It’s fair to say that Instagram has exploded in recent years, and with it the number of automation and scheduling services to help marketers manage their accounts.
However, for every reputable product that offers a genuinely useful service, there are dozens of dubious tools that serious marketers should steer well clear of.
First things first, there are two types of Instagram automation tool.
One is akin to a regular social media planning tool that we’re all familiar with by now; the kind that will enable you to create and schedule posts (though not all of them can auto-post for you).
Secondly, there’s the type of tool that no marketer worth their salt would consider using. These bot-based tools fully automate the entire Instagram experience by following and commenting for you – violating Instagram’s terms in the process.
Not only that, but the bot will follow so many accounts that your feed will become a mountain of trash, and letting a bot post comments that’ll be read by actual humans would be madness for any brand – however small.
It’s fair to say that separating the wheat from the chaff in this sector can be a considerable challenge. That’s why we thought we’d take one of the good guys for a test spin.
Hopper HQ Instagram scheduler
Hopper HQ came into being in 2015 via a UK-based start-up studio. It wants to be a semi-autonomous social media agency, posting content to your Instagram account when you want to post it.
It won’t scour Instagram for new followers, and mercifully it won’t comment on posts for you either. What it does do is provide you with a platform to create posts and schedule when you want them to be posted. Happily, it actually posts them for you as well.
Some similar tools will schedule posts but will then ping you a reminder or push notification to complete the posting process. This removes the convenience factor that makes scheduling tools tempting in the first place.
Not Hopper HQ, however. You can upload up to 50 posts in one go, and sit back in the knowledge that your account will be kept ticking over while you focus on the more creative elements of Instagram marketing.
As with all scheduling tools of this nature, you shouldn’t allow them to alter your normal posting style. Instagram was designed to be a mobile-based platform with spontaneity at its heart, so you should leave room for those spur-of-the-moment posts that will lend your marketing a more organic feel (you can ‘post now’ with Hopper HQ too).
That said, there’s a lot to be said for scheduling a batch of posts that you had in the planning pipeline anyway.
Instagram wouldn’t be Instagram without its filters, and luckily Hopper HQ comes with a range of editing features to ensure your snaps will look their best.
The editing panel gives you the ability to manipulate your photos to suit most tastes and even create memes – and it almost goes without saying that Hopper HQ auto-sizes all photos to the size required by Instagram.
You can also upload images from a wide range of sources that should cover all but the most obscure of bases, which should restrict frustrating dragging and dropping between folders.
You can add hashtags (of course), @mentions, captions and emojis, and there’s also an option to add the first comment to steer the conversation in an appropriate direction.
There’s also a nifty preview pane that shows you what your posts will look like on a phone.
Hopper HQ places all your scheduled posts into a queue, which has been designed to reflect Instagram’s visual theme. Posts are displayed in colour-coded tiles to give you an at-a-glace insight into what posts are going live on what day.
Handily, you can drag and drop posts to re-schedule them to your heart’s content. It’s a nice little feature, and if you have a touch-screen display you might be tempted to play around with it just for the sake of it. If you’ve seen Minority Report then you’ll know what we’re talking about.
There’s also a calendar view for those wanting a more traditional approach, though the drag-and-drop function is still available so you won’t be missing out.
If you want to re-post something, simply go into the History tab to select the post and then hit Reschedule. Remember, though, that regularly recycling posts will create a stale vibe so use this feature sparingly.
If your company has several sub-brands, or if you curate Instagram accounts for several companies, then Hopper HQ allows you to manage multiple accounts from a single log-in.
Sadly, though, there’s no workflow process in place. We would like to see the option to create draft posts and then send them up the chain for approval – it’s a commonplace feature in scheduling tools like this and is noticeable by its absence.
One other downside is that while there’s an iOS app, there’s no equivalent for Android. With Instagram so deeply embedded in our mobile culture, this is excluding a large group of potential users (though apparently this is in the offing).
There’s also no in-built analytics. While Hopper HQ shows you your posting frequency by hour, day and month, it doesn’t tell you how your posts are doing, or when the best time to post is.
However, good news is on the horizon: Hopper HQ’s next big update will include in-depth analytics so if you’re reading this after February 2018 then you’re in luck.
A ‘teams’ feature is also in the pipeline, which will enable the allocation of permissions and workflow approval processes. This will be a significant addition to the overall package, and will ensure it ticks almost all of the required boxes.
Finally, Hopper HQ claims to be the ‘only fully automated Instagram scheduling tool which is in line with Instagram’s terms and conditions’. This is important. Violating Instagram’s tools could lead to you being kicked off the platform, something that no brand could countenance.
Instead they’ve created a ‘virtual user’ that goes into your account and uploads the posts you’ve scheduled in Hopper HQ. It’s like having your own social media intern who will carry out your instructions to the letter.
Hopper pricing begins at $19 for one account on a monthly plan and goes as low as $7.65 per account for large yearly plans.
All plans come with a 14-day free trial so you won’t be charged unless you choose to stay with the tool.
If you’ve come to this review while searching for an Instagram scheduling and/or automation tool, then we seriously recommend you consider adding Hopper HQ to your shopping list.
There are so many dodgy Instagram tools out there that it’s refreshing to see someone doing it right.
As a scheduling tool it definitely has its faults; the lack of an Android app and approval chain is a shame. But beyond that it does the job it promises to do, and does it very well.
In our extensive testing, we found Hopper HQ a joy to use. It’s intuitive, easy on the eye and – most importantly – reliable. Try the 14-day free trial to make your own mind up. We’re confident it won’t disappoint.
Disclaimer: Our Social Times was compensated in return for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein belong to the author and were not influenced by the developing company and/or its affiliates in any way.