In 2016, Instagram made changes to its algorithm and shifted from chronological feeds to interest-based feeds. Posts are now shown based on how people interact with other users’ posts. 

Some users were unhappy with the change. They claimed that their engagement and reach on their Instagram posts have been affected negatively. To combat the Instagram algorithm change, some influencers have turned to Instagram engagement pods to boost their engagement and become more discoverable.

What are Instagram pods?

An Instagram pod is a mutually beneficial arrangement that promotes the idea: “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”

An Instagram pod is when a group of Instagram accounts form an engagement group to help boost the engagement rate of their posts.

They’re typically created in direct messages through Instagram, Whatsapp, Facebook, or other social media channels. Members are all expected to follow each others’ Instagram accounts.

How do Instagram pods work?

When a member publishes a post on Instagram, they’ll share a link to their post. Pod members are then expected to like and comment on it to drive up the engagement rate. 

An Instagram pod can vary in size. Smaller engagement groups can start at just 20 pod members. However, larger groups can be up to 1,000 pod members. They vary in goals also, some focus on meaningful engagement, while others seek any engagement as long as they reach the explore page.

Do Instagram pods still work?

In short, yes and no. If you join an Instagram engagement pod, you’re likely to see a slight increase in follower count and maybe a small boost in engagement.

However, for every post or Instagram story you share, you’ll have to like and comment on dozens of other pod members. That’s a lot of time that you could spend growing your own account by engaging with your own target audience (liking, commenting, following, etc). 

Why you should not join an Instagram pod

People disagree about whether an Instagram pod should be considered fraud.

Some believe that pods consist of influencers with similar interests who are working to support each other and reach more Instagram followers. They argue that because influencers form an engagement group with members in similar niches, they’re able to engage with people who are relevant to the brands they collaborate with. 

Others believe that pods are filled with influencers who are soliciting engagement to grow their Instagram account artificially. Because some influencers only care about engagement, they don’t necessarily engage with a relevant audience that genuinely resonates with their content.

As a result, brands won’t reach potential consumers by collaborating with them. They will only reach the Instagram engagement group. This isn’t the kind of Instagram marketing that brands are interested in.

True influence isn’t gaming a system, it’s being authentic and having people follow you because they trust and admire what makes you, you.

Paul Armstrong, Forbes

Though Instagram pods may be tempting to join, there are many reasons why users should steer clear of them. Here are 3 of them: 

  1. Instagram pods don’t result in real engagement.

    Members of Instagram pods have an arrangement, and it’s not entirely based on authenticity. Some members will like and comment on content that they don’t care about for the sole purpose of receiving likes and comments back. This results in an inauthentic engagement rate. This won’t provide any value to brands looking to reach and influence potential consumers.

    Influencers would also be tricking brands into believing their profiles get more likes and comments from their followers than they actually do. Therefore, brands who base influencer compensation on engagement (from likes and comments) would not get a good return on investment (ROI).
  2. It won’t be easy to track and improve engagement rates.

    When users join Instagram pods, it’ll be difficult for them to tell whether the engagement on their posts are from members of pods or from users who genuinely like and relate to their posts. Because of this, users won’t be able to analyze their posts to see what type of content their followers are resonating with, which will prevent them from growing their engagement organically.
  3. Instagram and Facebook don’t approve of Instagram pods.

    Instagram engagement groups were created to game Instagram’s algorithm, and this is against their Terms of Use. In fact, Facebook has previously removed 10 large engagement groups that helped thousands of people artificially inflate their engagement rates with fake likes and comments. 

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