After spending hours perfecting that saturation and shadow on your spring break beach pic, have you ever wondered whether your masterpiece will get lost in the vortex of time? Do college students scroll in the late-night hours? Or do most of us use the app as a distraction in that afternoon bio class we dread? If you ask your bestie, known as the Insta-queen of your friend group, she’ll confidently give you a period that she swears is the best time to post on Instagram. It works for her and her 4,000 followers. Yet, how can you be sure? In search of a more accurate answer, we took to campuses and offices alike, asking different kinds of experts what they think is the best time to post on Instagram.
What do the students say is the best time to post on instagram?
“I usually post between 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.,” Syracuse junior Komal Sharma said. “I post during this time because it’s the time I see is more effective, because that’s when most people I know are on social media. Usually, earlier in the day, people are at work, school or are otherwise occupied. So I’ve just personally found that you can get more views after that time.”
How about the professors?
In this gray area of the Internet, not even our all-knowing teachers can give us a clear answer. “I’m not sure if I know what the best time to post is, because I bet it depends on different factors (i.e. what you’re trying to accomplish) and I suspect it changes over time,” Boston College Information Systems Professor Gerald Kane said. “For instance, if everyone thinks 9 a.m. is the best time and posts accordingly, 3 p.m. may become a better time because the supply is lower and its a less crowded space.” So maybe your posts have gotten lost in the jumble? If too many people are posting at the same time, chances are scrollers just cruise through with glazed eyes, skipping over your post altogether. Or, their attention span just didn’t last long enough for them to make it down to your pic.
“It will also be heavily dependent on the algorithm they use for newsfeed, which may play a bigger role,” Kane said. Each social media platform has a different algorithm. For Instagram, this means that the posts in your newsfeed do not appear in chronological order anymore. The mysterious system behind the app makes it so that your most relevant content appears first. How does Insta decide what’s relevant to your life and interests? Naturally, it’s a well-kept secret.
So maybe it all comes down to the content of your posts. To investigate further, we turned to the experts. You know, the people who get paid to advise companies on this sort of thing. “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,” social media and digital marketing expert Krista Neher said. So timing still affects likes? Even if it’s only 5 percent, I’ll take any extra likes I can get, and I think most people feel the same way.
“Why are social media marketers so obsessed with it? Because it is easier to post at 2 p.m. vs. 8 a.m. Everyone can do that. The real news here is that success in social media is hard. Finding content to post that people genuinely care about and that also grows your business is really tricky,” Neher said.
So, should you consider timing when you post?
Don’t discount the timing element—you still need that extra push. You don’t want to post when everyone else posts, but you also don’t want to post when no one opens the app.
According to The Huffington Post, the best time to post is 5 p.m. Apparently, this is when a ton of people check their newsfeed, but not many people post. So, it’s ideal, right? Not so fast.
That study was done with the overall crowd of Insta participants. As our experts said, this time could vary based on your audience. If your timeline brims with college students, their Insta activity will differ greatly—more than any other age group because, you know, college kids have extreme schedules. Most of us we work late into the night, and like to sleep in whenever we can. Unlike the majority of Insta-users, the majority of us might not be on at 5 p.m. So…when is that golden time?
Honestly, unless you work for Insta and can consider all of the specific details about your own account—the audience type, your content type, etc.—you’ll probably never know. Social media platforms are successful because they keep their secrets secret—the nature of the beasts. And I promise you, beasts they are, growing everyday and stretching their powerful limbs further than you could ever imagine.
What does this all mean?
Okay, so let’s recap. Content makes up most of the equation. Your pic needs to be straight fire to rack up the likes (surprise, surprise). This matters because Insta now uses this super-secret formula to give the people what they supposedly want to see at the top of their newsfeeds. “Timing your posts appropriately is definitely important. You want to ensure your content is reaching as many people as possible. Fortunately, with the algorithm now, even if your timing is off, your content may get resorted to reach your followers when they are next logged in to Instagram,” said social media strategist Jenn Herman.
So, you need to cater to exactly what your audience wants. That’ll vary depending on whether your account centers around food porn, healthy living, fashion, comedy, nightlife or natural scenery. Whatever you do, you need to do it well.
How’s that, you ask?
Read 5 tips to make the perfect instagram post.
Tip #1: Take your time.
“Quality beats quantity,” said social media strategist Jenn Herman. “Post less content for better results.” Put in the effort from the very beginning—the photography itself. Don’t force some pixelated, blurry, badly lit, looks-like-it-was-taken-on-a-flip-phone snap on your followers. Check. Are the colors working well together? Check. Is the camera angle positioned well? Is it in focus? The lighting’s right? Also take a look at the content. Is the subject/object interesting to look at? You might enjoy that picture of your brand new white Converse, but your followers have seen the same pair on literally everyone else already.
Don’t make it too complicated—just don’t go snapping around like a five-year-old with a disposable Kodak.
Tip #2: Edit. Edit. Edit.
Insiders and Insta pros don’t just rely on the Instagram filters. Download an app like FaceTune or VSCO specifically for editing, and work on your pic there. Then, when you import it into Insta, you could even throw a second filter on it to get a truly unique effect.
Tip #3: Use your hashtags wisely.
Don’t supplement your followers’ summer reading lists with paragraphs of hashtags onto the bottom of every caption. It’s annoying. No one reads them. So don’t do it.
But on the flip side, you do need to add a couple hashtags. Hashtags sort posts on Instagram so new followers will stumble upon your pic when scrolling through the hashtag. New followers will up your likes. They also prevent your picture from being thrown out into the abyss of the Internet, never to be found or considered #relevant again.
Tip #4: Don’t forget about your faithful followers.
You know when you’re scrolling, and you come across a post that catches your eye. You’re about to double tap, but just before your thumb falls on the screen, you catch yourself. You realized whose account the post was from. It’s that girl who never likes your pics. Ever.
We’ve all done this, so just remember that it works the other way as well. If you don’t like other people’s pictures, they probably won’t like yours. And trust me, it doesn’t matter how many followers they have. Any Insta-user will remember you if you liked his or her last post. If you didn’t, that person won’t tap you twice.
Tip #5: Keep a theme
One of the crucial ways to build a following and collect loads of likes is to maintain a theme for your entire account. It can be food, modeling or fashion, but whatever it is, every picture needs to fall under that stylistic category. Otherwise, strangers will not follow you. People you’re close with in reality will love to see a mix of pictures from your life. However, those people are limited. In order to reach a larger audience, you have to pick a theme you’re passionate about and work it into every post. That way, people know what they’re getting when they follow you, and they’ll love it when you continue giving them more posts that relate to their area of interest.
Examples of Perfect Instagram Posts
Let’s take a look a picture posted by the Insta queen herself: Kimmy K. Now, she’s clearly mastered selfies, but here is one of her other types of pictures that racks up millions of likes.
In this picture, Kim Kardashian is with her husband, Kanye, and her children. The photo looks seemingly candid, but we all know Kim had her family pose for it. The obvious filter and editing effects faded the colors and blurred the lines just enough to make it look like an old family photo you found in the attic. Kim clearly took her time with this pic (tip #1) and used that time to edit until it looked like a real, old photo (tip #2). Also, note the caption. It’s very short and very sweet, adding to the tastefulness of her Instagram artwork. She doesn’t include any hashtags, as they can just bog a picture down and appear cluttered (tip #3).
In this picture, the content is cute and funny. The cat laid on top of the user’s books, making it impossible to use them, and it has the right idea for a good, humorous post. But, there’s evidently no filter on the photo, and consequently the colors and tones are uninteresting. There’s also nothing really eye-catching in the photo—you can’t even see the cat’s face. Isn’t that 95 percent of the cuteness? There aren’t any fun, unique angles either, which means that there just isn’t much to look at. If this pops up on another user’s timeline, that person’s eyes are likely to gloss right over it without a second thought.
Do your Instagram posts look like either of these examples? If it looks like Kim’s, then you’re killing it on the social media front. If it looks more like the second post, then you should review our tips.