The 15 Best Instagram Tools in 2021 — Take Your Social Media Growth to the Next Level
Instagram keeps growing. With 1.074 billion users in 2021, it is one of the most popular networks, but even more importantly 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 in an effort 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 level of competition among Instagram marketing tools, a market that even Facebook itself has joined, offering the only tool that can directly schedule Instagram Stories.
In this post, you will find the tools that stand out among the rest.
Content schedulers, graphic design and content creation platforms, analytics and competitor analysis tools, influencer marketing and outreach tools, and of course, hashtag research tools.
Each group of tools has a different target audience; businesses, content creators, or even 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 in 2021 and its Pro version the best paid Instagram tool due to the endless opportunities it provides 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:
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 really hope to see is 24/7 live chat support.
You can read my full review of Canva’s capabilities here.
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 set your business back for $36/month or 27€/month per user. There is not an annual plan 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 admit that I would prefer the price to be lower for the extra social media sets, especially on the yearly plan to reward dedicated customers.
Two very nice upgrades Later received over the years are:
- The Instagram Best Time to Post tool analyzes your own data and competition on 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 one 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 useful, and the hashtag ladder technique remains highly useful, so I believe this was a necessary addition.
Let’s 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 very intuitive and it scores excellent in terms of ease of use. Everything revolves around the visual Instagram Planner and you also get 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 to it. The Growth plan allows up to 3 users, and the advanced plan allows up to 6 users.
All paid plans provide access to Instagram Story and Multi-photo (Carousel) scheduling but keep in mind that these are not auto-publish features. Instead, you will receive a push notification and manually publish the post from it.
Later has a very cooperative support team but I don’t like that they offer live chat support only on the advanced plan. I believe live chat support across the board is a must for every online service in 2021.
Later offer a generous free plan with 1 profile per social network (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest) which allows 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 that revolves around scheduling content for Instagram and other social media. Sendible supports scheduling for:
All plans provide post previews and a calendar view, along with 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 the grouping of content campaigns around promotions.
Before I mention the rest of its features I’m going to mention my one indictment against it. Its UI is way too bulky and needs to be modernized as it does not justify the tool, nor does it provide a user-friendly experience.
Now let’s have a look at the limits for each plan:
Most users will have a hard time reaching the limit even on the CREATOR plan
The overall 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 that goes far beyond Instagram.
It’s quite 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 and an RSS auto-poster (a handy feature for bloggers), along with 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, client dashboards that allow clients to preview and approve content with access limited to their own private dashboard. 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, reduced customer waiting times, boost customer engagement, and generate leads and sales, and of course, 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, website chat dialogues, and manage conversations across multiple messaging apps.
With MobileMonkey you can run your chat marketing campaigns and customer service conversations across:
In essence, MobileMonkey will become your all-in-one chatbot. For Instagram in particular, I have written in the past about engagement rate being the gold standard that will dictate your Instagram growth.
MobileMonkey’s Instachamp tool features auto-responders to messages, comments, and, more importantly, Instagram Stories lets you take every potential customer directly to your DMs.
You can also use targeted keywords to directly 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 definitely make a big difference for your Instagram account’s growth and sales, both as a Creator and as a B2C business.
MobileMonkey offers several different tools. Its Instagram tool, Instachamp, will set you back for $20/month.
Tailwind is another popular social media scheduling tool that focuses on the two primary visual social media networks, Instagram and Pinterest.
Tailwind’s key features beyond its scheduling functionality, including strong analytics that track 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 that is 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 as a means to generate more sales. Finding the right influencer can be a challenge though 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:
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 place limitations on the number of contacts, seats, connected emails, and monthly emails. The platform also provides integrations with MailChimp, Infusionsoft, ZOHO, HubSpot, and Zapier.
The Pro plan is of course target mostly toward agencies as it offers multiple seats and email connections.
The annual Flex plan goes for $119/month while the Pro plan goes for $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:
Agorapulse offers only paid plans with variable social profile and user limits.
The brand is also a Facebook Marketing Partner, which means 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 in content categories to line up future content and approval workflows for teams.
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, build 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:
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 you can also 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 the lack of bulk publishing on all plans.
Now, let’s see the plans and limits now, starting with Buffer Publish:
Below you will find the features and limits per plan for Buffer Analytics:
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 use 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 show 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 even ask for permissions 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 a lot more.
Overall, ShortStack should be your go-to tool if you want to increase your brand exposure with contests.
Shortstack’s free trial has no time limit and it allows 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.
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 both 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, which posts are organic, 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 own 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:
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:
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, along with 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:
The tool’s analytics track your engagement rate, your 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 audit 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 3 social profiles and 2 team members. The Advanced and Enterprise offer 5 and 10 social profiles respectively and an unlimited amount of team members, while it provides more competitor and hashtag tracking slots.
I will repeat once more that I’m not fond of Instagram hashtag research tools at all. 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. On Instagram and social media, users repeatedly use the same hashtags, 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 individual hashtag impressions per post are not exposed by the API.
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 then show you your top-performing hashtag and the most recently ranked hashtags.
Flick also provides analytics features that include engagement rate, reach, impressions, likes, comments, and saves.
With quite a bit of trial and error, Flick can definitely help you grow your Instagram account.
Still, personally, I believe that it needs to evolve to a full-fledged analytics tool for Instagram competitive analysis, along with 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 belongs to 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:
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.
I can say that if the current trend continues, both 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 definitely 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 on Messenger, Instagram DMS, Facebook and Instagram comments, emails and you can even integrate Messenger into your website.
Its analytics, while basic, are comparable to several tools in this list.
This is a free tool that 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 if they want to make Facebook Business Suite the best Instagram tool available, they can definitely do it.
I keep close track of FBS and I really 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 in your arsenal 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.
Originally published at https://borderpolar.com on June 17, 2021.