When’s the best time to post on Instagram to make sure a post gets seen?
And what about the best time to get the most likes? The most comments?
We’re here to tell you that—sigh—there’s no one single “best time” to post.
The time is different for every single Instagram account. And your Instagram account alone might have a few different answers, depending on your marketing goals.
Fortunately, it’s simple to find your brand’s unique best time.
In this article, we’ll show you how the social team at Hootsuite found our best time to post to Instagram, and then we’ll show you how to find yours.
Bonus: Download a free checklist that reveals the exact steps a lifestyle photographer used to grow from 0 to 600,000 followers on Instagram with no budget and no expensive gear.
Is there a best time to post on Instagram?
There’s no universal rule for when to post to Instagram. While there are plenty of ad-hoc studies and industry benchmarks out there, every brand is unique because every audience is unique.
In general, posting when your followers are online is key, because the Instagram algorithm prioritizes recency. This means that, if all else is equal, a newer post will show up higher on the newsfeed than an older one.
Recency is honestly one of the quickest, easiest wins when it comes to optimizing a post for success. (Though we have plenty more tips on getting free Instagram likes, if you’re interested).
But beyond that, it’s also important to know what, exactly, your goals are for your Instagram marketing strategy. Do you have specific targets around building awareness, engagement, or driving traffic? What does success look like to you, and when have your posts achieved that success in the past? Your past successes are a key guideline for when you should be posting, overall.
I know, I know—this is starting to sound like you’re going to have to break out the spreadsheets. However, the right Instagram analytics tool will do the heavy lifting and number-crunching for you.
Let’s take a look at how the social team at Hootsuite figured it out.
Overall best time to post on Instagram
We asked Brayden Cohen, Hootsuite’s Social Marketing and Employee Advocacy Strategist, about the best time to post on Instagram for our accounts, and he gave us the scoop:
“Typically, we like to post early in the morning and mid-afternoon. For Instagram, that means we try to post anytime between 8AM-12PM PST, or else 4-5PM PST on weekdays.”
Cohen revealed that—at least for Hootsuite’s North American B2B audience—our Instagram posts do best when we hit the wake-up or lunch-time hours for our Pacific time zone audience, and the sitting-down-to-work or logging-off hours in the Eastern time zone.
Using the activity heatmap provided in Hootsuite Analytics, it’s easy to see when Hootsuite’s Instagram audience is online:
Source: Hootsuite Analytics
Cohen and the social team also use the tools in Hootsuite Impact to look at post and campaign performance. “The data there tells us if we should continue focusing on the same strategy or pivot anything going forward.”
Overall, Cohen says that deciding when to post on Instagram goes something like this:
“We use past performance as the guiding star, and then review when the audience is online as a second opinion. If our content isn’t performing well after that, we’ll test different times to post to see if that changes the post performance.“
All in all—just like with the best time to post on social media in general—there’s no silver bullet, or one-size-fits-all answer. An Instagram content calendar should be as data-driven as the rest of the marketing strategy.
Tips for finding your best time to post on Instagram
Review your top-performing posts
First, consider what kind of performance you’re aiming for: brand awareness or engagement. Your approach to timing your Instagram posts might vary depending on which of these is more important to you.
In the past, which of your posts have earned high impressions? When did you post them? And are these posts different from the ones earning likes?
Your Instagram analytics are your best source of truth here. Of course, not all analytics tools are born equal, and some can help you avoid the heavy data crunching.
Hootsuite’s Best Time to Publish feature, for instance, suggests the best time to post to Instagram based on historical performance. It analyzes your posts from the past 30 days, groups them by weekday and hour, then calculates the average impressions or engagement rate to identify the time slots where your posts had the highest impact.
Check when your audience is most active online
The next step for finding your best time to post is taking a look at your analytics to determine when your followers are scrolling their feed.
As marketers, we need to know our audiences. If you’re targeting Gen Z sports fans on Instagram, their social media consumption habits might be wildly different from the tech executives waking up at 4AM to meditate in their infrared saunas.
Hootsuite’s Best Time to Publish feature will break down this information automatically into a heatmap (see above). It will also help you experiment by predicting time slots where your Instagram followers are online.
It will also suggest time slots that you haven’t used in the last 30 days so that you can shake up your posting habits and test new tactics.
Consider when your competitors are posting
Depending on your industry, your competitors may be doing some of the same calculations and experiments you are. Social listening (or even a full social competitive analysis) is helpful for keeping an eye on what may be working for audiences in your industry.
Pro Tip: Many brands post on the hour mark, so consider posting a few minutes before or after the :00 in order to avoid having to compete for limited shelf space.
Post in your audience’s time zone
If you have a global audience, or you yourself are based outside of the “usual” time zones (we see you, Mumbai; how you goin, Sydney?) your best time to post may well turn out to be 3 a.m.
Rather than set some truly cruel alarms, may we suggest automating your Instagram posts? One of the best tools to help you achieve this is to use an Instagram scheduler to make sure your posts are going up at the right time, day in and day out.
Here’s a quick overview of how to post using Hootsuite’s Instagram scheduling feature:
Monitor and adjust
Yes, optimizing your Instagram posts for success takes a lot of work—it’s a lot more than just choosing the right filter. But crunching the numbers once a quarter to figure out the right time to post is actually one of the easiest ways to ensure your content is making it to the right eyes. (Easier than levelling up your videography or writing skills, anyway—though we highly recommend both.)
According to Brayden Cohen, from Hootsuite’s Instagram team: “We look at our top-performing posts weekly to see if there’s any insights that will help us rework our strategy or posting cadence. But we generally only change the times we post once a quarter, if even.”
Cohen noted that, for instance, with the pandemic’s effect on work schedules in 2020, many people are spending less time commuting or enjoying a traditional lunch break. B2B audiences are on their phones more, and that’s showing up in Instagram usage, which is spread out over the day.
The world changes, and audience habits change, so set a reminder in your calendar to review your results and make adjustments.
Show up consistently over the long term
To reap the full rewards of all this knowledge about your audience, it’s important to be systematic about your posting. While you probably won’t see a jaw-dropping bump just by posting a few hours earlier than usual every now and then, using the data consistently will move the needle over time.
It’s a virtuous circle: your audience gets in the habit of seeing your brand pop up on their feed, they enjoy your content, and they engage with it. Consistently showing up on Instagram breeds credibility, trust, and makes for a meaningful relationship.
At the end of the day, when you have an authentic connection with your audience, the algorithm notices, and so does your bottom line.
Manage your Instagram presence alongside your other social channels and save time using Hootsuite. From a single dashboard, you can schedule and publish posts, engage the audience, and measure performance. Try it free today.
Take the guesswork out of when to post on social media using Hootsuite’s Best Time to Publish feature.