The Ultimate Guide to Scheduling Instagram Posts in 2020
It’s 2020 and learning how to schedule Instagram posts for free is still one of the best ways to save time, increase your productivity, and stay connected with your Instagram followers.
Unfortunately, a lot of social media marketers are at a loss when it comes to picking the best app for scheduling Instagram posts!
What features are most important? Should you use a scheduler that can automatically post for you? What about reporting and analytics?
We’ve got you covered. In our Ultimate Guide to Scheduling Instagram Posts, we explain exactly how you can win back time, boost your engagement, grow your following, and schedule Instagram posts for free:
Table of Contents:
- Why Schedule Instagram Posts
- How to Schedule Instagram Posts
- Create & Curate Your Instagram Content
- Find Your Best Time to Post on Instagram
- Plan Your Instagram Feed
- Quick Schedule Your Instagram Posts
- Optimize Your Captions and Hashtags
- Auto Publish Your Instagram Posts
- Use Linkin.bio to Drive More Traffic and Sales
Why Schedule Instagram Posts?
Every business owner knows that time is money. And if you’re looking to make better use of that ever-so-precious commodity, it makes sense to enlist the help of a free Instagram scheduler.
Think of it this way: would you rather spend 30 minutes every day rummaging through your photos to find one that fits your aesthetic, come up with a caption, hashtags, and more? Or spend 1-2 hours on one day scheduling your Instagram posts for the whole week?
We’re willing to bet it’s the second option.
If you’re still unconvinced, here are 3 more reasons to schedule Instagram posts for business:
#1: Schedule Instagram Posts to Save Time
If you’re using a camera to take your photos for Instagram, you’re most likely editing your photos on your computer too!
Using a free Instagram scheduler like Later that lets you upload Instagram posts from your desktop will save you a ton of time (not to mention frustration) when trying to get your photos from your computer to your phone.
With Later, you can quickly drag and drop all your photos and videos to your Media Library and immediately start scheduling your Instagram posts in just a few minutes.
Just think about all the things you do can do with those time savings!
Whether it’s growing your reach with an effective Instagram hashtag strategy, hosting an Instagram contest or giveaway, or curating a gorgeous Instagram feed, using a free Instagram scheduler can help you can focus more on your strategy and less on logistics.
#2: Schedule Instagram Posts to Create Better Captions
A good Instagram caption can be the difference in whether someone clicks on the link in your bio, comments on your post, or takes some other kind action on your account. But coming up with quality Instagram captions can be a challenge — especially if you’re writing them on the fly.
Rather than coming up with new, clever captions every single day, a better option is to sign up for a free Later account and write your captions in advance from your desktop!
That way, you can sit down at your computer when you’re feeling creative or in the “writing zone,” and spend a few minutes writing out your captions for the entire week.
If you want to share your Instagram content to other social networks like Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, you can also use Later to easily customize, schedule, and optimize your captions for each social network.
To do this, simply click the “+” sign at the top of your Later calendar to select the social profiles you’re scheduling posts for.
Next, drag and drop the photo you want to schedule and customize the caption to optimize each post for Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Later makes it easy to shorten your caption for Twitter, or remove the tagged @usernames in your Instagram caption for Facebook.
Like with your Instagram captions, it’s important to spend a good amount of time researching Instagram hashtags. And luckily, this is another area where partnering with a free Instagram scheduler can help!
For example, with Later’s free Saved Captions feature, you can create multiple hashtag lists based on your frequently used hashtag categories and then easily insert them into your captions with just a single click.
Let’s say that you run a travel brand and often post photos of beautiful locations around the world. Instead of trying to remember (or find) relevant hashtags for every post, you can use Saved Captions to keep them all organized, so you can quickly add them when scheduling in the future.
If you want to schedule a photo of a beach in San Diego, since you’ve already saved hashtags for different categories, you can insert relevant hashtags for beaches, California, travel, and San Diego with just the click of a button!
And if you need some help finding those niche and industry-specific hashtags, you can use Later’s Hashtag Suggestions feature, which works by automatically finding relevant hashtags for your posts based on other hashtags that you use.
For example, if you’re posting a photo of a beautiful bedroom to promote your business that sells linens, all you have to do is know one relevant hashtag (like #livesimply), put it into Hashtag Suggestions, hit “Suggest,” and the feature will immediately generate 30 other hashtags, sorted by relevance.
You can then pick and choose which of these hashtags to add you to your post. All you have to do is click “Insert Hashtags” and they’ll be added to the end of your caption.
#3: Schedule Instagram Posts to Plan a Beautiful Instagram Feed
When someone new lands on your profile, you only have a few seconds to grab their attention and convince them to follow your account.
That’s why it’s so important to curate the look and feel of your Instagram profile! It’s one of the best ways to get more followers.
Fortunately, this is another area where using a free Instagram scheduler can help!
Later’s Visual Instagram Planner makes it easy to plan and design your feed by dragging and dropping the photos you’ll use in your future posts onto your planner and rearranging them until you find the perfect look or “aesthetic.”
Using a visual planner can also give a better “big picture” perspective of your social media strategy and feed as a whole. For example, you’ll be able to see if you’re posting too many product and promotional photos and not enough lifestyle shots, or if you need space out your darker photos with some brighter ones.
This can help you create a more consistent brand experience on your Instagram feed, which is key to getting more Instagram followers.
Want to learn how to plan your Instagram content like the pros? We teamed up with Puno, founder of ilovecreatives and Peoplemap.co to show us how to put a personal spin on your content. Check out our free video course:
How to Schedule Instagram Posts in 7 Steps:
Now that we covered why you should schedule Instagram posts, let’s look at a few ways that you can really maximize your Instagram posting potential:
#1: Create & Curate Your Instagram Content
If you’re creating your own content for Instagram, a great way to maximize your time is to have “shoot days” where you create a bunch of content for your Instagram account on a single day.
Whether you’re creating filler content for your account or doing a full-on product photoshoot, thinking ahead can help you plan better and create a better “flow” in your Instagram feed.
Once you’ve gathered all your photos and videos, you can use Later to easily bulk upload your content to your Media Library, and then store them there until you’re ready to post.
You can also add a few labels to help organize your content better, whether it’s by campaign, photoshoot, color, or theme. This makes it much easier to pull the right photo or video when you need it.
If you’re curating content for Instagram or doing a mix of both, it’s still important to gather all your content in one place so you can view it all together before you post to Instagram.
To help you out with this, we released a whole collection of new user-generated content (UGC) features that make sourcing, sharing, and crediting content a cinch!
Now you can find on-brand content and add it to your Later Media Library for resharing in just a few clicks – whether it’s photos and videos you’ve been tagged in on Instagram, or any image from the web.
And don’t worry: we help you give proper credit every time.
Not only will sharing UGC add an authentic voice to your content, it’ll keep you on top of all your tags and mentions. That means you’ll never miss a chance to engage with your fans and followers.
Want to learn more about the powers of user-generated content? Check out our Ultimate Guide to UGC here!
#2: Find Your Best Time to Post on Instagram
If you want to beat the Instagram algorithm in 2020, you need to optimize your posting time for when the majority of your followers are online.
Think of it this way: since Instagram is now prioritizing “new” content on people’s feeds, your best shot at getting your content in front of your followers is by posting when most of them are actively scrolling the app.
That’s why it’s so important to find your own personalized best time to post on Instagram — you can hack the algorithm to increase your reach and get more likes and followers.
So how do you do this?
Well, one option is to go into your Instagram Insights (you’ll need an Instagram business account to do this), review your audience metrics to find your best times, and then remind yourself to post at those times each day. But this is far from ideal when you’re busy running a business!
If you want to skip the experiments and get right to the good data, an Instagram marketing platform like Later can do the work for you!
Later’s Best Time to Post feature automatically calculates your 7 top posting times based on your best performing posts from the recent month:
Since every Instagram account is different, we wanted to create a feature that would give you your personalized best posting times — and that’s exactly what Best Time to Post does!
If you’re on one of Later’s business plans, which start at just $19/month, your best times to post will automatically be highlighted in your weekly content calendar, making it super easy to schedule your Instagram posts for when your audience is most active!
#3: Plan Your Instagram Feed
Now that you know when your Instagram audience is most active, and you’ve collected a bunch of awesome visuals that truly represent your brand, the last step before scheduling your Instagram posts is to plan out your Instagram feed!
As we already discussed, planning the look of your feed is so important if you want to get more engagement and attract more followers — and you can easily do this with Later’s free Visual Instagram Planner!
All you have to do is drag and drop your photos onto the visual planner, re-arrange them to see how they’ll look in your feed, and save to schedule them!
This makes it easier to build a seamless and visually cohesive Instagram feed that’s bound to help you attract more followers.
But how do you know which order you should post your photos in to make it look amazing?
Take a step back from posting one photo, and look at your Instagram feed as a whole: how do all of your photos fit together? The best feeds have a good variety of subjects that are evenly spaced out. The goal is to create balance and depth of field with your Instagram feed as a whole, just like you would in a photo.
If you post a busy photo, you’ll want to balance it out with a lighter photo or a photo with a lot of white space around it. Avoid posting the same shots close together, so switch up the top-down flat-lay photos with other content or a different angle.
#4: Quick Schedule Your Instagram Posts
After you’ve spent time finding the best time to post on Instagram, collecting content, and planning your feed, the last thing you want to do is spend a ton of time actually scheduling your posts.
Luckily, there’s an easier solution: Later’s free Quick Schedule feature. It lets create your own Instagram queue based on your best times to post and then easily bulk schedule multiple posts at once:
To Quick Schedule Instagram posts, you’ll want to start by creating your Instagram queue on the “weekly” tab of Later’s content calendar. To create your queue, simply double-click on the timeslot that you’d like to add, and a grey box will appear. To adjust your time, just drag the timeslot to the desired time.
Once you’ve created a queue of your personal best times to post, just select multiple photos or videos from your media library and drag and drop them at the top of your calendar. It’s that easy!
And what about your Instagram Stories? Yep, you schedule those too!
Start by visually planning them with our storyboard tool. Drag and drop stories on to the storyboard tool, and then re-arrange them to fit the order and look that you want.
You can also easily crop and resize images to fit Instagram Stories 9:16 ratio.
Next, add any links or captions to your scheduled stories, which will be copied to your phone when it’s time to post. This helps you drive more traffic and sales by taking the time to write compelling captions and CTAs from your desktop.
Tip: create trackable links for your Instagram Stories to monitor traffic and sales from Instagram! Later makes it easy to keep track of those long URLs, so you never have to scramble to find the right link again.
To schedule Instagram Stories, simply select the time and date from the drop-down menu beside the Save Story button.
Finally, when it’s time to post, you’ll get a notification on your phone.
Your stories will be downloaded to your phone and caption or links copied to your clipboard, making it easy to post Instagram Stories in seconds.
Later makes it easy to post your stories in seconds: your photos, videos, captions, and links are sent to your phone when it’s time to post. Available now on all paid plans!
Want even more insider tips to managing your Instagram account with Later? We compiled the top strategies from industry experts — watch our free 2-part course get all the tips and how Later helps get you reach your business goals:
#5: Optimize Your Captions & Hashtags
Beyond planning the look of your feed, one of the most time-consuming (and challenging!) parts of posting to Instagram is writing your captions.
Your followers want to hear more about the behind-the-scenes and personalities of your business, so when it comes to planning your Instagram posts, you need to allow yourself enough time to write and edit your captions.
This is another way that partnering with a free Instagram scheduler can help. When you schedule a post with Later, you can take the time to write compelling captions and CTAs from your desktop, rather than when you’re busy or on-the-go.
In fact, many Later users will pick a day to sit down at their computers and spend a few minutes writing out their captions for the entire week. This gives them plenty of time to come up with great captions and CTAs that actually convert!
And when it comes to finding highly relevant and niche hashtags for your posts, there’s no better tool than Later’s Hashtag Suggestions.
All you have to do is know one relevant hashtag (like #archdesign), put it into Hashtag Suggestions, hit “Suggest,” and the feature will immediately generate 30 other hashtags, sorted by relevance.
You can then pick and choose which of these hashtags to add you to your post. All you have to do is click “Insert Hashtags” and they’ll be added to the end of your caption.
Once you find some really high-converting hashtags, you can use Later’s Saved Captions to keep them all organized, so you can quickly add them when scheduling in the future!
#6: Auto Publish Your Instagram Posts
Back in the day, you could only schedule videos to Instagram via push notifications, as it wasn’t offered in the official Instagram Graph API.
But thanks to several changes to their API, you can now schedule Instagram posts directly to Instagram, no push notifications required! Just upload your photo or video, select a date and time, and your post will automatically publish to Instagram at the scheduled time!
Need help setting up your Later account for auto publishing to Instagram? Check out our step-by-step help guide here or watch the video below.
There are a few limitations to the Instagram API to note, and notifications may still be needed depending on the type of post you are wanting to schedule. Here’s are a few things to keep in mind:
- Auto publishing to Instagram is only available to Instagram business profiles. In order to switch, you’ll need to connect your Instagram account to a Facebook page. You can learn how to set up an Instagram business profile here.
- Instagram creator profiles aren’t connected to the Instagram API, which means they can’t use features such as Auto Publish or Later’s analytics tools.
- You can only schedule single photos and videos directly to Instagram. To schedule carousel posts, you will still need to use notifications.
- Auto publishing to Instagram is available on all Later plans, including our free plan!
If you prefer to receive a mobile push notification instead, you can easily toggle between the two options when scheduling your posts!
Just tap the “Notification” option at the bottom of the post modal and you can switch between the two options.
#7: Use Linkin.bio to Drive More Sales and Traffic
With your Instagram posts prepped and scheduled, the final step is to use Linkin.bio to optimize your posts for traffic and sales.
Since Instagram only gives you one clickable link in the app (the link in your bio), getting users to click-through to your website or online store can be a pretty difficult task.
And while Instagram offers a few tools to help with this, we recommend using Later’s Linkin.bio feature.
With Linkin.bio you can add links to any of the Instagram posts that you’ve published through Later, which is perfect for directing your Instagram audience to the right content or products on your site!
When someone clicks on the link in your bio, they’ll be taken to a web and mobile-optimized landing page that resembles your Instagram feed, and clicking on a photo will take you to a specific URL (example: https://linkin.bio/latermedia)
If you’re a retail store, you could add the link to buy a specific product to your Instagram post. And when people click the link in your bio, they can browse all your products and shop your feed. It’s as simple as that!
The best part? We just released a free version of Linkin.bio, so everyone can start driving more website traffic and reaching their sales goals through Instagram with Later!
You can set up Linkin.bio by Later right now for free – no trials or credit card needed!
Here’s a quick recap:
How to Schedule Instagram Posts
- Find your best time to post on Instagram with Later’s Best Time to Post feature
- Create and curate your Instagram content
- Plan the “look” of your Instagram feed with Later’s Visual Planner
- Quick Schedule your Instagram posts to save time
- Optimize your captions and hashtags to get more engagement
- Auto publish your Instagram posts
- Use Linkin.bio to drive more traffic and sales
Scheduling your Instagram posts is one of the best ways to save time while achieving your larger goals and objectives — which is a double win for businesses that use Instagram to make sales or generate leads!
When picking the right Instagram scheduler for you, it’s important to think about what features make the most sense for your needs, whether that’s curating user-generated content, planning your Instagram aesthetic, or finding your best times to post.
Get a free Later account today to plan your feed, manage all your photos and videos, track your analytics, and automatically schedule Instagram posts — all in one place!
Ready to save time with Instagram? Get started for free now!