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The phrase “Instagram pod” evokes some interesting images. Instagram icons sprouting from pea plants. A family of whales snapping photos on their smartphones. Or if you’re a sci-fi nerd like me, something like this:
So what is an Instagram pod? How can it help you? How do you find one? And is it worth joining one? Let’s take a look.
In the Beginning…
Instagram pods arose because of Instagram’s decision to stop showing photos in chronological order. Instead, users’ feeds would be determined by algorithm, much like other social networks have done (and just as controversially).
The Instagram algorithm favors more popular posts. So if a post gets a lot of likes and comments, it will appear higher in people’s feeds. People who use Instagram to make money were not happy about this. It’s always harder to get your posts in front of people with algorithmic sorting.
So what did they do? They formed pods. Instagram pods are small groups (usually in the 10–20 range) of Instagrammers that have similar niches and audiences. Everyone in the pod agrees to follow the other members, as well as to like and comment on each other’s posts. This helps boost those posts in the algorithmic rankings.
Pods are essentially a way for a group of people to help each other increase their reach on Instagram. Are these pods annoying? Are they cheating the system? That depends on your point of view.
Forced commenting & liking from an Instagram pod is fake likes, imo, what happened to creating images & people GENUINELY liking them?
— REBEKKA ? (@rebekkablogs) April 17, 2017
But they’re definitely effective.
Not So Fast
Of course, pods aren’t the ultimate solution to getting more engagement on Instagram. Now that the practice is becoming more widespread, some people find it painfully obvious when you’re part of a pod. Alicia Tenise notes that “it’s pretty far-fetched to have 60 comments on a photo that’s only getting 120 likes.”
And while this sort of strangely proportioned engagement won’t get you penalized, it does look weird. People notice these kinds of things, and that can effect how they view you on Instagram. People value — or think they value — authenticity on social media, and obviously belonging to a pod isn’t going to make your posts and followers look very authentic.
For example, when I checked it last, this shot has 805 likes and only 22 comments (that weren’t from the posting account):
Also, being part of a pod can take a lot of work. You’re expected to like and comment on the pod’s posts — and that can be a lot of posts. Even if you just get caught up once a day, that could easily be a few dozen posts to comment on. If you want to leave more than an emoji or a single word, that take times.
But it’s not all negative. People do find success with Instagram pods. The algorithm, as far as we know, doesn’t seem to be able to distinguish pod engagement from regular engagement, so being part of a pod can help get your posts in front of more people.
If you generate income from Instagram, that’s definitely worth considering.
How to Join an Instagram Pod
So you know the upsides and the downsides of Instagram pods, and now you want to join one. How do you go about it? The first step is finding a pod. There are plenty of places to look. Here are a few ideas:
- Put out a call on social media saying you’re looking for a pod. If you’re friends with others in your niche, you may find someone.
- Post in a related subreddit that you’re looking for a pod.
- Check Facebook groups that are related to your topic. There are often people looking for a boost on Instagram.
- Ask around on forums related to your niche.
Unfortunately, joining an Instagram pod might not be as straightforward as finding one. Rachel Thompson found that they can be cliquey and not very open to new members, though it’s reasonable to expect that each pod will behave differently.
Of course, if you can’t find a pod that suits you, you can always start your own. Use the same places above — social media, forums, Reddit, and so on — to let people know that you’re looking to start a new pod. You’ll almost certainly get a lot of interest.
I'm looking to set up an instagram comment pod for #travelbloggers! Please RT or share with anyone you think might be interested! :)
— Kat Last ? (@kat_last) April 8, 2017
Once that happens, you’ll be in the position of accepting or rejecting requests to join your Instagram pod. Who should you include? It’s likely that you’ll get the most positive results from a pod that includes people with a lot of followers and high engagement already. But you may also benefit from choosing people who post images closely related to yours.
After that, start a private direct message with the people in your pod. Then everyone can send out a message when they have a new post and make it easy for everyone else to like and comment.
That’s all there is to it.
Is It Time to Join an Instagram Pod?
If being part of an Instagram pod sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is. You’ll need to go about finding or starting one, monitoring your messages, liking and commenting a lot, and doing your best to add value to other people’s posts.
On the other hand, it’s one way to get your posts in front of more people. And if your goal is to get more interaction on Instagram, it might be worth it.
Have you joined an Instagram pod? What did you think? Do you recommend it for gaining popularity on Instagram? Share your thoughts in the comments below!