Unmetric logotype

Best Time to Post on Instagram: Part One

Darsana Vijay

Timing is a crucial component of social media strategy. Knowing the best time to post on each social network is essential to ensuring that all the hard work you put into perfecting your content pays off. With Instagram finally letting businesses schedule posts using publishing tools, the discussion on the best time to post on this network is more relevant than ever.

Brands have to seize this opportunity and post to Instagram when their audience is most likely to engage with their posts. You can get this data from Instagram Insights. Here, you can see the average number of times your followers are on Instagram on a typical day and the days of the week when they are most active.

Audience activity for each day of the week from Instagram Insights

Best Time to Post on Instagram for Each Day

Timing Data available from Instagram Insights
However, this data is based on your audience and your brand posts alone. There are numerous studies about when the best time to post on Instagram is, but each Instagram profile has a particular audience in different time zones. In this article, we explore if there are certain hours in the day that are more rewarding for brands than others. This way, you can find out if you are missing out an engagement window that other brands are tapping into.

Notes on Data Collection

When we started collecting data, we were working on the assumption that the best time to post for brands would be when the audience is most active. For that reason, we collected data separately based on when brands published posts and when audience interactions were recorded.

Another hypothesis was that the best time to post for industries like media and entertainment, sports and for celebrities would be slightly different from that for other brands. This was one reason why we collected data separately for these industries. Another, more practical reason, was that posts by celebrities, media, and sports teams sometimes tend to go viral and amass very high engagement. This would skew the data.

To find out the best time to post on Instagram, we collected data for 100 US focused brands across industries selected on the basis of audience size for the period between November 15th and December 22nd, 2017. For media, sports and personalities, 100 brands were chosen by audience size for each industry, for the same time period.

All the data presented here is in EST (New York time).

Best Time to Post for Brands

In this section, we take a look at when these 100 brands got the highest engagement and why. As mentioned before, in each section, we draw a comparison between the engagement received on posts published at a particular hour and the engagement recorded at a particular hour. Let me make this a bit more clear with an example.

Brand A posted a hilarious video at 11 AM on a Monday. This received over 10,000 likes, 500 comments and 1,500 shares overall. Of this 7,500 likes, 500 comments and 2,000 shares were received within an hour of posting the video. So, in the charts based on BRAND activity, all 12,000 interactions will be attributed to 11 AM. In the charts on AUDIENCE activity, only 10,000 will be included in 11 AM.

Day of the Week

In the chart below, you can see that brands posted the most on Thursdays. However, posts published on Tuesdays received the highest engagement (likes + comments). Engagement plummeted close to the weekend. This is most probably because brands posted very few pieces of content on the weekends.

Shows the number of posts published and the interactions these received

Post volumes and interactions for each day of the week
When we looked at audience activity, the number of posts users interacted with on average on each day of the week was fairly uniform. The most number of interactions per post was recorded on Wednesdays. Interestingly, Sundays also witnessed high engagement, in contrast to the chart above. The least number of interactions per post was seen on Fridays.

Number of Audience Interactions Recorded on Each Day of the Week

Number of audience interactions per post recorded on each day of the week

Hour of the Day

The discussion on which hour of the day is the most rewarding comes down to two questions: when are brands most active and when’s the audience most active. Let’s take a look at each:

When are Brands Most Active?

Brands post the most between 12-1 PM. As a result, the overall interactions received by posts published at this hour is the highest. Close to 69% of all the posts were published between 10AM and 8PM. These accounted for more than 68% of all interactions received.

Number of posts published hourly and the interactions they received
Based on the chart above, it seems like engagement and posting volumes seem to go hand in hand. However, this is because we are looking at aggregate values. Is it really the case that whenever brands post, they get interactions? To answer this, let’s look at when the most number of interactions are recorded.

When is the Audience Most Active?

As you can see in the chart below, interactions registered at each hour of the day remains consistently above 10 million between 9AM and 12PM. The chart shows a rising trend till 3PM after which it slumps, only to surge to the zenith between 4-5 PM. After 5, interactions exhibit a falling trend.

Number of interactions registered hourly

Number of interactions registered hourly
The slowdown in interactions registered post 2PM coincides with a fall in post volumes in the earlier chart. This is followed by a sharp rise in post volumes at 4PM, similar to the hike in interactions registered.

This would suggest that as long as brands don’t post at odd hours like 4AM, they will get engagement. And, their audience is consistently interacting with content on most hours of the day.

Brand Activity and Audience Activity

Brand activity and audience activity
We were also curious if there was a difference in the best time to post based on content type. Hubspot had found that 9PM works out best for videos, whereas 8-9AM was the best time to post in general.

Best Time to Post Photos

The chart below shows the number of comments received by photos. As you can see, the number of comments received on posts brands published at a particular hour and the number of comments recorded at that hour almost overlap.

Comments received by photos

Comments received by photos
This data suggests that the best time to post photos is between 11AM-12PM.

Best Time to Post Videos

For videos as well, there was a similar overlap. While the trend in engagement on photos bore a resemblance to the overall engagement, videos showed a different pattern.

Comments received by videos

Comments Received by Videos
Unlike photos, videos received comments in bursts. Between 8AM and 7PM, videos received over 10,000 comments every hour. The highest volume of comments was recorded between 9AM and 10AM, over 31,000. After this, it fell to 12,000 between 11AM-12PM and rose sharply between 1-2 PM to just under 27,000.

Velocity of Interactions

Why is it that there’s an overlap in when brands post and when they receive comments? A possible reason is that a large portion of the overall interactions is received by brands within an hour of publication. To see if this is true, we took a look at the percentage of interactions that are recorded on average every hour from publication.

Velocity of interactions

Velocity of interactions
As you can see, brands receive the highest percentage of overall comments within an hour of posting. Around 44% of all comments are registered within 12 hours of publication. There weren’t any marked differences in the velocity at which photos and videos received interactions:

Velocity of interactions for photos

Velocity of interactions received by photos

Velocity of Interactions for Videos

Velocity of interactions received by videos
So, unless you promote your Instagram post, an hour from publication accounts for most of the engagement you get. This makes the timing of your post all the more crucial.

The Best(est) Time to Post

Then, is there an engagement window that brands have to be aware of? To find an answer to this, we created a heatmap of when these 100 brands received the highest engagement. The white slots correspond to the highest engagement recorded.

Heatmap of interactions based on time of publication

Heatmap of interactions based on time of publication
Based on brand activity, posts published between 10-11PM witnessed the highest engagement. This seems a bit weird given that Instagram’s scheduling options were not available during the time period analyzed.

When we took a closer look at the most engaging posts published at this time, we noticed that they were by brands such as Anastasia Beverly Hills, Morphe etc. Most of these brands cater to an international audience but do not have region-specific pages. Here’s the most engaging post published on Wednesday between 10-11PM:

12PM-1PM proved lucrative for brands on all days except Fridays. Fridays, in general, witnessed low engagement.

Sundays between 3-4 AM saw the most number of interactions. This could again, be because the data is in ET while the interactions may be coming from other time zones. People seem to be interacting the least on Fridays and between 3-4PM on all days.

Heatmap of Interactions Based on Audience Activity

Heatmap of interactions based on audience activity
With audience activity remaining steady throughout the day and brand activity confined mostly to working hours, we are inclined to believe that this is a result of the lack of scheduling options. It’ll be interesting to see how these patterns change with the option of scheduling posts.

The Best Time to Post on Instagram on Saturdays

Many marketers who venture into scheduling posts on Instagram face a dilemma: should they publish on weekends? By conventional wisdom, weekends should see more social media activity, something that holds true according to the good levels of audience activity on Sundays. What about Saturdays?

Based on audience activity, between 1-9 PM over 2 million interactions were registered every hour. 8-9 PM experienced the most engagement, over 2.6 million.

Based on brand activity, posts published between 11 AM and 8 PM notched up 2.6 million interactions on average every hour. Posts published between 12 noon and 1 PM got the best results on Saturdays – over 3.2 million interactions.

So a reasonable estimate of when to post on Instagram on Saturdays would be between 1-8 PM. This has to be revised according to the timing data provided by Instagram Insights.

Sports

Sports teams, franchises etc exhibited a marked difference in the best time to post. This must largely be a function of when sporting events take place. Let’s take a closer look:

Day of the Week

The sports industry was the most active on Sundays. Posts published on this day brought in the highest interactions. This again could be a factor of the difference in the number of posts published. This is not surprising as matches, especially finals, happen on this day. Post volumes were lowest on Tuesdays while Fridays saw the least number of interactions being recorded.

Sports teams - post volumes and interactions for each day of the week

Number of posts and interactions per day of the week

Hour of the Day

Similarly, sports teams etc tended to post heavily after 6 PM. Engagement and posting volumes fall only past 10 PM. This is again a function of when matches take place. Here too, post volumes and engagement seem to go hand in hand.

Interactions and post volumes hourly

Number of posts and interactions hourly
The most interactions were recorded between 8-9 PM. Here’s the most engaging post published at that hour:

Best Time to Publish Photos

Photos published by the sports industry got the most comments between 7-9 PM. Posts published between 4-5 PM and 10-11 PM also saw impressive engagement. Around 63% of all the comments were received after 3PM.

Number of comments received by photos every hour

Comments received by photos hourly

Best Time to Publish Videos

Videos by sports teams got the most comments around 1-2 PM, in stark contrast to photos. Similarly, unlike photos, videos saw a major lull in commenting activity between 5-6 PM. This picks up by the end of work day and surges between 7-8 PM.

Comments received by Sports teams' videos every hour

Comments received by videos hourly

The Engagement Sweet Spot

The sports industry witnessed the highest engagement on Sundays between 4 and 5 PM. The pattern in interactions seems to coincide with match timings. As you can see, unlike other brands, sports teams get engagement even later into the day and on Sundays.

Heatmap of interactions
The following video published by NFL was the most engaging piece of content posted on Sunday between 4-5 PM:

Media and Entertainment

The engagement pattern showed by print, TV and online media channels and publishers also varied sharply. This could be because news stories and reports sometimes tend to go viral. Also, in the case of news media, breaking of major news stories has a considerable impact on engagement. Immediacy, more than planning, is a priority here.

Day of the Week

Posts and interactions remain almost steady through the weekdays, except for a huge surge on Thursdays. Post volumes and interactions remained low on the weekends. Common-sensically, this seems a little surprising given that people are more likely to consume entertainment products (TV programs, for instance) on the weekends.

Number of posts and interactions on each day of the week - Media and entertainment

Number of posts and interactions per day of the week
Another factor here is virality. When we looked at some of the most engaging pieces of content published on Thursdays, the following post by Stranger Things turned up:

View this post on Instagram

From bald to bitchin'

A post shared by Stranger Things (@strangerthingstv) on

The post amassed over 1.4 million interactions even though it was not posted immediately after the new season was released or when it won awards or nominations. It was just an illustration of one of the main characters, that went viral.

Hour of the Day

Number of Interactions and Posts Hourly - Media and Entertainment

Number of posts and interactions hourly
Post volumes and interactions remain fairly low till 6AM after which it rises sharply till 11 AM, dips between 11-12 PM only to reach its peak the next hour. After 1 PM, post volumes remain fairly steady till 6 PM, after which there’s a falling trend. Interactions follow suit.

The pattern in interactions and post volumes seems almost similar to other brands in general, except for the difference in magnitude.

Best Time to Publish Photos

Photos published by media and entertainment brands received the most number of comments between 10-11 AM. More than 40% of the overall comments received by photos are received by posts published between 10 AM and 3 PM.

Number of Comments Received by Media and Entertainment

Number of comments received by photos hourly
The large volume of comments received by photos between 10-11 AM was not because of a few outlier posts, but because of the large number of posts published at that hour. The photo that got the most number of comments was the following one by Hypebeast:

However, this accounted for just over 15% of the overall comments registered by posts published at this hour.

Best Time to Publish Videos

The comments received by videos published by the media industry maintained steady levels between 10 AM and 10 PM. There were two sharp surges, between 12 PM and 1 PM and between 4-5 PM.

Number of Comments Received by Videos Hourly

Number of comments received by videos hourly
Out of all the videos posted between 12 PM and 1PM, this post by complex got the most comments:

View this post on Instagram

SUMMER 2018.

A post shared by COMPLEX (@complex) on

Again, this notched up less than 5,000 comments and cannot take credit for the high volume of comments at that hour.

Primetime for Engagement

Media brands got the best results when they posted on Thursdays between 12 PM and 1 PM. Generally, they got fairly good engagement on posts published on weekdays between 10 AM and 5 PM.

Heatmap of interactions received by Media and Entertainment brands

Heatmap of interactions
There were quite a few engaging posts that were published on a Thursday between 12 PM and 1 PM. The top 5 posts (out of 196) accounted for 20% of the total interactions received by posts published in this slot. Here’s the most engaging post:

View this post on Instagram

Big Thanksgiving mood

A post shared by Stranger Things (@strangerthingstv) on

Personalities

Quite like media and entertainment, posts by celebrities and influencers garner a large volume of interactions and are prone to go viral.

Day of the Week

In contrast to other industries we’ve discussed so far, personalities received the highest engagement on Wednesdays. This is more surprising because more posts were published on Thursdays and Fridays with less impressive results.

Number of Posts and Interactions Per Day of the Week

Number of posts and interactions per day of the week
If you are wondering if a Kardashian had something to do with this, you’re not wrong. Khloe Kardashian’s pregnancy announcement received over 9 million interactions:

View this post on Instagram

My greatest dream realized! We are having a baby! I had been waiting and wondering but God had a plan all along. He knew what He was doing. I simply had to trust in Him and be patient. I still at times can't believe that our love created life! Tristan, thank you for loving me the way that you do! Thank you for treating me like a Queen! Thank you for making me feel beautiful at all stages! Tristan, most of all, Thank you for making me a MOMMY!!! You have made this experience even more magical than I could have envisioned! I will never forget how wonderful you've been to me during this time! Thank you for making me so happy my love! Thank you to everyone for the love and positive vibes! I know we've been keeping this quiet but we wanted to enjoy this between our family and close friends as long as we could privately. To enjoy our first precious moments just us ❤️ Thank you all for understanding. I am so thankful, excited, nervous, eager, overjoyed and scared all in one! But it's the best bundle of feelings I've ever felt in my life! ❤️❤️❤️

A post shared by Khloé (@khloekardashian) on

Hour of the Day

Number of Posts and Interactions Hourly Media and Entertainment

Number of posts and interactions hourly
As you can see from the chart above, the interactions received by personalities are prone to fits and bursts. This is again a result of some posts going viral. For instance, there’s a drop in post volumes after 4-5 PM, whereas the interactions surge between 5-6 PM. The highest engagement was registered between 3-4 PM. Personalities were most likely to post between 1-2 PM.

These surges were not the result of a single post going viral every other hour, but a handful of posts generating around 4 million interactions, like this one by Kylie Jenner or this post by Selena Gomez.

Best Time to Post Photos

Number of Comments Received by Photos

Number of comments received by photos hourly
Photos posted between 5-6 PM got the most comments. Of these, the following post by Kylie Jenner accounted for over 3 million comments.

71% of all comments are received between 12PM and 8PM.

Best Time to Post Videos

Interestingly, videos received fewer comments overall than photos. While photos were likely to get 1.1 million comments on average in an hour, videos could muster less than 273,000 comments.

Number of Comments Received by Videos

Number of comments received by videos hourly
Personalities generated the most number of comments on posts published between 2-3 PM. Huda Kattan’s post got the highest number of comments at this hour. This roped in over 715,000 comments:

The (Secret) Engagement Regimen

Heatmap of Interactions Personalities

Heatmap of interactions
Wednesday 5-6 PM was the time slot that witnessed the most interactions. This included Khloe Kardashian’s post we saw earlier. Selena Gomez also contributed to this slot with the following post that got over 6 million interactions:

View this post on Instagram

all apologies

A post shared by Selena Gomez (@selenagomez) on

It’s hard to say from this data if there’s really a best time to post for personalities. This is because posts by celebrities garner really high engagement, sometimes irrespective of when they post. For instance, when Beyonce posts a picture of Jay-Z, even if it is at 11 PM, it will get millions of interactions.

Conclusion

The best time to post, I would argue, is relative at best. As we saw here, there’s a marked difference in the hour of the day and day of the week that pays off for Sports or Media, compared to other brands. Every industry and region is bound to have a distinct engagement window.

This is not to say that timing is an unreliable or useless metric. On the contrary, brands have to narrow down on the hours of the day and days of the week that gets them and their peers the best results. Using competitive intelligence is an effective way of understanding if your posts could do better in another time slot. Again, these insights have to take into account other factors such as promotion, audience size etc.

Finally, it could also be the case that there’s a definite answer to when a brand should post on Twitter or Facebook. Instagram users might be more prone to checking the app regularly. Because of this, there won’t be a marked difference in when brands post and when they get interactions.

In the next part, we’ll look at timing for brands from Australia, India and United Kingdom.