One of the tools that many people utilize to grow their Instagram page is through Instagram pods.
These are private groups and forums in which people collaborate to like and comment on each other’s posts. There are varying ways in which these pods work; some of which work while others may not work.
Some Technical Points First….
Before diving into the types of pods available and how they may help, it’s important to understand how the Instagram algorithm works so that you may better understand how and when these pods are useful and when they are not so useful.
The Instagram algorithm places a great deal of importance on both relevance and engagement. A post is deemed relevant based on the content of the post as well as the hashtags used. The engagement level of a post reflects the amount of likes, comments and saves a given post gets.
So let’s say you post about jewelry. To ensure relevance, your posts should showcase close-up photos of jewelry and should include targeted hashtags that relate to jewelry.
In doing so, the algorithm identifies the subject of your post (in this case jewelry). The algorithm then gauges how popular this jewelry post is through the engagement level, which contrary to what many people think, has nothing to do with the number of followers. It is calculated using the likes, comments and saves of a given post over the total number of followers multiplied by 100%. This gives you a percent engagement level. The higher this percentage is, the more popular your post is in the eyes of the algorithm.
If your jewelry post receives a significant amount of engagement, Instagram will boost your post at three levels:
- Content level – Your post will appear in the “discover” page in front of people who normally engage with jewelry
- Audience level – Your post will appear in the “discover” page to audiences similar to the people engaging with the photo
- Hashtag level – Your post will start to appear in the top posts for certain hashtag
To give you an example, a couple of weeks ago I started a personal Instagram page and I literally posted just two photos. I barely have 100 followers yet one of the two posts shot up to Top Post for several of my hashtags and stayed there for several days. The reason for this boost is the level of engagement. I got about 120 likes on the photo. Given that I only have 120 followers, the algorithm interpreted this as 100% engagement, and the post shot up to top post. Anything over 4-5% engagement will provide you the opportunity to become visible in the top posts for a given hashtag.
Note: I used highly targeted hashtags to get this level of engagement (which I’ll talk about in an upcoming blog post).
As mentioned earlier, Instagram pods are private groups created between individuals who want to help each other grow by engaging with their respective posts.
I’ve come across numerous pods and participated in some. Based on my experiences with these pods, here are the Dos and Don’ts of using such pods.
DO participate in pods related to your niche. This is a MUST MUST MUST. If you sell fashion, then you want to join a pod that is related to fashion such as fashion designers and fashion bloggers.
DO NOT participate in general pods. These may appear attractive because they have thousands of followers. However, given that these pods are often in private Facebook groups, it is very difficult to get noticed when the group is so big. Plus, people tend to see minimal results so they are not so active in the group.
DO participate in groups where accountability is high. If these groups are not managed properly or accountability is not maintained, it is useless. You’ll find yourself not getting the results and the last thing you want to do is worry about participants reciprocating.
DO NOT participate in daily posts where you need to reciprocate to hundreds of other participants. It takes an enormous amount of time and effort to reciprocate. IT’S NOT WORTH IT, especially the “comment on all” pods.
DO OCCASIONALLY use the “like all” pods to boost a post involving a promotion or offer. For example, I boosted a post so it shows up for relevant hashtags in Dubai. I used a “like all” pod for this and got 309 likes and the post appeared for a few days in the top posts for important Dubai hashtags. Goal achieved. However, this is only for one-off boosts. Do not use this daily as it will start to bring you audiences similar to those engaging with your post (i.e. the people in the pod) and these are not your ideal audiences (unless you are part of a highly targeted pod!).
DO NOT depend on like/comment pods consistently. Ultimately, your goal should not be to get massive irrelevant engagement. Your goal is to get in front of the right customers. The best way to do so is to post consistently, post relevant content and use targeted hashtags. Ultimately, some of my best posts received better engagement or very close engagement to ones where a pod was involved. It all boils down to good content!
In conclusion, stick to posting consistently. Post relevant content using targeted hashtags and post at times when engagement will be highest (i.e. when your audience is most active as per the Instagram insights). If you’re going to use Instagram pods, be sure to stick to small pods (10-20 people) in your niche and don’t participate in pods that require excessive work. These will not get you the relevant audiences over time.