The early days of social media saw people instantly engaging with others users from all over the world for the first time ever. Together we were collectively discussing things from current events, news, sports, music and most importantly, sharing cute cat videos on the internet. While we still use social media for many of these reasons, social media platforms have now changed the way they present posts to users with the implementation of social media algorithms.
Understanding Social Media Algorithms
Some of the most popularly known platforms who have pivoted with use of algorithms include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit and YouTube.
In this blog post we will focus on the Instagram algorithm.
The Instagram algorithm works to effectively monitor, organize and display content that it deems as relevant to your personal interests. The introduction of the algorithm caused the re-jigging of posting ordering. Changing posts from being listed in chronological order to being sorted by the algorithm itself.
This change in the layout has led many social media users asking the question “Do posting times matter anymore?”
Well, we’re here to clarify that for you.
What are algorithms?
Google defines an algorithm as “a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.” Great, but what does that actually mean?
Basically, algorithms are a series of actions done by a computer to analyze data, with the aim of forming patterns between them.
In regards to social media, once a pattern is found an algorithm it can tailor posts for you based on gathered data. Personally filtering a user’s timeline for them. Thereby (in theory) saving you time from going through a horde of posts to find something that interests you.
How the Instagram algorithm works
Instagram’s main goal is to maximize the amount of time people spend on the app. The longer they stay, the more ads they see.
In the past, people were not spending as much time on the app because content was not catered to them. Which ultimately led to people closing the app, feeling devoid of a personal experience. But now, with the introduction of algorithms, people have started to spend more time on the app and interacting with more posts. Which bodes well for the company.
All social media platforms keep the inner workings of their algorithms a secret. They don’t want their competitors to know their secrets after all. But we still have a large amount of knowledge on how they function.
In-Depth look into Instagram algorithm
In June of 2018, Instagram held a meeting with a group of journalists at their San Francisco HQ. With the purpose of shedding light on how their algorithm generally works. At said gathering, Instagram identified that they prioritize three main quantifiable factors in their algorithm’s decision making process, that being:
- Relationship – The algorithm promotes content to users from accounts they frequently interact with (e.g people who exchange DM’s, people tagged in shared posts, accounts with posts users have commented on and other data that indicates whether two users are “close.”)
- Interest – This one is pretty self-explanatory. Instagram will promote you content that is in-line with your interests.
- Time – This might sound a bit strange given the shake up from a chronological change to a customized experience, but time still plays a significant factor with the order you see Instagram posts. Showing you newer, more interesting posts first before diving into other and older posts.
That last point is an important one to note. It details that the timing of your postings still plays a big role!
The Instagram algorithm will automatically show content to users with similar interests. And if your post is recent, it will most likely appear on the top of their timeline upon opening the app.
So, yes posting times are still relevant to the distribution of your digital content. Additionally, due to the programming of the Instagram algorithm, your post will receive more viewership throughout the day. As well as keeping your post ready for users in your target audience when they open the app.
When is the best time to post on Instagram?
When it comes to Instagram, the social media team at Hootsuite found that the best time to post on Instagram is from 12pm to 1pm on weekdays. Citing that they found most social media users scroll through their feeds during their daily lunch break.
The brilliant people at Hootsuite also found that optimal posting times varied depending on your industry.
For example, after analyzing close to 300,000 posts they found that the best times for those in the Media & Entertainment industry sat between 12pm to 3pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while those in the Pharma & Healthcare sector seemed to have the best luck at 9am on Wednesdays and Sundays.
For an in-depth look at optimal posting times for different industries check out this additional study from Hootsuite.
With that being said, it is also important to note that posting times are entirely dependent on your audience.
Say if you cater to a business-to-business audience (B2B), testing off-hour times and measuring your results may be valuable for you going forward.
It’s all about finding what works best for your audience.
How to use the algorithm to your advantage
Now, what’s next?
Well, now it’s up to you to put these recommendations to good use. By knowing how the Instagram algorithm works, you can now get the most out of the social media platform.
Be sure to put these tips into practice. With the mixture of savvy content, creativity and motivation you’ll notice that your metrics on Instagram will start to trend upwards.
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