Top social media scheduling tools - sked social

The 7 Best Instagram Schedulers Compared [2019 update]

Photo of Kat BoogaardKat Boogaard Posted

You know your brand needs an active presence on social media – without social, digital marketing is like yelling into a void.

And if you’re going to see any return on investment for your efforts, you know you need to understand your market and craft an effective marketing strategy for social media.

But here’s the thing: You want (alright, need) those results. But you also don’t want to waste a ton of time getting them, so you need to schedule Instagram posts.

You’re on the lookout for any way to streamline the posting process. This means you definitely don’t want to be copying, pasting, and manually posting to all your different accounts.

This is where the best social media scheduling tools come into play. They save you time by allowing you to:

  • Easily upload posts
  • Schedule content to send out to your different audiences
  • Avoid repeating the same process over and over again

Even more than trimming down hours, top social media scheduling tools keep you accountable to your strategy. It’s easy to lose track of your social media goals when you’re scrambling to post. Randomly sharing content in the eleventh hour – just to meet a quota or get something out.

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By using a tool to schedule out your content, you:

  1. Create more cohesive messaging
  2. Stay focussed on your overall social media objectives

Picking the best Instagram scheduler for your brand

Okay, so you know you need an Instagram scheduling tool or social media management tool. You’re working out how to schedule Instagram posts.

Here’s the next question: Which one should you choose? There’s certainly no shortage of options out there. So how can you find the social media scheduler that’s the best fit for your needs?

There’s no one right answer for everybody.

So we’re comparing seven popular, reputable choices, but here are some factors to think about when choosing beyond just the price of the tool.

This way you’ll have the exact details you need to effectively weigh your options before making your selection.

Is Instagram your #1 channel? Which social media platforms are you scheduling for?

The first thing in your social media marketing strategy is the social media platforms that you want to schedule to.

These days, Instagram is commonly the #1 channel for businesses, simply because all of the social media statistics make it pretty clear that it’s the top choice for consumers.

However this might not be the case for your particular brand! For example, a company selling industrial bolts might find other social media tools better (maybe Tweets are better!). It can definitely get confusing to work out the right one for your business.

Image result for confused social media

Most Instagram scheduling tools also support one or more other social media platform so that you can have all of your social media accounts in one place.

It’s worth knowing what your primary channel is, because scheduling tools will always have the most features for a particular social network. We’ve marked the primary one for each tool below.

For example, it’s really only Instagram schedulers that have link in bio tool integrations (see our comparison of link in bio tools here) to help you make the most out of your Instagram profile link. Similarly, the Instagram-focussed tools will let give you a visual planner for your Instagram feed.

Scheduling tools that auto-post to Instagram

With most third-party tools (Sked was the only notable exception!), you could only queue up Instagram posts within the tool.

However, you’ll still receive a push notification or need to take manual action in order to actually copy and post that image to your account at that desired time.

Instagram that created this frustrating roadblock. This is because Instagram’s Application Program Interface (API) prevented third-party apps from posting on the behalf of users.

In early 2018, Instagram announced changes to their API to allow business profiles to schedule content in advance. Some tools now use this direct publishing API rather than sending you a push notification to your phone as a “reminder” to post. Here’s

However, this is limited to only single image and video profile posts: you can’t schedule carousel posts or stories with these tools.

Sked is the lucky exception – as a result, we offer Instagram story scheduling and Instagram carousel post scheduling.

Others might say they support it, but they will usually just send you a reminder to your phone and you will need to post it manually. That might be fine for your needs if you don’t post them often!

Instagram story scheduling and auto-posting

Over 500 million people are using Instagram stories every day. If you have the right kind of content, your business should absolutely be posting Instagram stories.

If you’re not sure of the right content, check out these creative Instagram story ideas!

Creative Instagram Stories - Sked Social

Other than Sked Social, other Instagram scheduling tools either don’t support stories at all (so you will need to plan and post them fully manually), or they only send you a push notification reminder at the time it’s scheduled and you have to post it yourself (you’ll need your phone ready).

Getting a push notification reminder to remember to post your Instagram story is great, but for our customers in particular, it’s a lot of extra effort – not to mention nearly impossible if you are managing a portfolio of brands.

Be careful about claims from Instagram tools about scheduling Instagram stories – some are claiming that they do and act like they auto-post for you but they don’t.

Scheduling Instagram carousel posts

Carousel posts (sometimes called ‘album posts’ or ‘swipe posts’) are a trendy post type launched in 2017. Here are some creative ideas for Instagram stories that we’ve seen. Here is an example of a carousel from when Instagram launched them:

Out of the top social media scheduling tools, only Sked Social will automatically publish Instagram carousels for you.

One or two other tools (we’ve noted it in the comparison) will let you schedule them, but you will need to manually publish them – they’ll just send you a reminder to publish.

Scheduling Instagram posts with product tags

If you’re an eCommerce company, you really need to be using Instagram product tags.

Instagram marketing for eCommerce is all about getting followers to convert and buy from your site. When you schedule posts with product tags, followers can tap the post, view the products and prices featured and then check out right away:

This really improves your conversions. Check out our guide to generating revenue from Instagram for eCommerce brands.

In the top Instagram scheduling tools, only Sked Social supports scheduling with product tags auto-published. With other tools you will need to go in manually after it is published to add the product tag(s).

Scheduling posts with hashtags in your first comment

Depending on your aesthetic preferences, some people like to put their hashtags in the first comment rather than the caption of their Instagram posts.

While it’s been debated pretty extensively, it seems that there isn’t a difference when it comes to the reach of your Instagram posts, so it’s really all down to personal preference.

Some tools (marked below) will support you hiding Instagram hashtags in the first comment, while others will only let you include them in your captions.

Are you scheduling Instagram posts (mostly) from your PC, Mac or Phone?

In this post, we’ve compared mostly tools to let you post on Instagram for your PC or Mac.

All of the major tools have “companion” mobile smartphone apps for your scheduling on-the-go, but as most businesses do the bulk of their scheduling on their PC or Mac desktops, the apps are often less full featured than their web/desktop dashboards.

If you’re looking to mostly work from your iOS or Android phone, consider other Instagram scheduling apps like Preview App. Most of the mobile-only apps will not auto-publish to Instagram though, so keep an eye out for the same features we’ve discussed here.

Summary: what to consider when comparing Instagram schedulers

What sorts of things should you be thinking about? As you’re perusing your options, make sure you think through:

  • Budget: Is this a solution within your software budget
  • Platforms: Which platforms do you need to schedule content to?
  • Features: Are there any must-have features you can think of—such as analytics or a feed planner?
  • Ease of Use: Will you be the only one using the tool? Or does it need to be user-friendly enough for many team members to use it?
  • Collaboration: Similarly, do you need any functionality to successfully collaborate with your team through the tool?

1. Sked Social

Supported Platforms:

  • Instagram [primary]
  • Facebook
  • Twitter

Cost: Free 7-day trial and plans start at just $25 per month.

Social media scheduling tools compared - Sked Social

May we be so bold as to put Sked Social first on this list? We might be a little biased, but we think Sked offers tons of the features you’re looking for in a Instagram scheduling tool, and for your other social media accounts too!

Visual Instagram Planner

Social Media Scheduling Tools Compared Sked Social 1

Our visual Instagram planner lets you drag and drop your posts to get your grid looking just right. It’s important to get the right Instagram grid aesthetic – we’ve even got some creative Instagram grid ideas to get the juices flowing.

Unlimited users included for no extra cost

Sked includes unlimited users for no extra cost. We don’t want you to share logins between team members (security issues!) or feel constrained from collaborating easily between team members internally or externally.

But to make things better, our higher plans also include extra collaboration features.

In particular, you can set up post approval processes (including a super easy-to-use approve/reject workflow for clients!) and internally comment on posts and drafts.

Easily Create, Schedule and Report on all Your Instagram Content

Since we started with a primary focus on Instagram, Sked is packed full of helpful tools to take your Instagram accounts to the next level.

Key standouts for Instagram scheduling with Sked Social are:

  • Automatically add hashtags to the first comment of posts
  • Tag people, products and locations in the scheduling phase
  • Save hashtag lists with the Template Manager
  • A content calendar view for when you prefer to plan Instagram posts that way
  • Regram content with the Google Chrome Extension or a URL
  • Schedule posts, carousels, video or Story content for auto-posting without annoying notifications from one place

Our in-app photo editor offers over 60 filters, plus various stickers, texts, and overlays to make any photo content look just the way you want.

The visual planner allows you to map out your feed and create a more cohesive aesthetic across your entire Instagram grid.

Visual content aside, Sked also offers:

  • Robust reporting and analytics
  • Bulk uploading
  • A mobile app so you can check in on and schedule content from anywhere
  • A social media calendar with comprehensive scheduling abilities
  • A hashtag recommendation tool to take the guesswork out of hashtag research

Schedule Content for Multiple Social Media Platforms from One Scheduler

While we still consider Instagram our first love, we’ve already rolled out many of our features for Facebook and Twitter!

Upload content for all platforms from:

  • Your phone
  • Computer
  • Google Drive
  • Dropbox
  • Or drag and drop

Don’t have a photo to post? No problem! Create new content using Canva, straight from the upload screen.

With Sked Social, you can also schedule content to multiple platforms all at the same time. Our ‘Common Caption’ function allows you to automatically copy the same caption across platforms. This can save hours in itself.

Social Media Scheduling Tools Compared - Sked Social 2

You’re also able to customise these captions to better suit each platform, without having to retype or copy and paste every one. For example, easily change a ‘link in bio’ reference on an Instagram post to a pasted link in a Facebook post.

Sked Social’s Queue settings can also be used across platforms. Let’s say your content always performs better on Instagram in the morning. But nighttime is where it’s at on Facebook.

Simply enable Queue settings, select your optimum times for each platform. Then Sked will automatically post for you across each platform.

Social Media Drafts - Sked Social

To recap, Sked Social’s main features are:

  • Easy scheduling
  • Planner view of scheduled or queued content
  • Calendar view
  • Analytics
  • Hashtag lists and first comment scheduling
  • Multiple users
  • View multiple accounts from one screen
  • Have multiple users
  • Free link in bio tool (Sked Link)

And so much more! Check out our dedicated page about How Sked Social Compares as an Instagram scheduling tool, or reviews from our customers.

Con: Sked Social doesn’t currently schedule content for Pinterest and LinkedIn. However, we’re always looking to find new ways to assist our users and will be exploring these capabilities in the future.

Sked also doesn’t offer engagement tools to engage with your audience – this is best done from the Instagram app itself!

2. Buffer Publish

Top social media scheduling tools - Buffer - Sked Social

Supported Platforms:

  • Twitter [primary]
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn

Cost: Buffer offers a free plan that covers three social media accounts and one user, but paid plans start at $15 per month.

Buffer is another one of the top social media scheduling tools. It doesn’t place as much emphasis on the visual elements and bells and whistles, but it’s a solid option for people who want one place to schedule content and monitor the results.

Buffer offers both a browser extension and a mobile app so that you can schedule social media content anytime and anywhere.

As it’s almost the OG queueing-social-media-posts tool, Buffer has a pretty advanced queue feature, particularly for Twitter.

Buffer recently also launched a link in bio tool, but it’s still quite early in its features – we expect it to quickly improve though!

While Buffer is enough to cover the basics, they’ve also rolled out some added services like Buffer Reply (which is a paid option starting at $50 per month). This pulls all of your comments, pings, and social media conversations into one dashboard—so you can reply and engage with your users without hopping in and out of accounts.

Cons: Unfortunately, Buffer doesn’t allow for multiple users on their free account and you’ll need to log in with an Instagram Account’s credentials, making this a compromising position when contractors are granted access to confidential information.

Buffer also doesn’t offer Instagram Story or Carousel scheduling or product tagging. For Social Media Managers, these functions are a bare necessity for client accounts. Here’s their quick graphic explaining where they can post directly (automatically) vs sending you a reminder:

Image result for reminder instagram scheduling

Buffer does however offer hashtags in your first comment! This was recently launched and supports single image or video posts.

As Twitter is their primary channel, Buffer doesn’t have a visual feed planner.

The whole point of a social media scheduler is that you don’t need to manually post a thing. However, with Buffer, you’ll still need to go into Instagram and add your tagged accounts and upload Stories.

Buffer also only works with Business Accounts, which could be an issue if you’re working with influencers and personal brands.

3. Later

Top social media scheduling tool - Later - Sked Social

Supported Platforms:

  • Instagram [primary]
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest

Cost: Later offers a free plan that caps your number of social profiles and posts. Paid plans begin at $9 per month.

Later supports Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. But throws most of its energy and attention into planning, managing, and scheduling content for Instagram.

In terms of functionality for that platform, Later doesn’t disappoint, placing it as one of the top Social Media scheduling tools. Of course, there are features you’d expect—like easy-to-use scheduling and analytics.

But there are also some other tools and features that might come in handy.

Later offers:

  • A visual planner to map out your Instagram grid
  • The ability to find user-generated content and save it to your own library
  • Pretty comprehensive Instagram analytics
  • A Link in Bio tool (find out about Instagram link in bio tools)

Later’s file storage is also worthy of note. This tool makes it easy to import media from anywhere and keep it organized in your library using different labels.

Cons: On the down-side, you must have a Business Facebook page connected to your account to auto-post and posts of certain dimensions or file sizes can’t be uploaded on free accounts.

Later lets you schedule Instagram stories or carousels – but it won’t post them for you. You will get a reminder to post on your phone and you will need to post them manually.

Later also does not support product tags for eCommerce businesses.

Free plans also don’t allow you to view posts two weeks prior or have access to any analytics. Analytics serves as an integral tool for tracking results, and unless you want to manually input data from Instagram’s inbuilt analytics on a weekly basis, having analytics integrated with your social media scheduler is basically essential.

4. Tailwind

Top social media scheduling tools - Tailwind - Sked Social

Supported Platforms:

  • Pinterest [primary]
  • Instagram

Cost: Plans begin at $9.99 per month.

Tailwind is another tool that focuses mostly on visual content, as it currently only supports Instagram and Pinterest for your social media marketing.

The tool offers a lot of the same features as the other schedulers, with a few other twists intended to help users increase their engagement with their followers.

Tailwind also helps you optimize your Pinterest and Instagram posting schedules. This way you know you’re sending out content at times when your audience is most engaged. On Pinterest in particular, Tailwind SmartLoop will reshare your top Pinterest pins at optimal times for engagement.

Tailwind’s Hashtag Finder can also suggest the most popular hashtags to use with your post.

Cons: Tailwind’s supported platforms are limited, so if you’re looking for an all-in-one scheduling tool, unfortunately, this one’s not for you.

Tailwind doesn’t really support Instagram story scheduling at all. They recommend their users schedule the posts as a regular feed post with a reminder, then remember to send it to the story when you get the reminder.

Tailwind also does not support Instagram carousel posts, and doesn’t have any kind of link in bio tool integration.

Tailwind also doesn’t post your hashtags in the first comment.

Their lowest price point ‘Plus’ Plan does start at $9.99 per month, but it’s functions are limited to one account. If you have multiple team members (up to 5) who you want to collaborate on content with, you’ll need to upgrade to the ‘Professional’ Plan at a whopping $799 per month. 

While it does make the list for top social media scheduling tools, it’s suited to small businesses, those with a generous budget or when Pinterest is your biggest channel.

5. Sprout Social

Top social media scheduling tools - Sprout Social - Sked Social

Supported Platforms:

  • Facebook [primary]
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Google+

Cost: Plans start at $99 per user per month.

When we say that Sprout Social is comprehensive, we really mean it. Making it one of the top social media scheduling tools. Sprout Social is so much more than a social media scheduler—it’s software for nearly every aspect of your social media management.

In fact, Sprout Social comes packed with so many different features, it breaks them into the following categories:

  • Analytics
  • Engagement
  • Publishing
  • Listening
  • Collaboration
  • Automation

From optimizing your social interactions to keeping a close eye on any trends, Sprout Social is undoubtedly an exhaustive solution.

Cons: You cannot choose specific times to post, rather you can only choose the frequency of posts. This is a major downfall for accounts who want to post at follower peak times.

Like Later, Sprout Social only supports sending notifications/reminders for you to post Instagram stories. It does not support Instagram carousel posts at all, or hashtags in the first comment.

Sprout Social also doesn’t support adding locations to your Instagram posts. This is supported in Sked, Later and Buffer.

Also, be forewarned that Sprout Social comes with the price tag to match. So, if you’re highly concerned about budget or only require a more limited tool, this probably isn’t the right fit for you. Fewer small businesses use Sprout Social – it’s more common in enterprise.

Other features that are missing? Product tagging, tagging other accounts and hashtags to first comment auto-posting.

6. HootSuite

Top social media scheduling tools - Hootesuite - Sked Social

Supported Platforms:

  • Twitter [primary]
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • YouTube
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest

Cost: Free feature-limited plan, paid plans begin at $39 per month.

HootSuite is another household name in the world of social media scheduling tools. And, much like Sprout Social, it has all sorts of features you didn’t even know you needed.

As you’d expect, HootSuite allows you to bulk upload and schedule hundreds of social media posts all at once. Want to schedule content while you’re on the train or waiting at the dentist office? HootSuite’s browser extension and mobile app make it easy to do so from wherever you are.

Another cool feature of HootSuite is that it empowers you to find relevant content that you can share or repost. You can search by hashtag, location, or keyword to find existing posts that you can curate and share to your own account.

The Hootsuite free plan is pretty commonfor small businesses with simple needs.

Cons: It feels like HootSuite offers fancy things, but misses the mark on the basic essentials. For example, you can’t tag accounts, locations or products.

It’s also the oldest product in the sector, and so it carries a a bit of legacy user experience compared to more modern tools. Some love it, while others don’t! Give it a try and see.

Hootsuite does not support Instagram stories or Instagram carousel posts at all. You will need to plan and publish these manually. Similarly, Hootsuite won’t let you post your hashtags in your first comment.

Like Sprout Social, Hootsuite doesn’t support adding locations to your Instagram posts. This is supported in Sked, Later and Buffer.

You’re also limited to just 5 collaborators and if you want any more, you need to fork out for their $785 per month package. Free plans allow for just 3 social profiles and if you’re managing multiple clients, this is just too restrictive. Let’s say you have 5 clients with 3 social profiles each.

Already you’re looking to have the $169 option as your only choice. Not good news if you’re planning on growing your client base in the future.

You may also like:

7. CoSchedule

Top social media Platforms - CoSchedule - Sked Social

Supported Platforms:

  • WordPress blog posts [primary]
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Google+
  • Tumblr

Cost: Individual plans begin at $80 per month.

Those who know CoSchedule know that it’s pretty comprehensive.

The tool bills itself as the “#1 marketing project management platform” and offers everything from a marketing calendar and email marketing capabilities to analytics and agile project management.

Their initial focus was on the workflow for planning blog posts with your WordPress site (it’s still a big focus and is a great tool for that purpose!), and they’ve expanded from there into social media scheduling as well.

But let’s focus on the social media scheduler in particular. After all, it’s what landed CoSchedule on our list of best social media scheduling tools. CoSchedule allows you to schedule social media content for all sorts of accounts. However, be aware that the tool doesn’t directly advertise that they’re a go-to for Instagram scheduling.

In addition to bulk uploads and the ability to curate content from all over the web, CoSchedule also helps you send your content out into the world at the perfect time. When scheduling a post, you can select “Best Time Scheduling” to have that post go live at a time when traffic is high and your followers are most engaged.

Cons: Their least expensive plan is pretty limiting. You’re only able to have 3 users, 10 social media profiles and if you’re paying monthly, this starts at $89.

Like Hootsuite, CoSchedule does not support Instagram stories or Instagram carousel posts at all. You will need to plan and publish these manually. As with others, they also don’t support hashtags in your first comment. They also don’t support locations in their Instagram scheduling.

You can’t export PDF analytics reports and photo editing is non-existent. Considering that visuals are a key component to social media, this is pretty disappointing to potential users.

Finding Your Fit: Choosing the Best Social Media Scheduling Tool for You

Obviously, there are numerous social media scheduling platforms available to you—the above seven are the most popular and reputable, but they hardly even scratch the surface on all of the different options that are out there. But which is the best social media scheduling tool for you?

As you’re evaluating them, remember that there isn’t one right choice for everybody. Instead, weigh up your own requirements to find the tool that’s best for your unique needs and situation.

As your all-in-one Instagram scheduler, Sked Social caters to every step of your social media needs.

On top of that, with its integrated features, Sked Social saves its users 5+ hours per week on average. Claim your 7-day free trial and get started with Sked Social today to see for yourself!

Photo of Kat BoogaardKat Boogaard

Kat Boogaard

Kat Boogaard is a freelance writer, who writes for Sked Social about marketing strategy. She's a compulsive organiser with a penchant for dogs and tacos – in that order.

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