What’s the best time to post on Instagram in the UK?
Regardless of who your audience is, you can be sure they’re on Instagram. The question is, how do you reach them?
With around 95 million photos and videos shared every day on the platform, how do you cut through the noise and capture the attention of Instagram users who are interested in what you have to say?
The answer is, by reaching them at the right time.
If you know when your audience will be scrolling through their feed, you can show up at the same time, with content they want to see.
In this post, we’ll look at what the research says about the ideal time to post and show you how to do research of your own to find the best time to post for your business. We’ll also give you some tips on how to create content that captures attention.
Let’s get started.
Table of contents
The best time to post on Instagram according to research
To maximise engagement on your Instagram posts, you need to share content at the times your audience is most likely to see it. Fortunately, when it comes to Instagram, users have very similar habits.
Social media platform Later recently analysed 12 million Instagram posts in multiple time zones from accounts ranging from 100 to 1 million+ followers. They found that, overall, the best time to post on Instagram was Wednesday between 9 am and 11 am EST.
Looking at the top three best times for each day, the data breaks down like this:
- Monday: 6 am, 10 am, and 10 pm EST
- Tuesday: 2 am, 4 am, and 9 am EST
- Wednesday: 7 am, 8 am and 11 pm EST
- Thursday: 9 am, 12 pm, and 7 pm EST
- Friday: 5 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm EST
- Saturday: 11 am, 7 pm, and 8 pm EST
- Sunday: 7 am, 8 am, and 4 pm EST
EST (Eastern Standard Time) is the time zone used on the east coast of North America, as well as some of Central America and the Caribbean. It’s five hours behind UK time (GMT).
But don’t add those five hours on. Simply swap EST for GMT.
So, when Later says that 6 am EST is a great time to post on a Monday, post at 6 am GMT on a Monday.
If you think about it, 6 am on a Monday is a great time of the day to post. We’re all getting up for work around that time, and one of the first things that most people do is take a few minutes to scroll through social media apps on their phones. Posting at 6 am could mean your post is the first thing your followers see on Instagram that day.
As well as Later, another leading social media platform, Sprout Social, crunched the numbers of their 25,000+ customers to find the best time to post on Instagram. And its overall finding was similar:
The best day to post is Wednesday. The best time to post is at 11 am.
The next best time to post according to the study is Friday between 10 am and 11 am.
Sprout Social also looked at what days and times get the most consistent engagement and where it tends to drop off.
- Most consistent engagement: Tuesday through Friday, 10 am–3 pm
- Worst day: Sunday receives the least amount of engagement on Instagram
- Lowest engagement: Occurs during late night and early morning from 11 pm – 3 am
On those findings, Sprout Social’s Elizabeth Arens says:
“While Instagram engagement peaks mid-day and mid-week, similar to the other major social networks, there are a few opportune windows found in the evening and morning during the middle of the week. While the safest times to post are still during those core weekday times, it could be well worth it for certain brand niches to consider if your audiences are among those reaching for the ‘Gram first thing in the morning or last thing before sleeping.
While there is a bit of increased engagement around midday on Saturday, weekends aren’t your best bet for getting eyes on your posts. Similarly, even those late night users eventually pack it in, with engagement dropping in the latest hours of the night and earliest hours of the morning”
In a study of its own, Hootsuite looked at the best times to post for specific industries:
- Travel and Tourism: Friday between 9 am and 1 pm
- Media and Entertainment: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12 pm to 3 pm
- Food and Beverage: Fridays at 12 pm
- Retail: Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 12 pm
- Professional Services: Friday, Tuesday, and Wednesday at 9 am. or 10 am
- Non-Profit: Tuesday at 4 pm or 10 am
- Non-Retail E-commerce: Thursday at 9 pm or 4 pm
- Pharma and Healthcare: Wednesday and Sunday at 9 am
- Personal Care: Friday and Thursday at 1 pm, 2 pm or 3 pm
- Technology: Monday and Tuesday at 2 pm
- Education: Thursday at 4 pm or 5 pm
If you think about your own Instagram habits and those of people you know, you’ll see that these generally recommended times make sense.
Sunday is the worst day, possibly because people are occupied with other things – spending time with family, shopping, gaming, etc.
Engagement drops off around 11 pm because that’s when most of us go to bed. And those most consistent times between 10 am and 3 pm, Tuesday to Friday? For a lot of people, those times fit in perfectly with mid-morning breaks, lunchtimes, and the mid-afternoon lull, where a quick scroll through Instagram makes for perfect procrastination fodder.
While these popular peak hours are a safe bet to help give your content a boost, it’s important to remember your business is not like every business. You have your own audience in your own time zone.
Make standard hours a starting point to experiment and learn more about your audience, and then dig deeper to find the times that work best for your business.
Quick Tip: To better understand the benefits of Instagram marketing and how to attract users to your page with engaging and captivating content, read our beginner’s guide to Instagram marketing for small businesses.
How to find the best time to post on Instagram for your business
To work out when you should be posting on Instagram, you need to find out when your audience is online.
Social platforms like the aforementioned Later, SproutSocial and Hootsuite, and others like Planoly and Iconosquare, let you dive into your Instagram analytics to find out when your followers are most active. But each of these platforms requires you to sign up and in some cases pay for advanced data.
But don’t worry, if you’re not ready to commit to a platform, there are a couple of free and easy ways to learn more about your followers:
- Instagram Insights
- The competition
To get access to the Insights feature, you’ll need to make sure that your profile is set to a business account. If it is, go to your profile, click on the menu and tap Insights.
Select the Audience tab and you’ll be shown data on the growth of your account, follower locations, age range, gender and, crucially, follower times.
Filter times by Hours and Days to get an idea of when your followers check Instagram on a typical day.
Another great way to see when your audience is online is by checking out the competition. Find out who’s performing well and check out their feed. There might be some clues there about when the best time to post is in your industry. And there’s every chance that the people who like the content of your competition will like what you post too.
What you need to look for are the posts with the most likes and comments. At the bottom of every Instagram post, you’ll see when it was posted.
Quick Tip: Instagram likes are important because more likes often leads to higher engagement. To learn how to increase your like count and get your post in front of more customers, read our guide on how to get more likes on Instagram.
But this is only really useful if you catch the post when it’s relatively fresh. For posts that are days old, you can only work out the day and not the actual time.
To find specific times, you’ll need to dig a little deeper, with the help of the Chrome browser.
From your online Instagram account, find a post that has performed well and click on it to get a closer look.
In this post from the Tide account, you can see that it was posted on August 23, 2019, which was a Friday.
To find the exact time, you need to right-click on the date (or time if the post was more recent) and select Inspect.
This will open the inspect page window and the line of code that features the time.
Instagram displays the time in the following format:
In this example, the post was published at 3:36 pm.
Repeat this on a few different posts and you may find that a pattern develops.
Experimenting with posting times
By combining general times with times from Instagram Insights and competitor accounts, you should have an idea of when your audience is likely to be online.
From here, you can start to publish posts and track how they perform by writing down engagement stats in a spreadsheet.
For example, if your research shows that your audience is online between 3 pm and 8 pm on a Friday, post every hour in that timeframe and track the performance of each post. If 3 pm and 6 pm posts perform better than the rest, next week focus only on those times. If it seems that the 6 pm post gets more engagement than the 3 pm post over a few weeks, then 6 pm on a Friday is the time for you.
Keep testing, measuring and testing again within those specific blocks of time on each day and you’ll nail down a time that fits with your audience.
But publishing content at an optimal time is only one part of the Instagram engagement puzzle. In order to stimulate comments and likes from your audience, your content needs to be captivating, and adhere to several best practices.
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How to increase your engagement
For your Instagram posts to get the love they deserve, the first thing they need to do is please the Instagram algorithm.
Instagram switched to an algorithm-based feed in 2016, which means, rather than a user seeing a chronological list of posts from accounts that they follow, their feed is tailored to the way they use the platform.
So, even if you follow the exact same accounts as someone else, your feed will be personalised depending on how you interact with those accounts.
Algorithms are a mystery to most, but we know a bit about what Instagram favours thanks to a presentation given to reporters back in 2018. In it, product lead Julian Gutman broke down the three main factors Instagram uses to determine what users see in their feed:
- Interest: Posts that are similar in content to posts a user has engaged with in the past will feature more prominently in the feed. For example, if you recently liked and commented on a post by Apple which talked about their new iPhone camera, Instagram may show you a similar post about the camera on the latest Samsung Galaxy.
- Recency: Newer posts are given priority over posts that are days or weeks old.
- Relationship: Posts from people a user has interacted with a lot in the past will feature more prominently in the feed (e.g. friends, family and favourite brands).
The recency factor shows why getting the time right is important. Because, with close to 100 million photos and videos uploaded every day, if your post goes out when your audience isn’t looking at Instagram, it isn’t likely to be around when they are.
Of the other factors, learning which kind of content your audience likes will help you cater to their interests, which will help to increase engagement and strengthen relationships. But for this to happen, you need to be publishing content at the moment your followers are scrolling through their feed.
With pleasing the algorithm in mind, here are seven ways to get people engaged with your content.
1. Be consistent
The more you post on Instagram, the more likes you’ll receive. And with the recency factor, putting out fresh content often is the key to getting your posts seen.
But this isn’t to say you need to be posting 10 times a day. Tide member Sinmi Adekola, who we caught up with last year for some tips on growing a brand on social media, recommends posting 1-2 times a day.
The key thing, according to Sinmi, is to add value, consistently. Show up every day with content that makes a difference to your audience.
For example, if you post in a specific pattern and then suddenly change your routine, you may lose followers and generate less engagement. This is, of course, until a new routine can be picked up by Instagram’s algorithm.
Instead of confusing the algorithm, and your followers, it’s best to post in an expected pattern.
The bottom line: Find a routine that works for you and then stick with it.
2. Use hashtags generously
Hashtags on social media help to categorise content and make it more discoverable. On Instagram, if someone searches for or clicks on a hashtag, they’ll be taken to a page that features all the posts tagged with it.
So by using hashtags your posts will likely see more engagement than if you didn’t use any.
Instagram allows you to include up to 30 hashtags in a post, so feel free to use them generously. Just make sure the hashtags you’re using are relevant to the content you’re sharing. Jumping on a hashtag simply because it’s popular might come across as spammy or attract new followers that are only really interested in the hashtag and not what you offer.
For example, let’s say you run a web design business and are putting out a series of posts on the top trends in web design this year. Along with hashtags such as #webdesign and #designtrends, you decide to add #fashiontrends because you can see that it’s popular. While it might make your post more visible, #fashiontrends might also bring with it an audience of fashion fans that have little care for web design.
As for how many hashtags to include in your posts, analysis by Sprout Social shows that posts with nine hashtags receive the most engagement.
Social media expert Louise Myers, though, recommends using the full quota of 30.
Again, it’s best to test what works best with your target audience. If posts with fewer hashtags are consistently receiving more engagement than ones with more, you have your answer.
3. Use Instagram Stories
500 million people use Instagram Stories every day and one-third of the most-viewed Stories are posted by businesses. Instagram Stories can be a mash-up of videos and stills and are great for sharing news, showing off new products or services, or just giving followers an insight into what goes on behind-the-scenes in your business.
Stories are featured at the top of the app and displayed by a red circle around a user’s profile image. They don’t clog up a user’s feed, and they disappear after 24 hours, making them the perfect complement to your daily posts.
Given that they’re temporary, you need to make sure you’re putting them out at the right times, with a reason for people to interact.
A great way to increase engagement within Stories is to take advantage of stickers. This feature has several “stickers” that encourage interaction from followers:
- The Questions Sticker can be used to ask for feedback on products or services.
- The Quiz Sticker can be used to share multiple-choice questions that followers can vote on. With this sticker, you can see how people voted and track results, while followers can see whether they got the question right.
- The Countdown Sticker can be used to get followers excited about an upcoming event, offer or sale.
4. Engage with your followers
Taking the time to like and reply to comments shows your followers that a) a real person is running the account, and b) you care about their feedback. And the more you interact with followers, the more loyal they’ll be.
Of course, if you’re getting hundreds of comments on posts, replying to them all is like a full-time job. In this case, Sinmi Adekola recommends replying only to the first few.
“If you have 100 comments try to reply to the first 10-20 and like the rest of the comments. Your followers are your community and you need to be engaging with them on a personal level. Make them your tribe and build a solid relationship with them! Be sure to reply and show some love on their pages too.”
5. Be authentic
According to a survey by content marketing platform Stackla, 90% of consumers say that authenticity is important when deciding which brands they like and support. Another study by Bonfire Marketing shows that 91% of customers want the brands they follow to be authentic in their social media posts.
Engaging with your followers is one way to show your authenticity. Another is to mix up the branded content with photos and stories of the “real” side of your business – the behind-the-scenes goings-on, the ups and downs, the good ideas and the not-so-good ideas.
In this post, Courtney Trop makes light of the fact her photo with a Louis Vuitton bag went wrong.
6. Write longer captions
According to a study by Later and Fohr, the average caption length on Instagram has doubled since 2016. What’s more, posts with longer captions get more engagement.
With “time spent on post” used by Instagram as a factor in how a post performs in the algorithm, writing more is a simple way to keep people around.
Instagram lets you use up to 2,200 characters in a post, but don’t feel like you have to use them all unless you need to.
Later says the average caption is 405 characters, which is around 65-70 words.
Regardless of whether you write two sentences or 20, you must nail the content. This infographic by Later demonstrates how to do just that:
- Killer first line: Captions are truncated after 125 characters, so get in your most important information first. Give readers a reason to click “more”.
- Strong call to action: If you want people to like your post, leave a comment or tag a friend, ask them. For example, “tag a friend who’ll love this”. Or “double tap if you agree”.
- Consistent brand voice: Write on Instagram in the same way you write on every other marketing channel
- Hashtags: Add multiple hashtags to every caption to increase engagement
- Emojis and line breaks: Emojis add some much-needed eye-catching colour to text, while line breaks add a visual break that helps to make longer captions easier to digest.
7. Keep the momentum going
When you’ve got a good thing going, keep it going by maintaining a steady stream of posts. Sinmi Adekola recommends a three-step strategy for this: Plan, Prepare and Automate.
- Plan: Decide on the content you want to share and create a 30-day plan detailing what will go out and when.
- Prepare: Spend a couple of days writing out your captions and hashtags and get the photos you need for the month ahead.
- Automate: Use a social media scheduling tool such as Hootsuite, Planoly, Sprout Social or Iconosquare to schedule your content to go out at the right time. When you have posts with longer captions and multiple hashtags, getting it ready ahead of time and scheduling saves you having to do things at the spur of the moment. It also gives you the chance to avoid any potentially embarrassing spelling or grammar errors.
Unlike Twitter or Facebook, Instagram doesn’t allow third-party apps to post for you. However, you can set up push notifications so that platforms can notify you when content is due to go out. Your only job then is to hit ‘publish’.
With 83% of Instagrammers using the platform to discover new products and services and 81% using it to research potential purchases, reaching your audience at the right time provides a great opportunity to increase leads and drive sales.
Use the tips in this guide to create compelling content and to glean when the best times to post on Instagram are. Take it a step further by tracking your own post’s insights, experimenting with different times within the recommended windows to post (taking into account the insights you gathered about when your audience is online), and track performance as you go.
You’ll start to see a pattern emerging of posts getting more engagement at certain times. When that happens, you’re on to a winning strategy that will help your Instagram marketing flourish.
Photo by Callie Morgan, published on Unsplash