A Social Media Manager’s Take On Instagram Pods

A Social Media Manager’s Take On Instagram Pods

In case you’ve been living under a rock (or don’t use Instagram much), a lot of people are falling out of love with the platform. About a year ago, Instagram broke the news that they were changing to an algorithmic feed. This basically means they’ll order posts based largely on popularity, instead of chronologically. It’s not anything new, Facebook has been doing it since 2011. However, Instagram’s change seems to be hitting honest bloggers and small businesses the most.

For a lot of us being online is a day job and Instagram is an integral tool. A lot of creatives and small business owners use the platform to find sales. If you haven’t noticed a difference then consider yourself lucky. Engagement has significantly dropped for some to frustrating lows. If you follow any bloggers on Twitter, you will without a doubt have seen them complain about one or more of the following:

  • Follow count rising and dropping frequently
  • An influx of spam comments
  • Engagement dropping to an all-time low
  • Their posts not being seen by followers
  • A rise in people buying followers

It’s becoming nearly impossible to get seen by your own followers, let alone any new ones. Unless your posts are being interacted with as soon as they go live, it’s likely they’ll get buried. If you managed to successfully build your following before the algorithm, you’re doing better than most. Influencers and big brands are pretty much favoured, even if their engagement has dropped. They’ve obviously been hit too, but it’s even harder for people with under 1k followers to grow their account organically.

So, how are people trying to combat this? There has been a rise in attempts to beat the algorithm, one user even wrote a whole article on it. The most recent trend has been taking part in comment pods. As both a blogger and a social media manager, I thought it would be interesting to go through the pros and cons.

So what is an Instagram pod?

A pod is basically a group message where people let one another know when they have just posted an image. The idea is to boost engagement and hopefully get your content seen. In order for Instagram to recognise your comment as ‘engagement’, it needs to be at least four words long and emojis don’t count. There are a lot of general groups you can join as well as ones that are more suited to niches (i.e. beauty blogging).

I’ve taken part in a few and here are some things I have noticed.

People often don’t play by the rules

I guess to some extent rules can take the fun out of things. Social media is the last thing we all thought we’d need rules for, but like I said it’s becoming more and more of a business tool. In order for a comment swap to be beneficial to all, people need to stick to the rules. A lot of people join them and become inactive soon after. With people uploading sometimes multiple times a day, it’s easy to fall behind. A lot of us end up putting the work in and don’t see it reciprocated. It’s hard to raise this without being called petty, but rules are rules.

Comments get less and less genuine

When people start to get annoyed by rules, comments deteriorate too. I try to leave comments in one sitting and save it for when I’m in the mood for it. When I was in a number of pods, I was getting so many generic and half-assed comments. I was also getting three word long comments and a bunch of emojis, which as I said above wouldn’t be seen as engagement. People couldn’t be bothered and in turn I would leave an equally lazy comment. I recently decided to leave all the pods I was in because I couldn’t see how this was benefiting any of us.

They don’t really work for brands

I have only seen bloggers talk publicly about the use of Instagram pods. Brands with huge audiences don’t really have to worry about engagement because a) their content is favoured and b) they probably have big budgets too. Where does this leave businesses with virtually no following or worse brand new accounts? I can’t imagine business owners/CEOs or social media managers are willing to start or participate in comment pods for their businesses. There’s got to be a better way to grow your account that doesn’t involve buying followers. It’s frustrating seeing clients get disheartened and it’s hard trying to explain why no strategy is working.

You could actually be hurting yourself in the long run

Okay this sounds dramatic, but hear me out. Whatever way you look at it, these comments still aren’t organic. You may be boosting your engagement, but it’s not real engagement. It’s fun and definitely addictive, which often leads to joining more pods. For me personally, it was getting to a point where I was spending all of my time on Instagram in pods. I had no time to browse the explore page, search within hashtags I was posting in, or find new accounts. I wasn’t really engaging. It’s also worth noting that it’s quite obvious when somebody uses an Instagram pod. As somebody who does outreach on behalf of clients, I look for genuine engagement.

They’re definitely not a long term solution

I see Instagram comment pods as more of a quick fix kind of thing. They’re not a long term solution at all because you’re not really using the app correctly. Admittedly it’s slow, but organic growth is still there. If you want to get a head start, I think Instagram pods are a great start when working on your strategy. They might help you get seen but in the long run, you won’t see any real growth with them. I guess it’s all comes down to how patient you are or what you use the platform for.

So, how do I grow my Instagram organically?

With great difficulty! I’m not going to lie to you, it is hard. It took me a year to reach over a thousand followers, but the point is I did. It is doable, it just takes some time.

I think the key is to focus on quality, people are really starting to up their photography game now. A lot of people now use images taken on DSLRs as opposed to phones. That’s not to say you can’t get good photos using your phone’s camera though. Get creative with it, I’m sick of seeing the same flatlays. Change it up a bit!

Like anything else online, consistency is really important too. I recommend switching to a business account and taking a look at your insights. Find out when your posts perform best and stick to that time every day (or however often you post). I think it’s important to check your insights after you stop using comment pods. Your posts might be doing well at a particular time where people in your pod are online. It makes more sense to track your organic growth instead.

If you want to ditch Instagram pods, browse the hashtags you’re using and engage with users you don’t follow instead. I’d recommend doing this just after you post. Don’t just leave comments for the sake of it though, otherwise you might as well be back in a pod. Take some time to actually read the captions and don’t leave a generic comment like ‘nice [emoji]’ or ‘great feed’. I mark those as spam! Another popular thing to do is to have an Instagram ‘theme’, but again I never see anything that particularly stands out. Personally, I think there are more trouble than they are worth. I like to follow accounts that are different but if you think that’ll help you post consistently, go for it!

Final thoughts

As somebody who manages a range of Instagram accounts, this is just based on my own personal experiences. For my own Instagram, I’ve reached a point where I just don’t care anymore. I post what I want and I’m only really focusing on building my client’s. Since paying more attention to my insights and leaving pods, my engagement has actually gone up!

If you want to use Instagram comment pods by all means do. I think in order for them to really work, you need to find super niche comment pods. I just thought I’d offer a different perspective and some other things to think about.

 

Do you use Instagram pods? What do you make of them?

Like what you’re reading? Good news! You can follow me here too:
Bloglovin’ – Twitter – Instagram – Facebook 

Share:

16 Comments

  1. March 3, 2017 / 12:38 pm

    I got really fedup of the generic comments – if they even bothered at all.

    I fell behind on a few occasions due to hospital admissions and bad flares that left me bedridden but I did catch up when I could but it definitely stressed me out so much and left me feeling guilty as sin.

    Comment pods aren’t for me for the above reasons and also because of people who don’t play fair.

    I’m definitely going to concentrate more on trying to grow organically xox

  2. March 3, 2017 / 12:54 pm

    Instagram pods just seem like another LIke4Like type thing – I really don’t get them. Like you said, it’s not real engagement, so what’s the point? The beauty of comments is that people only leave them when they really enjoy content. They’re like an ‘extra’ like in my book. So why would I want to fake that?

    Of course, I don’t try and use Instagram to grow my blog/business – or really grow at all. I mostly post selfies and holiday snaps, more just so I can look back over them later. I’m not really a photography/visual person at all to be honest. So I’ve never experienced the frustration of trying to grow an Insta account.

    Liv //petticoatsandpatriarchy.com

  3. March 3, 2017 / 2:57 pm

    I didn’t even know these pods were a thing!

  4. March 3, 2017 / 4:35 pm

    This is really interesting to read. I was not sure how I felt about instagram pods but had seen a lot of talk about them. I actually prefer engagement which looks and feels genuine to the three emoji thing I get a lot of spam from. I am also trying to up my instagram game but at the moment that means I am mostly taking photos of flowers in good light! But I aim to get better this year, it is on my to do list and your organic tips to raise your followers should be a good starting point.

  5. adriannecalgie
    March 3, 2017 / 9:20 pm

    My Instagram has been pretty stagnant and it’s frustrating when the same ol’ marble flatlays with rose gold accents garner hundreds of likes for no differentiation. I joined a pod out of interest, but it wasn’t really my thing. If you’re joining someone else’s you can’t decide who else is in it, and if you’re not a fan of their content then it’s just as fake as buying followers.

  6. March 3, 2017 / 11:16 pm

    really interesting to read your take on the whole thing. I also totally agree with flat lays, I am so over the plain white/marble background look that so many use its just lacking personality and thats what I look for.

  7. March 4, 2017 / 11:27 am

    This is actually the first time I’ve heard of Instagram pods! On my old Instagram account, I had a decent following that was all organic, but felt the need to make a new account for personal reasons.
    Whilst it is just a social media account and not the end of the world, I do miss having an active audience – especially since starting my blog! I’ve always liked pictures in various relevant hashtags, but perhaps commenting on things would be a good next step for me to engage people’s interest

  8. March 4, 2017 / 10:55 pm

    I get enough non genuine, generic emoji comments as it is so pods didn’t really appeal to me. They feel like comments for commenting’s sake, not interaction because people actually want to. I use hashtags for exposure instead and growth is very slow but it does happen!

    Tore xo

  9. March 5, 2017 / 12:04 am

    I don’t like the idea of pods, I hate generic comments. I understand the idea of them, but I’m all about genuine-ness across all my social media channels. I like to comment if I genuinely have something to say about the caption, the photo, or to the person who posted. This was a great post though! I’ve honestly never heard of instagram pods before this article xxx

    Melina

  10. March 5, 2017 / 6:49 pm

    I was in an Instagram pod with a few bloggers who were really great at commenting – it never felt half-arsed when they were leaving comments on my pictures, but I felt like the comments I was leaving were really forced and not always genuine. I left my pod because I work full time in an industry that isn’t in any way related to blogging/social media and I just couldn’t keep up even though there were only 7/8 of us. I’ve found that browsing hashtags really works for me and I’ve found some bloggers I really click with that way. Admittedly it’s much harder to grow though.

  11. March 5, 2017 / 8:55 pm

    This was really interesting – I’d never heard of IG pods before! I see what you mean about it becoming addictive and less about actually engaging organically. I found my follower count rose a little when I started to post every day, but I’ve been too lazy to do that recently as I was taking a week’s worth of pics in one go and scheduling them all. Instagram is just weird and meh at the moment lol…

    I really liked the photography in this post, especially Buffy’s cute lil head. Would definitely be interested in reading more social media related posts!

  12. March 5, 2017 / 10:16 pm

    This is SO helpful, thank you! I’m so bad at having any sort of strategy for my social media, I just kind of post when I feel like it, but I find it so discouraging to be gaining and then losing huge amounts of followers on instagram all the time. I definitely need to get an instagram business account! Generic spammy comments are the worst though, I agree. I actually filter out as many as possible in the comment settings xx

  13. March 6, 2017 / 5:21 pm

    I tried to join a pod once, but I didn’t care for it. I like to leave comments and like posts because I actually like them. I know I actually have to search for my friends accounts to see what’s new there a lot of the time. I hate how much social media is changing sometimes, and making it so impossible to reach people, even on Facebook. But honestly, I’ve been working on my Instagram this past little while and I’ve gained a few hundred followers in just a couple of months by using effective hashtags and posting better quality photos. It can be done!

  14. March 6, 2017 / 6:13 pm

    Completely agree with you on this. I loved the initial idea and concept but now that I’m part of two it’s such an effort without much reward anymore! My insta-following is less that 1000 though so I did notice a different in my engagement initially, but now I don’t know how much difference it’s actually making as some people have gotten very lazy and don’t even comment anymore!

    Definitely looking into getting a business account and sorting my facebook page out and having a more strategic approach!

  15. Zoe
    March 9, 2017 / 6:04 pm

    AGREE 10000%. I took part in one of these pods last year and it was soul destroying. It’s the whole ‘not getting back what you give out’ aspect of it that made me leave. And my engagement has been better ever since I stopped caring tbh because I just interact with people more naturally because I want to, not because I feel like I ‘have’ to. However you look at it, Instagram is utterly crap at the moment, it’s gone the way of FB and unless a person or brand has £££ their content isn’t going to get seen by most of the people that follow, it’s so bloody sad as Insta used to be my favourite platform but I’ve pretty much just moved on from it now too. xx

  16. April 26, 2017 / 2:44 pm

    I’m in to “follow, like and comment” pods, and to be honest I don’t really like it. Not everyones engaging with the other members and the comments are often very generic . I actually prefer “liking” pods much better. I have a feeling that I will leave the pods pretty soon, because I was so happy that I was going away for a couple of days so I could tell them to not expect comments from me.

    But I get why people use them. Engagement is had nowadays. I used to get a lot of likes through blog hashtags, but more and more people only engage with the people they are following. And in that case, I understand why so many people love them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *