The following is a guest blog post written by Chris Makara, founder of Bulkly.
Small business owners: I don’t even have to tell you what the phrase “wearing many hats” implies, am I right? If you own a small business, you do it all: ads, publishing, etc., likely on a strict budget. You’re a pro at managing staff, keeping customers happy, ordering stock, and, these days you’ve got yet another item on your plate: running multiple social media accounts.
Depending on what type of business you own, Instagram is likely at or near the top of your list of important social media accounts.
If you’re short on time, you may be posting to Instagram here, there, or whenever you can. Anytime you get a coffee break, bathroom break, any kind of 30-second break — are you using those tiny intervals to squeeze in your social media posts?
If so, Instagram post scheduling is about to make your life so much easier.
If your Instagram routine looks similar to the one I outlined above, where you’ll squeeze in a post whenever you happen to get a quick break, you’re likely doing more multi-tasking than you need to be.
Did you know that multi-taskers actually take longer to complete a single task and commit more errors in the process? It’s true; you may not even be noticing the typos in your posts, the comments that you’re forgetting to reply to, or the inconsistency in your marketing if you’re not batch-scheduling your posts ahead of time.
“Batching” simply refers to taking a few hours per week to write all of your posts at once, then scheduling them using a social media scheduling software, which we’ll describe down below.
As mentioned above, if you’re counting on multi-tasking to schedule your Instagram posts, you’re likely making mistakes, which could mean your consistency suffers.
Your followers count on consistency to know what to expect from your brand. If you’re not using the same voice, tone, and marketing strategy consistently, day by day, it can confuse potential customers. They are likely to end up searching for a brand that they can depend on for the same types and style of content from each post.
Batching your work and scheduling your posts ahead of time allows you to cross-check the consistency of every post you’ve scheduled that week with posts you’ve made in previous weeks.
If you’re multi-tasking, you’re also taking longer than you should to make those Instagram posts — time which you could be using to chat with customers, come up with innovative product ideas, or connect with your staff. Why not save valuable time by scheduling your Instagram posts instead?
When you schedule posts ahead of time, you’ll likely only spend an hour or two per week on this task, versus the countless lost minutes per day that you spend thinking of what to post in-the-moment.
Hopefully, if you’ve read this far, you realize that you should be using a scheduling software to pre-plan your Instagram posts, rather than writing and sharing them in-the-moment. So, how do you schedule your Instagram posts?
First, it’s a good idea to decide what you’re going to post, and when, for a week ahead; it works well to have a “social media planning day” once a week, where you plan all of your posts, write your content, and create eye-catching images for each one. Then, you’ll use the Instagram scheduling software of your choice to schedule those posts.
These scheduling softwares work in one of two ways. Some softwares are able to actually post to Instagram on your behalf, meaning that you don’t even have to give it a second thought once you hit schedule. Others send a reminder to your phone, to remind you to post; they’ll then copy your image and caption for you, so all you have to do is head to the Instagram app, paste your caption, and hit schedule.
There are several Instagram scheduling softwares available, depending on your small business’s unique needs. Read on for a comparison to help you determine which one will work best for you?
Hootsuite is one of the oldest social media scheduling softwares in the game, and it works for scheduling not only Instagram posts, but also Facebook and Twitter, if you use those.
Hootsuite boasts automatic post scheduling, which means you don’t have to think twice about your post ending up on your Instagram feed. This makes it perfect for super-busy small business owners.
In addition, Hootsuite allows you to monitor your Instagram account. Monitoring means that you can view your analytics, such as the best times to post on Instagram, in order to target your posts to gain even more traction.
The best part is that Hootsuite offers a free option for beginners, with availability to upgrade to premium accounts for more features.
Like Hootsuite, Buffer has been around for awhile when it comes to scheduling social media posts. In addition to being able to schedule Instagram posts, you can also schedule posts for Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter.
When it comes to Instagram scheduling, not only can Buffer schedule it for you, but you can also use a third-party tool like Bulkly that will allow you to recycle and automate the process of scheduling updates if you would like.
Buffer has plans for all budgets, so whether you are just starting out on social media or are a seasoned user — you’ll be able to find a plan that is right for your budget.
Planoly only works for Instagram, but it has one feature that Hootsuite can’t offer: visual scheduling. This means that you’re able to see what your images will look like on your Instagram grid before you share them. It’s optimal for small businesses which need a high visual appeal: think fashion, art, and graphic design.
Planoly also offers the ability to auto-schedule your posts. You can monitor your analytics with Planoly, but you must upgrade to a premium account to do so.
Sprout Social is great for beginners due to its intuitive, easy-to-use features; no more hours wasted trying to decipher how a scheduling software works. You can also use Sprout to monitor your analytics, allowing you to create a better digital experience for your followers. This allows you to analyze best times to post, as well as hashtag and keyword performance, to enable you to market your brand more efficiently.
However, Sprout doesn’t offer any free plans; its first membership begins at $99/month.
As with any new business skill, scheduling your Instagram posts comes with a set of do’s and don'ts, as well. These are important to learn and follow, in order to avoid turning away potential customers.
Now that you know how to schedule your Instagram posts, your life is likely about to become a whole lot easier. Schedule out some time this week to have a look at the scheduling softwares we’ve mentioned here (as well as any others you may come across) and decide which one’s best for you. Then, begin planning your weeks strategically, making sure you have a few hours each week to plan seven days’ worth of posts.
No more rushed Instagram posts while you’re waiting for a meeting to start! Instagram scheduling is a must-have for the busy small business owner, and it’s likely going to give you an edge when it comes to competition.