Table of contents
Let's admit it if you are a content creator on Instagram; you want to maximize your reach. To do that, you obviously need to create engaging, shareable, high-value content. In this post, we will not provide you with general guidelines on how to do that. Each account is different, and each niche is different. There are, of course, some basic guidelines which we will discuss in the future.
However, in this post, we will talk about free tools to make your life easier as a creator or as a business on Instagram. This post covers tools for content creation, Instagram account analytics, post scheduling, follower engagement rate calculation, hashtags, and more.
You should also check my list of the overall best Instagram tools (free & paid).
Let's start then.
I start with Canva because even its free version offers revolutionary potential in terms of creativity. I love Canva, and I own the Pro version. I think it's an invaluable tool for any content creator, including Instagram influencers.
Canva is an online graphic design tool. It provides templates for all types of Instagram posts, stories, and reels. Moreover, it offers templates for every social media post type, and it keeps getting better. You won't need its pro version for quite a long while if you ask me. I use the pro version as it's a great asset for bloggers, YouTubers, content creators, and more.
It also offers a new feature now, the Canva Content Planner. It still needs a lot of work and the planners/schedulers I mention below are better options for now, but still it's a feature that is essential for this kind of platform.
If you want to learn more about why I love Canva, have a look at my Canva review in 2021.
- 250,000+ free templates.
- 100+ design types (social media posts, presentations, letters, business cards, infographics, and more).
- Canva also provides hundreds of thousands of free photos and graphics, which you can further edit and customize.
For Instagram in particular, you will be able to design eye-catching posts, stories and even Instagram video reels using Canva, so you should definitely give it a try.
I can't stretch how great Canva is. Pretty much everything you see in terms of graphic design on Borderpolar was designed with Canva. That says it all for me—best free Instagram tool for sure, probably the best in general.
2.Repost for Instagram
Repost apps are beneficial for those who want to repost their branded content from their followers, which is much better to connect with your brand followers. It is also useful for content curators as reposting has become a key element on Instagram.
That is, you can always use an app to repost content from others as a “feat.” guest post and help both accounts grow.
Repost for Instagram is the app I use, but you can find many others in the Play Store/App Store. These apps can download posts, stories, and reels. The main downside I have found is that you can only select and repost only one image from that post when a carousel.
3. Later or Facebook Business Suite
Later is an excellent tool for post scheduling that offers so much more in the pro version. The free version provides you a single social set for one user and 30 posts per social media profile per month. The greatest thing about it and some other schedulers are that it provides a preview of your grid, useful for those who use creative patterns.
However, Facebook has launched Facebook Business Suite, which is also free, allows post scheduling, and provides insights and analytics for your posts. It helps you keep track of your post's reach, likes and reactions, comments, and shares.
Both Later and Facebook Business Suite require an Instagram business account. In my opinion, you should go with Facebook Business Suite, for starters, as it has no post limit. And you can connect as many Instagram accounts and Facebook pages as you want.
You will find the two best free Instagram management, post scheduling, and analytics tools out there between the two of them.
4. Instagram insights
If you are a content creator or a business Instagram Insights is the bare minimum that you should use to track the performance of your posts and the engagement of your followers. Since it is within the Instagram application the visualizations are not optimal, but Instagram Insights offers pretty much most of what you can extract from the Instagram API.
There is no reason to pay for analytics before you have established your brand. Among the free tools I recommend this one is as free as it gets. Instead, pay with the time you spend on the app.
5. Photoshop Express, Lightroom Mobile, Snapseed
Well, this one is obvious, coming from a photographer. After all, Instagram was a platform with a primary focus on photography. While all three are great photo editing apps, I think the easiest to use is Snapseed. I use all three but that's mostly because I have an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. I think Snapseed is more than good enough for mobile photography.
6. Engagement Rate calculators
Engagement rate is among the most important things you need to keep track of for your account. A higher than average engagement rate, depending on the number of followers you have is very attractive to brands. On the other hand, a lower engagement rate indicates that you have ghost followers, fake followers, or just that your content is not attractive enough for your audience. So it's important to keep track of how you are doing. Have a look at these two free Instagram engagement rate tools, which seem to be the most accurate.
Kicksta offers the best engagement rate calculator, in my opinion, as it takes into account only the last ten posts, showing a trend. Also, it removes all the noise, such as likes from promotions.
Tanke is the other brand offering accurate engagement rate measurements. It provides an all-time value of ER instead.
The engagement (ER) of your profile shows how interesting your content is for your audience. But there is much more to this metric, as it's the way a simplified metric showing whether Instagram should rank your posts high in hashtags or feature them in the explore page. Feel free to read my post on Instagram engagement rate to learn more.
So all these metrics we talk about translate to this simple percentage. If you achieve a high ER and your posts have a higher chance of getting featured. That's what makes engagement rate measuring tools among the best free Instagram tools. They tell you everything with just one number.
7. Free hashtag tools
I'll be honest here. I wouldn't say I like any of the hashtag tools I have found – paid or free. They don't do a great job, which doesn't have anything to do with your content. Whether you can rank high on hashtags depends a lot on the number of your followers and luck. Yes, luck.
I even tested this by making the same post from two accounts, one with 70 followers and the other 2.6k followers, at the same time with the same location tag and the same hashtag set, and guess which one did best.
Yes… Anyway, here are some tools you could look at and decide on your own.
- Display Purposes. Display Purposes allows you to type in hashtags and then recommends other hashtags and provides a popularity and relevance score for them. I would recommend starting with some low to medium popularity hashtags to avoid competition.
- Autohash. Autohash is an app that uses AI (or machine learning, who knows?) on your photo to propose hashtags. These hashtags are pretty generic, actually, so nothing really great there. Still, it's a good start.
I don't want to be overly judgemental about these tools because even paid Instagram hashtag tools are unreliable. That being said, I have had more success copying hashtags from successful accounts – even though they are more competitive than what my accounts can handle – than doing hashtag research on my own. It's funny because it's true.
With YellowDuck, you can go live to Instagram from your computer. The main benefit for you is a more professional live stream with a steady camera. Especially if you need to have your laptop tabs open during the live stream, you’ll need to use YellowDuck.
- Go live to Instagram from your laptop.
- Disable commenting while streaming
- Save the video to your Story once it’s finished.
This is one of the best free Instagram tools that will be handy in 2020. More and more users are getting engaged in live videos. This is your chance to get your audience’s attention.
After you download YellowDuck, make sure to read their Help Center articles relevant to your needs. They will walk you through the installation process and will help you go live easily. YellowDuck is available on Windows and macOS.
Since all these tools are free, it's worth trying them. However, it all comes down to the content you create. If it's excellent, eventually, people will find out. It also depends a lot on making the right connections. Talk to people but don't force it and make it unnatural. Find the ones that you are actually interested in. Instagram is just one of the funnels you need to focus on.
My opinion is that you need funnels that feed one another. Tools like Canva that directly affect your content quality are far more important than management tools and analytics. Eventually, you need to keep track of your account, but to begin with, focus on being creative and not repeating the same stuff.