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How to level up your Instagram-game by Ace The Gram

It's a great time to be on social media as a local business to engage your community. Your customers are now sitting at home during the lockdown and probably spending more time than usual online. 

It's a simple formula: get online, get found, engage, stay top of mind. 

We thought why not write an article to help you level-up your Instagram game to help you grow your social following and engage your local community. After all, we all live and die by our locals. 

So we interviewed a couple of experts in this area. 

Tash and Viv are the dynamic duo behind instagram specialist agency Ace the Gram. They met at Otago Uni while studying Food Science. 

At the time, Vivien was using Instagram to drive traffic to a website for her sportswear brand, @vividsportswearofficial, and Tash was using Instagram to showcase her food styling/recipe creation for the upcoming job hunt at the end of her degree @tastefullytash.

As it were, Viv and Tash became committed to figuring out how to best grow their Instagram accounts so that they could drive traffic & make sales, and build an influencer profile respectively.

They now work with a local and international client base on Instagram Growth and Engagement strategies. 

I am a cafe that is closed how do i engage my audience?

Switching up your content right now to provide value can be the best way to build rapport with your audience so you're top of mind when you open again. Great examples of this are "at home cooking tutorials of some of your favourite dishes, behind the scenes Instagram stories of the cafe owners and more about the background and journey of the cafe, and providing education and updates for when you're expected to be opening again".

What are some Instagram best practices for getting found?

Utilising hashtags and the discoverability techniques Instagram gives us. Use 30 hashtags in the first comment of your posts, use location tags, and engage on other people's posts on Instagram.

What is some advice you can give to small businesses who aren't on social media and wondering how to start? 

Now is the perfect time to start! Firstly create an Instagram account and a FB account, post 6 high quality images to Instagram and post them directly to FB, write a bio and choose a profile pic. Once you've done this (optimised your profile) share it with all your existing audiences - these include email lists, friends social profiles, website, email signature etc.


People always underestimate the "audiences" they already have.

How do I drive sales via Instagram without sounding pushy?

Similar to the Gary Vee philosphy of jab jab jab, right hook,


You must provide value

When you consistently provide value (through either humour, education, aesthetic, etc) your audience will naturally expect you to give them info on how they can engage with your further in your product/service.

What if I hate being in front of the camera what do I do now? Does it have to be about me?

It doesn't! Some of the best business Instagrams have engaging stories where the business owner never shows their face! You can be behind the camera narrating what's going on and engage people that way. In saying that, people will always connect with people so if you're not comfortable being in front of the camera, is there someone in your business who does want to be the "face" of the biz?

What is the perfect formula for driving engagement? Do i have to respond to every comment? We are just under 5000 followers and it seems impossible to get over that threshold.

Yes, you should reply to every comment. These are your warm leads, the people who have answered the conversation you have started... you don't want to leave them hanging. The perfect formula is to ensure you're using CTA's in your captions and content so it encourages engagement + you have to give love to get love. Engage on other people's posts.

Whats more important stories or main page?

They serve different functions. Your main page is your curated professional "front of house". Your stories are your connection tool. Stories are expected to be more raw and in the moment whereas your main page posts should be high quality and value-driven.

What kind of content should we be sharing during this time of lockdown? 

Content that provides value to the pain points of your target audience right now. Tutorials, entertainment, education, anything it is that is relevant to them while they're in lock-down. Try not to "hard-sell" at the moment and use it as a time to build rapport with your audience.

Now is the "time you never had"

Any parting words for small businesses now?

Now is the "time you never had" to get your social media strategy going! When people emerge from this lock-down there will be an increased demand for online selling. Having a smoothly running strategy for capturing your target audience on social media has never been more important!

For the deep dive on all things above listen to Ace the Gram podcast on any of your favourite podcasting apps.