Instagram is hot, we all know it but it is limited currently to mobile only. This means that if you want to upload photos you need to do so on your phone or tablet and login / logout if you want to manage multiple accounts. However, some enterprizing people have found ways arround that and we took them for a test drive review to see how they stack up!
The first solution is that used by Curalate and a couple others where you upload the images and schedule them via a web interface and then publish via phone. This is probable the most "white hat" of any automated solution out there but it is burdensome if you want to post something at 7 a.m. and no one is at their phone to press "go".
On the other hand, there are some "grey hat" solutions for managing Instagram on a PC through your web interface. ScheduGram and Instapult both offer solutions offer solutions to manage Instagram through a web interface to upload the images, schedule, and post them but the methods each uses to do so are radically different.
I have been using ScheduGram for the past few months, it is easy to use and with features like the ability to bulk upload, add a second comment in addition to the description, and photo editing features it is absolutely the most advanced. The solution that ScheduGram uses is to send the images to a server (located in Australia) where the posts are executed through a bank of actual tablets running the offcial Instagram App. By doing so, the company believes they are as compliant as possible to the "letter of the law" in the Instagram Terms of Service.
The actual interface is good but could use work to make it as polished as similar tools for other platforms. Despite this, it works and has some very good features including:
- Bulk Upload - simply upload the photos you want to post all at one time and then write in the description
- Photo Editing - while Instagram offers different filters, ScheduGram offers advanced functionality similar to that offered by some 3rd party apps to edit the photo, adjust color, add text overlay, or even add stickers such as a funny hat or glasses.
- First Comment - instead of being limited to just the photo caption like you write when using the official Instagram app, ScheduGram allows you to post your hashtags and other notes as the first comment. This makes your content seem less spammy when it is picked up by other social networks (for instance if you auto-post your Instagram feed to Twitter or Facebook). However because the hashtags are there the photo will still appear in searches so you get more exposure to people looking to discover your content.
As I mentioned, I have been using ScheduGram for the past several months and while it is not immune to occasional issues I have found the owner, Hugh Stephens, extremely responsive and even pro-active in encouraging his clients to post meaningful posts vs using the tool for spamming people.
ScheduGram starts at $12.05 / month (converted from $13 AUD) for one account, though I recommend the $40 package which includes access to manage 5 Instagram accounts and will include basic analytics (coming soon). ScheduGram also offers custom Enterprise packages with dedicated hardware for those who are concerned about the security risk of sharing a server and tablet with other businesses and managed by someone outside their control.
On the other hand, Instapult was created by a group of Russian hackers who have brilliantly reverse engineered the API so that it posts directly.
Their interface is clean and extremely well designed but features are more limited in terms of image editing, bulk uploading etc.
Despite this though, I have found it to be extremely easy to use if all you need is the ability to post something that has already been edited in a different program.
One feature of Instapult that I like a lot is the fact that it displays the past images as a nice large thumbnail (including those posted by other apps external to itself). This helps make it easier to manage your Instagram feed since you can at a glance look at it and see what's worked well and what hasn't.
Instapult starts at $12 for 3 accounts + 1 administrator and goes up to $39 / month for 20 accounts. While this makes it a fraction of the price, you should take into consideration that the service breaks the Instagram Terms of Service (vs bending it like ScheduGram does).
ScheduGram vs Instapult Which is Better For Managing Instagram?
Overall, both solutions I reviewed above do a good job but they are both susceptible to changes in Instagram's changes including policy updates since neither of them is officially sanctioned. Additionally, both have issues when Instagram recognizes that a device has connected from Germany (Instapult) or Australia (ScheduGram) but that is more of an annoyance vs anything else.
Additionally, neither offers true management of anything beyond the posting of content, so you will still need another service. This is where tools like Curalate come in handy as they do an amazing job at that (though at an Enterprise-level price).
The issue for me comes down to price, needs, and your comfort level with using tools that are clearly "grey" and present some risk to the brand.
If you just have one account and want advanced features like the ability to write text over the image, eliminate red-eye, etc. then using ScheduGram at roughly $12.05 / month for one account is a GREAT option. On the other hand, if you are an agency with a bit of budget then paying the $37 / month for 5 accounts isn't that bad either since ScheduGram clearly has a more advanced editing feature and an excellent level of personalized.
However, if you are "stuck in the middle" or just plain cheap, Instapult is a amazing option with a pricing model starting at only $12 / month for 3 accounts. I can't speak to their customer service as I haven't used it long enough during this review to have problems.
At the end of the day, I have reviewed both of them and they each of good and bad elements so it is up to you to make the decision that works best for your business.
For me and our clients though, I plan to stay with ScheduGram because I trust the methodology behind the tool more.