Have you heard about Instagram pods?
It’s a ‘thing’ that has been around for some time, and most bloggers, influencers and social media stars are in one or have been. If you don’t know what one is and you’d like to know more, keep reading. I’ve shared everything you REALLY need to know about Instagram pods. (All based on my experiences with them.)
WHAT IS AN INSTAGRAM POD?
A pod is a group of bloggers or influencers who come together, usually via Instagram direct message [DM]. When one of them posts a new update, they share the information in the DM and everyone else goes onto that update to ‘like’ it or comment on it.
Pods generally have rules — some specify that you must throw a like towards the shared Insta-updates, whereas in other pods, you need to like and comment.
Some pods also state that you can only share one update per day. Others allow for multiple shares.
In theory, an Instagram pod is a great idea.
You post something new to Instagram, share that new update in the DM, and all of the other members in that group throw some engagement and interaction your way.
Instagram group DMs allow for a maximum of 32 members*, so each new update should – in theory – get 32 new ‘likes’, comments, or both almost straight away, providing the group/pod is filled to capacity.
THE EVOLUTION OF PODS
Because Instagram DMs only allow for a maximum of 32 members, a few groups of people have moved away from the Instagram app itself, using other messaging platforms and apps to allow for more people in the pod. I’ve only ever used Instagram pods.
👍🏻 INSTAGRAM PODS – THE PROS
When everything works out as it should, joining an Instagram pod should be beneficial. If you have people in your pod that work on the same time zone as you, they will hopefully see those updates right away, or not long after. They’ll like, comment and engage with your updates fairly quickly after they were posted, giving you a little cluster of engagements early on. That works in your favour. To Instagram, you’ll look like an account that offers value and you’ll be more likely to win-over that damn algorithm.
You will also meet a lot of new people when you join new pods. That’s never a bad thing, especially when they’re people who are in the same niche as you or are interested in the same things.
Pods can also prove beneficial when you have services or information to swap — someone can provide photography services in exchange for a new website logo, that kind of thing.
👎🏻 INSTAGRAM PODS – THE CONS
These cons are just based on *my* experiences.
1 – You spend a lot of time engaging on other people’s Insta-updates.
The more people in a pod, the more updates you’ll need to like and comment on before you can even get around to sharing your own.
The more pods you’re in, the more updates you’ll need to like and comment on before you can even get around to sharing your own.
You’ll probably find that you’ll need to join up to more than one pod in order to get the “best” results, and that means you’ll need to dedicate a lot of your time engaging with all of those other updates. That’s a very good thing to do to grow your own account — engaging, liking, and following new people is a great way to start — but you do need to weigh up whether or not you’re actually getting anything out of it.
If you’re spending two hours of your day trying to catch up on everyone else’s updates, but only getting five or ten extra likes out of it yourself, it might be a wise idea to reconsider your strategy … or the pod(s) you’re joined up to.
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2 – Bloggers and influencers will often sign up to the same pods.
I found myself in a few pods that had virtually the same bloggers/influencers in them. I kept spotting the same usernames time and time again. The same accounts can’t interact or engage with my photos more than once (as in, they can’t ‘like’ my image more than once), so being in two pods with virtually the same members is practically pointless. It won’t help me — or you — reach any more people.
Check through the members of pods and groups before committing to them, especially if you’re joining multiple pods. If a new pod contains a lot of members that are already in other pods you’re in, you‘re not going to gain a lot from being in them. You’ll spend a lot of your time clicking on people’s new updates, only to learn that you’ve already ‘liked’ and commented on them.
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3 – Pods that have similarly niched influencer and bloggers in them are going to work best for you …
… but at the same time, they ARE your competition.
I was in one pod that had 9 other members for a while. I liked and commented on all new posts from all 9 other members, reading their blogs and being a good pod member, and assumed I was getting exactly the same right back. It was only after a couple of weeks that I realised that one member of that group wasn’t engaging with any of my updates.
Nothing in the way of engagement.
On ANY of my shared posts.
I also noticed that the same blogger hadn’t been ‘liking’ the comments I’d left on her updates like she seemed to do with everyone else’s.
That blogger and I had NEVER interacted before joining the pod, but we did have similar blogs/blog styles. I had no clue who she was before meeting her in the pod, nor had I read her blog. I did think about kicking up a bit of a fuss about it, but I didn’t really see the point. Bickering over a ‘like’ just seems so very petty.
In the end, I just left the pod.
You are ALWAYS going to come across that one person that refuses to like or comment on your stuff. Who knows why? I put it down to silly “blogging competition”. (There’s plenty of room in the bloggersphere for us all, folks.)
Don’t let it get to you if you find yourself in this position. It’s petty and totally not important.
It’s. Just. One. Person.
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4 – Not everyone will play by the rules.
While we’re on the subject of people who don’t like or comment as they are expected to, there is always that one person who either doesn’t understand the rules or just plain refuses to play by them.
I’ve seen actual conversations that look like this:
“Hey, Blogger A, can you make sure you’re liking and commenting on the pictures of others as well as sharing your own here, please? Thanks!”
“Sure, thing. Sorry, I thought this was a like pod only. I’ll comment from now on.”
Two weeks later …
“Hey, Blogger A, can you make sure you’re liking or commenting on the pictures of others as well as sharing your own here, please? Otherwise, we’ll need to consider removing you from the pod. Thanks!”
“Oh sure, thanks for letting me know! Defo don’t want to get kicked out! Didn’t realise I had to comment as well. I’ll do it now, thanks!”
I bet you can guess what happened a couple of weeks after that …
Yes, that’s right. She got kicked out of the group for not playing by the rules.
There will always be someone like that. It’s probably an accident the first time. But the third time? I’m not so sure you can still class that as an accident, can you?
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5 – There’s a potential shadow ban risk.
There has been so much chit-chat about the Instagram shadow ban lately. Does it exist? Doesn’t it? Are there ways around it?
I’ve been on the receiving end of a shadow ban on not just one occasion, but on multiple occasions, across a couple of different accounts. I have even been called upon by local businesses who found themselves faced with the dreaded spell of Insta-invisibility (as I like to call it) and needed a hand making things better.
I think the shadow ban rules change on a regular basis when Instagram feels the need to rein something in a bit. That’s just my opinion, though. There’s no fact behind that.
Here’s why Instagram pod activity *COULD* potentially trigger a shadow ban –
> The same accounts (up to 32 for Instagram DM pods) will be liking and commenting on your updates every time, very quickly after they’ve been shared. This kind of repetitive behaviour usually triggers something with the oh-so-sensitive platform, and there is a chance that this could leave you on the Instagram naughty step.
> You are repetitively using the same sharing-via-DM function every time you update, immediately after you update. Once again, there is some evidence to support the idea that such repetitive behaviour could trigger a shadow ban.
I personally have not been shadow-banned as a result of being in an Instagram pod … that I’m aware of. But I have seen a couple of blog posts where people have suspected this to be the case.
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6 – Some people post more than others.
Those who post more on Instagram are going to have more updates to share in the pod. (Depending on the rules of that pod.)
If Blogger A posts three times per day, you’re going to be engaging with them three times per day.
If you only update once per day, Blogger A and the rest of the pod are only going to engage with you once per day.
There will be days when it feels like you’re spending a lot of time working on the engagement of one or two of the other bloggers and not enough time on your own. It’s tough to post three times a day when you’re constantly trying to come up with unique and interesting comments to post on everyone else’s stuff.
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7 – Oh, the notifications!
I had to mute notifications from the Instagram pod at one point because my phone was ring-dinging so much that it was actually starting to drive me a little crazy. The damn thing was vibrating so hard it nearly buzzed right off the desk.
You need to remember that people actually have conversations in these pods, as well as sharing their latest updates. There will be a lot of “Thanks, I’ve liked and commented on yours!” and “Love that skirt, girl. Where’d it come from?”
It’s lovely seeing everyone chit-chatting along like that, and it’s fun to join in, too. I’ve even learned a few things from time to time, such as cool places to take photos, awesome new blogging resources, and more. But, sometimes, you can’t join in. You’re at work and your butt pocket is vibrating like crazy. Or you’re having dinner with your Grandmother and she’s starting to think she’s got a permanent buzzing in her ear from the phone vibrating in your handbag on the floor.
It’s all fun and games. I’m not really bitching about it.
But OH MY GOD, the notifications. They really will drive ya crazy!
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8 – Instagram pods don’t actually guarantee growth.
Think about it – when you’re in an Instagram pod, the people who are in that pod are going to be your regular engagers. Your engagement is going to come from the same group of people. The idea is that you will trick Instagram into thinking your account is more ‘popular’ than it is, but it’ll soon pick up on the fact that your engagement is coming from the same people each time.
Even if it doesn’t, you’re not going to get a great amount of growth from just one Instagram pod that’s 32 people strong. You’ll need to sign up to more than one pod in order to get the kind of engagement and growth that you’re hoping for, and that takes time out of your day that you could spend concentrating on your actual growth.
Remember — you’re going to spend a lot of time commenting and liking on the content of pod members. Is that going to be the best use of your time? You’ll still need to like and comment on OTHER people’s Insta-updates for growth, too – from people who aren’t in your pods.
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9 – You’ll spend a while trying to find a pod.
Unless you just so happen to accidentally ‘come across’ an Instagram pod, finding one to join is actually quite a tough challenge. They’re a bit like a secret society. The whole point of joining one is to “trick” the Instagram algorithm, and that’s kinda like you’re admitting to cheating on your blog or whatever platform you’re trying to grow.
That means you’ll need to do some digging in order to find a pod. There are blog posts that can help, but you’ll need to go digging around for those, too. The time you spend hunting out these “magical” groups could probably be better spent elsewhere … like growing your own account by posting more or writing slightly funnier/longer/better captions.
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10 – Instagram engagement from pods *isn’t* legitimate engagement.
Oooooft. This one’s gonna ruffle some feathers for sure, and that’s fine. One of us has got to say it.
You ARE “cheating” when you join an Instagram pod.
You ARE attempting to “trick” Instagram when you benefit from pod engagement.
Engagement from pod members ISN’T technically legitimate engagement.
No, you’re NOT paying for followers or engagement, but what you are doing is exchanging something you have for something they [pod members] have.
A like for a like.
A comment for a comment.
It’s a relationship — something that has been put in place to force-slash-ensure engagement.
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11 – You’ll need to engage with content and accounts that you normally wouldn’t.
This is both a good thing and a bad thing. You’re going to see a lot more content when you’re joining pods, both good quality and … well, not so good quality. Some of the pods aren’t niche-specific, so you could be commenting on a half-naked image of a model posing with vape stuff one minute and a flatlay of breakfast the next. You can’t just decide NOT to like or engage with someone’s post because that would go against the pod rules, so you’ll sometimes be “associated” with accounts or images that you might not want to.
[Just to clarify, I’m not judging anyone/anyone’s content. I am both the half-naked vape girl, albeit not a model, and the breakfast-flatlay-girl, except I’m no good with flatlay photography.]
MY PERSONAL THOUGHTS
I’m not really a pod person. Some of the accounts that I found in the pods were people whose blog or Instagram account I was already following and actively engaged with, so neither of us actually gained from me joining the pod. I also found that people were quite “selective” over the likes and comments that they threw out.
What is it they say?
You could be the tastiest peach in the world, but you’ll still find someone who doesn’t like peaches.
For me, posting one new Instagram update turned into an hour-long process. I’d share my image, prompted by the Later scheduling app/tool. Then I’d need to share that update with the pod. After that, I’d need to go through and like/comment on all the other images since the last time I’d done the rounds. If I was involved in more than one pod, I’d need to repeat that same process for each update.
It’s a long-ass process. For me, that long-ass process wasn’t always worth it. I took the time I was spending in pods and pushed it into Pinterest instead … and my blog views have increased dramatically as a direct result.
If you’re interested, you can find out all the steps in my Pinterest marketing strategy here –
INSTAGRAM PODS — A FEW TIPS
If you do decide to go down the route of using Instagram pods to try and boost engagement, here are a few tips –
> Check the members first. If you’re a member of more than one pod, there’s no point in adding yourself to another one that contains all the same people. You won’t get any extra engagement.
> Always make sure you check the rules for your Instagram pod. Do you need to like the pictures of others? Or like AND comment? Are you limited to how many updates you can share per day? How many posts back you need to go back and like/comment/both? The rules might be different for each pod you’re in, too.
> Try to look for pods that are related to you and your blog niche. Those will be the most beneficial to you. They’ll also be the easiest to think up comments for.
> Don’t expect magical things to happen overnight. They won’t.
> If you’re in a pod that isn’t working for you, leave. There *are* other pods, and there are also other ways to grow your Instagram account that don’t involve spending half the day liking and commenting on other people’s images.
And there you have them – my thoughts about Instagram pods. Do you agree with what I’ve said? Have you had spectacular success with Instagram pods yourself? Maybe you’ve got a blog post all about it? Let me know about it. I’d love to read your experiences. There’s plenty of space for your comments and links in the box below this blog post. I can’t wait to read what you think!