There’s been many, many articles written on the best times to post on Instagram. Actually, 2,500,000,000 results on Google, to be exact.
I’ve even written one! (Whoops! It was part of HubHack member content – so I can’t link to it BUT I will copy it to the bottom of this blog post so you can get some backstory if you desire.)
So why do we need another article? Because I actually tested it.
Now, here’s the disclaimer that you need to know… My HubHack members are mostly women between the ages of 25-55 (although we have some dudes and we have younger and older women too.) My members consist of a mix of professional photographers and hobbyists/artists. Many document their daily life, many post only client images on social media. I believe 99% of them are parents. While most post pictures of family and children, I have a wide variety of genres represented, from macro to weddings, to landscapes, to street photography. They are from all over the world: Mostly the US and Canada, but Australia and New Zealand, to Singapore, Uganda, Japan, and the UAE. If you fall into this demographic, generally speaking, then these are your people. I would also add that the vast majority of my members are also members of ClickinMoms and a big chunk of those are Click Pros.
If this is NOT you, if you don’t fit into the categories above, then this article might not apply. Always be sure to check your own analytics if you have a business account. If you don’t have a business account, just be mindful of the time you post and note any abnormalities with engagement. If you post at 3am because you can’t sleep and happened to be editing pictures to pass the time, I’m doubting your engagement will be all that high. (But also please take into consideration the quality of the image you’re posting. For more on this, see The High Watermark Fallacy.)
But if you DO fall into this big lovely group of photographers, then…read on, friend.
For HubHack members, I post what I call Engagement Posts. These are time sensitive, because I believe that the first hour or so of engagement has the most weight in the algorithm’s determination of whether or not your post was valuable and should be pushed into more feeds, hit Top Posts, or hit the Explore page. (Don’t get too crazy with this… I’ve seen plenty of posts pop up naturally in Explore and in my feed that were 6 days old! Now, they were great posts with a lot of engagement, but if I didn’t engage with it, Instagram thought I might want to see it and kept trying to show it to me (apparently…)
HubHack is a hashtag service where members have access to daily updated hashtag lists, copy/paste lists for Instagram hub theme hashtags, main hashtags, subject-specific hashtags, etc. Engagement Posts are similar to Instagram pods but way better because there’s no ongoing commitment and you only use them when you want to. There’s different people on every post, so it’s not the same exact 10 people commenting on every single post.
HubHack is closing to new members on August 1st, 2019. After that, new members can join only twice per year. For more info, go to www.photographerhack.com. DM me @photographerhack on Insta with any questions.
Anyway, I used to post them from 9am til 11pm every day. But I noticed that during some time frames (these are 1-2 hour time frames) that some of them were super busy and others were totally dead.
What’s the point in participating in an Engagement Post if you’re the only one? Well, there is no point. That’s the point.
You’d want to participate during a time period that gets a lot of participation, right?
So, I went back 6 weeks and accounted for holidays (Memorial Day, specifically.) Now, this was done during the summer and I absolutely believe that times could vary during the school year. I decided to cut out the posts that performed poorly (the Engagement Posts that had less than an average of 5 participants.) My goal was to move people away from those off-peak times to more peak times. This would only benefit THEM. It makes no difference to me, but if I’m trying to add value, I’m not doing anyone a favor by having a post open at 7pm on a Sunday night.
Here are the results of that study, and you can see which time frames performed really well and which, not so much.
I can also say that by trimming out the off-peak Engagement Post times, it has helped the other times as well, which is exactly what I hoped for. I do plan to re-run this study to quantify that and also take a look at the time frames once school is back in session.
Please note that these time frames are in Eastern Daylight Time (Summer time in New York City.)
Let’s say you live in Australia – literally the other side of the world. What are you to do? Well, I do have many HubHackers that are in that boat. And they simply stay up later – they post at night instead of in the morning, their time.
I have tested Engagement Posts at 6am, which is a time that many previous studies stated was a peak time. I also have a ton of European members, so that made sense. However, when I have experimented with it, no less than 3 times, those posts failed big time. They would get 1-3 participants. If my European friends just waited til the afternoon, they could participate in the true peak time periods.
As you can see 9am – 11am Eastern time is BY FAR the best time to post on Instagram for our demographic. So much so, that awhile back, I split the 9-11am post into two. People were spending an hour trying to catch up on their engagement and it was too much. (And Engagement Post is similar to a Pod/Engagement Group, but I’d argue it’s far better, for many reasons.)
So, there ya have it. The best times to post on Instagram. Remember again, this study was taken from late May 2019 through July, using data going back 6 weeks.
Here’s a copy of an article I wrote for my HubHack Members awhile back with the data that was available at that time.
When is the best time to post on Instagram?
I’ve heard this question asked a lot over the years, and the answer is a simple one: When your most engaged users are scrolling. So, the first thing to ask yourself is, what are my own habits? And if my audience looks like me, then would their gram-habits be similar to mine?
I’m a work-from-home mama who also is in the car. A lot. I’m in the car between 7:30am and 9:45am. There are some short spurts in there where I might be waiting in a car line and check my Insta. I’m home during the day, working mostly (it’s a little weird for me, in particular, because my job IS Instagram). If you think about a nurse or a teacher, they can’t check their phones (or only do on breaks) during the day. A stay-at-home mama might have intermittent times throughout the day where she checks Insta – during baby’s naps or randomly for a little mindless break.
I’m also in the car driving a lot between 12:50 – 4pm, depending on after-school activities, etc. I might check Insta when we get home as the kids are getting cleaned up and doing homework. Then it’s time to make dinner, put kids to bed, and then I actually shut it down for the evening and hang out with the hubs. If my hubs has a meeting or travels, I’d probably be on Insta a lot more in the evenings.
If you have a business account with Instagram, you can see your own analytics easily, straight from the horse’s mouth. Here’s mine from @photographerhack where my primary audience are photographers on Instagram – primarily women, primarily moms, primarily family and children photographers.
As you can see, 65% of my audience is in the US along with 6% in Canada. By my math, that’s over 70% of my audience in Pacific through Eastern times zones. I only have 4% each in Australia and the UK. So… I don’t think it’d be wise to post when the US folks are asleep.
If you live outside the Pacific through Eastern time zones, I’d encourage you to check your Insights/analytics. I hear from MANY Europeans that they want to post in the early morning before they leave for work. That would be 4am Eastern time. 1am Pacific. While I totally get that you want to get your post out early…Is that the wise thing to do for engagement? If you don’t care about engagement, then…go right ahead! If the majority of your followers ARE in Europe, then by all means, go ahead! Then yes, that’s the right thing to do.
If you’re in Europe, but the majority of your followers are in the US, then why not post when you get home from work? If that’s 5pm your time, that’s noon here, a fine time to post. If you post at 7pm, that’s 2pm here. 9pm is 4pm here, and so on. You’re just throwing out a wider net.
Our friends down unda in Australia and New Zealand definitely have it the hardest! Not only do they contend with totally opposite seasons, but they also are totally opposite in terms of times. I had a wonderful conversation with Olga Levien who said that she posts very early in the morning her time or very late at night. She did that specifically to optimize for her audience, and knew that she had to post when US’ers were awake. Not when it’s convenient for her, which is when the ‘Merican crowd was fast asleep.
The chart above shows which days are best/worst for me to post, and you can see that there’s not really too much of a difference. Mondays and Tuesdays are the slowest (I tend not to post on Mondays, as I don’t have all of my theme tags yet!) Surprisingly, Sundays are almost as good as Wednesday-Saturday. Honestly, when I look at this graph, I’m not compelled enough to NOT post on a Monday or Tuesday. It’s almost the same.
Now you can look at this graph for any day of the week – simply tap on the > on either side of the Day of the week. While for me, posting at 6am would work fabulously….Not many of my followers are around. I have some night owls around at 12am (or Pacific coasters up around 9pm their time.) But for me, the best time to post is between 9am to 9pm, with the optimal time between 12-3pm.
NOW – this whole discussion led me to ask – Well, what time zone are Instagram’s Insights based on? I think Instagram is located on the West Coast (Pacific time). Here’s what I found out – and this is important:
It’s your own time zone *as long as* you have your phone settings to “set automatically.” If you fly to another time zone and have to manually change your phone’s clock, then it’s not “set automatically.” Go into your settings and double check. On an iPhone, it’s under Settings, General, Date & Time. I played with this, and I could definitely see how someone could have it manually set and then their phone’s time zone would be off. When I switched mine off, it defaulted to Central Time, while I’m actually in Eastern time.
So, the times shown above are all in Eastern time (NYC).
The following are screenshots from an article by Sprout Social published March 13, 2018. All times listed here are in Central Time Zone, USA, like in Chicago.
I was surprised….although I should not have been, to see that 5am Central (6am Eastern) is one of the most popular times for engagement!!?? But y’all…Guess what I do at 6am? Drink coffee and play on Instagram. Yup. True story.
Because of that, I am going to start Engagement Posts at 6am Eastern on Tuesdays – Fridays.
(Never mind, that totally flopped, as I mentioned above!)
Now, I know my European friends will cheer! But, if you’re like me, you don’t actually POST at 6am. You just play around. Well…I’m juuuuuust starting my foray into scheduling tools and will report back to you how it goes. But if you’re already scheduling, why not schedule for 6am or 6:30? Or – why not save a draft of a post that you’re planning to post and simply wait until the morning to post it? I don’t know if this will work for our demographic, we’ll have to see. Y’all are my guinea pigs. But I’m telling you, I’m inclined to try posting at 6am! I’m up anyway!
You can click on the full article above, but one thing I found interesting that is that if you’re trying to reach teachers, the best time to post is 7 or 8pm Central Time on Mondays.
For the HealthCare field, the best time to post is Tuesdays at 1pm Central.
Techies are most inclined to engage on Wednesdays at 10am.
Shoppers are on Insta on Saturdays.
Lastly – if you also post to Facebook at the same time, your best bets for Facebook engagement are Wednesdays and Thursdays between 12pm-3pm Central time.
Here’s what an article from HubSpot from August 20th, 2018 had to say about the best times to post on Insta:
And here are some helpful tips from Later on the best time to post, especially considering time zones and where your followers are actually located.
In this article, Later also gives you tips on how to track your own engagement using spreadsheets. Now – y’all KNOW I’m a big fan of tracking, experimenting, and spreadsheets! BUT – for us photographers, there is a HUGE fallacy in trying this! Why? Because from picture to picture….the quality is different. Self-portraits will ALWAYS get more engagement. Pictures with amazing light will always get better engagement. More creative, interesting pictures will get better engagement. Posts with compelling captions will get better engagement. I would argue that a self-portrait posted during off-peak hours will do FAR better than a typical picture posted at an optimal time. Our audience, as photographers, shows us how much our picture and caption resonates with them based on quality. The better the picture, the more engagement. I’m sorry, but it’s just true. And, always write a compelling caption. Give your audience something to respond to.
Lastly, if you’re reading this and you’re all WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT ANYWAY? Well, experts have concluded that the Instagram Algorithm measures engagement within the first hour or so after posting as the most critical time.
If your post gets a lot of engagement within the first hour, you have a better chance at:
- Getting pushed into more feeds, meaning more eyeballs, meaning more organic engagement.
- Getting in Top Posts for your hashtags, which now is more important than ever, because that is the default screen that is shown when searching a hashtag. When a mod of a hub is searching a hashtag, the mod will see Top Posts first, which means a higher likelihood of those posts getting featured.
- Getting on the Explore page, which is kinda a big deal, and will definitely mean a LOT more eyes on your pictures, even from people that don’t follow you!
I hope this helps!