Experiment: Can Post Timing Improve Your Instagram Engagement?

What is the hottest social media trend for fall? Relating to lower than usual Instagram engagement, especially if you haven’t tried Reels.

It’s important to remember that social media managers could be experiencing a slight drop in traffic before we get into the conspiracy theories about “did I get shadowbanned”. One possible explanation is: People started to use social media differently after COVID restrictions were lifted in fall 2021.

This is why it seems now is a good time to try changing the timing of your posts. This is a powerful way to increase engagement. For my next trick, I will be testing if Hootsuite’s recommended time for publishing Instagram posts increases engagement.

What if all else fails? It’s okay, it’s back time to have a good laugh with the shadow-ban community.

Let’s goooo!

Hypothesis: Using Instagram to engage with your audience online can increase your engagement rate

Timing is an important aspect of social media campaigns that work. Your audience will be more likely to view what you post if they are online. It’s as simple as that.

It’s a different story to figure out when it is. While you can manually go through your Instagram insights and analytics to find the numbers, tools such as Hootsuite’s Recommended Time to Post feature automates the process.

This experiment will take the wisdom of the Hootbot and put it to the ultimate test.


My normal method of posting to Instagram is “whenever it feels like it”, so I continued doing that. I prepared a few beautiful wedding photos that I would post to the Instagram account for a wedding magazine that I work for. They have approximately 10,000 followers. I then spread them out over the course of the week in a very non-methodical manner.

wedding photos on Instagram profile

Wednesday afternoon? Yes, it felt right! What time is 8:35 am on a Thursday? It’s not possible! Let’s call this “intuitive posting.” (Patent in process!)

Hootsuite Planner Instagram post times

The week after that, I posted another selection of beautiful wedding photos (with similarly themed captions, for scientific-control-group purposes), but this time, I followed Hootsuite’s advice for the best times to post.

If your account is used regularly enough, you will see recommendations for posting times when you click “Schedule”, while you use the “Compose” tool.

Hootsuite Compose schedule post using recommended times

If you don’t want to use the Analytics tab, there are some suggestions. In the drop-down menu at the top, you can choose timing recommendations for each network.

Hootsuite Analytics best days and times to publish posts

Hootsuite base these suggestions on the likelihood of your followers being on a specific social network and the time your account has accumulated most engagement and views over the past.

It’s math (or science? It’s math (or… science?) and not intuition at all. Did Hootbot or my womanly inner power know better?

What happened to my posts at recommended times?

This experiment was not scientifically sound, but it was a good science experiment. Social media usage patterns are out of sync with the norm, so it’s difficult to predict how people will behave based on their recent actions.

Regardless: Hootsuite’s recommended times still helped my posts perform better, with higher impressions, comments and likes on average than my throw-a-dart-at-the-wall method of posting the week prior.

The number of impressions increased by 30% from 2,200 last week to 2,900 during Hootsuite Recommendation Week. My best-performing week also saw 30% more likes than my previous week’s best-performing week.

It’s not bad at all.

Hootsuite Analytics Instagram publishing post reach and impressions

This is a shameless plug for the tool. It also illustrates an important principle: posting when your audience are online makes a difference. Your audience’s habits might have changed in the past fall.

If you didn’t notice it, it’s okay! We are all learning together and growing. This is an opportunity for you to bring your engagement back to the place you want.

What does the result mean?

TLDR: Make sure you post when your audience is online.

This is a fundamental principle that should be remembered, especially in a time when audience behavior is changing. You may have had some control over their activities back in the olden days (a.k.a. March), but times change.

It’s a lot like the old “Does your child know where their children are?” PSA. But replace “children” by “social media audience” or “where” with “when”?

Sometimes we get too involved in creating and executing our large social media campaigns, monitoring our social data, or keeping track of our social calendar that we forget that one of the most important factors to success is making sure people see what you have worked so hard on. After all, you’re not just Photoshopping the CEO into that butterfly meme for personal enjoyment. It’s not all bad, though.

You can win social media by presenting your art to the greatest number of people possible.

Having said that, what does it actually mean to post at “best time”?

You and your goals will determine the best time to post.

There are some general guidelines that can be used to help you choose the best time to post on Instagram. However, every account will have its own behavior and audience. They are your precious precious babies! If your precious precious babies don’t use Insta on weekdays, it won’t do you any good to post Tuesday mornings.

Use your Instagram Insights to find out when your audience is online. You can also tap into automated scheduling tools such as Hootsuite to get recommendations.

graph of average impressions for posts in the past 30 days

It is possible that the best time to blog will change as time goes by

Your recommended posting times today will change over time as your audience habits change or your audience grows or changes. The Instagram algorithm is always being updated. This will have an impact on who sees what and when. You can also check out these other factors.

Hootsuite’s Best Time to Publish tool also suggests time slots you haven’t used in the past 30 days. This allows you to change your posting times and try new strategies.

Bottom line: You can’t commit to anything, even if you don’t use Hootsuite or any other recommended times tool. Post times are a moving target so be flexible and be open to testing new times.

The best time to publish is going to differ by platform

Although this was a very scientific test, it was only for Instagram. Each social media platform will have unique user behavior. Even within the same platform, different types and posts might have different best practices for posting. For instance, engagement for Instagram Reels may be different than the posts you create for the main Instagram feed.

Never stop learning and analysing, with or without predictive AI tools.

Hootsuite’s recommendation and scheduling feature is available to you. Get a 30-day free trial.
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Experiment: Can Post Timing Improve Your Instagram Engagement?.