If you follow our blog, you’ve probably seen a post or two about the best times to post on Facebook.
This is a pretty common question, and it’s one marketers have been trying to answer through multiple algorithm changes and shifting usage of the social media site for years.
A lot of the time, we’ll look at Facebook as the gold standard; if we could just crack this one, it will be like the holy grail for all of our social media marketing.
Unfortunately, while knowing the best times to post on Facebook are important, it doesn’t mean that you’ve magically solved social media marketing if you’ve figured it out.
Instead, you are likely to find that the best times to post on Facebook are not the same as the best times to post on Instagram.
There may be some overlap, but the two platforms are very different and should be approached accordingly.
So what are the best times to post on Instagram?
And does it even matter now that the algorithm shows users content based on perceived interest level instead of time posted? (Spoiler alert: yes).
In this post, we’re going to answer all these questions and show you how to get the most out of these best times as possible.
The Best Times to Post on Instagram
The exact best time for your business will be unique to your individual business, no matter what the data says. You’ll want to test this out for yourself to see when your audience is actually online. If you’re targeting working professionals, for example, they’ll have very different hours than college students who stay up until 3 AM.
That being said, there are some general best times to post on Instagram that you can use as guidelines to test out. And when it comes to data, here’s what we found:
- To target international audiences, the best times to post on Instagram fall around 2 AM and 5 PM EST which is when most people on the app will be online.
- According to this same study, 9 AM and 6 PM EST were the two worst times to post for engagement.
- To target local audiences, posting either before work (between 7-9AM in your time zone) or after it (starting as early as 5 PM) can help you catch users while they’re commuting and getting settled in for the day.
- Another study from CoSchedule says that the best time to post is on Tuesdays at 2 PM, disagreeing with the above findings.
It’s pretty easy to see where some of the information starts to get muddled. There’s a lot of conflicting advice, and if you dig deeper into the research, you’ll only find more of that instead of less.
However, there is one thing that most studies agree on: weekdays are often the best days to posts.
After posting over 1,000 photos and videos throughout the day and night, the Hootsuite social marketing team found that…
Depending on your business, Monday and Thursday can be the very top, followed by Wednesdays. Sundays are awful.
While I’ve personally found Friday to be low on engagement, I overall agree with this assessment from my own experience.
Thursdays always get exceptional engagement for some reason as long as the post is good, and Sunday is an uphill battle unless you have a specific anniversary date you want to post on.
Does Timing Actually Matter?
Within the past couple of years, Instagram shifted to a relevance-based algorithm instead of a purely chronological one.
Users now see content based on several factors that contribute to how much Instagram thinks they want to see it instead of a feed of the most recent to the least recent posts in order.
But here’s the thing.
Timing still does matter.
It actually matters quite a bite.
Several months ago, Instagram actually shared how their algorithm works.
There are three key factors that affect what content is prioritized and what users see.
Users will be shown content similar to content that they’ve interacted with in the past.
Users who interact with your specific profile more often are most likely to see your content moving forward.
Yep, this is why timing matters so much. More recent content will be prioritized, especially if it’s performing well.
Timeliness itself matters for several reasons.
The first is obvious: if your content has been recently posted around a peak posting time, you could get an edge. That’s a plus.
But posting at peak times could also help you get bigger hits of engagement at the beginning of its lifespan. Those surges will give you momentum needed for the post to stay towards the top of the feed throughout the day.
And, even better, it means that more users are interacting with it, so it’s a spiral effect and they’ll be more likely to see your next post, too.
I’ve tested this on my own more times than I can count, just to make sure.
Posts that go up at 2 AM get almost no engagement (permanently), even if they’re strong, while those posted at peak times will have the strongest engagement. They’ll continue to get likes and comments over a day or so.
Timing also matters for Stories, which are hugely popular and get a ton of engagement and views.
When your Stories are recent, they’ll be shown at the top of users’ feeds. And trust me, you’d rather be at the beginning when users are interested than at the end, which they may not even reach.
Although we’ve outlined the best general times to post on Instagram, it’s important to tailor your posting times specifically for your followers.
Let’s take a look at how to do that.
How to Find Your Personal Best Times to Post on Instagram
Really, finding the best days and times to post on Instagram relies on you doing some serious testing. There is one big shortcut that you can and should use to get you started, however.
All businesses should have their Instagram profiles set as a business account. This allows you to access their incredible analytics feature Insights. These Insights give you information on everything from which posts are doing well to some general (anonymous) information about your followers… including what times they’re online.
If you go to the Followers section of Instagram’s Insights and click on “learn more,” you’ll see a full page of information about your followers.
Scroll past gender, age, and top locations and you’ll see a visual graph showing the days and times that your Instagram followers are most active.
This will show you your peak posting times pretty quickly.
I’ve had good luck with posting content right before peak posting times, and then letting that initial surge carry the posts.
Test this strategy and see if it works for you; track engagement from post to post, and pay careful attention as you fine-tune your posting schedule.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Best Times
Want to make sure that you never miss one of these golden windows of opportunity? The solution is to use scheduling software like Hootsuite.
Since life gets busy and you don’t want to wait around on your phone to get your post online at exactly 10:13 in the morning, this can be a huge advantage.
Once you’ve hammered out your ideal Instagram posting times, you can also try running your Instagram Ads only during peak hours if you’re on a limited budget.
Keep in mind that if you’re running these ads during high competition hours, this may actually increase CPC.
Still, it can be worth split testing, especially if your peak posting times don’t typically coincide with others.
What if I Have a Diverse Audience?
Long gone are the days when businesses are restricted to only local audiences who live near them. Now, increasing numbers are brands are having audiences that span multiple time zones, if not continents.
So if you have audiences all the way from the UK to Alaska, how are you supposed to find peak posting times?
In the case that your audience spans more than one or two bordering time zones, your analytics might get a little muddled. There is a good chance that you won’t be seeing the distinct peak posting times like you would with more localized audiences; there won’t be dramatic rise and falls. It might look a little like this:
There are several things that you can do in this case, and I recommend testing each to see what works for you. Options include:
- Stagger your posts to try to reach diverse audiences. If some of your audience is online at 8 AM and you have theories that audiences in another demographic or time zone might be online at 10 at night, go ahead and regularly post at both times. Post original content each time, but you can overlap content strategies and even text with new images. Initial high engagement on each could carry it through to users on the other time zone, but this gives you the best bet at connecting with everyone. Over time, track their engagement and see what’s getting you results.
- Tailor your timing to your most valuable audience. Do you suspect that your most valuable, profitable clients online at a certain time? Choose posting times in order to most effectively reach them, and increase the likelihood of actual sales and conversions. This will be particularly beneficial if you have enough followers to have the “See More” swipe up feature in Stories.
- <Focus your strategy on your most engaged audiences. If your posts are getting higher engagement rates at certain hours and decent impressions, make sure you’re posting then. As we’ve discussed before, those high engagement rates will increase the lifespan of your post, so it’s absolutely a necessity to focus on, even if they’re not the most high-value audiences.
As you’re running tests, keep an eye on both engagement and impressions and how they’re interacting. A lot of impressions are good, but engagement rate is also essential. Remember, posts with higher engagement rates (engagement/impressions) will perform better and help your reach long term, so watch for posting times that give you the best combination possible.
What Else Can I Do to Increase Reach?
Peak posting times is only one way to increase your overall reach, and if you’re here to learn about the best times to post on Instagram, there’s a good chance you’re looking for other reach-building strategies, too. Timeliness, after all, is only one factor in the algorithm.
Here are a few more strategies you can use to get more impressions (and hopefully more results) on Instagram:
- Use the right hashtags. Hashtags can do a lot for your reach on Instagram, especially now that users can follow hashtags that interest them. In addition to using your branded hashtag, add hashtags to your content that will put you in front of your target audience.
- Focus on engagement-building techniques. Ask users for their opinions. Encourage users to tag a friend in a comment for a chance to win a prize. Respond to all comments to make your social proof look even more impressive, and to keep the comments coming. All of this will help keep your post at the top of the feed.
- Share more Stories. As long as a user watches their Stories stream long enough, your post will show up. And there’s less competition in Stories, in many cases, than the feed on a regular basis. So use more Stories to increase your reach and get your message out more often to your target audience.
- Keep an eye on your analytics overall. You’ll get better reach if you get higher engagement rates. And what better what to do that than identify your highest-performing content and see what you can learn from it? Check out your analytics using Instagram’s analytics or third party tools like Hootsuite to watch for trends in high-performing content in terms of post type (video, multiple image post, etc.), topic, and even description length. See what works, and do more of that.
Identifying the best times to post on Instagram and using scheduling software to hit every single one can help you see dramatic growth in your Instagram engagement.
While the algorithm has changed the priority of the order that posts are shown in, uploading your post during peak times can help it get the early traction it needs to rank highly within the algorithm, so these best times shouldn’t be ignored.
Don’t forget to use analytics software to determine the post time to post for your audience to get the most out of your Instagram marketing.
What do you think? What are the best times to post on Instagram for your business? Do you schedule posts in advance? How did you find the optimal posting time? Leave us a comment and let us know what you think!