Updated June 20, 2017
Over the past few months, I've used six different tools for Instagram content management so that I could adequately compare them. Instagram is a great way for Apiarity to connect with others, finding the right tools is important to me. I looked at features related to content scheduling, engagement, and analytics. I also tried some tools that have only analytics features (e.g., Iconosquare), but I won't address them in this post. I'm focusing on tools you can use to schedule Instagram content and other features they provide.
All six tools let you schedule posts. They send an alert to your phone. Follow the steps to load the image and caption into Instagram and from there you can schedule a post.
All the tools except Crowdfire have a weekly and monthly calendar view so you can see what content you have coming up over a period of time. That's nice! Later is the only tool out of all six options that seems to understand that Instagram is a visual tool: its monthly and weekly calendars show the post thumbnails. This is critical for planning an Instagram feed at bird's eye view.
+1 for Later
-1 for Crowdfire
Planoly and Later both show a preview of what your stream is going to look like when you publish your posts. Instagram is such a visual platform that it's helpful to preview your stream to make sure it's balanced and visually appealing. Planoly is a little more advanced than Later because you can drag and drop thumbnails in preview mode.
+1.5 for Planoly
+1 for Later
What if you scheduled your Instagram post for Tuesday, but you want to move it to Friday? You can reschedule a post with any of these tools. All the tools except Crowdfire let you adjust your posts in calendar view with drag-and-drop functionality (sweet!).
-1 for Crowdfire
A great feature provided by Later and Planoly is a media library, where you can keep unscheduled posts. Having your media ready in the tool is nice. Later adds a nice touch by allowing you to tag your content with keywords so you can search for specific types of posts.
+1 for Later, Planoly
There are two forms of reposting content. Featuring your previously posted content again and featuring other people's content. Here's what the tools can do.
Repost past content
Do you have a post that people loved? Do you want to give it an encore? There are two tools that can do this without much trouble: Buffer and Later. Later lets you search through your posted media (by tag, even!) to post again. Buffer does this with its other social networks, so the functionality is extended to Instagram, and it's a little better than Later in that it will show you what posts are doing well so you can make an educated repost.
+1 Buffer, Later
Repost user-generated content
Perhaps your fans are dying to be featured on your Instagram stream. In the past, you may have used a repost app on your phone. Some of these Instagram tools make it easier: Hootsuite and Later let you search by hashtag to find content and repost.
+1 for Hootsuite, Later
Engagement: replying to comments
My biggest struggle with the Instagram app is that comments and likes are jumbled together in one stream. If you get even a few likes per post, you have to scroll through them to find the comments so you can reply and engage with your audience. You deserve better! It turns out that only two tools—Agorapulse and Planoly—separate comments from likes for you so you can keep track of conversations, because, after all, social media should be social.
+1 for Agorapulse, Planoly
Although I'm not reviewing Instagram analytics tools in this post, it is important to note which of these six Instagram management tools have some analytics features. Maybe it's enough to tip the scales if you're indecisive about a few so far.
If you want to see which of your posted media are getting the most engagement in the form of likes and comments, I believe Agorapulse, Buffer, and Planoly can do the trick. Agorapulse and Planoly will show you what your top posts were within different time periods (last few days, last month, last year, etc.). Buffer will only show a list of recent top posts, and you'll have to upgrade to Buffer business ($99+ per month) to see other time periods.
+1 for Agorapulse, Planoly
+0.5 for Buffer
Most engaged users
People should be central to your strategy, so it's important to pay attention to who is engaging with your content. Who are your influencers and fans? There's one tool that cares about your audience to a level higher than the other tools: Agorapulse. You can see your most engaged users by likes, comments, or both.
+1 for Agorapulse
Unfollowers and nonfollowers
There will be times when people unfollow you or never follow back. Perhaps you want to know who they are so you can mend the relationship or just unfollow as well. Crowdfire and Statusbrew used to be some of the only tools that helped you see this type of engagement. Instagram no longer provides API access to this type of action. There are still third-party tools that show unfollowing counts, unfollow/follow automatically, or post content automatically, but our research shows that these tools are often not trustworthy. Never give your password and full access to third-party tools. To learn more, read this Agorapulse article on Instagram and third-party tools.
Manage with other social media platforms
Some people are focused only on Instagram, but most businesses engage on other social media platforms as well. Using a tool that could possibly manage publishing on other networks like Twitter and Facebook might be important to you. Agorapulse, Buffer, and Hootsuite allow you to manage several other platforms. Crowdfire supports one other platform: Twitter.
+1 for Agorapulse, Buffer, Hootsuite
+0.5 for Crowdfire
The final tally
The tools with the most features are Agorapulse, Later, and Planoly. They will give you a well-rounded Instagram management experience. If you only have one or two accounts, Later and Planoly are less expensive. They're all in the same price range if you're managing three or more accounts.
Buffer and Hootsuite are more powerful for the older networks like Twitter and Facebook, and their Instagram features should be considered more like "add-ons." If you don't want to go for a separate tool just for Instagram, or if you don't need all the features the others provide, one of these two are a good idea.
Crowdfire's scheduling capabilities are below average compared to the other tools. Its real strength used to be in its attention to your audience and following patterns, but that is no longer available.
What tools do you use and love for managing your Instagram account?