Instagram Pods: The Newest Way Influencers Are Trying To Beat The Instagram Algorithm
We’ve seen it all over social media for the last decade, “Like for Like”, “Comment for Comment” or “I follow back.” There is nothing new about reciprocating social media love but the startup of Instagram Pods is the grown-up version of the tactic we all have used at one time or another to grow our personal following.
Since Instagram launched it’s new algorithm a little over a year ago users, specifically new businesses and accounts striving to become paid influencers, have been attempting to beat it. In case you’ve been living under a rock or simply do not use social media the new system changed the order in which users see posts on the app. Instead of seeing posts in chronological order people now see posts that are in a line-up that is based on what Instagram believes you would find most prevalent, meaning posts from accounts you usually interact with would pop up first regardless of date. This has lead to two big inconveniences for users:
- The new algorithm is assuming you visit Instagram at least once a day, if not every few hours. Although many people do, it is not true for everyone, so for anyone signing in every other day or just a few times a week you are seeing posts at the top that are days old and no longer relevant. Not to mention the awkward situation when you’re not sure if you should like a post because it’s from a week ago and you don’t want someone thinking you’re stalking their profile.
- If you are looking to build a following based off organic or low-cost engagement with a small following to start off with, good luck. Even if your content is amazing it will be near impossible for you to creep towards the top of one of your follower’s feed unless you have a minimum of 100 likes. Even this number may not be high enough depending on your followers demographic.
Enter Instagram Pods
Pods are small group chats with anywhere from 5-20 members who all agree to some variation of rules that require each member to engage in the other pod member’s posts. As someone who is always looking for the most time and cost efficient strategies to grow both my personal and company’s social media following, I decided I would try to join some pods. First off, let me just say it was much easier said than done.
There is a reason why they are nicknamed “Instagram’s Secret Societies”, they aren’t easy to get into let alone find members to message about joining. After searching the hashtag, #InstagramPods and #Pods, I was able to track down a few accounts that advertised within their bio that they were putting together pods and were seeking members so naturally I messaged them. Unfortunately, my millennial need for instant gratification was not satisfied and I didn’t hear from any of the groups I had requested to join for two weeks. In the mean time a woman posted within a Facebook group I am a part of saying she wanted to start a pod and I jumped at the chance. The rules were simple, like everyone’s posts that are submitted to the group and do not post more than one picture per day. This particular pod had 15 members including myself and everything was off to a great start, I began tracking my metrics using Instagram Insights.
Finally, one of the pod accounts I had messaged reached out letting me know that they had a pod for me to join I just had to agree to the rules, an intense list of demands followed and I agreed. How hard could it be?
Liking posts was easy but believe it or not I actually spent a decent amount of time each day coming up with 5 word comments that were relevant to each of the 10-15 posts that were submitted. The accounts within the group ranged from amateur photographers to travel bloggers to models which made it difficult to comment on some of the photos depending on what the subject matter was. Cue the “Beautiful! Great shot of _____” or “Love this! You’re so talented.” comments.
After about two weeks of being a member in three pods; Likes Only, Like + Comments with a minimum of 5 words and Likes mandatory + Comments voluntary, I saw no dramatic increase in my following or even impression rate that was associated with the pods. Could Instagram Pods all be a sham? Possibly.
Obviously there was an increase in the amount of comments and a small increase in the number of likes each of my posts were receiving but the benefit of being in a pod was outweighing the amount of time I was spending trying to keep up with it. Above I’ve displayed the insights from three different posts, two from before I joined the pods and one from after. As you can see the reach of the first and third are very close with the exception of comment totals. The increase in likes and impressions was more than likely due to an increase in followers that was brought on by the follow-unfollow method that has worked consistently for me over time. The second post with the high number of impressions, likes and saves had nothing to do with pods. The difference? It was a relevant post that was funny and users naturally wanted to engage.
Bottom line there is no one answer to beating the Instagram algorithm but pods were not the answer for me. There are many other strategies out there that work for users whether it be to like three times and comment, follow-unfollow, strategic hashtagging, posting during peak hours or simply targeting a hashtag and liking all of the photos you can. But if you want to try out using a pod for yourself, my best advice for is to use hashtags and let your post receive organic traffic for a few hours before sharing it with the pod. Once the pod begins to like or comment on the post it will rejuvenate it and it will cycle around again, increasing your potential reach. Remember time is your most valuable commodity, so find the best way to use it that will also yield you the best results.