Editor’s Note: Thanks to an update to the Instagram API, Instagram Partners like Agorapulse are now able to offer completely hands-free publishing & scheduling to Instagram business profiles. Learn more here.
Scheduling your Instagram posts is frustrating.
Your social media management software just doesn’t provide the same kind of high quality support for Instagram that it does for the other networks.
While you can create and schedule posts, you still have to do the physical posting yourself. The streamlined, intuitive process you use for Facebook posts and Tweets just isn’t there.
It’s because Instagram has a closed application programming interface (API) that affects how it interacts with third party social media management apps.
How third party social media management apps really work
A social media network like Facebook or Twitter grants third party developers access to an application programming interface (or API) that allows the applications to communicate.
Your social media management software acts as an intermediary, facilitating communication between you and your accounts. It is authorised to publish on your behalf, but it does not have access to any sensitive information like your password or any other data that you haven’t given it explicit permission to access.
When you give the app your login name and password, you are actually logging into a secure Facebook environment (see screenshot.)
And, to make sure that you remain happy with the arrangement, and for extra security, your social media platform will check in occasionally and ask you to confirm or revoke your authorisation.
Instagram doesn’t work like that.
Unlike the other major social media platforms, Instagram’s API only allows third party developers to build non-automated apps that don’t allow users to schedule posts on their behalf.
That’s what lies at the heart of the dilemma.
As software developers, we want to make life as easy as possible for our user base. But, Instagram’s limited API prevents us from providing the intuitive experience users expect while keeping sensitive information safe and honoring the terms of service.
That’s why different developers have come up with creative solutions that can be broken down into two broad categories: direct publishing and indirect publishing.
The Direct Publishing Method
Certain developers created a tool that bypasses the issues with Instagram’s API. I’m aware of at least 10 distinct apps that offer this type of service.
They built a tool, purely for Instagram, that offers the kind of integrated user experience that’s very similar to what you get through your usual social media management platform. You can create, schedule and publish your posts in the same way you would for Facebook.
The Indirect Publishing Solution
The major social media management platforms that support Instagram scheduling went down a different path. They developed the functionality that allows users to create an Instagram post via their social media management dashboard and schedule it like you would any other post.
At the chosen time, the app sends you a notification that the post is ready to go. To post it, you open up an associated mobile app (the MavSocial app is called MAV2GO) that then posts to Instagram.
Compared to the direct publishing process this solution seems completely archaic.
Why are major social media management platforms lagging behind?
It all comes back to Instagram’s limited API- it makes it impossible to use automation to schedule posts.
While apps that use the direct method give off the illusion of automation, they have to physically upload your post to Instagram at the time you picked.
And to do that, they need your secure information.
They circumvent the no-automation rule by logging in with your details and pretending to be you.
How do they get your username and password?
When you sign into one of these apps, they ask for your login and password, just like any other social media management system (see screen shot below of a login screen from one of these tools.)
But, unlike the social media management tools which act like intermediaries, when you log into these apps you are giving them unrestricted access to your Instagram account!
Giving someone unrestricted access to a social media account is a pretty big deal.
How many of your friends and family would you really give that kind of power to?
And what about complete strangers? Would you give it to me if I asked for it really nicely?
I doubt it!
While these developers could be the most honest, trustworthy people in the world do you really know how they are going to handle your information?
Do you know where they are based and what laws they are subject to? Do you know how they handle data or what their plan is if they get hacked?
Because someone with access to your username and password can hijack your account and change all your information. They can wreak havoc on your account and destroy what you’ve built.
And, if you are an agency or freelancer, managing accounts on behalf of others you will be in for a very interesting conversation with your clients!
There are no protections in place to prevent this. It’s pure trust.
Sometimes the risk isn’t worth it.
Posting on Instagram is a pain. As software providers we do our best to make the experience as easy for our clients as possible.
If it was possible to keep your information safe and integrate Instagram into your posting experience, we would all be doing this already.
It is not.
As soon as Instagram releases a publishing API, we will be adding it to MavSocial and Mav2Go will be history. And I am confident the others will do the same.
Until then, we do the best with what we are given and keep our users safe.
That’s why MavSocial, along with the other major social media management solution providers, have chosen to do Instagram scheduling via a mobile app.
It may be a little inconvenient, but it keeps your information and accounts safe and secure.