To build a solid Instagram account, you need to create compelling content. But if you don't post your content at the right time, most of your audience will never see it.  So, check out this article to find out what is the best time to post on Instagram. 

TL;DR: This is a very in-depth, long-term research, with lots of insights.
If you're in a rush, you can skip to the main results.

We performed an in-depth research, where we answered two of the biggest questions social media marketers have:

  • what is the best time to post on Instagram?
  • what should your posts look like to get high engagement?

The current research is actually a longitudinal study. We repeated analysis of the same variables (related to Instagram posting time) over long periods of time and compared the results.  In the last years, we've analyzed millions of Instagram posts and thousands of Instagram accounts from 10 different industries.  

More on the exact methodology and how we conducted the research about posting on social media platform Instagram can be found here.

  1. When Is the Best Time to Post on Instagram?
  2. How Long Should Instagram Posts Be?
  3. How Many Hashtags Should You Use on Instagram?
  4. Instagram Photo vs. Instagram Video - Which Performs Best?
  5. What Is the Best Time to Post on Instagram for:
    1. B2B  Companies
    2. Influencers & Celebrities
    3. Education
    4. Health & Medicine
    5. Home Goods & Services
    6. Lifestyle
    7. NGOs
    8. Publishers & Media Companies
    9. Technology
    10. Travel
  6. How Does the Instagram Algorithm Work
  7. How Was the Research Done

Let’s jump straight to it: what’s the best time to post and what does an ideal post look like? That’s the big question on everybody’s mind. 

When Is the Best Time to Post on Instagram in 2020?

We’ve added above the brief highlights of our research. Yet, you need to know that these brief findings implied tons of data processing, research and analysis over a long period of time. 

If you're one of those who don't post daily and you're interested in a bit more granularity of the data, here is the creme de la creme of posting, the best days and hours, in general.

For increased engagement and likes, best interval to post in general is Sunday, 3PM - 9PM CDT.

At a first glance, these results are hardly surprising. Sunday afternoon and evening is when a lot of people get the Sunday Scaries - that feeling of anxiety (or even dread) that comes with the realization that the weekend is over and the work week is about to start again. One last dose of escape might be the perfect antidote to fight that feeling.

But more generally, there are few surprises here - there’s not a lot of engagement associated with posting in the small hours, and a fairly good chance at engagement during most of the day and into the evening. Of course, there’s the itsy-bitsy detail of jobs and all that and people being at work throughout most of the day. However, in between users spending an average of only 28 minutes a day on Instagram and the vast majority of users being aged under 35, this makes perfect sense. 

The Ideal Length for Your Instagram Posts

While we know that there is no perfect formula when it comes to scheduling your Instagram post, besides optimal times there are some elements that seem to bring considerably more success to a post.

First of all, the number of words. In general (we're going to talk about each Instagram business category later on the post) it seems that less is better.

Less than 19 words seem to bring the engagement you’d expect.

Which, however you pick them, is quite a bit shorter than the average of 138-150 characters suggested by some. However, a shorter description makes sense if you consider that it gets truncated anyway above 125 characters, and having to do extra steps to interact with a post can be a disincentive for many.

How Many Hashtags Should You Use on Instagram?

With hashtags, we get a more counter-intuitive result.

Our data suggests that fewer hashtags are correlated with more likes, which seems to be at odds with the whole concept (and intended usefulness of) hashtags.

There are some variations by industry, but generally, more hashtags do not equal more likes (on the contrary). So, one should avoid posting many hashtags in a piece of content.

While this result might seem at odds with other research in the field, there are a couple of possible explanations for the plausibility of our finding. One is that when it comes to established accounts, there’s a snowballing effect. Fame begets fame and "star power" tends to attract more followers - hashtags, therefore, are hardly an issue for these accounts.

Another explanation is that there’s likely to be a larger representation of posts with fewer hashtags (because they require less effort) and there’s a larger probability of posts with high engagement among these. All this is not to say that there is necessarily a causal relationship, but rather than the key to success is most likely not dependent on increasing your hashtag game.

Instagram Photo vs. Instagram Video - Which Performs Best?

Last but not least, it should come as a surprise that videos are, more often than not, good content. 

The aggregate data shows a somewhat balanced picture where it doesn’t make much of a difference whether you go for a photo or for a video.

If you were to choose, in an effort to maximize your chances, data suggests going with a video.

Of the total average number of likes, slightly more were given to posts with video (54.3%) compared to posts with no video (45.7%). 

Video global

However, it’s important to know that almost all industries follow the same recipe, with a few exceptions. If you take out the “Health” industry, the proportion reverses. It now becomes 57% vs. 43% in favor of posts with video. Bottom line is that you stand a pretty good chance of having a successful post with a video and shouldn’t be afraid of posting videos if you feel like they tell a better story than a photo.

Combine the best time to post on Instagram data with what it takes to get high engagement and you should be close enough to "the perfect post", as data reveal.

If you are looking for the answer for the question: What Does It Take to Get High Engagement on Instagram?, here's the summary:

 

• Length: less than 19 words

• Hashtags: between 0 - 3

• Video: yes 

Of course, each industry has its particularities, so let's dig in each niche.

B2B Companies - Best Time to Post on Instagram & How to Get High Engagement

 

• Best Time: Wednesday, 4PM CDT 

• Best Engagement: Monday, 5PM 

• Best Days: Monday & Wednesday 

• Length: less than 19 words

• Hashtags: between 0 - 3

• Video: yes 

If, on a general note, the top time to post on Instagram is Sunday afternoon, when it comes to the B2B industry things are different. Best days to post in the B2B niche are at the very beginning of the week, connected, most likely, with the Monday to Friday working days. So, if you're in the B2B industry, update your Instagram strategy and social media calendar and post on social platform when your followers are online and your audience is most active.

Another interesting particularity of the B2B industry is the number of hashtags. Yes, it does comply with the general finding that the less, the better. Yet, we can see a very big difference between the number of likes posts with less than 3 hashtags get versus the small number of likes posts with four or more hashtags get. Things are pretty clear within the B2B industry as the data shows, that hashtags should be use with caution.

Influencers & Celebrities - Best Time to Post on Instagram & How to Get High Engagement

 

• Best Time: Friday, 7PM

• Best Engagement: Sunday, 5PM

• Best Days: Friday & Sunday

• Length: less than 9 words

• Hashtags: between 0 - 3

• Video: no

The Influencers and Celebrities industry is a special one, first of all, as it's the category with the highest number of Instagram followers and therefore, likes. Given the profile of the influencer marketing industry, this is most likely normal.  What might surprise though is the fact that the engagement within this category is really low. Reported to the big number of likes, there are very few comments.

Afternoons on a week day seem to be the best time to post within this category if you want to get high engagement, especially on weekends. This is probably connected with the celebrities' lifestyle and the events they are taking part to, happening mostly on weekends. This is probably one of the few categories when the "night activity" is pretty intense and a high number of likes for content posted on 1AM is not something unusual.

Furthermore, it seems that there isn't a high correlation between the number of hashtags and the number of likes/comments posts get. What is particular for this category is the low number of words you need to have to get a high number of likes. This also aligns with the low engagement this category has (high number of likes but small number of comments).

There is a dramatic drop in likes as the number of words increases. In addition to that, most of the posts are already "obeying" the "just-a-few-words" rule, most of them having under nine words.

This is a singularity of this industry and if we think about it, it does make sense: what it matters most is the image, the visual, click like and move forward, no big interaction. Moreover, keep in mind that this is one of the few categories that have fewer likes for posts with videos. In most of the other categories, it is the other way around.

Education - Best Time to Post on Instagram & How to Get High Engagement

 

• Best Time: Monday, 12PM

• Best Engagement: Sunday, 1PM

• Best Days: Monday & Sunday

• Length: around 300 or more words

• Hashtags: between 0 - 3; 6-10

• Video: both videos and photos

When it comes to posts from the educational institutions field, it seems that Sundays & Mondays are bringing the most success. So, these are the days you should post most if you're interested in getting high traction within this category.

What is very interesting within this category is the high engagement it has. Meaning that even if the number of likes is not as impressive as in other categories, the number of comments are really high for this field. This means that the followers from this category are really engaged.

Another indicator of this high engagement is the number of words posts with high number of likes have. As you can see in the chart below, the more, the better. Given the profile of this industry, this conclusion makes sense; yet, you have to admit that it's quite unexpected. And we believe that users from this field don't know this information as you can see in the chart below, the number of posts with more than 200 words are quite few.

If you're within the Educational field, consider these Instagram insights, and adapt your social media strategy to your specific audience. Your content calendar should contain long, relevant posts, with up to 10 hashtags. Morever, try to post on Mondays and Sundays as well, as this recipe might get you the likes and comments you hope for.

Health & Medicine - Best Time to Post on Instagram & How to Get High Engagement

 

• Best Time: Wednesday, 5PM

• Best Engagement: Monday, Sunday, 11PM

• Best Days: Monday & Sunday

• Length: less than 99 words

• Hashtags: 2 or 3

• Video: no video 

When it comes to Health & Medicine field, Mondays and Sundays seem to be the most active days. It may relate to the fact that people want to start a new week fresh, with a healthy diet, a healthy exercise plan, better habits. Or, given the high engagement on 11PM, it may be connected with the fact the people might be worried about health issues and cannot communicate to a specialist right away. Of course, all these reasons are speculations, but keeping in mind the best times for engagement in this field is not. So, listen to the data, update your social media scheduler and engage with your users when they are eagerly waiting for content from you.

Another particularity of the Health niche is the fact that social media posts with photos instead of videos have better results. As you can see in the chart below, of the total average number of likes, more were given to posts with no video. If we take into consideration the fact that the length of the posts is not short (it's less than 99 words but definitely more than the average), followers of this category are surely engaged. 

It seems that most of the publishers from the Health & Medicine category are not scheduling Instagram posts with the "right" number of words.  As you can see from the chart below, most of the users from this category are posting content that has somewhere between 100-300 words. Yet, what users appreciate and like are posts that are under 100 words. Therefore, if you're in this niche, you'd better reconsider not only the timing of your posts but also the length of it.

Home Goods & Services - Best Time to Post on Instagram & How to Get High Engagement

 

• Best Time: Saturday, 9PM

• Best Engagement: Monday, 6PM

• Best Days: Wednesday & Sunday

• Length: less than 9 words

• Hashtags: 0

• Video: yes 

This category reunites everything from household goods, appliances to air conditioning and home-made furniture business and services.  And according to the analyzed data, best time to post and get engagement within this category is after 6PM. Most likely after work when people have time for household chores.

What is particularly interesting within this category is the number of likes posts with zero hashtags get. If you check the screenshot below, you can see that most likes are related to the posts that don't use any hashtags.  So, while Instagram allows you to include up to 30 hashtags within a post, when it comes to Home Goods & Services, posts with no hashtag at all seem to bring the more likes.  It doesn't mean that posts with hashtags don't bring likes at all; yet, they bring less public "applause". This is a singularity that accounts posting within this category should totally take into account.

 

Lifestyle - Best Time to Post on Instagram & How to Get High Engagement

 

• Best Time: Tuesday, 10PM

• Best Engagement: Sunday, 2PM

• Best Days: Saturday & Sunday

• Length: between 10 -19 words

• Hashtags: 1-3

• Video: yes 

Lifestyle is among the most popular Instagram categories. There are lots of people posting under this topic, gathering millions of followers. For best engagement, Sunday afternoons seems to be the best and if you're looking for likes, late Tuesday is when you should be posting. Talking generally, weekend afternoons are the best for posting content within this category.

When to post is highly important, yet so is what to post.

As we look at the chart below, we can see that most likes go to posts that have somewhere between 10-20 keywords. Yet, the most posts from this category contain between 0-9 or 50-100 words. Therefore, most of the people posting within this category are publishing content with a number of keywords that don't bring them the most likes. Therefore, if you're interested in posting content within Lifestyle category, you should reconsider the length of your posts.

Less seems to be better here, not only when it comes to the number of words, but also when it comes to the number of hashtags.

NGOs - Best Time to Post on Instagram & How to Get High Engagement

 

• Best Time: Everyday, 9PM

• Best Engagement: Thursday, 8PM

• Best Days: Friday, Saturday, Sunday

• Length: between 200-299 words

• Hashtags: 1; 5-6

• Video: yes 

The nonprofit organizations sector brings some interesting findings on the table, on almost all sections. If, for the other categories, there are some days that are clearly better than the others, when it comes to NGOs, everyday seems to be a good day, as long as it's in the afternoon. Luckily for the civic sense, this category has a very high engagement with people commenting more on posts from the NGO field than others.

Even when it comes to hashtags, things are a bit abnormal within the NGO category. According to the analysis, there isn't a "lucky" number of hashtags that one should use to get more likes, but several ones. As it can be seen in the chart below, one and six seems to be number of hashtags that bring more traction.  Yet, this doesn't seem that if you're using three, five hashtags or even more than 20 you won't get results.  This category, together with Education, Travel and Publishers and Media, is among the few who have a decent number of likes for posts that use more than 20 hashtags.

When it comes to the number of  words, this category is like no other, as more than 200 words seem to bring the most number of likes. There was no other category from the one researched within this study that had such great results for posts with such a high number of words. Therefore, we'd recommend you to add this important finding within your Instagram tips notebook.

The NGO category seems to be special when it comes to the number of likes that posts using videos get. There is a big difference regarding the number of likes in favor of Instagram posts using videos instead of photos.  Therefore, this category is a very particular one, where personal engagement matters considerably more than within other categories: have long posts, use videos within it, hashtags and post specially in the afternoons for best results.

Publishers & Media Companies - Best Time to Post on Instagram & How to Get High Engagement

 

• Best Time: Everyday 8AM & 8PM

• Best Engagement: Everyday 8PM

• Best Days: Very small differences between days

• Length: between 0-19 and 50-99 words

• Hashtags: 0,1; 5-6

• Video: both videos and photos

The publishers and media category is a very energetic one, with lots of content being published every day. When it comes to getting most likes, mornings and afternoons are best; however, engagement seems to be specific only for afternoons. Most likely people are checking news in the morning and evening, but only in the second part of the day they have the time to engage and comment.

This is the only category where all days have almost the same impact on Instagram likes and comments.

Another interesting finding of this category is that it is among the few that is publishing content with the same number of words that actually gets the most likes. Hope this make sense, if not, please take a look at the chart below. The posts that bring most likes are the one containing 50-99 words and most accounts from this category are posting content that has the same number of words. Of course, correlation does not imply correlation, yet in this case, it does make you think that Publishers & Media Companies know what to post to get the best traction.

Moreover, posts with both videos or photos seem to bring quite the same results. On average, posts with videos seem to have more likes than the ones without. Yet, the difference is rather small.

Technology - Best Time to Post on Instagram & How to Get High Engagement

 

• Best Time: Friday, 5PM & 6PM

• Best Engagement: Saturday, 2PM

• Best Days: Thursday & Friday

• Length: between 10-19 words

• Hashtags: 1,2

• Video: yes

If you're thinking that the tech companies category would gather game lovers, artificial intelligence enthusiasts, science masters or computer geeks, you'd be right. The best time to post on the technology category seems to early weekend afternoons. Meaning that starting with Thursday afternoons, continuing with Fridays and Saturdays, the followers from this category appreciate more the posts within this period of time.

This is one of the categories when there's a very clear distinction between the number of likes gathered within 12PM-9PM CDT versus all the other time intervals. Worst time to post or to schedule your posts within this category would be early mornings or late at nights.

For consistent engagement, keep in mind that the most appreciated posts are the ones with a maximum of two hashtags, just a few words (between 10 and 20) that usually contains videos.

Travel - Best Time to Post on Instagram & How to Get High Engagement

 

• Best Time: Monday, 7PM

• Best Engagement: Tuesday, 5PM

• Best Days: Monday & Tuesday

• Length: less than 29 words

• Hashtags: between 0 - 1

• Video: both videos and photos

The travel category is a highly popular one on Instagram and there is a huge travel marketing niche on the 1 billion users platform. Admit it, you've also daydreamed of incredible beautiful pictures of Bali after a long Monday, promising to yourself that this year you'll make it there. You'll probably check a few pictures and ask a few questions to the people who went there again on Tuesday, but by Friday you've already forgotten about your dream which comes back on Monday, while complaining about how fast spare time flies.

It could be related to the "oh, no, Monday again syndrome" as it seems that the best time to post on Instagram on the Travel industry is Monday afternoon, after work to be more precise. Tuesday is also good for engagement, so keep both days on mind while looking for the best day to post on Instagram.

It is true that the most likes are won by the posts that have no or just one hashtag. Yet, before rushing into posting content on the travel category using zero hashtags, we'd recommend taking a look at the chart below. As you can see, there is lower engagement for the posts using more hashtags; yet, there is not a dramatic difference between using two or three hashtags, for instance. Of course, one should aim for the posts that bring most results, yet linger a bit on this chart before rushing into making any decision.

Furthermore, posts with both videos and photos seem to bring equal shares of likes and one should use less than 30 words to describe the beauty of the picture or video posted within the travel category.

How Does the Instagram Algorithm Work

Even with this amount of data, however, there is room for uncertainty when it comes to optimizing your posts. One of the reasons is, of course, the Instagram algorithm.

The conventional wisdom is that the Instagram algorithm dictates the order of the posts that users see when they're scrolling through their feed. Based on the Instagram signals, it prioritizes posts, pushing the most relevant ones towards the top and giving them the most visibility, while other content ends up being placed further down in one's feed. 

However, the good part is that Instagram revealed their 6 key factors that influence the Instagram algorithm for feed posts:

  • Interest
  • Relationship
  • Timeliness
  • Frequency
  • Following
  • Usage

And yes, time and frequency are one of them. While we know that there might by factors that you cannot influence, don't forget that time and frequency are in your full control. Of course, they count only if your posting schedules and content management are in accordance with what your audience wants and likes.

The best news is that you can use this current research as a "cheat sheet" or an "Instagram scheduler" helper.

Timing does matter a lot; it mattered in 2018, 2019 and it will matter tomorrow as well. Even if the Instagram algorithm is constantly changing (it is said that multiple times per week), keep in mind that there are some Instagram algorithm factors that you can control.

The truth is that it's hard to know which "ultimate guides" or super successful "Instagram stories" or influencer marketing strategies to rely on and which not. And that's why we believe that researches like this one, presenting large sets of data can shed some light into the social marketing universe. Eskimos supposedly have hundreds of words for “snow”. Phil Collins wrote “In the Air Tonight” after seeing someone drowning, while a passerby did nothing to help. The three magi that came to visit baby Jesus were named Casper, Melchior and Balthazar. The word “crap” originates from the British plumber Thomas Crapper. The Great Wall of China is the only human-made object visible from space. A frog will not try to get out of cold water that is slowly heated. These are all things many people tend to believe and that many more spread unwittingly. They are also things that are false.

How We Did the Research

We are proud to say that all the research was done in-house, by the BrandMentions team from gathering the data to analyzing it, extracting the findings, checking the correlations and creating the charts and content. It was not an easy or short ride but it was totally worth it.

What we tried to do, and we believe we achieved, was to perform a longitudinal study where we analyzed data over a long period of time and compared the results from year to year, so as to account for seasonal variation.

The results are the outcome of a few years' research, while we gathered and analyzed as much data as necessary so we can offer relevant results when it comes to the best time to post on Instagram.

We ended up with roughly 2 million Instagram posts, from almost 10,000 Instagram accounts, which makes for a comfortably representative sample, if we trust data on the total number of active Instagram users (over 1 billion) and average daily number of posts (over 100 million per day, or roughly 36.5 billion a year).

Within this context, our sample would place the findings at a less than 1% margin of error with a 99% confidence level.

We took into account the number of comments and the number of likes, as measures of user engagement. We also considered factors like the number of followers of a particular account, the number of words attached to a post, as well as whether the post contained videos or just photos. Last but not least, we kept track of the industry each post could be ascribed to, because often there are industry-specific traits that get lost in aggregate data. So, while we’ll be presenting you with the big picture, we’ll take some time to dig into the specifics as well.

While we extracted the main highlights for posting on Instagram in general, we also took care to extract the most important data and particularities for ten different industries: 

  • B2B (business to business)
  • Influencers & Celebrities
  • Education
  • Health & Medicine
  • Home Goods & Services
  • Lifestyle
  • NGOs
  • Publishers & Media Companies
  • Technology Companies
  • Travel  

If day and time considerations are important, the question becomes: whose time zone is the correct reference? And since users and their followers are not country bound, what does it mean for them? If the overall best posting time turns out to be morning in Europe, should US users stay up late to get all the possible likes? The subject matter is clearly complex, but not impossible to tackle, as long as we approach the data with care and caution.

In the lines above, you’ll find out the best time to post on Instagram. Yet, as mentioned above, by now you might be thinking what time zones we used so you can apply the findings to your own location. All the data presented are on CDT (Central Daylight Time), meaning GMT-5 for people interested in Europe timing. Keep that time zone in mind and post according to it. And if it's not on the time zone that matter for you, use a post scheduler like this one for this types of matter.  

Conclusions

There’s a lot to be said about conventional wisdom and the comfort of common places. Familiarity can be useful, but it can also lead us into error. The Internet is no stranger to sage advice that is readily imparted and that is often based on second-hand information, rather than carefully verified data. There is, for example, a lot of conventional wisdom about best times and days to post on Instagram for maximum reach and maximum engagement. And even though some of it is based in numbers, it’s always a good idea to question conventional wisdom. 

Any discussion on the type of Instagram content one should use or Instagram posting times and best practices is slightly more complicated than it would appear, we admit it. Yet, we believe that a big amount of analyzed data, like the one we turned upside down, is a pretty good predictor of what could imply a higher engagement when it comes to Instagram posting, and on a bigger scale to social listening. 

Cornelia is a proud Digital Marketer @ BrandMentions. When she is not documenting for the next amazing case study, she is probably somewhere trying out a new extreme sport such as Hang Gliding. Also, she's an avid traveler, extreme sports enthusiast, and aspiring drum singer.