When it comes to maintaining or boosting your social media presence, research has shown that consistency is key. Post sporadically and you’ll lose momentum, post too much and you’ll be spamming your followers’ feeds. Setting aside some time each week to schedule your posts can help achieve this balance and save you from scrambling each day for the perfect Instagram post.

It may seem time-consuming to set aside a couple of hours each week just to schedule Instagram posts, but it’s going to make you much more efficient with your time and keep the quality of your posts consistent. If you are having to find multiple points throughout each day to find an image, think of a witty caption, appropriate hashtags, who to mention, and scroll through all the filters for the perfect light, it’s breaking up the flow of the rest of your day and probably taking a lot longer than it should because you’re not in the ‘Insta-zone’. While multitasking may seem impressive, you actually achieve tasks 50% slower and with 50% more errors than if you were focusing on a single task.

Originally, Instagram did not allow third-party apps to post for you, wanting to keep their platform about living in the moment, which made scheduling without push notifications impossible. In January of this year, the social media giant made changes to allow business profiles to automatically post single photos in its signature square format on a schedule. So while you can’t upload a series of photos in one post or a video, it’s a huge time saver for businesses. It is expected Instagram will allow personal profiles access to scheduling posts sometime in 2019.

When scheduling posts, make sure to pick the perfect time for your users, as the Instagram algorithm makes posts with higher engagement a bigger priority – the more comments and likes your post has, the more times it will be seen on users’ feeds. In general, users are most active first thing in the morning, lunchtime and evenings, but depending on your target audience, location and various other factors, your business’ ideal time will vary.

Instagram created this new facility using Application Programming Interface (API), allowing you to use an app outside of Instagram to schedule posts. Hootsuite was among the first to utilize this new opportunity, with others like Sprout Social, Buffer and SocialFlow following soon after.

So how do you go about scheduling posts? First and foremost, create or switch to a business profile. If you’re not sure what your account type is, head over to your Instagram settings and look for the option to switch to a business account. If you’re already set to business, great! If not, click switch to business. Once you’ve confirmed that, you’ll need to head on over to Facebook to connect your accounts. After this is done, there are a number of platforms you can use to schedule posts in addition to doing it through the Instagram app.

Plan My Post

A new service to the market but growing fast due to popularity from ongoing customers allowing you to plan and schedule your Instagram posts all in one go with no need to set reminders, or transfer images to your phone. You can find a review here by The Responsive Agency.

Buffer – buffer.com

While many of these platforms require you to schedule posts from your computer, Buffer allows you to schedule from your mobile device, without reminders or confirmation. To use this application, you will have to connect your Instagram account to your Buffer dashboard and log in to Instagram. After you’ve chosen your photo, filter, written your caption and included any hashtags and mentions necessary, you head to the Buffer dashboard to schedule your post. Under the content section, you’ll see a ‘Queue’ option, a ‘Share Now’ option and a ‘Schedule’ option. If your post can’t be automatically posted, for example, if it’s a series of photos in one post or a video, Buffer will alert you to this when scheduling, and then send a reminder to your device of choice when it’s scheduled to go live. From there, all you have to do it log into Buffer and confirm the post.

Later – later.com

A free account with this platform allows you to directly publish and schedule to Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter as well as Instagram. Once you’ve set up your Later account, you can start dragging photos to your Later calendar right from your computer and schedule the posts. Later has a visual calendar, which enables you to look at what your Instagram feed will look like, based on scheduled images. From this, you can see how balanced it is and whether you need to switch up some of the posts, for example, if there are too many promotional posts in a row or if the filters aren’t bright enough, and you can adjust accordingly.

Hootsuite – hootsuite.com/instagram

Perfect for small businesses, the free plan at this social media management platform enables you to manage up to three social media accounts, with 30 scheduled posts at a time. Anything over this, plans start at $19/month. As well as Instagram, this tool allows you to post across Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. After your Instagram business profile is linked, you can directly post photos as well as schedule photo posts.

As you can see, there are lots of options when it comes to scheduling Instagram posts, with a plethora of benefits to you and your business. The main take away is that you need your Instagram account to be set to a business profile, and that although there are some limitations where in certain cases you’ll need reminders so you can click the post to go live, Instagram is slowly building its API capabilities so you can post more and more on set and forget schedules.