Has the future finally arrived? Maybe. For those of us in social media management land, or people running their own business and hustling their own social, it certainly feels like we got a bit closer recently, when Instagram opened up their API and started to allow auto-posting for scheduled posts. It was officially announced a couple weeks ago, and the feature was available on Hootsuite almost immediately, but this week the feature rolled out to people using other management platforms as well.
Should you be super excited about it? Maybe. Auto-posting has its advantages and disadvantages, and I’m going to give you a brief rundown on my thoughts on this update.
Auto-posting means that you can prepare and schedule your post and that it will post to your Instagram account automatically, without you needing to do it manually. Although Instagram planning and scheduling has been around for several years, they have always required that you manually go in and finalize the post before it actually populates on your account (any service that didn’t require that was in violation of Instagram’s API and could have caused you to get your account suspended). My favorite platform for Instagram planning is Planoly, but Plann, Later and Hootsuite are three similar services.
With the recent update, these services will now post on your behalf. So, is this feature good or bad for business owners? My answer is that it is a convenience and should be used when you need it, but is not something that should revolutionize your strategy or necessarily save you a remarkable amount of time. Why?
Because Instagram still requires your authentic, real-time interaction in order to be effective.
Simple as that. You might be able to schedule your posts and have them post automatically, and that might relieve some stress, but the time you had chiseled out for Instagram will still need to be dedicated to the app, and probably still at those scheduled times. If you have an audience that is engaged, this becomes even more important. You don’t want your posts going live when you aren’t paying attention, as you’ll lose that valuable window of time when you can be interacting on your posts to help drive engagement. It’s a social media platform, and you’re going to need to be engaged and social if you want it to be successful. If you let your posts go live when you are nowhere to be found, they’ll fall flat and your audience will take note. The less your audience engages, the less your posts will be seen. And ask anyone who has suffered at the mercy of the algorithm, once your content starts to get buried it is hard to recover.
My advice is to use the scheduling tool when you need it, but still set reminders or notifications for when your posts are going live, so that you can check in to see if there are comments or questions that you can respond to. Immediate interaction on your posts after they go live is what helps keeps them alive longer in the newsfeed, and helps increase exposure. Here are some points to keep in mind:
- Auto-posting is only available to Instagram Business accounts and currently requires a third party platform to execute (I recommend Planoly )
- Instagram still requires your authentic, real time interaction in order to be effective.
- Scheduled posts will not include image tags, location tags, shopping tags, user tags or filters. Those details are important, and will still need to be added manually (a good reason not to rely heavily on the auto-posting).
- You cannot auto-post to Instagram Story or share video or multi-photo posts automatically. That content will all still need to be added manually.
- Your immediate interaction and engagement on your posts is vital to their success. Set reminders and check in on engagement even if you auto-post!
- Don’t lose your voice! Be weary of typos and sounding too salesy. When you’re in your scheduling platform, its easy to put your marketing hat on and come across way too salesy. I think these platforms are great for organizing and curating your account, but I always suggest reading through your pre-written captions before posting them, to check for typos and to reign in your “pitch” a bit. I think this is important, and if you start to rely too heavily on auto-posting you could come off too salesy and lose your authentic voice.
If you’re trying to grow or increase engagement, then the use of the scheduling feature might start to hinder any growth you’ve seen so far, so be careful. Remember that Instagram is a platform that requires you to do both moderation and engagement. You can’t just post and expect success, you need to make time to engage with your community as well, and the scheduling feature is something that could impact you negatively if you let it automate too much of the experience.
Learn more about moderation and engagement in this post. Interested in more social media tips and training? Pop your email address onto this list and be the first to hear about my social media training for small business owners!