What are Instagram pods and should you be in one

 Photo by  Becca Tapert  on  Unsplash

Instagram pods, a.k.a. engagement groups resurface every couple of months as the ultimate way people are trying to cheat the algorithm.

They started popping up when Instagram switched from a chronological feed to an algorithm-driven one. Algorithm rewards engagement with more of it, but that’s not the only thing that determines how well your content will perform.

An Instagram pod (or an engagement group) is a group of Instagram users who always like and comment on each other’s posts.

Usually, these pods take a form of group chat. In the early days, they were just group messages on Instagram itself. Then a rumor broke out that Instagram can track and punish these activities (what I never had enough reasons to believe in), so today, the pods are normally Whatsapp groups or Telegram chats.

Members of a pod send links to their photos to the group chat after they post them. The other members of the group, then, like their content and comment on it.

There are often rules about these comments: the groups will require them to be longer than four words and as unique as possible. That way, the activity doesn’t look like spam.

 Photo by  Brooke Cagle  on  Unsplash

I’ve tried several Instagram engagement groups over the past couple of years.

In theory, they’re great. You have a group of like-minded creators who engage with your content. On the one hand, the engagement may get your photos shown to a more significant part of your followers; on the other, when somebody engages with your content, it might also end up in their followers’ explore feeds.

In practice, many things can go wrong.

It’s important to find an engagement group where people are in somewhat similar niches. I’m not a wedding photographer, nor am I planning a wedding. Once, I was in a group of, it turned out, predominantly wedding photographers. After commenting on the tenth wedding photo in a row, I just had nothing to say anymore. After a while, I started leaving dumb comments like “love the tones, bro” or “omg great shot”, which sounds... quite spammy, when you think of it.

It’s also important to find a pod that won’t consume your life. I usually post 3-4 photos a week. When I was in a pod where 15 people posted three photos a day each, seven days a week, it took me HOURS to leave a comment on all of their photos!

Some engagement groups require you to comment on all of the other users’ posts. Others have several dedicated time slots per day you’re supposed to post (and comment). There are more flexible ones, too — for example, where you are only supposed to comment on the last ten pieces of content.

Ultimately, these are just the ways people try and cheat Instagram’s algorithm. They might work, but you should assess are they the right way to spend your time. If you have to spend hours every day to keep up with an engagement group, it’s not worth it. If you’re already on Instagram, it’s better if you spend half of that time engaging with your potential customers.

You’ll get the most use of engagement pods if you create one yourself, and invite a small number of similarly themed Instagram accounts into it. Think a group of wedding vendors from the Amsterdam metropolitan area who often work with each other whatsoever or a pod of local fashion designers in Berlin.

However, engaging with other users will always bring you more engagement, and you don’t always need an engagement group to do it.

Do you have any experience with Instagram pods? Let me know in the comments!