In today’s Internet-savvy business world, a strong social media presence is the bread and butter of most marketing strategies.
There’s just one problem: the social media frontier is as vast as it is competitive, and sometimes you get the feeling that you’re posting into the void.
Setting up a business Instagram account is simple enough. Turning it into an active social space that generates real interest in your brand and leads to widespread attention? Well … that part is a little trickier.
But what’s hurting the popularity of your posts is not always what you’d expect—and sometimes it’s got nothing to do with the content itself. Something as simple as the timing of an Instagram post could heavily influence whether it’s a flop or a favorite.
Today, we’ll uncover the best time to post Instagram in 2021 and other aspects that affect content performance so you’ll have the tools you need to manage your account more effectively.
- Understanding the Instagram Algorithm
- When is the best time to post on Instagram during the Week?
- Getting to Know Your Audience
- Staying Organized and Planning Ahead
Understanding the Instagram Algorithm
Here’s the deal—most Instagram users don’t have time to see every post from every account they follow. There’s just not enough room in their feed (or attention span) to get through it all.
Now, because Instagram wants user experience on the app to be as enjoyable (and active) as possible, it uses an algorithm to tailor newsfeeds according to each user’s personal preferences.
The algorithm filters through the posts from all followed accounts, and posts that are likely to attract the user’s attention get boosted to the top of their feed.
But how does Instagram decide what content you want to see? This is where things get interesting.
Recency vs. Interest
As the term “newsfeed” would suggest, Instagram wants to show you posts that you haven’t seen yet (i.e., posts that are “new” to you). However, this doesn’t mean your newsfeed is chronological.
Because Instagram wants to grab your attention by showing you content that’s both fresh and interesting, sometimes an older post will be prioritized over a newer (but less popular) one.
When you log on and check your newsfeed, Instagram would rather show you new-ish content that you’re likely to get excited about than a brand new post that doesn’t align quite as well with your preferences.
In other words, the newest news is not always the most exciting—and Instagram’s algorithm is designed to reflect this phenomenon.
The combination of newness and interest is prioritized by the algorithm because this is the kind of content that you’re most likely to engage with. And, as we all know, engagement pretty much encompasses the goal of social media in a nutshell.
All About Engagement
Users all over the platform are competing for the attention of other Instagram users. It’s even common to buy Instagram likes to increase the amount of activity on posts.
Here’s the good news: engagement on Instagram isn’t limited to likes, comments, and shares.
The algorithm tracks other “actions” surrounding posts, including DMs, turning on notifications from your account, and profile visits coming from your post. This kind of activity tells the algorithm that your content is hot.
Does this mean every post has to be a success for your account to stay afloat on Instagram?
Not a bit. While you should do everything you can to design content that’s as appealing as possible as you’ll also benefit from past posts that received serious attention.
Have you ever clicked on an ad one time and then had it follow you around on the Internet for weeks? Similarly, Instagram remembers what you showed interest in once upon a time, so it knows what to prioritize in your newsfeed.
This means that when someone interacts with your post, they’re effectively notifying Instagram that they want to see more of your content.
Without a doubt, engagement is the not-so-secret ingredient to Instagram success. Let’s talk about how you can capture more of it.
When is the best time to post on Instagram during the Week?
Since newness and interest are prioritized by the Instagram algorithm, many speculate that there’s one particular kind of post that is most highly promoted by Instagram—and that’s content that quickly reaches high levels of engagement after going live.
This highlights the importance of publishing posts at the same time your followers are already browsing on Instagram because your post will automatically have the advantage of “newness” in its favor.
Conversely, if you post content while most of your followers are asleep, it’s unlikely to take off. Your best bet is to strike while the iron is hot.
That said, there is no time of day or night that is a recipe for instant success. But you can get a pretty good idea of where to start experimenting.
The best times to post on Instagram on weekdays
Posting in the early morning weekday hours (starting around 5am) is generally successful from Tuesday–Friday. This early-morning timeframe catches Instagram users at the very beginning of their workday when they’re very likely to be checking their phones.
Most data suggests steering clear of Monday mornings. People tend to be busy and rushed after a laid-back weekend and have less time to spare before leaving for work.
Other popular times to browse the ‘gram on weekdays are during lunch break (generally around 11am–3pm) and also near the end of the workday during the dreaded afternoon slump. That’s when many find themselves seeking refuge in a peaceful scroll through the land of social media.
The best times to post on Instagram on weekends
Late morning to early afternoon is seen as the best time to post on Instagram during the weekends.
Most people sleep in, relax, and take it easy for the first half of the day on Saturdays and Sundays.
Posting anywhere from 9am–11am will also cover the brunch hour, which catches many users pulling up Instagram to post from their favorite local cafe joint in true Instagram style.
Some experts recommend avoiding the later hours of Friday and Saturday, since many people are in busier social settings and are likely to prioritize hanging out with their friends. The Instagram feed can wait until the party’s over.
Despite the fact that Sunday is also a day off, it’s known for somewhat low levels of Instagram engagement. This might be a day that takes a little more experimentation if you want to make the most of it.
Although ample research has been conducted to pinpoint daily levels of Instagram activity, the findings aren’t consistent across the board. One reason for this is that the best time to post varies widely from one industry to another.
Some studies have gotten more specific, like this data collected by Hootsuite that identifies target post times based on what industry your business belongs to.
Due to the incredible diversity of the Instagram world, however, this information is best used merely as a starting point.
Getting to Know Your Audience
Understanding when and why people are on Instagram, in general, is very helpful if it’s used as a stepping stone rather than a one-and-done solution.
Truthfully, the best piece of advice you can get about when to post is that you have to figure it out for yourself. Your audience is unique. Be prepared to improvise.
Location and Lifestyle
One factor to consider when scheduling posts is the time zone of your Instagram followers.
Using Instagram Insight’s “Audience” tab on your Instagram business account gives you access to an array of demographic information about your followers, including top locations.
If you have a pretty even split between two different time zones, try to figure out one or two overlapping time slots that catch followers in both locations.
For example, if most of your followers are in the US and Europe, using EST is a good choice. Posting on Instagram from 9am–11am EST on a weekday would catch some US users on their lunch breaks and some European users at the end of their workday.
Your next step is to go beyond Instagram Insights and back to the knowledge you already have about your brand.
What do you know about the routines and schedules of your customer base or buyer persona?
Are many of them stay-at-home moms? Fitness junkies? Healthcare professionals with demanding ‘round-the-clock schedules?
You already use this information to market your product. Turns out, it’s equally useful when you’re figuring out how to time your posts strategically.
Tailor Instagram Post Times to Suit Your Followers
Once you’ve reviewed your customer demographics and taken their schedules into account, you’re ready to start experimenting.
Going back to Instagram Insights, you can use the Audience metrics tab to get an idea of when your followers are usually active.
The process of trial and error takes time and patience; but if you keep at it, you may discover surprising peak post times that weren’t apparent from your analytics alone.
If you want a little extra help, another option is to use an Instagram scheduling app or social media management platform.
Providers like Hootsuite, SproutSocial, Hopper, and Later offer a range of services from content scheduling and auto-posting, to notifications about new comments and DMs, to advanced analytics about your followers and bonus tips on how to make improvements to your content.
Staying Organized and Planning Ahead
If you have a steady following, congrats! You’ve already done a few things right. But if you want to grow your Instagram account, you have more work to do.
There are a few organizational steps you might be overlooking that could drastically heighten interest in your content.
Draft and Schedule Instagram Posts Ahead of Time
Consistency is key. This slogan happens to be a cardinal rule for anyone who wants to sustain and grow a following on the Internet.
Realistically, maintaining a consistent post schedule isn’t going to be done successfully on the fly. Plans should be made far in advance so that you never find yourself scrambling for ideas hours before your content is supposed to go up.
This is another instance where an Instagram scheduling platform with a visual content planner makes your life much easier.
Top Instagram business accounts generally post an average of 1.5 times per day, which is a lot of material to keep up with.
It’s also possible to rely on your own planning and scheduling setup if that’s your style. But just remember that consistency is more important than frequency.
Start by deciding how many posts per week you can maintain for the time being, and make sure you have the resources to stick to it.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of posting on a regular schedule, you can build up to your desired frequency over time.
Posting on a consistent schedule can seem hard when done manually, so make sure you get yourself a good app to schedule Instagram posts.
Actively Engage on Your Own Account
Since engagement fuels the Instagram algorithm, don’t depend on your followers to put in all the effort. Make sure you’re doing your part to keep the chatter going!
Like and reply to comments, respond to as many DMs as possible, tease future content, and like and comment on your followers’ posts.
Engaging with active users is a fantastic way to build relationships, which encourages them to engage more in the future.
Instagram stories have become extremely popular and are a powerful tool for businesses to increase their visibility on the platform. Stories are also commonly used to nudge followers towards your page when you post—just to make sure they don’t miss anything.
Plus, story views count as direct engagement on Instagram, whereas regular posts views just add to your number of impressions.
Always Prioritize Content Quality
Whenever you learn new strategies to optimize your business account, remind yourself what made Instagram famous in the first place.
This is not to say that every post has to look like a masterpiece—just a reminder that the value of quality content can’t be overstated. It’s what brings people to Instagram and what is most likely to impress your viewers.
As one of the Internet’s most popular social media platforms, Instagram hosts a never-ending supply of wildly diverse content. And the more there is to see, the more difficult it is to stand out.
But instead of letting that distract you, focus on the community that you’ve already built.
When do your followers check their feeds? What kinds of content do they like the most? What times of day are they most receptive to certain kinds of posts as opposed to others?
Once you start paying closer attention to your audience, there’s no telling what you might find out.
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