Scheduling Instagram posts, reels, stories, and notifications

When you're using Buffer to publish to Instagram, you can either publish automatically to Instagram or set a notification to finish the post in the Instagram app yourself. This applies to reels and stories, too. Learn more about how to use notification based publishing for Instagram here.

In this article:

  1. Automatic vs. notification based publishing
  2. Features available by Instagram post type
  3. Creating your Instagram post, reel, or story
  4. How to add a thumbnail to your video
  5. Adding a location
  6. Tagging users in images
  7. Using Hashtag Manager
  8. Scheduling a first comment
  9. Adding Shop Grid links

Automatic vs. notification publishing - which is right for my post?

Certain features (like scheduling a first comment) are available when publishing automatically to Instagram, while others (like adding music to a reel or stickers to a story) can only be added if you set a notification and finish the post yourself on Instagram.
Every time you create a post, story, or reel in Buffer, you can choose one of the following options:
Automatic publishing
Set it and forget it. Buffer will automatically post on your behalf so that you can focus on other things, like replying to comments or creating new content.
Notification publishing
Add story stickers, music, product tags, story links, and enjoy more creative control. Buffer will set up your post, send you a notification, and help you finish the post yourself on Instagram.

If the image or video within your post falls outside of Instagram's accepted aspect ratio ranges, it cannot be scheduled for automatic publishing and will be scheduled as a notification instead.

GIF of automatic vs. notifications based publishing for Instagram

Features available by Instagram post type

The table below shows which features you can access when scheduling a post for automatic publishing and which features are available using notifications.

  Post Reel Story

(up to 10, between 4:5 and 1.91:1 aspect ratio)


(suggested aspect ratio is 9:16)


✓ (1)

(video must be between 4:5 and 16:9 aspect ratio)

✓ (1)

(video must be between 4:5 and 16:9 aspect ratio, and may not exceed 1920 pixels horizontally)

(recommended size is 9:16; frame rate must be between 23 fps and 60 fps)

Video length between 3 and 60 seconds 5 seconds and 15 minutes for reels between 3 and 60 seconds
Tagging users ✓ (Only if set as a notification) X
Tagging users in images X X
Adding a location X
First comment ✓ (not supported for notifications) X
Hashtag manager X
Shop Grid X X
✓ (Only if scheduled as a notification)
✓ (Only if scheduled as a notification)
✓ (Only if scheduled as a notification)
Story Text
✓ (Only if scheduled as a notification)
Story Link
✓ (Only if scheduled as a notification)
✓ (Only if scheduled as a notification)
Tag Products
✓ (Only if scheduled as a notification)
✓ (Only if scheduled as a notification)
Collaborator post
✓ (Only if scheduled as a notification)
✓ (Only if scheduled as a notification)

Good to Knows

  • We are unable to hide the number of likes from Instagram posts or reels. To hide the number of likes on your post, you can view the published post on Instagram and use the Hide Likes feature on the post.
  • Instagram posts sent through Buffer will not automatically publish to Facebook, even if the setting is turned on within the Instagram app. This is due to API limitations.

Creating your Instagram post, reel, or story 

  1. To get started, select your Instagram account on the left-hand side of your dashboard.
  2. Open the composer at the top of your queue.
  3. Choose to schedule your post as a PostReelor Story.

Buffer web - choose an Instagram post type

  1. Upload the image(s) or video you want to include in your post. 


  • Videos must be 100 MB or smaller.
  • Instagram creator accounts cannot schedule Instagram stories for automatic publishing. Instead, they'll need to be scheduled as a notification.
  • Instagram carousel posts do not support mixed media, meaning you will not be able to create a post containing both an image and video.
  • For Instagram carousel posts (i.e. multiple images in one post), once the first photo is selected, all of the following photos or videos selected will be cropped to the same aspect ratio. For example, if the first photo you select is square (1:1), all of your other images will be cropped to a 1:1 format. This is the same when posting to Instagram natively.
  • If your image or video falls outside of Instagram's accepted aspect ratio range, it will get scheduled as a notification and will need to be posted manually. Learn more about how to finish publishing using notifications here.
  1. Type in or copy and paste the caption you'd like to use. (Note: to include a caption for a story or music to a reel, you’ll need to schedule it as a notification).
  2. Use the toggle to choose between Automatic (to publish automatically) or Notify Me (to schedule as a notification).
    • Note: If you choose Add Sticker and select a feature that is not supported for automatic posting, such as Music, Tag Product, Text, Link, or Topics we'll switch your post to Notify Me so you'll get a notification and you can finish posting in Instagram. We'll also generate a text box for each Sticker so you can leave yourself a note about what music, text, story links, products or topics you want to add in the Instagram app when you finish publishing your post, reel, or story.

Toggling between Automatic and Notify Me posting options in Buffer web composer

Visit our Using notification based publishing for Instagram guide for a walk-through of how to finish publishing your post once the notification comes to your phone).

  1. Schedule your post using one of our scheduling options and you're done!

How to add a thumbnail to your video

By default, the first frame of the video (0 seconds) will be used as the thumbnail. If you'd like to change your thumbnail, you'll follow these steps:

  1. Once your video has finished uploading, click Edit Thumbnail,
  2. Drag the slider to the position in the video you'd like to use as the cover/thumbnail image. (For Facebook and Instagram, we do not recommend using the last frame as the thumbnail, as there is a bug that will cause an error and prevent the post from publishing).
  3. Click Save.

Adding a location

If you'd like to add a location to your post or reel, start typing any location name or type the name of a Facebook Page you'd like to point to the location of.

Instagram location field

Tagging users in images

User tagging is only available on posts published automatically. It’s not available for reels or stories.

  1. After uploading an image to your post, click the Tag button on the image.
  2. Click the location on the image you’d like to add a tag, enter the @ handle and then click Add Tag.

Buffer's Instagram tagging screen with @lunaoriginals entered in the composer

  1. A link to the Instagram account will appear on the right hand side. You’re able to add up to 20 tags on an image for a single image post.
  • For carousel posts, the tagged accounts in the image are carried over for each image in the carousel. When this happens, each image tag is added together for a total. If your draft has more than 20 tags, you may see an error and will need to edit the tags down for the carousel post to successfully publish.
  • Please note: all tags in the first image automatically carry over to all other images in the carousel, counting towards the limit.
  • If you need to remove a tag, click the x icon to the left of it on the right hand side. Once you’ve finished adding your tags, click Save and then continue scheduling your post as normal.

Buffer Instagram tagging screen with @lunaoriginals tagged in an image of white sneakers and hands in the air

📝 Notes

  • Due to limitations in Instagram's API, we can't auto-complete the @ handle, and you will need to enter the exact @ handle of the Instagram user you’d like to mention.
  • We would strongly encourage you to check each link on the right-hand side to make sure the correct @ handle has been entered.
  • Posts with tags for private or non-existent users will fail.

⭐️ The features below are on our paid plans.

Using Hashtag manager

Hashtags are a great way to make your posts more discoverable on Instagram. Our hashtag manager makes it easy to create and save groups of hashtags so that you can build a library of options, experiment with different variations, and easily reuse your top-performing hashtags. Learn more about how hashtags work in Buffer here.

You can find it by clicking the # symbol in the composer. Then, click Create Hashtag Group to start saving your favorite hashtags!

Instagram Hashtag Manager

Scheduling a first comment

If your post or reel is set to be published automatically, you'll also have the option to include a first comment. Adding a first comment is helpful if you want to incorporate any information not ideally shown in your caption. 

All you need to do to ensure a comment publishes at the same time as your post is to type your first comment into the first comment field. That's it! 🎉 You now have a comment in the queue and ready to publish alongside your Instagram caption.

Instagram first comment on Buffer web

Adding Shop Grid links

If you're using Shop Grid, add the link you'd like to direct users to within the Shop Grid Link field.

Have other questions about scheduling your Instagram content? Reach out to us via and we'll be happy to help!

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