In 2016, Instagram made changes to their 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, and claimed their engagement and reach have been affected negatively. To combat Instagram’s algorithm, some influencers have turned to Instagram engagement pods to boost their engagement and become more discoverable.

What are Instagram pods?

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

With Instagram pods, users form a group to help each other improve the engagement of their posts. They’re typically created in group messages through Instagram, Whatsapp, Facebook, or other social channels, and members are expected to follow each other. When a member publishes a post on Instagram, they’ll share a link to their post, so other members can like and comment on it to drive engagement. 

Instagram pods can vary in size – ranging from 20 to 1,000 members – and in goals – with some focusing on meaningful engagement, while others seek any engagement. 

Why you should stay clear of Instagram pods

People disagree about whether pods should be considered fraud. Some believe that pods consist of influencers with similar interests who are working to support each other. They argue that because influencers form pods 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 and growing their profiles 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. 

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 meaningful 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 engagement back. This results in inauthentic engagement, and it won’t provide any value to brands looking to reach and influence potential consumers.

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

    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.

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

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