Many businesses don’t realize that to be successful on Instagram, it’s essential to time your posts correctly. When you post matters a lot for visibility and conversions.
However, it’s not always easy for everyone to figure out the best time to post on Instagram.
This article explains in depth how to determine the best posting time on Instagram and contains a helpful cheat sheet you can follow when scheduling your posts.
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Before I explain why it’s so critical to post at specific times, I felt it’s important to review some recent Instagram algorithm updates.
In the past, Instagram posts always appeared in chronological order in people’s newsfeeds. When someone opened the Instagram app, they would see posts from people they were following, with the most recently-published posts always appearing first.
All that changed in 2016 when Instagram introduced an algorithm that determined the order of how posts appear in people’s newsfeeds. Instead of using purely chronological order, Instagram’s algorithms arrange the order of posts based on the following:
- How often a user interacted with a particular account in the past
- The user’s relationship with the accounts they follow (posts from accounts of close friends that they engage with frequently would show up first)
- Publishing time (it is still a factor, as posts that were published a day ago are typically given priority over posts published a week ago)
- How often the user opens Instagram
- How many people they follow
At the time, there was a significant backlash from users trying to adapt to the new changes. People were used to seeing the most recent posts.
In the past, they could log on a few times a day and scroll through their feeds until they came across the update they viewed the last time they logged on. Now, however, they found themselves missing a lot of posts their friends shared.
Similarly, businesses and influencers now found that many of their posts were not being seen, as the algorithms were hiding them in favor of other posts.
However, Instagram stuck to its guns, mainly because the new algorithm allowed it to increase ad revenue by interspersing the news feed with suggested posts and ads.
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Fast-forward to 2022, and Instagram reintroduced the chronological order newsfeed, mainly due to pressure from lawmakers on unfair algorithms that could spread misinformation.
However, instead of replacing the default algorithm altogether, Instagram reintroduced the chronological order algorithm under an entirely separate news feed – and it’s not the default one.
Users now have to press down on the Instagram logo at the top of the page to reveal a drop-down menu and select the “Following” option to see posts from people they follow in chronological order.
Instagram now also allows users to “favorite” the accounts they love the most. Users can also access a separate “Favorites” news feed with posts only from accounts they have favorited.
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Many small business owners post on Instagram whenever they have time, failing to realize that timing their posting activity is so important. Here’s why you need to have a precise schedule for your Instagram posting activity.
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Knowing when to post will help you get more visibility.
Because many Instagram users are now choosing to see posts in chronological order, posting at the right time is critical, as it will allow you to appear at the top of the newsfeed at times when Instagram users actually open the app. You want your post to be the first they see.
However, even for followers using the default news feed that uses an algorithm to determine the order of posts, timing is still critical. As Instagram said in a tweet, timeliness is still one of the factors that the algorithm uses.
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It’s not only about getting seen more often. You also want to catch users at a time when they are likely to engage.
Someone might log onto Instagram when they are bored and distracted but also in a rush. In those cases, they might not have the time or mental focus to really pay attention to your post and like, comment, or share it.
Posting at times when people are more open to engaging will help boost your account. You’ll get more likes, comments, and shares, which will lead to quicker follower growth.
Besides, when people engage with your posts, you will start appearing more often at the top of their feeds (when they use the default feed). Remember, how much a user has engaged with an account in the past is one of the most significant factors the algorithm pays attention to when determining post order.
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Finally, posting at the right time won’t just lead to more engagement, but it will also lead to more actual conversions. Whether you’re looking to increase sales or get email subscribers, using smart CTAs in your posts at the right times will help you reach your goals.
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So, when is the best time to post on Instagram? Ultimately, that depends on factors such as your niche, your target audience, and how frequently you post.
However, there have been many studies attempting to determine the overall best time to post on Instagram, so let’s take a look at what they have found.
One of the most comprehensive studies on this subject comes from Sprout Social, which thoroughly analyzed data from over 30,000 customers across many industries.
Overall, the best times to post on Instagram were on Tuesday and Wednesday from 10 AM to 1 PM. Tuesday and Wednesday were the best days to post on Instagram overall.
Monday at 11 AM was also a great time to post. On Thursday and Friday, 10 AM to 11 AM were the best times to post.
That’s no surprise when you think about it. During the weekdays, people are often bored during work, especially late in the morning, when they are waiting for their lunch break, and during lunchtime.
To distract themselves, they often spend time on Instagram and other social media apps. This is a bit less applicable to Mondays, though, when people have a new work week, are less tired, and have more work projects to attend to.
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That’s why Monday has a more limited time slot – around 11 AM only. Similarly, on Thursday and Friday, people are less bored, knowing the weekend is coming; they also might have more things to finish up before the end of the week.
In addition to late morning and lunchtime, a good time to post during the week is 5–8 PM, when people are off work and lazing around at home. Often, they’ve got nothing planned and have time to spend on social media and on the internet in general.
Early morning isn’t a bad time to post, either, as people are just waking up and checking their phones and social media feeds to see what they missed.
Sunday is the worst day to post on Instagram. On Sunday, people are typically hanging out with friends and family and are less active on social media.
Unlike weekday evenings, people regularly have activities planned for the weekend. That’s why Friday night also scored lower than other weekday evenings, as people are going out to bars or hanging out with friends.
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A lot of articles discussing the best times to post on Instagram give you endless time points that only serve to confuse you. To make things a bit simpler, I’ve created a simple cheat sheet to show you the best times to post on Instagram.
I used a simple four-color color coding scheme.
- Green is the best time to post.
- Orange is almost as good as green, but green gets more engagement.
- Yellow is not bad, either.
- Red is the worst time to post.
Let’s break that down by day of the week:
- Monday: On Monday morning, people are rushing to work, so it’s not a great time to post. Once they get there, they may check their Instagram, but they feel fresh and less distracted.
- Tuesday & Wednesday: The mid-week slump starts to hit, and people start slacking off. They are more lethargic in the morning, both when waking up and during mid-morning. Lunchtime is a time when they are particularly bored.
- Thursday: People are a bit more focused on work from mid-morning to lunchtime.
- Friday: People are more focused on work (despite a short morning slump), especially as the day goes by and they realize how much they have to finish before they finish work. On Friday evenings, however, they are more likely to be out than during the week.
- Saturday: People are generally off their phones except for a brief period during the morning.
- Sunday: People have activities planned.
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As I said, not every business is the same. The above is just a general rule, but your mileage may vary.
Depending on your audience, you may have to slightly adjust your posting time to get the best results. Here is how to figure out when the best time to post is for your business.
The first step is understanding your audience. If your audience is the average white-collar office worker, the above does apply.
However, if they are stay-at-home moms who don’t have a standard work schedule, things might be a bit different. That’s why it’s essential to understand your audience instead of just going by the general rule.
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Another thing you must take into account is which time zone the majority of your audience is located in. Even if you go by the table above, when is it 10 AM–12 PM for your followers?
You might be located on the East Coast, but if your audience is on the West Coast, you need to adapt your posting schedule to that.
What if your audience is spread out over several time zones or several regions of the world? Boosting your posting schedule and posting several times a day so that your posts hit at 10 AM in different parts of the world is a strategy that might work.
If you don’t want to post too often, another option is posting once a day but at different times. For example, you might target your audience on the West Coast on Monday, your East Coast followers on Tuesday, and your UK followers on Wednesday, hitting 10 AM in a different time zone every day.
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A/B split-testing is one of the most effective ways to figure out when the best time to post is for your audience. Post at different times and track your engagement.
Do you notice any patterns?
What times of the day bring the most likes and comments? Which days of the week seem to be most effective for you?
To get an accurate picture, you may need several weeks or months of testing to determine the exact times and, on which days of the week, you should be posting.
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It’s also helpful to simply ask your followers when they are most active, when they are most likely to engage with your Instagram posts, and when they are most likely to purchase products from Instagram.
You can send these surveys to your email list, post them on your Instagram story, or publish them on your website. While targeting your actual Instagram followers is best, people who are your target audience and frequent Instagram users will provide helpful insights, even if they don’t actually follow you on Instagram.
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While timing your posts correctly is essential, it’s just one of many factors you must keep in mind when trying to boost engagement on Instagram. Here are some other tips that will help you get more likes and shares when posting on Instagram.
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Posting at the exact correct times can be time-consuming. You have a business to run, meetings to attend, and employees to supervise; you can’t always be available at 10 AM on Tuesday morning to publish a post.
That’s where scheduling tools come into the picture. I recommend Hootsuite or Buffer; both are well-known names in the industry and established companies that have been around for a while.
A scheduling tool allows you to boost productivity and save time by scheduling social media posts in advance.
Note: Even if you schedule posts in advance, you should monitor your account daily, so you can respond to messages and posts. To boost engagement, you need to engage with your followers in real time.
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Remember what I said about the default Instagram algorithm using prior engagement to determine post order?
Let’s examine the following scenario. Sally is a customer who follows several Instagram business accounts, as well as accounts from family, friends, meme pages, and influencers.
It’s going to be hard for business accounts to rank above Sally’s close friends simply because Sally interacts with those accounts often, visiting their profiles, viewing their stories, liking and commenting on their posts, and messaging them via Instagram DM.
However, it’s entirely possible to outrank the other businesses Sally is following. If they are your competitors, all you need to do is get Sally to engage with your content.
The more posts of yours she likes, the more frequently she will start seeing your posts in her newsfeed. If she comments, even better.
So, how can you drive likes and comments? Of course, posting excellent content is a must; if your content is dull, uninteresting, or irrelevant, your followers won’t pay attention to it.
Asking followers to like your posts is a strategy that is often effective. You can also ask engaging questions, so people comment, or simply ask them to leave their thoughts or opinions in the comment section.
Another way to encourage engagement is to run contests. For example, you might select a random follower who liked a specific post and give them a free product or discount.
You can also ask people to favorite your account. While most people don’t add business accounts to their favorites list, they might if your content is good enough and not spammy.
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Stories are posts that only stay active for 24 hours, after which they disappear. They don’t show up in the main newsfeed but rather in a section at the top, in a horizontal order so users can quickly scroll through them.
Like regular posts, Instagram uses a unique algorithm to determine the order of stories. Some factors that determine which stories appear first include the user’s relationship with the accounts they follow and their prior engagement with them.
However, timeliness also plays a role. New stories often show up first, especially if they’re from an account the user engages with often.
For example, let’s say Sally follows her friend Bob. Bob posted a story in the morning, but Sally was busy and did not have time to see it.
Throughout the day, the 1,000 other accounts Sally is following were also posting stories, and Bob’s story got pushed further and further down the line.
Fast-forward to nighttime, when Sally is off work and on her phone. She checks Instagram, but she doesn’t see Bob’s story because other stories have been pushed to the front of the line.
Suddenly, Bob posts another story. At this point, his story once again gets pushed to the front of the line, and Sally clicks on it, viewing both the story he posted in the morning and his most recent story.
One of the benefits of stories over regular posts is that they disappear after 24 hours, so there’s no need to worry about overposting. Uploading too many posts has two main risks.
The first is that you can annoy your followers, and they may unfollow you. The second is that when people view your page, all of your posts will show up in your post history.
You want people to see the most important things you have posted, but those can easily get drowned out in all the noise if there are too many posts on your profile.
You can post as many stories as you like, however, knowing they will disappear after 24 hours. Also, they won’t clog your followers’ main news feeds.
Don’t worry, though. If a story you posted is truly important, you can add it to your “Highlights,” which are collections of stories that stay on your profile forever, even after 24 hours.
These highlights are in a separate section from your main posts. You can create different categories for different highlights.
For example, if you share a banner showing the updated menu for your restaurant, you can save that to a highlight entitled “Menu.” You can have just one post per highlight category or many – the choice is yours.
There are many things you can do with Instagram stories. For example, you can post a link to your store or product page.
Another advantage of using stories is that people can reply to your story with a direct message or an instant emoji reaction (such as a laughing reaction if it’s a funny post). This type of engagement will help boost conversions and also help you rank higher in followers’ news feeds.
The best time to post on Instagram tends to be during the week, during late morning and lunchtime. However, since every business is different, I recommend testing other times to see what works for you.
Also, while that applies to posts, you can be more flexible when posting stories, as you can post them multiple times a day without annoying followers.
Tom loves to write on technology, e-commerce & internet marketing. I started my first e-commerce company in college, designing and selling t-shirts for my campus bar crawl using print-on-demand. Having successfully established multiple 6 & 7-figure e-commerce businesses (in women’s fashion and hiking gear), I think I can share a tip or 2 to help you succeed.