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Episode 063: Killer Instagram Hacks With Levan Wee

Blog Title: Suggested Reads

About: 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.

Notes from Episode #063: Improve Instagram Engagement (IG) and Reach

  • Fun fact: Levan is from Singapore where there’s only 1 season, summer. He loved visiting the US to enjoy fast food. 

  • 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.

    • You can actually achieve engagement closer to 5-15% if you do it right.

    • Treat IG like a doorway to your blog. This is a gateway to bring people into your blog. 

  • 3 Factors

    • Relevancy – if you have food in common with the followers. You don’t have control of how this works

    • Timing – it’s not always in chronological order.

    • Closeness of relation factor – how close are you to someone. DM conversations, Likes, comments, interactions help the algorithm set up who sees your posts and how often you are in their feed. 

  • IG offers live spots, polls, quizzes, etc. 

  • IG tips

    • Showcase your personality on IG. 

    • It doesn’t have to be just about food! 

    • This is where you can show who you are as a person 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. 

    • Welcome people into the process of creation. Welcome people into the next step of what you’re building/creating. 

    • Work on being more transparent – the more you give, the more you get in return.

    • Be real – you can easily point out different aspects of the recipe, but be careful not to say the same story each time. Be careful about adopting the same tone with each recipe shown. You can highlight different aspects of a recipe each time you post, you don’t have to start with “this is the best X”. There is a uniqueness to each recipe. You can even showcase how long it took to make, or how to prep the recipe. 

    • Food has a story as well. Recipe doesn’t pop out of nowhere, you can share that history. 

    • Tell a story. Sprinkle your real life into IG amongst the food. 

  • 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. 

  • Amount and rate of engagement is important. 

  • 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.

    • Send a DM to people to initiate engagement. 

    • As that engagement increases, IG will release your content to more followers. 

  • IG Stories

    • Stories are self indulgent and beautiful

    • Go LIVE! Try using it once and if you’re nervous, focus on the food! Talk to your audience. Worried about only one watcher? #FirstWorldProblems. You can also send out a DM to a few people letting them know you’re planning on going live so they’re aware. 

  • Quick replies are available in IG and you can set up your most common phrases or questions to use as you interact with people. 

    • In your business settings you can set these up.

    • Every DM you start, find the “chat” icon in the right bottom, click it to expand and then you can set this up. Then you set up a trigger word to get it to automatically populate in the future. 

    • Don’t over use it but it’s a great way to use your voice, how you speak. 

  • You will stand out from the crowd when you establish a human connection with your followers. 

    • 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. 

    • Don’t copy and paste a generic message to people. They can see right through this. 

  • Hashtags

    • 3 Tiered system – small (1,000-10,000), medium (10,000-100,000) and large (100,0000+). 

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

    • Use 10-15 hashtags. 3-5 of each ‘tier’.

    • Hashtags can help you increase your reach. 

    • They create context. You can dilute your context if you overdo it and the algorithm will be off put to your post. 

    • Don’t use a 3rd party tool to get help with hashtags – it’s already set up in IG. They are giving you clues to where to connect with the community within IG and want you to stay there.

  • Scheduling tools (i.e.Tailwind)  

    • Good when you’ve reached a certain amount of success and followers and automating is ok.

    • Drawback is that you can’t shortcut with a tool and engage with your community. There’s no shortcut to organic generated interaction. 

    • The perfect balance would be to use the scheduler but put yourself into the platform at the time of posting to engage directly with your community. 

  • Frequency of posting

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

    • Someone will see 2 or 3 of your posts and might only like one, so then you’re affecting your own reach.

    • We don’t want to dilute your own core audience. 1 post doing good is the goal vs many posts doing ‘meh’. 

    • You don’t have to be obsessive about posting daily. 

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

    • Feel free to look at who’s liked your posts in the past and reach out to followers and try to get some engagement with authentic conversation in DM and on a post. 

  • People love it when they are shaping what comes next on regarding content.

    • Ask them! Go live! Or do a poll! Then the next thing posted needs to be the answer to the question. Include people in the process of creation. They are emotionally invested in the outcome. 

  • Break the monotony of food blogging by doing things different, shake it up, change the environment, twist the story. (Go to a grocery store, sit on top of an RV, etc) It makes the whole approach more interesting to you too. 

  • Levan’s quote: “Pinterest is your best friend but IG is the best party to go to. Give IG some love.”

Helpful references from the episode:


  • YouTube videos from Jade Darmawangsa – 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.

  • [email protected]


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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