I’ve used Hootsuite for years, and it’s a lifesaver for scheduling social media content to the dozens of accounts Blogging Bistro manages for our clients. Imagine how ecstatic I was at Hootsuite’s August 5 announcement:
“You can now schedule posts, publish pictures, monitor your feed, and engage with your Instagram audience right within the Hootsuite dashboard.”
Of course, I immediately added Instagram to my Hootsuite account and tried to use it. With the operative word being, “tried.”
Using Hootsuite to schedule Instagram posts is trickier than I’d hoped. That’s because Instagram (to date) prefers not to team with third-party services; they want you to post content, live, via the Instagram app on your mobile device.
Makes sense. Unless you run a business, have limited time to manage social accounts throughout your workday, manage multiple Instagram accounts, or prefer to spread out your Instagram updates instead of publishing 10 (or 100) of them in a row.
You should know up front that Hootsuite’s integration with Instagram is a WORKAROUND. Which is why the process is clunky. After my initial, unsuccessful attempt to post an update to Instagram from my Hootsuite account, I decided to wait for the webinar, which I attended August 11.
Below are critical points from the webinar (and from my own experimentation). Check out the “Resouces” section at the end of this article, where you’ll find an excellent downloadable how-to guide, FAQ and helpful links.
If you use the free version of Hootsuite, you can have three social profiles total (such as one Instagram account, one Facebook page, and one Twitter account).
If you use Hootsuite Pro (which I use), you can add 50 profiles. For example, you could add 5 Instagram accounts, 7 Facebook pages, 11 Twitter accounts, and so on, up to 50 total.
You need to install the latest version of the Hootsuite app to your mobile device and turn on “push notifications” within the Hootsuite app.
Connect Instagram to Hootsuite
The process of connecting an Instagram account (or multiple Instagram accounts) to Hootsuite is straightforward; it’s similar to adding social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google+.
Step 1: Install the Instagram app on your mobile device and log in to your account.
Step 2: Add your Instagram account to your Hootsuite dashboard: click on the “Home” icon and click “Add Social Network.”
Add Instagram to your Hootsuite Mobile Dashboard
You’ll also need to “marry” your Instagram and Hootsuite phone apps. To do this, log in to your Hootsuite phone app, go to “Settings >> Notifications,” and click “Allow notifications.”
You’ll see a slider – when the slider is green, that means you are giving Hootsuite permission to publish to Instagram.
(I know; this sounds befuddling, but Hootsuite walks you through it, step-by-step.)
Add Streams to Hootsuite
Next, you’ll add streams to your Hootsuite dashboard.
This is the fun part. Adding streams allows you to easily do the following tasks:
- Monitor activity to your Instagram account(s)
- View others’ Instagram posts
- “Like” others’ Instagram photos
- Add comments to others’ Instagram posts
Yes, you can do all this on your phone, but it’s easier for a fumble-fingers like me to comment from a keyboard and to view my Instagram feed on a large monitor.
Let’s say I’m viewing a photo (in Hootsuite) posted by someone I follow in my Instagram “Home” stream. I hover over the photo and the heart icon appears in the upper right-hand corner of the image. Click the heart to “like” the post and the heart turns red, as in the image below:
You can tag friends in comments by inserting the @ symbol and starting to type the name of the user you want to tag. A dropdown of people you are following will display; click the person’s name to tag them.
Note: In the webinar, the presenters from Hootsuite told us that it might take a while for the dropdown to start showing, as Hootsuite needs to “learn” who you follow. But eventually, the dropdown will populate with the names of people you follow when you add @ and start typing a name.
Another feature I like is the ability to view someone’s posts and follow them from the Hootsuite dashboard. To do this, add the “Popular” stream and scroll through the posts. When you see someone you’re interested in, click on their username and a popup will display their profile. Click the “Posts” tab to see what they’re posting. If you want to follow them, click the “Follow” button.
If you’re using Instagram for business, the “Popular” stream is excellent for monitoring competitors or leading voices in your field. You can see the types of hashtags popular users include in their posts and incorporate some of the best hashtags into your own posts.
Along the same lines, you can create a stream dedicated to a hashtag, so you can easily find others who are passionate about your topic.
I like this stream, as it helps me monitor Instagram accounts in a particular region, city, or even a specific street address.
You can add a stream for a specific Instagram user. For example, if I wanted to spy on a family member, friend, client, or competitor, I would add their stream and see everything they post.
Scheduling and Posting to Instagram using Hootsuite
Here’s where things get trickier. Honestly, it’s much easier to publish posts to Instagram directly than it is to use Hootsuite.
But what if you have a bunch of cool photos stored on your hard drive that you deleted from your phone, and you want to share those? Hootsuite to the rescue!
Important things I learned about this process:
- Edit your image BEFORE uploading it to Hootsuite.
- The optimum size for Instagram images is 2048 x 2048px. In other words, square.
- Compose the caption for your image in Hootsuite, just like you’d do in Instagram. Don’t forget to add up to four hashtags per post (that’s Hootsuite’s current hashtag limit).
- You can share the identical post to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc., from Hootsuite (just like you can with any Hootsuite post).
Laura’s Test Run
Posting updates to Instagram using Hootsuite is a multi-device, multi-step process. I’m trying it right now, live, for the first time, to test how it works. Here goes.
First, I found an image on my hard drive and used PicMonkey to quickly crop and resize it to 2048 x 2048px.
I selected my Instagram account from the Hootsuite dashboard and typed my caption, added hashtags, and uploaded my image:
I received the following message in the Hootsuite dashboard:
“Success! Notification sent to subscribed device.”
I then checked my phone’s notifications. The notice said:
“Publish to laurachristianson on Instagram.”
The Instagram update displays blank, which is disconcerting. But it IS there. I tapped the update I wanted to publish and it appeared, exactly as I had set it up in Hootsuite.
Next, I clicked, “Open in Instagram” to send the image to the Instagram app. A pop-up prompted:
“Are you logged into the right account on Instagram? Your post will publish to whichever account you are logged into on the Instagram app.”
I clicked “Yes, I am!”
Now, here’s the kicker. Once you’re in the Instagram app, you MUST tap the caption box. You then MUST tap again and select “Paste” to insert your caption (I neglected to do this the first time, and accidentally published my post without the caption).
I tapped “Paste” multiple times but nothing happened. I use an Android phone, and discovered that, instead of a quick tap, you must hold your finger down on the “caption” area to get the “Paste” option to display. You can then click “Paste” and the caption will populate in the “caption” field. (Remember how I told you that the Hootsuite integration is a workaround? That’s the workaround.)
You can then edit your caption or hashtags if you want; tag others and add the picture to a Photo Map.
When you’ve done all this tapping and pasting, click “Share” to publish the image to your Instagram account.
Note: When you schedule an Instagram post, you’ll receive a notification message from Hootsuite on your mobile device when the scheduled day/time arrives. You then go through the steps above to publish the update to Instagram.
Here’s my finished product (which took me “only” 10 minutes to create!):
I’m sure this will get easier as I become familiar with the process. I definitely see the value in being able to schedule Instagram posts and to share some of my favorite images from my digital photo archives.
What about you?
Will you give Hootsuite for Instagram a try? If so, let me know how it goes.
Here’s a square image you can practice with!
Instagram on Hootsuite: Your how-to guide (download free PDF, courtesy of Hootsuite)
Get Started Adding Instagram with Hootsuite (the step-by-step walk-through)
Instagram FAQ (from the Hootsuite Help Center)
Compare Hootsuite Plans: Free, Pro, and Enterprise
Start a free 30-day trial of Hootsuite Pro (I am NOT an affiliate; they are not paying me to say this.)
Laura Christianson’s Instagram page (I’m not using Instagram to promote Blogging Bistro. I love snapping pictures of oddities and interesting things I discover when I’m out and about; this account is solely for fun and stress relief.)
Hootsuite help on Twitter:
Here are some ready-made tweets. Share now or schedule them on Hootsuite!