If you’re ever looking for a reason why your Instagram post has received such depressingly poor engagement, you won’t have to search far for answers. Everything from the huge popularity of Instagram Stories (a perfect excuse to never scroll down the feed) to the endlessly infuriating wrangles with the algorithm could all be the culprit behind the inactivity surrounding your tiny heart icon.
And yet, instead of simply recognising that a platform with 15 million businesses and countless influential content creators is an astonishingly competitive space in which to be scrapping for attention, many Instagrammers spend their time agonising over the tiny details that could (or could definitely not) make the difference.
Top of this list is, sigh, the timing of your posts. Type the question ‘when is the best time to post on Instagram’ into Google and you will receive around 1.9 million hits. What if though (and we have to be pretty careful how we say this) there is no ‘best time’ to post…
Ok, so if you’ve found that idea mind-blowing (or downright heretical) we’d better walk you through it slowly.
As you’re shuffling around Google’s best ‘tips’ for unlocking the secrets of Instagram’s ‘golden hour’ you might discover through one study that 50% of professional social media managers swear that between 7 and 9pm is the optimum time to post.
…Or you may discover that another source recommends weekday evenings between 6pm and 7.30pm to be the real sweet spot.
…Other studies might even – helpfully – claim that anywhere between 2am and 9pm the next day is when you should be doing your thing, a timeframe that gives you a mere 19 hours to choose the right filter and spell-check your hashtags.
The compelling scientific evidence about when to post is as endless as it is contradictory. Some sources may be able to back up with absolute rigour, for example, the fact that they have observed far greater engagement rates on a Wednesday in comparison to Sunday. But the reality is that any patterns that emerge in these studies are not necessarily applicable to every type of content, user or brand.
The Instagram algorithm (everyone’s favourite topic) has, by moving away from the chronological model, sort of eliminated at least some of the angst that should go into choosing when to post.
But even if you still feel that getting your posting schedule ‘right’ will have a serious impact on your engagement, trying to anticipate everything from the significance of commuting times, lunch breaks, cultural events, wake ups, Instagram insomniacs and about a billion other things, is only really going to come from one source. And, sadly, it isn’t in a handily Googled blog.
When asked (probably endlessly) about the significance of posting times, social media expert Krista Neher replies ‘Sorry folks, but the hard truth here is that timing counts for very little of your success. About 95 percent of your social media success is posting great content that people like and that actually grows your business. Posting it at the right time is the 5 percent booster’.
So, we have to ask whether the time you spend watching the clock could actually be better spent making sure your content is as polished, inspiring and unmissable as it can be?
But, in fairness, even if the timing of your posts only contributes to about 5% of your engagement, it’s still a 5% you’d like to have.
However, the only way you’ll get anything close to finding Instagram’s golden hour is by first recognising that what you’re really searching for is the best time to post for your audience.
Luckily, you happen to be the best qualified person to extract that particular piece of data and, with a little bit of trial, error and analysis you’ll soon learn the kind of patterns your audience might be following.
If you’re smart about using the data Instagram provides on your posts – and if you actually ask some of the people who follow you about their habits – you’ll begin to see the kind of times when you could give your content the best chance of succeeding. Which, if you think about it, is a far more useful thing to know than when Instagram is packed to the rafters with any and every kind of user.
So, if we’re lucky, you may never Google ‘what’s the best time to post on Instagram’ ever again. Fingers crossed.