Instagram, with its staggering one billion monthly active users, remains a formidable platform for personal connections, brand marketing, and influencer impact. Amidst this massive sea of content, there's a critical factor that can profoundly affect your Instagram success - the timing of your posts. In this article, we will delve into the concept of the best time to post on Instagram, fortified with numbers and real-world examples, guiding you toward achieving maximum engagement.
Understanding the Instagram Algorithm
Before we jump into the specifics of when to post on Instagram, it's crucial to understand the platform's algorithm. Instagram's algorithm has evolved over the years, but its primary goal remains the same: to show users content that is most relevant to them. This means that your posts are more likely to be seen by your followers when they are actively using the platform.
The algorithm takes into account several factors to determine the visibility of your content:
Interest: Instagram assesses how much a user is likely to engage with a post based on their past interactions with your account.
Timeliness: Recent posts are given priority in users' feeds, so timing is crucial.
Frequency: How often a user opens the app can affect what they see. Frequent users might see posts that are a few hours old, while infrequent users might see posts from several days ago.
Following: If a user follows many accounts, Instagram's algorithm has to be selective about what it shows them.
Usage: The amount of time a user spends on Instagram in one session can also affect what they see.
Now that we have a basic understanding of how Instagram's algorithm works, let's explore the data-backed strategies for finding the best times to post on Instagram.
The General Rule of Thumb
While there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the best time to post on Instagram, there are some general guidelines that can help you get started. These guidelines are based on overall usage patterns and data from various studies. By understanding these general rules of thumb, you can develop a solid foundation for your Instagram posting strategy.
1. Weekdays vs. Weekends
Engagement tends to be higher on weekdays, with Tuesday and Thursday often cited as optimal days for posting. However, this doesn't mean you should neglect weekends entirely. The ideal posting days can vary depending on your target audience and niche.
Tuesday: This day is often recommended because it's early in the workweek, and people are looking for distractions or inspiration during their commutes or work breaks.
Thursday: Towards the end of the week, people are getting excited about the upcoming weekend. Posting on Thursday can tap into this anticipation.
Weekends: While weekends generally have lower engagement, they can be valuable for certain niches. For instance, lifestyle and travel content may perform well on Saturdays and Sundays when people have more leisure time.
What about Monday and Friday then?
Mondays and Fridays are often considered less optimal for posting on Instagram for several reasons:
Weekday Start and End: On Mondays, people are typically starting their workweek, catching up on emails, and adjusting to their routines. This can lead to reduced social media usage during the early part of the day. Similarly, on Fridays, many individuals are wrapping up their workweek and preparing for the weekend. They might be less engaged with Instagram as they focus on completing tasks.
🏃Morning Rush: Monday mornings, in particular, can be hectic for many people as they rush to start their week. This rush often means less time for leisurely scrolling through Instagram, resulting in lower engagement during the early hours.
🌴Weekend Effect: On Fridays, some users may already mentally shift into "weekend mode", which can translate into less time spent on Instagram. Conversely, on Monday evenings, users might be preoccupied with preparing for the week ahead, leading to lower evening engagement.
👀 Varying Audience Habits: While the general trends might show lower engagement on Mondays and Fridays, it's important to note that individual audience habits can vary widely. For some niches or audiences, these days might actually perform well. For instance, a business-oriented Instagram account might see higher engagement on Monday mornings as professionals check their social media while commuting or settling into their workday.
🏆Content Competition: Since many brands and individuals are aware of the lower engagement on Mondays and Fridays, they may avoid posting on these days. This can lead to reduced competition for visibility on the platform during those times, potentially benefiting those who choose to post strategically.
2. Morning vs. Evening
Mornings (around 8-9 AM) and evenings (around 5-6 PM) tend to see higher engagement. Again, this can vary depending on your audience's habits and your geographical location.
Morning: Posting in the morning can catch people as they start their day and check their social media. This is an excellent time for sharing motivational content, news updates, or anything that sets a positive tone for the day.
Evening: The evening hours, especially after work (5-6 PM), are often when people unwind and scroll through Instagram. This is a good time for lifestyle posts, recipes, or anything that can help users relax.
3. Avoiding Midnight Posts
Posting during the late-night hours, from midnight to 3 AM, generally leads to lower engagement. This is because most users are sleeping during this time. Unless your target audience includes night owls or international followers in different time zones, it's advisable to avoid these late-night hours.
Remember that these general guidelines serve as a starting point. To refine your strategy, it's essential to delve deeper into your specific audience's behavior and preferences.
4. The Role of Time Zones
Another critical factor to consider is the geographical distribution of your audience. If you have a global or diverse following, understanding time zones becomes crucial. For example, if you're based in New York but have followers in Tokyo, your posting schedule needs to cater to both time zones to ensure maximum engagement.
Tools and analytics provided by Instagram can help you determine when your international followers are most active. Leveraging this information, you can plan posts to reach a broader audience effectively.
Your Own Best Time to Post
Understanding the general rules of thumb is an excellent starting point, but to truly optimize your Instagram posting strategy, you need to personalize it based on your unique audience. Here are some tips to help you find your best time to post on Instagram:
1. Switch to a Business Account
If you haven't already, convert your Instagram account into a business account. This unlocks Instagram Insights, a valuable tool for analyzing your audience's activity.
2. Access Professional Dashboard
Once you have a business account, go to your profile, tap the bottom "Professional Dashboard" on the main page of your account. This is your gateway to valuable data about your followers.
3. Explore Follower Activity
In Insights, you'll find a section called "Followers." Here, you can see when your followers are most active on the platform.
4. Analyze the Data
Study the graph provided in the Followers section. It typically displays the days and times when your followers are online. This is your personalized guide to the best times to post.
5. Experiment and Adjust
Don't be afraid to experiment with different posting times based on your Insights data. Monitor the performance of your posts and adjust your schedule accordingly. Instagram Insights provides historical data that can help you track changes in engagement over time.
6. Consider Your Audience's Habits
Think about your audience's daily routines and habits. If you're targeting working professionals, posting during lunch breaks or after office hours might be effective. For a younger audience, evenings and weekends might work better.
7. Keep an Eye on Competitors
Look at when your competitors are posting and observe their engagement levels. While their strategy may not be perfect for your audience, it can provide valuable insights.
To illustrate the significance of posting at the right times, let's examine a few real-world examples of businesses and individuals who have benefitted from strategic timing:
1. National Geographic (@natgeo)
National Geographic, known for its stunning wildlife and travel photography, has over 280 million followers. They strategically post between 9 AM and 3 PM Eastern Time, targeting a global audience. This timing allows them to engage both with followers in the Americas and those in Europe and Africa, making the most of their international reach.
2. Starbucks (@starbucks)
Starbucks, a global coffeehouse chain, often posts between 10 AM and 2 PM in each time zone they serve. This means that when they post, it's usually morning or midday for their target audience, ensuring that their posts appear in users' feeds when they are considering their next coffee run.
3. Fitness Influencer (@fit_journey)
A fitness influencer with a predominantly US-based audience has discovered that her followers are most active between 6 AM and 9 AM Pacific Time. This knowledge allows her to share her daily workout routines and healthy recipes when her audience is looking for inspiration and guidance.
Finding the best time to post on Instagram is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. It requires a data-driven approach, leveraging Instagram Insights to understand your specific audience's habits and preferences. By aligning your posting schedule with when your followers are most active, you can increase engagement, reach a broader audience, and ultimately achieve greater success on this influential platform.
Remember that the Instagram algorithm is dynamic and can change. Continuously monitor your insights, stay attuned to trends in your niche, and be willing to adapt your posting schedule as needed. Instagram success is not solely about when you post but also about the quality and relevance of your content. Combining the two will undoubtedly help you grow and thrive on this visually engaging social platform.
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