It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Instagram. This little app has opened so many doors for me, including collaborating with some of my all-time favourite brands and bringing an ever-growing readership to my blog. Whilst it is definitely possible to grow your Instagram account without putting in too much effort, the bulk of us need as much help as we can get (myself included). The following are my absolute favourite tools and apps for Instagram, from the best iPhone editors, to in-depth Instagram analytics, to easy-to-use feed planners. I’ve included 5 free tools as well as 5 that do cost a bit (but are totally worth it in my opinion), so there’s something for everyone.
[ 1 ] Analytics
Free: Simply Measured . If you have an account under 25,000 followers, Simply Measured has an impressive report that includes engagement, top posts, and top performing keywords, filters and tags. Plus you can also analyze any account under the 25K mark, not just your own. All they ask for in return is that you follow them on twitter (for the first report you generate) and then tweet about it for every additional report you request.
Paid: Iconosquare . I personally use Iconosquare and have been using it since the beginning of my Instagram journey (just over a year ago now). It lets you track the best times for you to post, your follower growth, your best performing posts, your recent comments, and so much more. It costs $9 / month (or $54 / year) for the basic level account (Plus) which is more than enough for most people’s needs. I have the Elite account ($29 / month or $174 / year) which lets you analyze competitors and ups the comment tracker from your last 5 photos to your last 15. For me this is worth it since I view Instagram (and my blog) as a business and I’ve found it super helpful to view similar accounts to mine and see what their best performing photos are. Tracking comments on the past 15 photos is also so much nicer since I always try and answer any questions I get on Instagram and new followers tend to scroll through more than just the first 5 photos.
Free Alternative: Instagram Business Account . I wanted to add a quick note about the advantages of having an Instagram Business Account – namely the impressive analytics that they give you for free. You get information about your impressions (how many times your photo was viewed and not just liked), when your followers are most active, and a lot of other helpful information that isn’t available anywhere else. That said, there is some controversy around the business account and where Instagram plans to go with it. Some say that Instagram Business Accounts will likely go the route of Facebook Pages (they are owned by Facebook, after all), which will eventually require businesses to pay to get their posts seen at all. I’ve recently switched back to a personal account from a business account (even though I loooooved the analytics that Instagram provided) because I tend to believe these theories. My average impressions per photo was about 1/3 of my total followers and, right after November’s algorithm update, my impressions went down to half that. Goes to show that Instagram is punishing me (so to speak) for being a big(ger) account, since I didn’t change any of my own behaviour or the types of photos I posted through these very abrupt drop in impressions. I haven’t been a personal account long enough again to tell you if there’s a definitive advantage, but most of my favourite Instagram accounts have switched back to personal so I tend to think they know something that I’m only theorizing about.
[ 2 ] Feed Planner
Free: Unum . If you’re very particular about your feed layout (like I am) or if you just need a better way of schedule your posts in advance, a feed planner is an invaluable tool. One of the few free ones is Unum, which pulls your existing feed and lets you add photos from your camera roll to plan out and schedule future posts, including blank spaces for photos that are still TBD. The biggest flaw that I see with this app is its inability to pull from your favourites folder, which is where I store all my potential future Instagram photos.
Paid: Mosaico . This is the app I use – I find it super user friendly and helpful for planning my feed. It does what Unum does, but just better. It costs $8.49 (in Canada, probably around $6-7 in the US) but, unlike Planoly (another super popular feed planning app), it’s a one-time fee rather than monthly payments, which I think is a worthwhile investment but also not crazy expensive.
[ 3 ] Follower Analytics
Free: Social Rank . One of the issues with the algorithm change that Instagram implemented last year is that Instagram now decides how far up (or down) your photo shows up in your followers’ feeds. Instagram tends to reward engagement so, the more you engage with those you follow and your own followers, the higher up Instagram will place you in their feed. Social Rank lets you sort your followers by most valuable, highest following, most engaged, etc. They also let filter by account privacy, number of followers, location, and more. Following and interacting with the biggest and most valuable accounts that follow you is a great way to increase your engagement and get new followers to your account. (Aka since you engage with these bigger accounts, they engage back with you, which in turns gets your photo more likely to appear in their followers explore feed.) Engaging with your most engaged followers is another good strategy to show that you do care about them and don’t just see them as a number.
Paid: Social Rank . Whilst Social Rank is free, there is an option to upgrade to a premium account for some additional features. Whilst I don’t personally have a premium membership, I can absolutely see the benefits of being able to create lists of followers, save your searches, export to CSV, and more. The price for these additional features is a hefty $49 / month, which is why I haven’t bitten the bullet yet.
[ 4 ] iPhone Photo Editing
It’s no secret that I believe how you edit your photos makes a big difference in the potential success you can have on Instagram. I love a clean and bright feed myself, but whatever you choose, as long as you’ve got a consistent vibe going for you, I think anything can work. Some of my favourite feeds if you need some inspiration are @hannahargyle, @mija_mija, @marylauren, @masha_theone, and @juliahengel.
Free: Snapseed . Snapseed is the iPhone editor I use and is such an incredibly powerful app that is completely free. There is absolutely no reason to not download this app, it’s seriously that good. I wrote a whole post about how I use Snapseed – go here to read.
Paid: Afterlight . This is another good iPhone editor I’ve used in the past. Back when Snapseed cost $4.99, I downloaded Afterlight since it was cheaper ($0.99). It’s more intuitive so easier to learn as a beginner but, these days, I don’t ever touch it anymore. That said, if you find Snapseed a little daunting, definitely check out this editor.
[ 5 ] Photo Filters
Free: VSCO . VSCO is still my all-time favourite app for filters. Whilst I don’t like the editor itself (I find it doesn’t have quite enough features for me to get the look I’m going for), the filters are top notch. Not all of the filters (presets) are free to use, but there are enough to get you started, and my absolutely favourite filter that I use 90% of the time happens to be one of the free ones (A6).
Paid: VSCO . I know I know, the same answer again. But not all of VSCO’s presets are free and there are plenty of paid ones that are fantastic. The S1-S3 collection is another one of my favourite collections, as are the A-presets that aren’t free (So A1-A3 and A7-A9).
What are your favourite tools for Instagram? Leave me a comment below!