You’re probably wondering what the value of marketing on Instagram is (especially if you’re a B2B company). Well, what about the fact that Instagram has over 500 million active users, and 300 million of them are active every day?
It’s a great channel to promote your business or show the culture you’re building at your startup! So how can you use Instagram to drive traffic to your blog, get sales and raise your brand awareness?
Well, you must create awesome photos and images to share on Instagram, and you should be aiming to post 1-2 times a day. But if you find yourself lacking the time to devote to Instagram, this is the ultimate guide to Instagram tools that will streamline the process for you.
Content Curation Tools
One of the best features of Canva is that you can work from their templates optimized for different social media platforms. If you don’t have a graphic designer (or don’t have any graphic design skills), this is a great, easy tool to use and get started creating images for Instagram. Shaan Singha, the Co-founder & CMO of DownToJam, a startup that connects musicians together, uses Canva:
“Canva is a great tool for making simple pieces of visual content… It’s good for designgint things for our social ads on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and makes it easy to change sizes for those respective social medias. Canva lets us make sure there’s a consistent feel for our brand.”
Canva also recently launched a mobile version of their popular web app. Now you can create awesome designs anywhere!
Price: Free with different pricing tiers
Created by Buffer, Pablo is a great way to layer text over photos for quotes, questions, statistics or any other kind of image that will help you increase engagement with your followers.
It’s a very simple, minimal web tool to make an Instagram post on the fly. They have a large library of stock photos or you can upload your own image. Note that Pablo does not work on mobile.
Because it was made by Buffer, Pablo allows you to post to your Instagram account via your Buffer account, or download your image for free.
WordSwag is a mobile app that is similar Pablo but works on mobile. So, if you find yourself away from your desktop, but struck with inspiration by a great photo you took or quote you read, you can make a great image quickly and share it on Instagram.
Price: $4.99 on the App Store and $3.99 on Google Play
Instagram Photo Editing Tools
VSCO is a photo editing app & community where you can share and discover other great photos. Although heavy editing is frowned upon, choosing the right filter and effects on an image can take it from good to great.
It has more features and filters available than the Instagram app to help your images stand out on the popular platform.
If you’ve always wanted to be a painter, you can shortcut practice by using Prisma to turn your photos into awesome looking paintings.
Prisma is a fun photo editing app that will turn your pictures into works of art, inspired by the works of Picasso, Van Gogh, and other popular artists and patterns.
Afterlight is another great mobile photo editing app. It’s got the basics of most photo editing apps, but it sets itself apart by having a huge library of filters, borders, textures, light leaks and analog film effects.
Price: $0.99 on App Store and Google Play
Quick is a light photo editing app that lets you easily and “quickly” (see what I did there?) place text over images! You can customize the text size, color, and font. Adding text to your images will complement the visuals by adding a call to action, more information or context.
After you make the image, the app lets you share your updated piece via all the typical social networks and messaging platforms.
Price: Free, with updated fonts & features for $1.99
Superimpose is an awesome tool. It’s almost like having a very light version of Photoshop on your phone. It’s similar to the Magic Wand tool in Photoshop, but, instead, your finger is the Magic Wand, and all it does is delete connected pixels. This app lets you remove foreground pixels/backgrounds to blend images together. That way you can combine two different images to create something new and unique.
You can create some very surreal juxtapositions, or combine your favorite aspects from different pictures.
PicFlow is our tool for creating photo slideshows. The free version has the option to add music and caps the video at 15 seconds. The app is very intuitive and is great to use for changing your Instagram content up from regular images.
Instagram Scheduling and Monitoring Tools
One of the drawbacks of Instagram is that you cannot post directly from your desktop and Instagram does not allow any third-party applications to post on the app.
So if you were posting images by designing them on your desktop, then emailing the image to yourself or team member so they could download it on their cell phone and post it to Instagram, Grum will totally change that workflow for you.
Price: The tool starts out at a base price of $9.95/month for 2 accounts.
Later (formerly known as Latergramme) can also be used to schedule your posts. Just like Grum, you can schedule your posts from your desktop, and also via Dropbox and Google Drive. You can even search and repost (regram) other accounts’ content.
The analytics tool is going to be up soon but they do send you weekly emails about your Instagram account’s activity. Later is a great tool for young or bootstrapped startups.
Price: The base plan is free for up to 30 posts/month.
Hootsuite has an extensive set of features available for orchestrating a great campaign and they have a great integration available for Instagram. You can use it to schedule your posts, maintain your Instagram presence through engaging with your audience and track all your activities and results.
Hootsuite helps companies around some of the more frustrating realities of Instagram. Singha says:
“I just wish Instagram would allow Hootsuite to post directly to it, rather than sending you to Instagram and manually posting. But Hootsuite is doing a great job at minimizing that problem.”
Price: Hootsuite has a free basic plan, with premium plans starting at $9.99/mo
Buffer is another favorite for social media management. It allows you to schedule posts up to a month in advance and sends you push notifications and analytics for Instagram posts.
Price: Buffer has a free basic plan, with extra features for their premium plans
Sprout Social is a great social media management tool, typically used by larger startups. It offers a robust number of analytics and reports on all your social media posts in their base package, while offering the same features as Hootsuite and Buffer for scheduling and publishing Instagram posts.
Price: The base plan starts at $59/month
Reposting is a great way to spice up your feed, engage with other users or share some user generated content.
Reposting on Instagram is usually done manually by screenshotting a picture and then posting it, but Repost for Instagram is an app which makes the whole process easier with a tap of a button – and gives credit to the original author.
Instagram Analytics Tools
Crowdfire is a great app to segment and get analytics about your followers and the accounts you are following. It’s hard to tell which accounts are following you back on Instagram, but Crowdfire makes it very easy by showing you lists of non-followers and inactive users.
You can use Crowdfire to cleanse your feed by unfollowing inactive accounts and maintaining a healthy following to follower ratio.
Price: Free, with plans starting at $9.99/mo
If you’re looking for a tool to automate your Instagram activity, Instagress is the tool for you.
With a lot of filters and customizations, Instagress will follow, like and comment based on the parameters you set (and does it without hitting Instagram activity limits).
If you’re looking to increase your follower engagement by commenting, liking or interacting with people that fit your target market, this is a great tool to check out.
Price: Their offer plans based on days/months of use, starting at $1.99 for 3 days
(Editor’s note 9/1/17: Instagress has shut down)
Mass Planner is a similar automation tool to Instagress that provides similar functionalities for following, liking and commenting.
One weakness of Mass Planner is that it’s only available for use as a downloaded desktop client… and only available to Windows users, at that.
However, the automation features will help you reach out to your target niche, schedule future posts, and access their fast support team to help you learn the ins-and-outs of the tool.
Price: The base plan starts at $9.95/month
(Editor’s note 9/1/17: Mass Planner has shut down)
As your Instagram strategy starts picking up speed and growing, getting analytics about what’s working or not will be key to continued growth and optimization.
This app will give you insights into pretty much everything about your Instagram account: geolocation of your followers, best times to post, follower growth, top followers, post analytics and benchmarking.
Price: The base plan starts at $4.90/month
SocialRank is another great analytics tool for Instagram with an emphasis on providing information about your followers. You can track, analyze, and manage all your friends and followers. If you upgrade then you can even create segmented lists and analyze your competitors as well.
Price: Free, with plans starting at $49/month
Instagram Tools by Instagram
Hyperlapse, Boomerang, & Layout
Hyperlapse, Boomerang, & Layout are apps by Instagram. They are free to download on the App Store and Google Play, and give you more tools to vary the type of content you publish on your Instagram account.
Hyperlapse lets you shoot and make easy time-lapse videos. Boomerang is the opposite and makes short, lopped videos that are very similar to GIFs.
Layout is great for creating layered pictures and collages. You can mirror or flip the pictures and drag and drop them.
Good marketing comes from good planning, testing, and hard work. Luckily, there are powerful tools that will help reduce the friction among different content curation stages for your Instagram strategy.
Your workflow from curation to publishing, to iteration, can get streamlined with a combination of any of these great Instagram tools.
Resources & Further Reading
For beginners, or those who are looking for ways to improve their photography and design skills, here are some useful links:
10 iPhone Photography Tips To Quickly Improve Your Photos – quick, actionable advice to take great, professional looking pictures on your phone.
A Brief Introduction to Typography – an infographic about the best typefaces, font characteristics and more.
It’s Only Color – an introduction to the color wheel, hues and how to choose and use a palette.
Communicating a Message Through a Visual Hierarchy – this article teaches how to use your knowledge of typography and color to design something great to look at and understand. While the article is primarily about website design, the fundamentals it teaches apply to images as well.
How to Gain a Massive Following on Instagram – a great guide by Buffer on different tactics you can use to grow your follower base. Try out this guide and some of the tools we’ve mentioned for a great Instagram marketing strategy.