Instagram keeps growing. With 1.074 billion users, it is one of the most popular networks, but even more critical for businesses and marketers, it is turning into a global marketplace and advertising space.
The level of competition keeps increasing among businesses and influencers alike to make the most of the platform's immense capabilities and maximize their profit.
The importance of the platform globally is also underlined by the extremely high competition among Instagram marketing tools, a market that even Meta has joined, offering the only tool that can directly schedule Instagram Stories.
Content schedulers, graphic design and content creation platforms, analytics and competitor analysis tools, influencer marketing and outreach tools, and hashtag research tools.
Each group of tools has a different target audience; businesses, content creators, or specific business departments. But all of them can offer a significant boost to your online presence.
Let's have a look at them:
If you follow this blog, you know that I fell in love with Canva from day one. Canva is an online graphic design platform that I consider accessible to anyone, even people who lack graphic design knowledge.
I consider the tool's free version the best free Instagram tool and its Pro version the best paid Instagram tool due to its endless opportunities with its custom templates and the ease with which you can manipulate your designs.
I believe Canva is a worthy investment for almost every Instagram business (it cannot replace Photoshop, Lightroom, or advanced Illustrator features). Canva will make you a better and more productive content creator.
The Pro version offers 75+ million premium stock photos, videos, audio, and graphics and more than 420,000 free post templates; These are not limited to Instagram posts, stories, and reels.
With Canva, you can create a vast array of designs, from business cards, flyers, and infographics, to mockups for product prints and bookmarks.
Other features include the Magic Resize tool and a very accurate background remover, while you can also save your designs as templates and share them with your team or even sell them.
Users of the free version have access to 5GB of cloud storage, while the pro version offers 100GB and the Enterprise version allows for unlimited cloud space.
All versions offer collaboration tools, with the free one starting with teams and real-time comments and the Enterprise version offering access controls, approval workflows, upload controls, and editing permissions.
Canva has even entered the post-scheduling industry as it offers a content planner that supports:
- Facebook Groups & Pages
- Linkedin Pages
The content planner is still quite subpar compared to the competition and is only limited to sharing posts, but it's a nice extra to have and I expect to get much better.
What I hope to see is 24/7 live chat support.
You can read my full review of Canva's capabilities here. This is one of the best Instagram tools out there.
Canva's pricing starts at $9.99/month or 9.16€/month on the annual plan for the Pro version, billed annually, while the Enterprise version will cost you $36/month or 27€/month per user. There is no annual plan option for Canva Enterprise.
Later was originally a dedicated Instagram tool, but since then, it has expanded and covers all major social media platforms:
Later remains a platform that focuses on content scheduling and planning at its core. All plans, including the free one, grant users a single social media set with one account per social media. Additional social media sets can be added at the same price as the first one ($12.50-$33.33/month).
I would prefer lower prices for the extra social media sets, especially on the yearly plan to reward dedicated customers.
Two very lovely upgrades Later received over the years are:
- The Instagram Best Time to Post tool analyzes your data and competition in your niche and recommends the best days and times to post on Instagram.
- The Hashtag Suggestions tool; I was never a fan of having a Later subscription and another for hashtag recommendations. Generally speaking, I believe success on Instagram depends somewhat on hashtags but mostly on engagement pods unless the content you deliver is highly engaging. But hashtags remain helpful, and the hashtag ladder technique remains highly useful, so I believe this was a necessary addition.
The starter plan offers 60 posts per month on each social profile which I consider very generous, and on the advanced plan, it provides unlimited posts.
The overall look and feel of Later are intuitive, and it scores excellent in terms of ease of use. Everything revolves around the visual Instagram Planner, and you also get an unlimited media upload quota (you can even connect your Google Drive and Dropbox accounts).
You can also save captions for future use on every plan and add text to your images. It's not editing at the level of Canva (well, nothing is), but it's good to have.
The Growth and Advanced plans are more team-oriented as you can share your content calendar with your team and add notes. The Growth plan allows up to 3 users, and the advanced plan allows up to 6.
All paid plans provide access to Instagram Story and Multi-photo (Carousel) scheduling but remember that these are not auto-publish features. Instead, you will receive a push notification and manually publish the post.
Later has a very cooperative support team, but I don't like that they offer live chat support only on the advanced plan. Live chat support across the board is a must for every online service in 2021. In terms of scheduling posts, Later is probably the best Instagram tool.
If you combine the Link in Bio tool Later offers, which I consider the best link-in-bio tool, you have an outstanding deal.
Later offer a generous free plan with 1 profile per social network (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest), allowing for 30 posts per social media profile.
Paid plans start from $12.50/month (billed annually) and can reach $33.33/month with increased limits and even more features.
Sendible is another popular social media management tool around scheduling content for Instagram and other social media. Sendible supports scheduling for:
- Google My Business
All plans provide post previews, a calendar view, and Instagram Story and Carousel support. It also offers a built-in image editor, but more importantly, it offers Canva integration. Users can also schedule the first comment to avoid using hashtags in the post caption.
The smart queues feature allows content posting on pre-set schedules and grouping content campaigns around promotions.
Before I mention the rest of its features, I will mention my one indictment against it. Its UI is too bulky and needs to be modernized, as it does not justify the tool nor provide a user-friendly experience.
Now let's have a look at the limits for each plan:
|Daily posting limit per user||100 sends per day||200 sends per day||300 sends per day||500 sends per day|
|Smart Queues||10 per plan||20 per plan||70 per plan||120 per plan|
Most users will have difficulty reaching the limit even on the CREATOR plan.
The comprehensive sourcing feature set is among the most impressive I have seen among Instagram tools, especially on the more pricey SCALE and EXPANSION plans, which provide a set far beyond Instagram.
It's pretty clear that Sendible targets everyone, from small content creators to large-scale businesses, but its most advanced features are dedicated to large-scale operations.
The tool also offers content suggestions, sourcing from RSS/Blog feeds, an RSS auto-poster (a handy feature for bloggers), and Google Alerts sourcing for your targeted keywords. It can also search for images under the Creative Commons License.
The SCALE and EXPANSION plans also offer Google Drive and Dropbox integration.
Sendible also offers team collaboration tools such as multilingual dashboards, and client dashboards that allow clients to preview and approve content with access limited to their own private dashboards. Users can also send posts to other users for approval before posting.
With custom approval workflows, teams can automate their approval workflows and restrict specific users to requiring approval on any post they schedule (ideal for junior team members and interns).
Permission or access level groups are only available on the EXPANSION plan.
Users can also create quick reports, including a Google Analytics report (you can even add UTM parameters for campaign tracking on the EXPANSION plan) and an Engagement Report to track the growth of social media accounts.
All plans offer 13-hour daily live chat support, which is nice but 24/7.
Sendible's pricing options start at $25/month for the “CREATOR” plan, billed annually, and it gets up to $340/month
Mobile chatbots are here to stay. According to Forbes, 80% of the marketers use or plan to start using a chatbox to provide 24/7 availability, reduce customer waiting times, boost customer engagement, generate leads and sales, and reduce customer support costs.
This is where MobileMonkey and its OmniChat multi-channel technology come in. MobileMonkey is a chatbot that allows marketers to create chat blasts, chat drip campaigns, and website chat dialogues and manage conversations across multiple messaging apps.
With MobileMonkey, you can run your chat marketing campaigns and customer service conversations across the following:
- Web chat
- Facebook Messenger
In essence, MobileMonkey will become your all-in-one chatbot. For Instagram, in particular, I have written about engagement rate being the gold standard that will dictate your Instagram growth.
MobileMonkey's Instachamp tool features auto-responders to messages and comments, and, more importantly, Instagram Stories lets you take every potential customer directly to your DMs.
You can also use targeted keywords to promote a product feature to a client based on their comments or DMs.
But the full multi-channel experience goes beyond that as it offers website chat widgets, auto-responders for Facebook DMs and comments, SMS keywords, and SMS opt-in popups for your website.
Not only will you drive and convert leads, but you will also have access to constant re-engagement via opt-in-messaging channels like SMS and Messenger, and you will also be able to grow your mailing list.
The tool's chatbot builder is straightforward and intuitive, and it can help you create different response-based on conversation paths.
MobileMonkey can make a big difference in your Instagram account's growth and sales as a Creator and a B2C business. MobileMonkey is probably the best Instagram tool you can get in this category if you are looking for an automated bot.
MobileMonkey offers several different tools. Its Instagram tool, Instachamp, will set you back $20/month.
Tailwind is another popular social media scheduling tool focusing on the two primary visual social media networks, Instagram and Pinterest.
Tailwind's key features beyond its scheduling functionality include robust analytics that tracks likes, comments, and other engagement metrics like a reaction score, an engagement score, and an engagement rate – in this case, the engagement score is what most people have in mind as engagement rate as it calculates the engagement per post per follower.
The tool also provides hashtag recommendations and lists, a Chrome extension for reposting.
While the above features are useful already, Tailwind's even more interesting feature is Tailwind Create, a feature in beta now. Like Canva entered the content planner market, Tailwind made a reverse move and attempted to join the design market.
At the moment, Tailwind Create is still pretty basic. You can source photos from a URL or use a stock photo, apply a color palette, add text and your branding, including your website or brand name and your company's logo.
It still has a long way to go, but it could be a difference-maker between Tailwind and other content schedulers in the future.
Tailwind offers a free trial with full functionality and no time limit, with which you can schedule up to 100 Pins on Pinterest and 30 posts on Instagram. Paid plans start from $9.99/month (billed annually) for one Instagram or one Pinterest account and unlimited scheduling.
6. Ninja Outreach
Influencer marketing is still on the rise in 2021with more than 67% of US marketers utilizing it to generate more sales. Finding the right influencer can be challenging, and that's where Ninja Outreach comes in.
Ninja Outreach started as an “influencer research and outreach” platform, but it has expanded to link building and business lead generation. The tool offers a database of:
- 76,000,000 Instagram Influencers
- 8,000,000 YouTube Influencers
- 10,000,000 TikTok Influencers
- 7,000,000 Twitter Influencers
- 19,500,000 Business Emails
- 6,000,000 Bloggers
With Ninja Outreach, you can automate your entire outreach campaign and send emails in bulk with a single click using its CRM software. In addition, you can schedule unlimited campaigns.
With its Instagram search tool, you can perform an initial screening of influencers based on their number of followers, engagement rate, and likes per post. You can perform a similar process for YouTube influencers based on their engagement rate, average likes, and subscribers.
Ninja outreach does not offer a free plan; its paid plans limit the number of contacts, seats, connected emails, and monthly emails. The platform also provides integrations with MailChimp, Infusionsoft, ZOHO, HubSpot, and Zapier.
|Feature||Flex Plan||Pro Plan|
|Monthly Emails Limit||10,000||15,000|
The Pro plan is, of course, targeted mostly toward agencies as it offers multiple seats and email connections.
The annual Flex plan goes for $119/month, while the Pro plan is $199/month. You can also get a 7-day risk-free trial.
Agorapulse is a social media marketing platform that offers an all-in-one tool for social management, including:
- An Inbox assistant that organizes all your social media messages and comments for easy management. You can also assign & label conversations across your team and organization.
- A content scheduling and publishing platform that also has built-in editing features.
- A social media brand monitoring feature allows you to listen, respond, and take actions like retweets, replies, DMs, or PMs when there is a mention of your brand.
- A social media reporting feature detects the best-performing content, trends, and team performance and provides content recommendations for future posts.
Agorapulse supports the following social platforms:
- Facebook Pages & Groups
Agorapulse offers only paid plans with variable social profiles and user limits.
The brand is also a Facebook Marketing Partner. You can schedule single image and video feed posts directly from the platform, and Instagram Stories and Carousels using the mobile app and push notifications.
It also provides content queues organized into categories to line up future content and team approval workflows.
Agorapulse offers free trials on its pro and premium plans and custom enterprise plans for large-scale agencies. The pricing starts at $79/month for the Pro plan and $159/month for the Premium plan, built annually.
8. Buffer Publish
Buffer was among the first companies to jump into social media scheduling, and Buffer Publish is a tool that stands out due to its simplicity and effectiveness. Buffer offers a publishing tool, a tool for account analytics, and a new engagement tool.
The platform supports the following:
You can use Buffer to post images and videos, but you will need the Premium plan ($65/month) to publish Instagram Stories and Carousels with push notifications. I also offer approval workflows, built-in URL shortening, Google Analytics tracking, and content queues so that you can create sharing queues.
The Analytics tools offer insights for all social media, such as hashtag performance based on average reach and engagement rate and display engagement rates per post, which comes in handy. You can also compile custom reports by combining multiple different metrics.
The Engagement tool allows you to prioritize conversations and reply to comments from your desktop for instant engagement.
I don't particularly appreciate that the Buffer Publish and Analytics tools come separately with different plans and lack bulk publishing on all plans.
Now, let's see the plans and limits, starting with Buffer Publish:
Below you will find the features and limits per plan for Buffer Analytics:
|Instagram Stories Analytics|
|Report white labeling|
Buffer's annual plans for the Publishing tool range from $12/month to $85/month, but you will need at least the Premium plan ($56/month) for full Instagram functionality. Meanwhile, you will get most analytics features with the annual Pro Buffer Analytics plan for $28/month, and the annual Premium plan offers advanced analytics tools for $40/month. Please note that all plans are for one user.
ShortStack is a unique tool in this list as it is an all-in-one contesting platform. With ShortStack, you can run hashtag and comment contests on Instagram and retweet contests on Twitter.
With ShortStack, you can easily collect all comments tagged with your unique contest hashtag and profile @mentions, along with the usernames of participating users as entries to your contest, and user the random entry selector to draw one or multiple winners.
You can also collect user-generated content (UGC) submissions using online forms. You cannot collect UGC content directly from Instagram as that would violate the ToS, so UGC contests have to be run externally.
You can then display the UGC you collect using ShortStack voting and sharing features. ShortStack's moderation tools provide you with complete control over what entries are displayed on your website.?
With the rights management tool, you can ask permission to reuse UGC in future campaigns and advertising.
All this is just scratching the surface. You can also run Landing Page contests that incentivize users to fill out forms, email marketing contests, video contests (including TikTok and YouTube), and much more.
Overall, ShortStack should be your go-to tool to increase brand exposure with contests.
Shortstack's free trial has no time limit, allowing for 20 entries in total and 100 views per 30 days. With it, you can also explore all the Business Plan features, including entry collection via forms, personality & knowledge quizzes, entry export, entry notifications, random winner selection, website embedding, entry transfers via form integrations, the Instagram & Facebook comment report, and refer-a-friend contests.
For hashtag and retweet contests, you will have to go for the Agency plan at $159/month on the annual plan, while digital rights management requires the Brand Plan ($399/month).
As a blogger, my favorite tools include advanced analytics and competitor analysis. SocialInsider is exactly that, a powerful social media analytics platform that allows you to analyze your own profiles along with competitors and come up with optimal growth strategies.
- Instagram profiles and hashtags
- Facebook pages
- Twitter profiles
- Linkedin pages
- YouTube channels
- TikTok profiles
This is of course, the type of tool a social media and brand management agency typically uses to study clients' performance perform competitor analysis, and come up with content strategies and marketing campaigns.
With SocialInsider you can:
- Gather all your competitors' posts in one place to perform competitor analysis by analyzing the insights for each post.
- Track branded hashtags.
- Group competitors in brand names.
- Identify the top-performing social media channel for each competitor.
- Track top-performing content types with the highest engagement rates: images, videos, albums, or carousels.
- Identify which hashtags perform better and produce the highest engagement rate for your clients and their competitors.
- Observe competitors' posting frequency and behavior across multiple social media to figure out the platform priorities and strategies.
- Identify competitor ad performance, organic posts, boosted on Facebook, and analyze the engagement they receive.
- Advanced performance reporting and visualization features for your social media campaigns.
For Instagram in particular, you can get a very close look at your posts' performance, such as the engagement rates and multiple stats. This includes campaigns, Instagram Stories, and ads.
Now let's see the limits per paid plan:
|Feature||Social Media Manager Plan||Small Agency||Agency|
|Social Profiles |
|Post History||6 months||12 months||Unlimited|
|Live Support||Less than 12 hours||Less than 6 hours||Less than 3 hours|
I consider Social Insider the Ahrefs of Semrush of social media optimization. And that's the highest praise I can give to an Instagram tool.
SocialInsider offers a 14-day free trial. From there on you can get the Social Media manager plan for one user that will set you back for $83/month on the annual plan. The Small Agency plan goes for $141/month on the annual plan while big agencies will need to get the custom Agency plan.
Awario is a great follow-up to Social Insider as it is another state-of-the-art tool, only this one targets social listening reports. Social listening reports have attracted renewed interest from marketers during the COVID-19 pandemic as they present a unique opportunity for businesses to follow consumer trends and evolving mindsets and adapt accordingly.
Awario allows users to set up alerts – much like Google alerts – for keywords or hashtags of interest and track any new activity including those.
This allows businesses to identify growth opportunities, monitor user sentiment, and track issues with their products or services that need immediate resolution.
Awario is not limited to Instagram, it monitors keywords in any language, resource, or location, across the web. It also provides powerful analytics monitoring your brand mentions and growth over time.
To go even further with the Awario Leads tool, you can recognize social selling opportunities in posts asking for product recommendations or giving negative feedback to one of your competitors.
You can also discover opportunities for Influencer marketing this way.
You can also perform a boolean search to optimize your keyword alerts, filter out irrelevant keywords, and manage your inbox and workspace while allowing you to produce branded social listening, the share of voice, and Influencer reports.
Awario's limits per plan are set as follows:
|Feature||Starter Plan||Pro Plan||Enterprise Plan|
|Topics to Monitor||3||15||50|
Awario comes with three plans; Starter, Pro, and Enterprise providing different limitations on features, topics to monitor, the number of tracked mentions and stored mentions per topic, and the number of users. Pricing starts at €24/month for the annual starter plan and can get up to €249/month for the Enterprise plan.
Iconosquare is a social media analytics tool that can monitor your profile, your competitors and select hashtags on Instagram. Iconosquare supports:
- Facebook pages
- Linkedin pages
The tool's analytics track your engagement rate, community, profile activity, and reach. You can also produce account analytics reports and export data.
The analytics data include engagement rates per post, engagement on reach, the overall reach of each post, and its reach rate, along with views, likes, comments, and saves.
Iconosquare now offers publishing tools, such as a post scheduler, a media library, collaboration tools, and saved captions and lists.
You can also create a free link-in-bio landing page and get free audits reports for your Twitter & Instagram accounts.
I consider Iconosquare an excellent tool for basic Instagram analytics.
It now features social listening, including brand mentions, hashtags, and competitor tracking and feed of the post your brand is mentioned or tagged.
Iconosquare offers a 14-day free trial, and its pricing starts at 49€/month for three social profiles and 2 team members. The Advanced and Enterprise offer 5 and 10 social profiles, respectively, and an unlimited number of team members while providing more competitor and hashtag tracking slots.
I repeat once more that I'm not fond of Instagram hashtag research tools. I compare hashtag research very loosely to keyword research in SEO. However, the Instagram public API does not expose enough data to accurately evaluate the ranking potential on a single hashtag/keyword on a per-account basis.
Notice the main difference here. Users repeatedly use the same hashtags on Instagram and social media, so it's tough to evaluate the constant changes without knowing how all accounts on Instagram perform for each hashtag unless Instagram provides such data.
In the past, you could see how many impressions your posts received from each hashtag you used, using Instagram Insights, by creating a zero-budget promotion.
This post on LinkedIn Maria-Mirable Ganta from SocialInsider details this process which has been patched since then.
More importantly, both SocialInsider Co-Founder Andrei Cristian Serbanoiu and Flick CEO Loic Alix-Brown confirmed that the API does not expose individual hashtag impressions per post.
As someone with plenty of experience in SEO (and the proof is that you are reading this post written by me), I can assure you that the best way to find the right hashtags is to perform competitor analysis.
You need to find the right competitors, track their most engaging posts, and collect the hashtag sets in those posts. Then the best thing you can do is try different combinations of these sets based on your own account's current growth and see which ones work better on your posts.
So why is Flick featured in this list?
The reason is very simple.
First of all, Instagram analytics tools that perform high-quality competitor analyses are more expensive, and I consider them more agency-oriented and business-oriented.
Secondly, for the average user or influencer hashtag tools are much simpler than performing competitor analysis.
With Flick, you can start with one hashtag and find hashtag recommendations, along with helpful insights like competition score, potential reach, daily average post count (DAPC), average likes, posts made, and average comments.
This is pretty much everything the public API can offer.
From there on, you can create hashtag collections and use them in your posts. Flick will start tracking your position on hashtags and whether you enter the top 100, which means you have successfully ranked for a hashtag.
The tool will show you your top-performing and most recently ranked hashtags.
Flick also provides analytics features, including engagement rate, reach, impressions, likes, comments, and saves.
With quite a bit of trial and error, Flick can help you grow your Instagram account.
Still, I believe it needs to evolve to a full-fledged analytics tool for Instagram competitive analysis and hashtag research.
Flick offers a 7-day free trial, and if you attempt to cancel before the trial ends, you can get a 50% discount for your first month. Its pricing ranges from 7GBP/month on the annual Solo plan to 40GBP/month on the Agency plan and comes with different Instagram account limits and the number of tracked posts limitations.
In simple words, MetaHashtags is the cream of the crop among hashtag research tools, along with Flick. The two tools are very similar, as you can enter a hashtag (or even an account) and get hashtag recommendations, along with images of the top-performing posts and valuable stats:
- the total number of posts featuring the hashtag
- average likes per post
- lowest likes
- average comments
With this tool, you can search any account's used hashtags, a basic form of competitor research, and filter them based on total posts, posts per hour, average likes, lowest likes, and average comments.
From there on, the workflow is pretty straightforward as you can add hashtags to collections, use them in your posts and track the hashtags that have ranked successfully.
If the current trend continues, Flick and MetaHashtags will have a headstart in the race for the best Instagram keyword research tools.
MetaHashtags offers a 7-day money-back guarantee so you can test all plans and determine whether it covers your needs.
15. Facebook Business Suite
This is not the best Instagram tool on this list. Facebook Business Suite offers scheduling functionality and basic analytics, and its one standout feature is that it can post Instagram stories directly without requiring mobile apps and push notifications.
Overall, it is a complete suite that allows you to manage everything on your Facebook and Instagram business accounts.
You can reply to Messenger, Instagram DMS, Facebook and Instagram comments, and emails, and you can even integrate Messenger into your website.
Its analytics, while essential, are comparable to several tools in this list.
This free tool offers everything you need to start your business.
However, the reason it's on this list is its tremendous upside. Facebook holds all the data, and they can do it if they want to make Facebook Business Suite the best Instagram tool available.
I keep close track of FBS and want to see whether it reaches its full potential.
Instagram keeps growing, and it's never too late to jump on the hype train. Simultaneously, marketing tools that target the platform keep evolving, and new ones emerge.
How far you can get with these tools depends on how much time and effort you invest, but you will need a combination of them to meet your business's expectations.
My best advice is to take full advantage of free trials and demos to figure out what suits your business model and marketing strategies before you invest further in a tool.