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Episode 063: Killer Instagram Hacks With Levan Wee

In episode 201, we talk with Levan Wee, Instagram expert, who’s passionate about the social media platform and he shares some incredible tips to up your game!

We cover information about showcasing your personality to connect with your audience, go live on IG so you can attract followers and take advantage of the magic hour after you post!

Listen on the player below or on iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast player. Or scroll down to read a full transcript.


Guest Details

Connect with Levan Wee
Website

Bio Dr. Levan Wee is a professional social media strategist and account manager who has worked with dozens of clients across different contexts (from startups to bloggers, music platforms to comedians). He specializes in Instagram growth hacks that dramatically improve Engagement and follower rates.

Levan graduated with a Doctorate in Cultural Anthropology, which gives him insights into understanding cultural trends that gain traction on social media. He himself has been a blogger for 7 years, and has also helped to build and monetize Crazy Vegan Kitchen, Games Like Zone, and other blogs.

Takeaways

  • A lot of food bloggers tend to bring their ‘blogger’ mindset to the platform. However, they would benefit from treating IG as its own thing, with its own style and technique.

  • It is best for food bloggers to adopt IG as an opportunity to grow their Community, above all else. If they are able to do this, IG will be so much more fun to use – plus, it has one of the best ‘return viewer’ rates if you know how to veer the algorithm in your favor.

  • IG has the highest average engagement in the food blogging industry – 1.69% which is higher than FB and Twitter. Rival IQ did this study.

  • IG offers live spots, polls, quizzes, etc. This is where you can show who you are as a person, share personal or non food info and this will help you thrive on IG. 

  • It’s important to create a sense of community here. This will spill over to your blog if you do it well. 

  • Be real – you can easily point out different aspects of the recipe, but be careful not to say the same story each time. You can even showcase how long it took to make, or how to prep the recipe. 

  • As you have followers interact with you, you will be rewarded in kind by being at the top of more people’s feed, showing up more often and growing your community even more. 

  • The first hour you post something is crucial to get engagement. Immediately respond to people who responded to your post to start really seeing engagement going up online. Ask people open-ended questions.

  • Drop a DM to new followers, using their first name, noticing something about their IG account and commenting on their account. Welcome them to your page, ask them a question. 

  • Ranking on small hashtags is easier.  You want to rank higher and move up into the next tier and ranking. Use 10-15 hashtags.

  • Post once a day on IG, because you don’t want to become your own competition. 

  • Frequency matters because it increases your probability of reaching more people but what you do with each post individually is much more important. 

Resources Mentioned

Suggested Reads

Jade Darmawangsa on YouTube – Her philosophy emphasizes the important of Engagement over raw follower numbers. Followers naturally come when you bump up Engagement – so everything that I do is geared towards achieving that.

Reach out to Levan at [email protected]

Transcript

Click for full text.

Intro:

Welcome to Eat Blog Talk, where food bloggers come to get their fill of the latest tips, tricks, and insights into the world of food blogging. If you feel that hunger for information, we’ll provide you with the tools you need to add value to your blog. And we’ll also ensure you’re taking care of yourself, because food blogging is a demanding job. Now, please welcome your host, Megan Porta.

Megan:

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Hello food bloggers. Welcome to Eat Blog Talk. The podcast made for bloggers who are seeking value for their businesses and their lives. Today, I will be chatting with Levan Wee from feeddoodle.com and we will cover how to improve Instagram engagement and reach. Levan Wee is a professional social media strategist and account manager, who has worked with dozens of clients across different contexts. From startups to bloggers, music platforms to comedians, he specializes in Instagram growth hacks that dramatically improve engagement and follower rates. Levan graduated with a doctorate in cultural anthropology, which gives him insights into understanding cultural trends that gain traction on social media. He himself has been a blogger for seven years and has also helped to build and monetize Crazy Vegan Kitchen, Games Like Zone and other blogs. Before we give Instagram all of our attention Levan, give us a fun fact about yourself.

Levan:

Hello, thank you for having me here. Fun fact, I come all the way from Singapore and we don’t have four seasons here. We have one, which is summer. Twelve months a year.

Megan:

What is the average temperature? Does the temperature vary or is it pretty much the same throughout the year?

Levan:

On a good day, maybe 31 degrees or 35? It’s like an oven. Hello, global warming.

Megan:

Well, you should come visit Minnesota. We definitely have seasons figured out here, so we could give you a variety of different options.

Levan:

I love the U S by the way, I’ve been there once and it’s one of my favorite countries in the world to visit, especially for the fast food. I couldn’t help myself there.

Megan:

Oh, it’s like a drug, right? Well, that is fun. Thank you for sharing that. Now let’s dig into improving Instagram engagement and reach. Why don’t we start just by establishing how Instagram is different from other platforms, including our blogs. Can you talk to us a little bit about that?

Levan:

So I’ve been kind of interacting with food bloggers for seven, eight years now. I noticed that food bloggers especially, are really good with Pinterest. Pretty good with Facebook, but Instagram is like the foreign land for them. It’s like, oh my God, what do I do with this? The key thing that food bloggers should keep in mind is that research shows, a study by Rival IQ actually shows that Instagram has the highest average engagement. In fact, in the food industry, the food blogging industry, it’s about 1.69%, which is the engagement rate, which is much higher than Facebook and Twitter by a huge margin. But one of the key things that food bloggers, when they approach Instagram in mind, is that you can actually achieve engagement rates of five to 15% if you use it right. So one of the things I would recommend to food bloggers is to view it as its own unique social media platform to be treated slightly differently from the rest and not just a place where you photo dump, a nice food photo and hope for the best. The strategy for growth for Instagram is unique in and of itself, would be my first advice.

Megan:

So it is different from Facebook in that way, because I think a lot of us do that on Facebook, where we just, I liked the term you used, photo dump. We dump a photo or a video, and we just pray that it does well. Then we kind of step away. At least those of us like me, who don’t really dive into Facebook. But Instagram is really different and it’s unique and I loved your numbers. So what is a typical engagement rate on other platforms? You mentioned that 1.7% is typical for food on Instagram. What’s typical and other platforms?

Levan:

So based on the research by Rival IQ, which I just looked at, Facebook on average is actually 0.12%, which is miserable, but everybody knows Facebook pages are the difficult ones to build. Twitter is 0.058%, which is even worse. Given that food blogging is very recipe heavy and photo centric. Instagram is actually a very good marrying of content with social media. To me, from my experience, although the norm for Instagram is 1.69%, it’s actually not that hard to bring it much higher, with certain hacks and the way that you approach the platform.

Megan:

You mentioned that it’s possible to get up to five to 15%, which just seems crazy, but that’s so awesome. So give us some of your hacks, what are some ways that we can really hit that higher number and get engagement, just killing it on Instagram?

Levan:

I think the key thing, the first fundamental thing that when people approach Instagram, is to treat it as a platform for showcasing personality and creating a community of fans, right? Even super fans. It’s not just a place where you put a photo, you use a few hashtags and then you walk away and hope for the best, right? It is something where you can treat it as like the doorway to your blog, right? At the end of the day, you want people to go to your blog. That’s where the monetization happens, right. But you have to create Instagram as kind of like the gateway to bring people in. In order to do that, you have to be willing to showcase your personality beyond just showing a photo of food, for example. Because on Instagram, it’s about how you come across as about the entirety of who you are as a person. That’s what really thrives on Instagram. From there, that’s where you create a sense of community amongst the followers. I can go into the specifics, of course.

Megan:

First let me ask you, how real do you feel like we should be on Instagram? Because I always say this, I feel like that’s one of the good things from my perspective about Instagram, is that it actually is a platform that allows us to be more real than any other platform ever has done. So I personally like that, but what are your thoughts on that?

Levan:

Some people are worried about showing too much about their lives and revealing too much about themselves. But I think Instagram is a good platform for this kind of practice. You can always show a little bit of what you’re doing throughout the day, even if it’s like a fun supermarket shopping session, for example. You should try to bring people into what you’re doing, not just show them what you’re doing, right. It’s not just about showing the final product of a nice food photo. Instagram works best when you welcome people into the process of creation. In welcoming people into what you’re doing to plan for the next recipe or the next post, in doing that, you are also showing an aspect of your personality, that in an area that you’re comfortable with, because it is related to food after all. That is an opportunity to showcase a little bit of transparency in the process of creation. Obviously that’s the whole debate of how real is real on social media, right? But I find that just retaining an authentic transparency and showing more of yourself goes a long way because the more you give, the more you get in return. You can always just moderate that exposure when you see fit.

Megan:

You’re talking to food bloggers, so obviously our feeds are largely based on food. So do you recommend that we also include other parts of our lives? Is that smart? Is that a smart business choice or like sprinkle it in here and there, or how much of it should be non-food?

Levan:

I think it really depends on the individual, what they’re comfortable with. But I would recommend start with sprinkling it in a little bit. Tell a story. As the gram thrives on storytelling, that is coupled with photos and everything. So, if it shows your petting a dog, for example, or your pet cat with the food that would be two things that people love. Tell the story of the recipe that you’re making and why it’s your favorite or just show a little bit of what goes into planning a recipe, for example. Aspects of this can be really interesting to people who are on Instagram. One thing that I do notice among food bloggers is they would usually show a photo of the food, and then there’ll be like, oh my God, this is the best pancake ever.

This is the best this and that. If I’m being frank, too many people have adopted that tone of speaking. So it comes across as a little, not as innocence, not extraordinary. It doesn’t show the uniqueness of how you would naturally speak or introduce something. Personally, if I were to meet somebody who keeps telling me that this is the best of everything, I would feel a bit awkward. So just be natural, even if it means, I struggled with this recipe or it’s so hard to make. I spent eight hours in the kitchen figuring this out, please appreciate me. Something weird and a little bit authentic like this is interesting to people.

Megan:

You’re right. A lot of us, I mean, we’re foodies, right? So we love food. So maybe we do feel like everything we make is the best. In the moment, especially, we’re like, oh, this is amazing. This is so good. But when we say it over and over, I am guilty of this because I love food so much. I’m like, this is the best recipe ever, but I do try to tone it down and maybe not say the word the best in every single post. But I liked what you said. You can point out different aspects of the recipe easily while still keeping people’s interests.

Levan:

The coolest thing is that food has a story and smell. You don’t just come. It doesn’t pop up from anywhere. There’s always a history and a story to tell with relation to food. I think Instagram is one of the best avenues to do that as well.

Megan:

Yeah. That’s very interesting because as you talked about earlier, this is all about showcasing our personalities. So we have a story to tell about our relationship with food and also what’s going on in our lives and who we are as people, but also food has a story too. So all of that combined can be really interesting if we do it well.

Levan:

Yeah. As far as the imagination can go, you can put it on Instagram. It can be a funny story. The key thing is the goal for being authentic and triggering people to respond, right? When you share something relatable, that’s when people want to relate with you and that’s how you improve engagement, right? When you approach Instagram as a storytelling open-ended story, that’s when people come in and contribute their own stories or their own thoughts and comments and stuff. That’s when the algorithm starts to move the needle in the right direction for a food blogger.

Megan:

Instagram Stories is really good for that, because you can invite people in really easily with just telling stories on video and doing polls and all of the cool features inside of there. So how does Stories play into the algorithm?

Levan:

I love Instagram Stories. It’s so self-indulgent, but it’s so beautiful at the same time. The cool thing about Instagram, right? You have polls or quizzes. You have live chats. You have all these fun things you can do. I don’t think food bloggers are completely utilizing the possibility of them first, but just to backtrack a little bit, the way that Stories work best is to understand that Instagram on a very holistic level. So the key thing when using Instagram, is to kind of get prioritized on people’s home feed. When you open Instagram and you go to home and you notice that certain people that you’re following tend to appear near the top more often than not. The key thing is to know how to get there, right? Somebody could be following 500 people. You want to be the top 10 or the top 20. Stories do have a part to play in that, which I’ll kind of get around to. The key metrics or the key variables that affect your position in a follower’s feed.

There are three main factors. The first one is relevancy. Let’s say if you are a user that browses a lot of food, then Instagram will try to recommend you more of the same on your home feed, right? You leave it to the algorithm to figure out what your Instagram is kind of about for them to recommend it. You don’t have full control of how that works except being consistent in the kind of content that you post. The second factor is timing. Once in a while you will have all the photos appearing there at the top. But it’s not entirely in chronological order, but they do tend to favor posts that newer versus a post that’s going to be like two or three weeks old, which is not likely to appear at the top, right?

So that’s timing and relevance. But the third factor, the one that you have the most control over, is the closeness of relation factor. So Instagram is always calculating, trying to estimate, how close are you to the person that you’re following. It is a metric that they measure more likely if you are defined as somebody who is close to someone else, they’re going to prioritize the feed much higher, because they would kind of guess that, okay, you will be most interested in somebody that you’re closer to versus somebody who is more distant, right? So friends, family partners. If you notice, you do tend to see people that you kind of know a little bit more narrow to the top of your feed.

Megan:

How does Instagram know that?

Levan:

Ask the privacy law. I’m not sure. I’m kidding. They do it from measuring certain aspects of interaction that happens on Instagram. The key thing is that the more you engage with someone individually from account to account, the more likely over time your account will appear higher on their feed. There are certain stuff that they keep track of which includes an exchange of comments. The amount of times that they like a post. It also includes the DM conversations. If you chat with somebody more frequently on DM, they’re more likely to see your public posts on their feed when they log in the next time.

Megan:

So any interaction at all within Instagram, they’re taking note of.

Levan:

The more you do it, the more likely they see a post, the more likely they are going to like and comment. So to answer your question about Stories, when you post more frequently on your Stories, or like a poll or quiz or a live chat, or whichever, that factors into the level of interaction. So if somebody keeps voting on your poll at the cost of points of all the polls, Instagram’s algorithm is taking that into account because it says, okay, this person’s interested in whatever he or she is posting. Let’s push their feed higher in the, in the future. Because at the end of the day, Instagram wants to know that you are interested in something, and if they feed you more fun, you have shown that you’re interested in, you are going to stay on Instagram for a longer time. Which is more power to them.

Megan:

Beneficial for them. So really, I mean, there are so many different ways to interact on Instagram, which is so cool. There’s stories. Then there’s comments, the profile images. Then there’s also DMS, really, they’re taking note of all of that.

Levan:

Everything. If you game that in your favor, by committing to, like I said, it’s about building community interaction, authentic engagement, you will be rewarded in kind with an increased engagement that starts to reach a new group of people because they keep pushing your content to more and more people. Here’s an interesting hack, which I guess I’ll try because I can almost guarantee you if they do it for two weeks every day, they will get back to you and tell you, oh my God, my engagement is moving.

Megan:

I’m intrigued!

Levan:

Okay. Can you tell I love this topic?

Megan:

Yes, I can. I love it.

Levan:

So every time you post a new photo on your Instagram, right? Don’t just post and leave and hope for the best. The moment that you post it, one, Instagram is going to be doing that within the first hour they are measuring, not just the amount of engagement, but the rate of engagement as well. So what they’re looking for is if they’ll feed it to maybe a hundred or 500 people, and they look at the rate of engagement. The higher the rate, the more they start pushing it to the rest of your followers, which is why sometimes you don’t see every post from somebody you’re following. Because Instagram kind of gauge that, okay, the rate of engagement is not very high. So we are going to kill the feed and make it reach fewer people. So the goal is to kind of get the reach as far as possible. In that sense, what you do within the first hour of posting is absolutely crucial and getting it to more and more people is absolutely crucial in helping you rank for your hashtags as well that you use. So in order to trigger that within that first hour, that intense rate of engagement, the first thing you can do is immediately respond to people who have left a comment on your posts. Because even your own comment contributes to the rate of engagement. So within the first hour, it’s just sitting there. If people comment, respond back. Ask them a question like, oh, are you going to try this recipe? Or what do you think of this? Is Turkey your favorite kind of dish? So asking open ended questions, kind of instigates them to respond further, which further adds to the intensity of the engagement.

Megan:

So that first hour is really pivotal.

Levan:

Crucial. Pivotal. As well when you post, you can also send a DM to people that you’ve initiated conversations to in the past. So if you have new followers, just say, hi. Thanks for following. How’s your day? Then when you post something, just send them a quick, hello, Hey, how are you doing? Have you seen my new recipe? I mean, I’m not sure if you like it, but just tell me what you think by commenting or leaving a thought. You don’t have to ask for a like, you can just ask them to look at it and if they’re engaged, they’re just going to comment anyway. I mean, you don’t even have to be so specific, just say hi and direct them to your post. They’re usually engaged, which again, increases the rate of engagement. When you post something, also post it on the story and direct people to the new post so that they can all pool in and start engaging on the post together. If Instagram says, wow, this is great. This is a great level of engagement. Let’s push it to the other thousand or 5,000 followers. That’s when you have a snowball effect because they start ranking a hashtag. So you start bringing new people in.

Megan:

So for two weeks we post one profile picture a day. Is that right? Or should we do more?

Levan:

You can do it once a day, once in three days.

Megan:

So it doesn’t have to be once a day. It can be every couple of days, but every time we post something new, if we are on our game and ready to go with that first hour and just like respond immediately, respond with engaging comments that might re-engage them. Then to take it a step further, we could even send direct messages. Then also new followers coming in. I love that advice. As you were talking, I was thinking you could even put a very simple, easy script into your notes app on your phone and just copy and paste it over. Every time someone new follows you, like, Hey, thanks for following. That would also help engagement. Then I loved your idea about this. I know a lot of bloggers do this already, but I do not. I never have. But every time you put up a new post, immediately go over to stories and say, Hey, this is a new post I just put up. Just directing people there. So people on stories can go and hopefully engage on the profile as well. So after two weeks Levan, you say that our engagement should be up.

Levan:

Consider it an open challenge, that will be worth the benefits.

Megan:

Done. I am taking you up on it. I’m going to start it today. I will report back.

Levan:

With regards to what you said about the script. There’s a function in Instagram called quick replies, which actually allows you to save templates, responses and phrasings and responses to people. You just need to click twice. So people can use that and it works to save time. But here’s a magic bullet that you can use, right? Every time you get a new follower, just take a few seconds to look at their profile. If they have a name or if they have photos about hiking or they love dogs or cats, or you can usually see it on their profile. So think five, 10 seconds look at a profile, drop them a DM. I can guarantee you if you address them by their name or their interests, the chances of them responding is much higher because it shows that you invest that time into people who could potentially follow you.

Just from spending that few seconds to show that you’re genuine, people are actually very generous in giving back because you immediately stand out from the crowd of people who are just cutting and pasting generic responses. People don’t like that. They know when you’re like, Hey, I want you to give me something, here’s my generic hello. But if you just take a moment and say hey Jack or Hey Mary, how’s the day?, I’ve never tried hiking but it’s cool. Anyways, thanks for following me. How is your day? Something as simple as that reestablishes the human connection. That is actually the reason why we use social media in the first place. People tend to forget that, right? They tend to create social media as a billboard to a one-way billboard, to shout out to the world, Hey, look at my recipe or look at what I have done. But really social media is just a tool to establish connection with people. If we approach Instagram in that way, with that philosophy, the one hour that you have to sit down, everything we prepare for us becomes actually quite fun because that’s the opportunity to connect with the people who are interested in what you’re doing. Way beyond just a comment on the blog post. It’s a conversation and that’s why Instagram is so beautiful and that’s why I love it.

Megan:

I have so much to reply to. So first of all, I’m glad that you called me out on that, about just copying and pasting because you were so right. Every time I get that from somebody and once in a while I do, I’m like ew, just cause it’s so impersonal. I never replied to those, but when people use my name, that is the thing for me, that makes me say, okay, they took the time. Even if they just went over to my profile really quick, Hey, they took the time to do that. So I am so much more likely to reply if I see that. If people call me by my name, it makes a huge impact for me. Then I also have to ask about the quick replies. So I have no idea where, how to utilize this. How do I use this?

Levan:

Quick replies can be used. It seems a bit counter intuitive to be personable by using quick replies, right. But quick replies can be for business stuff like, Hey, thanks for your time or something simple like that. It’s actually in the settings under your, your business settings in your Instagram. But another way you can do it as well is actually in every DM that you start, there’s a little icon on the bottom right. So when you type something, you can save it as a quick reply from looking at the icon on the bottom right corner, you just have to click it and it will expand. There’ll be something that looks a little bit like a chat icon or something. So let’s say thank you for your time. Then users have this little icon, you save it. In order to trigger a quick reply in the future, you just have to save a trigger word, like, “thanks”. So if you type “thanks” in the chat, it will prompt you whether you want to use the quick reply or not. You can just open up the little icon in the bottom right and click it. You will have a list of different quick replies that you can use at various points of the conversation.

Megan:

Wow. I had no idea that was an option. So I learned something very new today. Thank you.

Levan:

You can kind of use it 50% of the time. I wouldn’t overuse it, but it does save time. So if you’re handling 20, 30 conversations, then set, have a nice day and stuff like that, I think it’s okay. As long as we always kind of return to the authentic conversation..

Megan:

The personal. Yeah. I wanted to point out one other thing that you mentioned earlier about just keeping in mind that Instagram isn’t a place for you to go and just shout from the rooftops about, look at my recipe. I’m so awesome. I created this. It’s more of an engagement. I was talking to someone recently about Facebook and she said this exact same thing about Facebook. It’s not a platform to go talk about yourself. It’s a place to go and interact with. It’s called social media for a reason. So I like to think of it as more like a party. You wouldn’t go to a party and just talk only about yourself. You would go and you would want to interact with people. You would want people to get to know you and vice versa. So I like that visual of being at a party and you standing on stage and doing all the talking is ridiculous. That wouldn’t happen. But a lot of people do see social media like that. So getting past that and seeing it more like a, an opportunity to engage, I think is only going to benefit us.

Levan:

Definitely. I think understanding the psychology of it, people love it when you ask about them. When you refer to them about their name, when you give them an opportunity to be part of the conversation. When you bring that mentality to Instagram, instead of, Hey, I’m just going to drop this and hope for the best. I think if you approach it in that way, it really changes the entirety of how you use it. It becomes actually really fun because you know how with lots of people leaving a comment, you might not see a day later or are always instructional kind of comments. Or I tried this, I didn’t try that for some reason. I can’t find this, but the glitches, it’s your problem, not mine. So Instagram, because of that whole one hour thing, is very, almost like a live interaction. Especially if you throw in the live chat thing or the DM, it’s much more like messenger, than blog comments.

Megan:

That’s really great stuff. Do you have any more hacks for us?

Levan:

Well, some of the best is the way you use hashtags. This one I think a lot of food bloggers know the whole tiered system of using the hashtag. When you make a post, obviously everybody knows you have to use hashtags. The point, the question is what hashtags do I use? That actually leads to the most growth. So the key thing is to see hashtags as three tiers, right? The small hashtags, the medium hashtags and the large ones. What constitutes small, medium and large is obviously subjective, but my general gauge, a small hashtag would be anywhere from a thousand to 10,000 people have used it. A medium would be like 10,000 to let’s say a hundred thousand and anything larger than a hundred thousand usage of the hashtag is probably a big hashtag.

So you want to balance between small, medium and large, because ranking on the small hashtags is much easier. That brings in a small pool of people, right? Then with that new, small pool of people, if they start engaging, that pushes you to the medium level hashtags, and you start appearing on that. You know how when you search a hashtag, and then you have the top versus the reason you want to appear on the top one. So as you go up the different tiers, due to your one hour of intense engagement, you start rising from the ranking and the top of the small hashtags. Then that brings in more people, you create a cycle, then you start ranking on the medium hashtags that will bring in even more people. And it’s that engaging.

If you reach the point where you can start ranking the top positions of the larger hashtags, that’s when your growth will just happen organically. You don’t even need as, because you are tiering your hashtags. Usually I use between, I don’t use too many, I think it is unsightly. So I usually use about 10 maximum, 15 hashtags, but again, that’s subjective, but from my experience, 10 to 15 is a comfortable number for you to potentially increase the reach. Maybe three to five small hashtags. Three to five medium and three to five large is a good balance.

Megan:

That is a great guidepost because I’ve heard people use that tiered, I haven’t heard people say the three tier strategy, but I have heard people say use smaller and medium range and larger, but it’s good to have those numbers just as kind of a guideline for us. So you wouldn’t recommend using over 15 ish because it just looks, it’s off putting, right. When you see it, you’re like, oh, that’s a lot of hashtags. Or what is your reason for not getting to the 30?

Levan:

One of the reason is that people tend to see hashtags as individualized, right? Individual hashtags, like food, food blogger that each individual hashtags. But the way that I see hashtags and the way that Instagram actually looks their hashtags, hashtags create context, it creates the context of the post that you are talking about. So your hashtags, if you start to use too many, you’re diluting the context that the algorithm needs to understand what the post is about so that they know who to push it to. To me, that’s a nice, a nice number to go by where you can still kind of maximize your possibility of extending our reach, but you don’t go too far that the context of the post becomes diluted. A good, useful hashtag research tool, is already in built inside Instagram. So you don’t really have to use all those fancy third party tools. Every time you search in the hashtag on Instagram, let’s say food blog, for example, hashtag food blog.

If you notice near the top bar, there’s a bar that says related hashtags, and then you can kind of scroll right. That is actually Instagram telling you, look, we’ve already clustered this hashtags together. So the more relevant hashtags in that bar that you can use in your post, you should, because they are using hashtags to kind of categorize our post and push it to people based on their interests. If it happens to be food, then you know, it happens to be like vegan food, for example, a niche within a food blogging niche. That’s when they can, they know what your post is about and they’ll push it to relevant and new people. So do your research within the tool itself. The answers are right in front of us. We just have to know where to look for them.

Megan:

I think we tend to want to find something else. There’s some magic, amazing tool outside of Instagram that we should all be using. Hashtags in Instagram are always a question I think for food bloggers, cause we never really know what we should be doing? So I love that you’re pointing out that it’s kind of right in front of us. If we just use what is within the tool, then that works just fine.

Levan:

I’ve always used this method for any client that I message whether it’s food or committee or anything. I never actually leave the app when I’m doing something. Just look at the hashtags, relate to, I just choose them. They always work. So rest assured that you don’t have to have to pay like 50 to a hundred dollars a month to use some other tools, it’s all for free in the app itself.

Megan:

So I think I know what you’re going to say about this, but what are your thoughts on using a scheduling tool such as Tailwind or Planoly to schedule your Instagram posts?

Levan:

So this one is kind of a hot topic amongst food bloggers, right? Because they’re really busy and stuff. I think scheduling tools are really good when you have reached a certain amount of success and a certain amount of followers where you can automate certain tasks. Of course food bloggers are busy people as well. One of the drawbacks, which I avoid is that when you use scheduling tools, you kind of post it out there and then you leave to do something else. Which goes against the whole one hour principle that I talked about. There’s no shortcut to organic, genuine interaction. So if you’re using a scheduling tool, I think a good thing would be to keep in mind when the thing is going out so that you can be ready to catch the incoming wave yourself and no tools can do that for you. I would say use in the right context, but don’t use it to escape the hard manual work of organic engagement and conversation.

So really scheduling tools can interfere with that magic hour. But if you’re doing it at the same time, so you’ve scheduled out like a month’s worth of content and you’re doing it at approximately the same time every day. You know it’s coming and you’re taking the actual posting of the photo and copy off of your hands, but you could go in and still be available for the engagement part, that would work.

Levan:

Yes. That would be the perfect balance of balancing automation with organic.

Megan:

What are your thoughts about frequency of posting and then outside of that one hour window, how much should we be engaging outside of that? How much time basically, should we be spending on Instagram? Because like you said, Levan, food bloggers are busy and we have a lot to do. So we need to be told sometimes just…

Levan:

To stop.

Megan:

Yeah. To stop, yes.

Levan:

The thing about Instagram is it’s a little bit like a yellow brick road. It gets started and it just never ends. Which is why I recommend the one hour, because unless you are in my position where you are managing 20 people, you don’t want to be stuck for the whole day and ignore everyone else. I would actually recommend you don’t have to post, you should not post more than once a day, in my humble opinion. If you force too many times in a day, you become your own competition, right? Somebody who’s going to see the post two or three of their posts feed and they might not like all of them. So you’re affecting your own reach in a way because you are diluting the same core audience across many posts. It’s better to have one post do better rather than dilute that same amount of engagement across different posts.

So I always say once a day, but you don’t have to be too obsessive about or have to post every day. For certain clients, I even post like once in three days and it’s fine. It’s not so much frequency that matters because it improves our probability of reaching more people. But what you do with each post individually is much more important. But at the same time, like you said, you don’t want to get too lost. So I would limit it to one hour max, and then you go and do something else, like have a real life or something. Limit it to one hour, set a timer. Just get the engine running in your favor and then just let it do its thing. Maybe you can come back before you sleep, just respond to a few comments, go to bed, that’s fine. About one hour maximum.

Megan:

No more than an hour is needed. I mean, just to get things going, get the momentum going. I am in a lull right now. I’m in one of those little pockets where I look at it, my numbers, my followers. I’m like, oh my God, I swear. I was there like two months ago. It’s just frustrating. But you know what? It’s because I’m not in there every day. I have all these other projects I’m working on right now. So I’m not taking the time for Instagram, but I think if I did just take even like 15, 20, 30 minutes a day to go in and do what you’re saying and really engage with people and show up at my party and show people that, that I’m sure those numbers would go up.

Levan:

Yeah. Even if, let’s say somebody is a bit cautious. I’m not sure if this is going to be worth it. Even if they just try 15, 20 minutes a day, like you said, seriously, within two weeks, they’re going to see a difference. I can guarantee that actually, because I have had to take low engagement and cons and damage the cons and have to bring them up from the ruins so to speak. So my goal is to make them rise like the Phoenix again. So I know that you can. If you just invest a little bit of time every day, eventually it turns in your favor. If you go in and it’s like, okay, I’m not sure what to do. The first thing you can always do is look at the past people who have liked your posts, but maybe have not said anything. They like it, but they haven’t commented. Just go and look at who has liked your post, drop them a tag and say, Hey, Laura, thanks for liking this post. Do you think you’ll give it a try? So you can kind of retroactively go back to your past posts and kind of bring in people who have interacted with you and try to increase the intensity of the engagement. If you’re looking for a starting point to kind of kick some life back into a zombie Instagram account.

Megan:

That’s really smart. I think there are so many little tricks that you’re mentioning that you could do to really boost. I think if you do a handful of them, you could probably see a difference and Levan just guaranteed us to see improvements. So I am actually personally going to employ a few of these fun little strategies that you’re talking about, and I am going to get back to you in two weeks from today. So be checking your email. Okay. So you are the king of hacks on Instagram. Is there anything else you have for us? We’ve got to wrap up in about five minutes or so, but do you have any other hacks that we could talk about first?

Levan:

Hacks in terms of like actionable stuff?

Megan:

Anything? Any Instagram hacks, like your favorite?

Levan:

I would use stories and I would be sure to put in a hashtag and the location, because that’s where people can find you as well. I would actually venture to go live. I know not every football blogger has done this, try using Instagram live. If you’re nervous to film the food that you’re making. Maybe they’re not interested in looking at you. They want to look at the food and show them the live food, let them chat, talk to them. I challenge every food blogger, at least give it a try, because that’s one of the most beautiful ways to increase the interaction live. That’s a great hack that not everyone has used yet. Because maybe they’re stage fright. No, it’s not really a stage, right? Their live frightened.

Megan:

Live frightened. I think it’s a fear for me. I have never gone live with an Instagram because I’m always afraid that there’s going to be one person watching. I just feel like what is the point? But I mean, what is the point of why is live better than say stories?

Levan:

Okay. One way to overcome the one person watching thing, which is a first world problem, but, I guess one good way is for a week, keep interacting with people on DM and posts first, right? Get them liven up towards you, warm up towards you. Then when you go live, you won’t have the one person problem. Real time conversations are more interesting than shouting into the void, right? So going live means specific things. Somebody can ask you a question and then you can crack a joke. You can show them. Anyone who enters their life and starts chatting again, is contributing to the level of interaction. Naturally when the conversation is live, the amount that people are typing is more because they’re engaged in the moment. So going live and if 10 people are just typing emojis, Hey, how’s your day? Oh my God. What’s that? All of that constant interaction versus, non-real time. Live is one of the best instruments for improving the feed and the level of interaction and real world conversation basically.

Megan:

That makes sense. That helps me kind of wrap my head around why I would do it. I just feel like I’m, I don’t know. I feel like food bloggers’ reasons to go live would be to showcase food. How could we make that unique enough that people would actually want to dive into life? Then I’ve done this before, where I see someone else’s live and I tap on it. Then I’m just like, not really interested. I feel bad leaving, so I sit there and watch it because I feel like, oh, there’s three people here. So I have to sit here and I don’t want anyone to ever have to do that for me.

Levan:

It’s like you go to a party and then somebody starts to be boring and you kind of want to wander away, but you don’t want to be rude.

Megan:

You keep listening because they’re talking. So you’re like, oh, okay.

Levan:

So I guess one actionable stuff that you can do apart from getting the DMS and commenting and bringing people in, is you can make it like a fun thing, right? You could be at the supermarket for example. You go live okay. Apart from everybody else around you thinking you’re a little bit weird, but when you’re at the supermarket, let’s say you’re looking at chicken and you’re looking at turkey and then you’re asking them live. So what is the next recipe you want to see? What kind of recipe do you want me to make – turkey or chicken? Why don’t you decide for me and you’re giving them some sort of incentive to interact because people love it when they are shaping what comes. So you can make it something fun like this, or you can even showcase different ingredients when you’re using it. Today, we’re going to use this, or do you want to have spicy food or non spicy food?

You decide. Then after the live video, you can have the next post say here’s what most people decided that they wanted to see. There’s a benefit of that because people who are in your chat will be so excited. I helped to shape this recipe. Now I’m going to come in and comment. I’m really interested because I felt part of the process and no better way to do it than live or a poll or whichever. Include people in the process of creation, which I said at the start. People are just more emotionally invested in the outcome.

Megan:

When they can contribute to what’s going on. I totally agree with that. I love that you mentioned just doing it in another setting, what a great idea. Going to the grocery store or doing it somewhere just weird and off the wall instead of propped up in my kitchen, which is kind of boring. Just trying to think outside the box a little bit and doing it somewhere really unique so that when people come in right away, they’re like, where is she? What is she doing? Yeah.

Levan:

It’s the opposite of interesting engagement. You can be unpredictable in a fun way. Even if you try to eat food, like on a roller coaster, that will be funny.

Megan:

See? There’s a million things you could do that would be just really unique. I had this idea once that I never did. But now after talking to you, I feel like I should., But we have an RV that we use in the summer. We travel in it and we love it. I had this idea once to do a live video from the top of my RV, sitting on top of it and making food up there and people would be like, where is she?

Levan:

You can have a picnic on top of it.

Megan:

Have a picnic! So I’m totally going to do that.

Levan:

That would make a good photo as well. But I think you’re starting to get where I’m coming from.

Megan:

Yeah.

Levan:

Wow them with slightly off-trension ideas, it not only breaks the monotony of a food blog because you know any blogger can tell you if you do so much of the same thing in the same way you get burnt out because it’s repetitive, right. It’s repetitive to your readers and fans as well. So if you have this idea too, Hey, today, I’m going to take my recipe on top of a vehicle. I’m going to show you how nice it is on top. Everybody’s staring at me like I’m nuts.

Megan:

My neighbors are taking pictures of me, but that’s okay.

Levan:

Then I’ll give them a basket of cookies later, stuff like that, you know. It makes the whole process. It changes the whole way you approach food blogging, because suddenly all these personality driven aspects of content creation comes in. That’s a perfect marriage with not just a blog but Instagram as well. And it’s fun. It makes it fun, which is why people do this in the first place. It’s not just to make money or grow a brand. It has to be fun. To be fun, you have to try things that are new and bring in people who are interested in seeing what you’re doing.

Megan:

Maybe be a little weird sometimes. That’s okay. That will intrigue people.

Levan:

That’s what makes each person unique.

Megan:

Exactly. I love that. Y such a, you’ve given me such a fresh perspective today of just how to think about how we can connect differently with our audience. There’s such a template, just specifically talking about the live videos, where if I know a food blogger is on live, I pretty much know what to expect if I’m going to click over. So just trying to think outside of that, what can we provide? That’s really valuable, but also really fun and weird. Thank you for that perspective. I really appreciate that. So we’re running out of time. So unfortunately we have to say goodbye. I have a feeling you have many more hacks, so I’m thinking maybe we should do a part two, but in the meantime, we’ve just got to say goodbye today, Levan.I really appreciate your time. Just taking the time to be here. I know you’re across the world and you were up in the middle of the night doing this. So I really appreciate you doing this today.

Levan:

Also if there’s any food blogger tuning in and they have any questions or they want to find out more, you can just email me at [email protected] I’m not sure if you can leave a link or anything. Don’t worry, I do this for free. In fact, a lot of people asked me, why are you not making this into a service or anything, right. It’s because the internet is big enough for all of us to thrive. So if you have any questions, I’ll be happy to give you as detailed a response as possible. I’m happy to share my time with you if you mean that you are one step closer to living the food blogging dream, which everybody loves.I love what I do. So I love helping people in this area.

Megan:

I can definitely hear that through you speaking. That you’re really passionate about this, and that was generous of you to offer that I will include your email within your show notes, which can be found eatblogtalk.com/levanwee. We will also include all the good stuff we’ve talked about today. Before we go, do you have anything, extra words of inspiration or a quote or anything that you would think would inspire food bloggers?

Levan:

Pinterest is our best friend, but Instagram is the best party to go to. So give Instagram some love.

Megan:

I like it. That’s a great one and one that I have never heard before. So thank you for sharing that. Then you mentioned your email, Levan, generously shared that with people, but is there somewhere else where people can find you online if they want to look for you?

Levan:

I’m in the food blogger central group by Nagi. They can just search me on Facebook and they can find me, my personal profile. I always try to respond to everyone there. If email doesn’t work for them. You can come to Singapore. I would say hi. Not likely to happen.

Megan:

Yeah, you never know. Well, thank you for all that you’ve shared today with us Levan and thank you for listening today, food bloggers. I will see you next time.

Outro:

We’re glad you could join us on this episode of Eat Blog Talk. For more resources based on today’s discussion, as well as show notes and an opportunity to be on a future episode of the show, be sure to head to eatblogtalk.com. If you feel that hunger for information, we’ll be here to feed you on Eat Blog Talk.


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Megan
Megan

Megan started her food blog Pip and Ebby in 2010 and food blogging has been her full-time career since 2013. Her passion for blogging has grown into an intense desire to help fellow food bloggers find the information, insight, and community they need in order to find success.

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