Ah Instagram. That tool we all love, hate to love, or straight out hate. More recently in the Blogging Community it’s shifted towards a mildly angry dislike – utilising Instagram is one of the best ways to grow a blog and drive traffic. But with the new Instagram algorithm, if you aren’t already successful it’s a minefield trying to grow.
Enter pods! Instagram pods are groups of users fitting one niche boosting each other on Instagram. The concept is simple – find like minded people (anywhere up to 15 of them), gather them in an Instagram chat group, and share your posts as you post them. The group members all follow you, like every post you share and leave you a comment. Post becomes more popular and is shifted up the rankings. Horray – algorithm kicked squarely in the teeth!
But this isn’t as black and white as I sell it – it takes work, a lot of work, to be part of a pod. Finding one is just the initial step. You could comb through Twitter or Facebook groups for hours, constantly being told that the pod you’ve asked to join is full, or even being straight up ignored! Pods have a rep of being extremely cliquey, and I can’t sugar-coat this – they are. A group of people fitting into the same niche and commenting on each other’s posts is guaranteed to get cliquey, and very fast too.
On top of being cliquey, some people really do have a huge problem with pods. Let’s call it what it really is here: fake engagement. And I’m not ashamed of saying it. At first, at least, the engagement may not be genuine. You end up grouped together with a group of people you didn’t know before, you boost them and they boost you. This pushes you towards the genuine engagement, and I can fully understand why some people don’t deem it particularly ethical, or just straight up don’t like it.
But I am in pods, and have to say that after a while, these things stop being pods! One of my pods is now what I would consider a group of friends, who all now actively read each other’s blogs, are genuine in liking and commenting on each others posts, and have even met a one or two of the other members! We’ve stopped being a boosting pod, and have embraced the better side of things. We fit one niche, and we support each other because we damn well want to! After all, the best way to grow a blog in this community is to support each other. That involves liking and commenting on Instagram posts!
But can it go too far? Boosting a post to a group of 10 people will give you a rush, and see your numbers peak. It has been proven that social media can give you an endorphin boost, and that can be addictive. Is there a way to boost your success? Bigger pods? Better like counts? How many pods can you possibly join?
Recently, I have noticed that some comments from pod members can be a little unengaged for lack of a better word! Evidence of captions not being read, comments looking out of place amongst the others and some being the minimal amount of words to pass by the rule of being three words or more.
I also ended up in a super pod after some claims that Instagram was acting on pods and actively removing users (panic stations at the ready!). This worsened the lack of engaged content, as well as finding myself following a sea of bloggers blogging on subjects I couldn’t follow without letting go of some personal opinions and integrity. And I get it – you might be faced with posts you wouldn’t normally comment on and have to put something. But when I ended up with 30 comments on one post along the lines of “Great, I’ll try it!” when I was voicing my disappointment with a product, I realised enough was enough.
After 3 days, I gathered my old pod together on a new Instagram chat, and asked if they’d like to carry on the pod as things were. I was a little nervous, thinking people were enjoying the new, huge super pod. But it turns out I was wrong! Almost immediately the other members responded, saying they felt the same and wanted the old pod back. The huge, very fake engagement and huge range of blogs was putting us all off. Swiftly, we all left and restarted our little group, which was no longer an engagement boosting pod, but a group of genuine friends that wanted to support each other. Everyone in agreement, the ‘pod’ was back on track, and our friendships strengthened considerably. What we have is more like a group chat with the occasional post share, and I couldn’t be happier with it.
So, what can we learn by this? Well, I think the main lesson is pods are essential for Instagram success, but you have to keep them small! You need to be within one niche, and need to be genuine with one another. You need to communicate. And if you do that, your engagement boost will become genuine. Not only that, but you will find friends within your community and specific niche. Joining big pods and getting/leaving a load of fake comments just to boost your engagement is just as bad as using bots, and looks blindingly obvious! When it comes to working with brands, the proof is right there. There is no shortcut to blogging success.
What do you think of Insta pods? Yay or nay?
Disclaimer: This post has been edited due to some personal discomfort at how I’d initially written it. I was unintentionally mean and not myself. However, I did honestly want to portray a personal experience of when podding can get out of hand. I will never apologise for my honesty or opinionated personality, but I can see where I went wrong. Thank you for the positive comments so far, and hopefully you’ll be more comfortable with the writing now, as I certainly am!