagram app installed and configured. You schedule your post through Buffer and, when the time comes, Buffer will send a push notification to your mobile device along with a preview of your image and a copy of your caption.
All you need to do is open Instagram, paste your caption and your post will go live.
You can use Buffer for Instagram for free for up to 10 scheduled posts. If you want more posting options, you can sign up for their Awesome plan for as little as $10/month for 10 social profiles and 100 scheduled posts.
Let’s look at how Hootsuite (and similar scheduling apps) can help you enhance your presence on Instagram.
1. Look at your competition
If you’re new to Instagram, one thing you can do is start following bloggers in your niche and those you admire and look up to.
By following your “competition,” you can gain insight into their marketing strategy. How many followers do they have and will it be realistic for you to achieve the same?
What types of posts does your competition publish? Is their Instagram feed full of personal posts of themselves or behind-the-scenes images of their business?
You can also see how engaging their posts are and how they are using hashtags to reach more people.
Hootsuite can help you monitor your competition easily, right on your dashboard.
2. Find the best times to post
You want to make sure that every image you post on Instagram will reach your followers and target audience. While you can use hashtags to help people find your posts, you can also post during the times your followers and target audience are on Instagram.
According to Hootsuite, 8pm Pacific is the best time for posting on Instagram.
While this time is a good starting point, you may have a completely different target audience. Factor in your target audience & followers when deciding when to post to Instagram. Like Hootsuite mentions in their post, start off by considering what an average day looks like for your target audience.
3. Grow your engagement on Instagram
Growing your brand and presence on Instagram relies on how well you engage on this platform. It isn’t just all images and hashtags.
Hootsuite’s search streams make it easy to work on building a community of followers.
For example, if you create a branded hashtag like #myblogname or #myphrase, you can set up a hashtag search stream and easily see who is using your branded hashtag and like and comment on their posts.
If you want to find and follow influencers in your niche, you can set up user search streams for their profiles.
Hootsuite offers a free 30-day trial for 3 social profiles and paid options start for as little as $9/month for 10 social profiles, all the way up to $99/month for 50 social profiles.
Sendible* is social media management software to grow your business. While it’s similar to Buffer and Hootsuite as an all-around platform for your social media management, reporting and analytics, what sets them apart is their focus on agencies and concentration on collaboration.
Sendible’s Instagram integration falls in line with most of the approved Instagram scheduling apps. While some Instagram schedulers conveniently ignore Instagram’s TOS and post on your behalf automatically, Sendible is a good citizen and uses mobile push notifications to notify the end-user.
When it’s time to post your scheduled update on Instagram, Sendible sends a push notification to your smartphone that says, “Share on Instagram.” When you tap the notification, Sendible redirects you to the native Instagram app.
Create your image and paste your caption – which is copied automatically when you tap to share and edit your post – and publish your post.
You can also use the Sendible mobile app to create an Instagram post. Just open the Compose box, select which Instagram account you want to post to, write your message, and then select the time you want to publish the post.
Sendible also makes it easy to create your own Instagram image or motivational quote by using their Canva integration.
For one user and up to 4 social media accounts, pricing on the Micro package starts at $24/month when billed annually (ideal for solopreneurs). If you run a large team or agency, you’ll find one of their higher tier packages more suitable.
Later boasts that they are used by,”600,000 of the world’s top brands, agencies and influencers,” making it a very popular tool used by many bloggers, small businesses and entrepreneurs.
And they also provide an easy way of managing your comments on Instagram.
They offer a $0, Free Forever plan that lets you schedule up to 30 photo posts (no video) for one social profile per month. Paid options start at $9/month going all the way up to $49/month for unlimited posts for up to 5 social profiles.
With these new updates, Tailwind makes it easy to bulk schedule your Instagram posts using their drag-and-drop functionality.
Like all Instagram-approved publishing and scheduling apps, Tailwind cannot post to Instagram entirely on your behalf – like it can for Pinterest. Instead, it relies on push notifications sent to your mobile phone containing the post details. Therefore, it does require a bit of manual action on your part before a scheduled Instagram post goes live.
At this time, Tailwind has an iOS app available for iPhone users, but not one for Android users. You can, however, use the web based version on your desktop to set up your publishing schedule. This way, Tailwind can then send an SMS message with your Instagram photo and caption to your Android phone.
One thing Tailwind’s Instagram scheduler has over other competing apps is their unique Smart Schedule functionality. Tailwind automatically recommends the optimal times to post, uniquely tailored to your Instagram account. This means posts are scheduled to go live when your audience is the most engaged and most likely to interact with your content.
And, just like Tailwind is an official Pinterest partner, they are also partnered with Instagram. This means you can feel confident your account will remain in good standing as they abide by Instagram’s Terms of Service.
Tailwind for Instagram Plus Plan is available for $15/month. If you already have a Plus Plan with Tailwind – most likely you do if you use their Pinterest functionality – you can trial the Instagram scheduler for free for up to 30 posts.
While Hashtagify is more focused on Twitter hashtags, that doesn’t mean you can’t use their data to gain an advantage on Instagram.
Hashtags are hashtags, and what’s trending on one platform can easily be trending on another. Remember, your competitors might not be looking here too, so that’s another bonus.
Start by searching for your niche, blogging for example – it’s free. You’ll then be presented with a tag cloud, and each item is clickable, letting you go deeper into your niche to gather popular tags.
If you’re into numbers rather than visual representations, Table Mode supplies you with the data on how popular each hashtag is, the correlation to your search, and their weekly and monthly trend.
Hashtagify also offers Instagram tracking and helps you find the top related hashtags and influencers in your niche. There’s a 10-day free trial and if you want to upgrade, it’s $59/month for access to the hashtag library and labs, and tracking for Instagram.
Iconosquare gives you insights into your Instagram account and allows you to manage your Instagram activity.
If you really want to use Instagram as a marketing strategy for your blog or business, then Iconosquare can give you deep analytics into your account or accounts.
It measures follower growth, location, daily follower gain/loss, unfollows, and much more.
On top of that, you can see how your posts are performing by tracking comments and likes – as well as hashtags – to see how successful your posts are at engaging your followers and attracting new followers.
If you’re stuck trying to find the best hashtags for your post, Iconosquare’s got your back. You can use their service to search for hashtags as well as users so that your posts can reach more people.
And if you’re stuck with marketing tactics, Iconosquare can help you run Instagram contests.
Prices start at $9/month (per Instagram account) for the Plus package, which excludes hashtag and competitor tracking, and goes up to $990/year for the Corporate package which can track up to 5 hashtags and 7 competitors – with data export and the ability to run contests available.
Anybody who uses Instagram knows that it’s all about the hashtags. According to Buffer, photos with 11+ hashtags receive the most interactions. Currently, you can use up to 30 hashtags in a comment.
TagsForLikes curates the most popular hashtags from Instagram and organizes them into categories and subcategories like Family, Kids, Art, Photography, Music, Video Games, and much more.
TagsForLikes is also available as an app for iOS and Android, enabling you to quickly search, assemble and copy popular hashtags to your mobile device’s clipboard for easy pasting into your Instagram post.
Wrapping it up
If you’re on the fence about using Instagram for your business, now’s the time to get started. With more users than Twitter and an increasing set of features like Stories, Instagram is becoming more popular than many established social media platforms.
And there are tools you can use to get started on Instagram quickly and effectively. Most of the popular scheduling tools really only send a notification to your phone when it’s time to post to Instagram. There are others that can post for you but this type of automation is against Instagram’s TOS (which is why Massplanner and Instagress have both been shut down).
And if you’re struggling to find the best hashtags, both Hashtagify and TagsForLikes give you the most popular, trending hashtags for your Instagram posts.
Finally, if you want in-depth analytics, try Iconosquare for your Instagram analytic needs.
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