Instagram’s new auto posting update - is this a scheduling feature we actually want?

Photo by  NordWood Themes  on  Unsplash

Any seasoned Instagram user can relate to the struggle of missing that prime posting window or forgetting to hit upload because real life gets in the way. Imagine not having to sneakily duck off to the loo at work or your family event to hit publish on your next post. You could be there for your ‘gram fam and your fam bam at the exact same time!

Although scheduling is quite commonplace on most social media networks, Instagram has not previously permitted any apps or social media management systems to auto post images on your behalf. While there are some services like Schedugram, Hopper and Onlypult than can do this for you, whether you should is an entirely different matter.

The Instagram interface did not allow access to third-party apps to post on your behalf and it was warned that automating your account like this could get you banned, blocked or penalized. To get around these limitations, most scheduling apps, like Plann, that exist today use a ‘safe’ notification system which simply alerts you when it’s time to publish your planned posts.

A month into 2018 we finally got the announcement we had been waiting for - Instagram was finally rolling out a scheduling feature. Finally we could plan our posts in advance and have them post for us at the exact right time. Those of us that live and breathe Instagram might have even done a little happy dance, that was - until we read the details and discovered all of the limitations.

Now that the dust has settled and we have had a couple of weeks to explore and trial this feature, let’s discuss the details, along with the not-so-great aspects, of this new feature:

All business, no pleasure

This new feature is only available to those who have registered Instagram for Business accounts. It is easy to switch your account over from a personal one but in order to do this you must also have a business Facebook page. The other thing to note is that your account must be set to public to be switched over to a Business account so if you value your privacy this feature is not for you.

Photo by  Arnel Hasanovic  on  Unsplash

Access only via third party applications

This feature is not something that you can access or schedule within the Instagram app and can only be accessed through Instagram’s business partners and approved third party apps. This means you will be subject to each individual provider’s conditions and associated costs.

Cost to access

Unless you are a business with a marketing budget behind you, accessing this feature right now could be an expensive exercise for the average user. As more third-party programs jump on board there are likely to be more options for stretching your budget but the average price per year is around $20 per month.

Some of the apps that are currently approved to operate and their associated costs are:

Iconosquare: $9 per month or $81 paid a year in advance (capped at 100K follower limit)

Tailwind: $15 per month or $120 paid a year in advance
HootSuite: $228 per year paid in advance.

Oracle Social: $24 per month or $288 paid a year in advance

Sprout Social: $99 per month per user.

Planoly: Free (for 30 posts per month) or $9 per month unlimited

Note- This list is growing at a rapid rate so keep checking with your favourite social scheduling or management tools to see if they have added this feature. If you want to give any of them a try for yourself a lot of the above apps offer free trials.

Limited content

You know all those new features you love like sharing video and image carousels? Well you can count them out, the auto posting update only works for basic single image posts with no additional filters or tags.

Here is the full list of what you can’t include in your scheduled post:

  • Stories

  • Multi-Image Posts

  • Videos

  • Drafts

  • Locations

  • User Tags

  • Shopping Tags

  • Branded Content/ Paid Partnership Tag

  • Filters

Reach restrictions

Along with not being able to include any tags on your image, it also seems that any hashtags included on your post are made redundant resulting in a decreased reach. Many users that have tested this feature claim that the images are only served to their immediate audience making it hard for new accounts to discover their posts. If a hashtag strategy is a key part of your personal or promotional reach then this alone may be a complete deal breaker.

Photo by  NordWood Themes  on  Unsplash

The verdict

Depending on your budget and your current use of the platform, the above limitations may have no impact on your instagram strategy. For some of us (myself included) this update has more negative than positive attributes. Being able to schedule your images in advance suddenly sounds far less appealing when you take into consideration the impact of limited visibility.

The motivations behind this update are clear, making life easier for marketers means bigger ad spends and money lining Facebook's pockets. Will this update encourage better practices online and help us create more captivating content and better connect with people? Probably not.

Like a lot of the new features being rolled out, it’s all leading Instagram to be a little less instant. The photo sharing platform featuring inspirational accounts and authentic content we originally fell in love with seems to be slipping further and further away. Facebook claim to have realised that we don’t want to spend all our time on social media being marketed to and has changed tactics to prioritise content that is personally relevant to us.  On the other hand, Instagram seems to be rolling out all the bells and whistles to distract us from the fact that it is no longer the platform we once signed up for.