Why You Should Plan + Schedule Your Instagram Feed (And Which Apps to Use)

When you're looking to step up your Instagram game, one of the more challenging things is creating a solid strategy. From creating a feed theme, to planning promotional or sponsored posts, to improving your time management (and thus reclaiming your time to commit to being present in your business and your life), to creating and organizing hashtag sets... it's a LOT of work (which is one of the reasons why entrepreneurs hire someone like me to do it for them)! And my favorite tools for helping to tackle all of it are planning and scheduling apps.

Why Plan Your Instagram Posts?

Planning your posts allows you to accomplish a few things:

Create a cohesive theme or look for your feed

When you're ready to get serious about your feed, you'll want to choose a theme or feel to maintain consistency and recognizability for your brand. You might choose a color theme (pink, pastels, rainbow, etc.) or a mood (dark and stormy, bright and sunny, etc.) or even a pattern (alternating landscapes and portraits, quotes and inspiring photos, etc.). Whatever theme you choose, it should represent your brand and your personality. If your business is built on fun and play, make sure it's bright and light-hearted. If you help people with deep, transformational work, maybe it's got a witchy, inspiring vibe.

Space out promotional / sponsored content

One thing is for certain, you don't want your feed to become too "sales-y". What I mean by that, is that your feed should be your lead generator, not your sales page. Your Instagram should be a place where you connect meaningfully with your followers, offer inspiration, free advice, and share vulnerable moments. You should NOT be selling to your followers every day. One exception to this is if you have a retail store or your primary product is physical goods, but even with this, you should be offering tips on how to make the most from your products, rather than simply selling them to your followers.

Manage your time on social media better

Girl, I know you've had days where you've scrolled so long the fingerprint started to smooth over... When you spend time on the Instagram app itself, it's SO easy to get sucked into the wormhole of scrolling through your home feed, checking out the explore page, checking for new likes and comments, going back to the home feed.... Thank the Goddess for auto-post! While this option is only available for business accounts, converting your account is easy (more on this in another post) and once you're set up, you can plan, schedule, and auto-post your content from the comfort of your laptop or smartphone without ever opening the 'gram! FREEDOM!!

Organize your photos and videos (and keep track of which ones you've used)

Another thing I love about scheduling apps, is you can upload photos and videos to your media library to keep track of which photos you've already used. I know in the past I've been guilty of double posting a photo because I liked it a lot and forgot that I'd used it before. Now that possibility is a thing of the past! You can batch upload all of your photos from a recent shoot (or all of the memes you've screenshotted) and as you use them, they'll be moved from your media library onto your grid. So easy!

Research and create hashtag sets

Many scheduling apps offer you the option to research hashtags from within the app, and create targeting hashtag sets which you can save and easily add to your captions every time you create a post. This saves a ton of time, since you don't have to copy and paste, and you can create as many hashtag sets as you need to properly promote your content. (Note: hashtags are like SEO for your Instagram, and in fact, they also influence your actually Google SEO!)

There are even more benefits to using an Instagram scheduler, depending on which app you choose. Some are more data heavy, while others are more creative and offer pre-set photo filters. Because this is my livelihood, I've tried a bunch of different scheduling apps and have compiled a list of my favorites below. Take a look!

Later

This is the latest app I've added to my roster of social media management tools, and it is my absolute favorite (especially for collaborating with my clients). Later makes it easy to upload your photos directly from Google Drive or Dropbox on its web version, or straight from your phone on the app (available for iPhone and Android devices). And you can view your upcoming posts by the day, week, month, or in the "feed preview" setting, which shows you exactly how your grid will look on your profile page.

PROS

  • highly collaborative
  • allows you to post to multiple networks at once (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
  • basic in-app image cropping
  • easy to understand analytics
  • drag and drop interface
  • in-app tool that allows you to search for content to repost (and automatically saves the username for easy crediting)
  • linkin.bio integration to make it easy to redirect your followers to other websites
  • generates the best time for you to post
  • emoji keyboard makes adding emojis to your caption easy

CONS

  • lower tier plans have limited functionality
  • basic analytic data
  • story scheduling not available
  • interface isn't as cute as some others

Check it out for yourself here.

Iconosquare

This app is built for data nerds (I mean that in the most loving and appreciative way, because I'm one of those people). Iconosquare measures everything, from the usual suspects like reach, likes, and comments, to more elusive analytics like engagement, percentage increase, performance over time, hashtag performance, and more. They recently integrated a scheduling and auto-posting option to compete with many of the other 3rd party IG apps, and while it's not quite as easy to use or visually appealing as Later or Planoly, the insights it offers statistically speaking (literally) are kind of ridiculous (and maybe even overwhelming for the average user).

PROS

  • detailed analytics over any time period you choose
  • helpful graphs and charts to make data more easily digestible
  • geo-location of people using specific hashtags
  • compare your performance with other similar users
  • schedule reports to be delivered to your inbox
  • integrates with Facebook Page to offer additional social analytics
  • geo-tagging and in-photo account tagging available on scheduled and auto-published posts

CONS

  • more data than the average user needs
  • steeper learning curve
  • limited analytics for personal accounts

Learn more about Iconosquare and get a free 14-day trial here.

Planoly

Pronounced (PLAN-oh-lee), this was one of the first schedulers I ever used (second only to Grum). I love it for its user interface--it's beautiful, well-organized, easy to use, and has a simple grid planning view. Drag and drop everything, from your image imports to your planned posts, makes using Planoly easy and quick. 

PROS

  • easy drag and drop interface
  • visually appealing design (millennial pink!)
  • makes previewing and organizing your grid easy
  • story planning also available
  • easy to source user-generated content from hashtag searches, etc.
  • set up a shoppable instagram feed easily
  • create multiple draft grids to visualize before committing to a plan

CONS

  • I've experienced more glitches between devices and users with this app more than the others
  • no in-app editing for photo cropping
  • no emoji keyboard
  • basic subscription only includes one team member
  • very limited analytics

Check it out here if you'd like to see more.

A Color Story

This isn't actually a scheduling app, but it's a really diverse and user-friendly photo editing app, which makes this perfect for users who like to edit their images before posting. You can create pre-sets to make editing photos to your specific preferences fast and easy, or you can use their in-app presets. Once you're finished editing, lay out your photos in a grid to preview your feed and schedule your post to receive a notification when it's time to post.

PROS

  • wide range of editing options
  • link to your profile to see how your planned posts fit with your current grid
  • option to link multiple accounts

CONS

  • no auto-publishing
  • no analytics
  • pay-to-purchase additional filters

While there are a bunch more out there, and I have used a couple others (like Grum, which I mentioned before, but stopped using because they hadn't been approved by Instagram's latest API update), these apps are the ones I have the most experience with and recommend the most to my friends and consultation clients.

Do you use a scheduling app? If so, what's your favorite and why? Let me know in the comments!