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“What’s the best time to post on Instagram?”

Clients ask me this question all the time. If I were to rank my questions by popularity, it would be up there with “what do you take in your coffee?” and “how was your weekend?”

Just kidding. But clients do ask this question a lot – and they’re usually not expecting my answer.

You see, there is no magic hour to post on Instagram. Ideal posting time is an individual discovery.

The best time to post on a client’s architectural firm will be different than the best time to post on my outdoor adventure account.

That being said, there are accurate methods to analyze your best time to post on Instagram.

How To Find Your Best Time to Post on Instagram

1 – Understand what determines your ideal posting time.

In 2016, Instagram traded their chronological feed in favor of the algorithm. Posts are no longer ranked by the time they are posted. Rather, Instagram ranks posts by their engagement (likes, comments, shares, saves).

How does the algorithm affect posting times?

The Instagram algorithm favours posts that receive high levels of engagement. That’s why you are more likely to see posts from your favourite brands (lots of engagement, in an area you enjoy) before you see your grandma’s new haircut (sorry, grandma).

In the apocalyptic algorithm world, ideal posting time is heavily determined by engagement. It can be a vicious cycle.

  • If you don’t post at the right time, you miss engaging with your audience.
  • When you miss engaging with your audience, Instagram ranks you lower in the algorithm.
  • When Instagram ranks you lower, you receive even less engagement. Womp womp.

What else affects posting times?

In addition to post engagement, your ideal posting time is determined by a number of factors:

  • Target audience and demographics
  • Timezone and physical location
  • Moon cycles and tidal shifts

Did you catch that last one? Just seeing if you’re paying attention.

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of each of these factors, let’s talk about Instagram’s analytics feature.

2 – Utilize Instagram Analytics.

Instagram has a built-in analytics featured called Insights. Personal accounts don’t yet offer this feature; however, if you have a business account (here’s how to do it), you will be able to access your insights with the click of a button.

You can access Insights through your profile by clicking the chart icon beside your username. Once you launch Insights, you will see information on your account’s activity over the last 7 days.

Instagram Insights is an in-depth look at your account’s analytics.

With Insights, you get an inside look at your account statistics, including in-depth data on follower demographics, post performance, and audience activity. You can easily track, record, and measure the shifts in your Instagram account.

What specific data can you view with Instagram Insights?

  • Profile views
  • Website clicks
  • Email clicks
  • Follower fluctuations
  • Top locations
  • Audience activity times

Since we’re exploring the best time to post, we will focus on top locations and audience activity.

 

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3 – Analyze Your Audience

If you’re aiming to find the best time for you to post on social media, you need to look at your current statistics.

Who is your audience? When are they active on Instagram?

The answers to these questions will be different for every business. A dance club will be different than a dental office.

Where club-goers might check their social media accounts in the wee hours of the night, I’d bet that Sally isn’t browsing her dentist’s page at 2am. Unless Sally was at the club until 2am and only just remembered her 7am root canal.

You can view your current audience activity times on Insights.

As you can see in the below example, activity dips on Fridays and spikes on Sundays. I can take a closer look at follower activity by days and hours, noting that activity on Monday peaks around 12pm and dies down between 9pm and 6am.

Toggle between days and hours to get a stronger sense of which time works best for your current audience.

 

While keeping your audience in mind, you can begin to experiment with your post times, remembering to track and measure the results.

If you’re new to Instagram, or recently converted to a business account, your data might not be this obvious.

Generally speaking, I advise my clients to start with these generic post times:

TimeReason
7am-9amTo catch the morning crowd before work
12pmDuring the lunch hour, when most people have free time
5pm-7pmWhen everyone’s done work and checking their phones again

But what if your audience is all over the map? Literally?

4 – Find Your Ideal Time Zone.

Unless your Instagram account is laser-targeted to a specific area, you are likely reaching people in different time zones.

In that case, those “generic post times” become pretty awkward.

If your target audience lives in London and you live in Seattle, which time zone should you choose?

The answer should be obvious: London time. Because that’s the time your target audience uses.

Again, you can head to Instagram Insights to view the top locations of your current following.

Countries like the United States and Canada have multiple time zones.

In the above example, you can see that the majority of my audience lives in the United States. That pretty much rules out any London folks (see ya, Greenwich Mean Time).

But it still doesn’t give me a straight answer for what time zone I should use, considering the United States has multiple.

Viewing your locations by cities will narrow down your ideal time zone.

By toggling to the cities tab in my top locations, I can further analyze where my audience lives. Based on the above example, I should stick to Pacific Standard Time to reach Vancouver, Los Angeles, and Victoria. My secondary time zone would be Mountain Time to accommodate those followers in Denver and Calgary.

What does Insights say about which time zone you should use?

Take a look at your current analytics and get back to me! Either leave me a note in the comments or hit me up on Instagram!

5 – Experiment and Track Your Findings

Finding your best time to post on Instagram means focusing on what the majority of your audience will see and engage with, so you can beat the algorithm and rank higher in your target audience’s feed.

As you grow and your audience becomes more targeted, your data will change.

Remember to keep checking your analytics through Instagram Insights. Keep a running log – either on paper or in a spreadsheet – and record your findings.

Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Just the other day I tried posting at 7am instead of my usual 1pm. I learned pretty quickly that it was a bad move. Within a few minutes, I could tell that I had half the amount of engagement that I usually receive on similar posts. Suffice to say, 7am is not my friend (in business nor in life).

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