ByJuly 26, 2017 11 Comments

Introducing the Instagram pod.

Does it sometimes feel like your posts simply aren’t getting seen as much as they used to? That could be down to Instagram’s change in algorithm. The new algorithm promises users they’ll see the “posts they care about most” (i.e. from the accounts they generally engage with the most) higher up in their feed – much like on Facebook.

The result of this for marketers is that our posts get less engagement as they’re getting less impressions than when the order was simply chronological. This is because our posts are appearing further down the feed, where lots of people would have already stopped scrolling…! In fact, according to Urszula Makowska from Independent Fashion Bloggers, the change in the algorithm on Instagram resulted in a big drop in her engagement.

Have you, like so many of us, felt the effects of the Instagram algorithm on your engagement rate? Fear not! Word on the street is, there’s a new and exciting way to get engagement on your Instagram posts without having to resort to paying for bots.

Join an Instagram pod and beat the algorithm!

What is an Instagram pod?

Instagram pods are secret groups of users helping each other out in their quest for engagement, with one goal in mind: beat the Instagram algorithm!

Pods work with group chats via DM (direct message) on Instagram. Podmates send each other a DM whenever they share a new Instagram post. Every member of the pod then heads straight over to the post and gives it a like and a genuine, thought out comment. The idea behind this being that the more engagement a post gets within the first minutes, the higher up on users’ feeds it’ll appear.

Why should I join an Instagram pod?

Joining a pod could just be the best thing you ever did for your engagement rate on Instagram. Take advantage of the fact that everyone is searching for better engagement, and get in on the action yourself! Here are the main reasons why you should seek out and join a pod:

1. Support Network

Being a part of the small community of helpers that is an Instagram pod can give you the confidence and inspiration you need to have continued success on the platform. With your trusted podmates behind you, you can achieve anything!

2. Beat the algorithm

Preventing your posts from being affected by the Instagram algorithm is the number one priority when joining a pod. Posts with high engagement show up high on users’ Instagram feeds, so it’s all about creating that initial engagement in order to encourage more and more reach, views and likes! OK, so it’s not strictly organic, because you have an agreement with your podmates, but it’s genuine engagement as opposed to fake or paid engagement.

3. Boost your engagement and grow your following

In the long run, getting more reach, views and engagement on your posts will boost your visibility on the platform and ultimately help you grow. Contrary to what most people think, engagement = followers, not the other way around! You need to have a great connection with your existing community before it will organically grow. Nurture that connection and you’ll go far.

How can I join an Instagram pod?

Let’s face it, it’s unlikely you’ll stumble across an Instagram pod right after reading this article. You may see announcements for Instagram pods on Reddit threads or Facebook groups, and these can be a great way of getting started. However, we wouldn’t recommend getting involved in a pod with accounts too dissimilar to your own (engagement, followers, goals), as it’s always good to start off on a level playing field to ensure fair play. You also want to make sure you’re going to be engaging with posts which are relevant to your own account so that you aren’t being forced to like and comment content which you feel no connection to.

If you don’t fancy joining an existing pod, you can create your own and select your podmates yourself. Everything starts with identifying accounts that you feel are similar to yours in terms of size and industry (although you obviously don’t want to approach your competitors!). For this, you can use a couple of methods aside from simply messaging any accounts you’re already familiar with:

Manual Search

Think about the kinds of accounts you’d like to team up with to beat the algorithm and search for them using the Instagram search bar. You may have to look through a few accounts before you find any of interest to you, but you should be able to build a shortlist using this method.

Influencer Search

If you want to be more precise about your selection, you can also use the Influencer Search tool on Iconosquare. This tool allows you to search for accounts based on keywords, size of community, number of posts and more. Simply select your preferred location, type in the keyword you’re searching for along with the specific criteria of your choice, and a list of Instagram users will appear.

The location is an important factor as it means you’ll know which timezone your potential podmates are in. In order to beat the algorithm, you need to get likes and comments on your post within the first few minutes after sharing. So if you’re in New York, you don’t want podmates in Australia, because they won’t see the message asking for engagement for hours.

You’ll also be able to check out these accounts’ engagement rate, which will give you an idea of how well they’re faring on Instagram and therefore whether they’d potentially be interested in joining a pod with you.

Once you’ve made a list of accounts you’d like to team up with, you can simply contact them via DM with your pod creation proposal. When people start to reply, add them to a new DM thread and type a quick message with the rules of the pod. These don’t need to be extensive – all you need is a quick agreement stating that every time a podmate messages the pod to say they’ve shared a new post, the other members must give a like and a genuine comment or be kicked out. Simple!

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Don’t take the pod lightly…

Make sure you take your own rules seriously, too! Being a member of an Instagram pod will take time out of your day (the more podmates you have the more engagement time you will require) so make sure you’re up to the task before committing. The pod agreement works both ways, so you’ll only get engagement if you give it – no freebies here!

Are you already in an Instagram pod? Share your experience in the comment section below!

Emily Lydon

Author Emily Lydon

Emily is an Inbound Marketer for Iconosquare, based in the Limoges office. She loves all things social and revels in keeping on top of the social media marketing game by writing for the blog. She’s also a bit obsessed with sushi, gin and Netflix.

More posts by Emily Lydon
  • Paul Shaw

    Great idea

    • Thanks Paul!

      • Shocking idea. Nobody can ‘beat the algorithm’ long term I’d suggest. It’s like Vegas, the house always wins in the end. If the brands want to connect, they will do anyway, why bribe them?

  • Dan Alvarez

    If you read other forums, BHW, etc., many marketers are claiming that pods are detrimental to the success of any long term marketing campaign. Instagram is not stupid. With advanced AI and other tools they can tell that the same accounts are commenting/liking your posts, then react to adjust your reach/engagement accordingly. Pods or DM groups are now a gray area and might expose an account to unnecessary risks down the road.

    • Hi Dan! Thanks for your feedback. You’re right that it can be detrimental to join pods just for the sake of getting any comments or engagement on your post, which is why we would only recommend doing this with other people or brands who have a genuine connection to your content. It’s definitely an issue that divides opinion!

  • The Best Drink Ever

    Does posting with third parties like iconosquare using a scheduler results in lower exposure of a post?

    • Hi there! Using a third party scheduler definitely won’t have an impact on the amount of exposure your post receives 🙂

      • The Best Drink Ever

        I fail to see the real value behind the scheduler, especially with the intro of the draft functionality in the IG app. The one clear advantage is of course using your desktop to create the posts. That I admit it is much easier, as well as writing copy. Nonetheless, most of us heavy IG users got used to typing on iPhones and the clunky IG comment interface.

        • Hey! Well, I actually disagree 🙂

          I’m a heavy IG user myself, and I found schedulers to be a massive time-saver and an invaluable strategy tool. You get to plan out your feed in advance, tweak it, see what works visually for you (perfect for beginners in particular, I think, as so many struggle to “crack the feed” when they start out). Also, from my personal experience (and from hear from other bloggers/instagrammers) — nobody really writes captions inside IG. It’s usually pre-written, as it’s way easier to format and spell-check copy. Some use Notepad in iPhones, some use desktop schedulers — it’s a matter of taste, I guess.

        • Riot207

          Utilizing tools like iconosquare or IG Business allow you to see when your followers are actively logged onto IG. Having this information can be useful when using a scheduler to post to IG for you. I’ve set up my feed the way I want it to look using a feed layout app on my phone, then I set the photos to the days of the week I want them posted and the time frames my followers are actively on. This helps with engagement, reach, and those hearts.. There is a great value in these programs that shouldn’t be downplayed. I’ve noticed a huge gain in my engagement rates and reach since doing this strategy.

  • Pods are not a good idea in my opinion. Reasons? Several…..
    1) IG is getting wise to them
    2) Generally, pod behaviour is easily spotted – same commenters, with same ‘just enough’ comments to beat rules (e.g. over 3 words, no stock ‘this is ace’ comments, and usually coming thick and fast as soon as a post is launched)
    3) PR and brands are also (slowly) cottoning on too, as engagement is often the metric these look at, if it’s not ‘fresh’ then it’s probably spoofed.
    4) Shadow-banning generally focusses on accounts known – or suspected – of tricks like this. I’ve seen one ‘Influencer’ who uses a pod not grow more than 3 followers per day, yet gets tonnes (30-50) comments. Is it worth it?

    End of day, the principle is enough reason not to. IF you need artificially enhancing, you’re not being true to yourself, your content and your audience – and you will find ‘like follows like’ in that you’ll bring in dead-end audience too.

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