Considering Joining a Pod? Here's what you should know.
Of all the ways that influencers use to boost their social media following, pods are some of the most popular and least artificial- at least they seem so at first glance. After all, members of pods are real people really liking and commenting on your posts. It's nothing like buying followers, right? Well, not exactly.
For anyone who doesn't know (although if you don't know I'm not sure where you've been), pods are online groups of influencers who commit to liking each other's posts in the hopes of boosting engagement. The theory behind pods is that posts that receive more engagement within the first few minutes of posting rate higher on Instagram's algorithm and therefore are more likely to show up on followers' feeds or maybe even the highly coveted "discover" page.
At Obviously, we're not big fans of pods, to say the least. The truth is, engaging with someone's post because you have to is not an authentic engagement. Members of pods are not genuinely interested in products in photos. They might not even genuinely like the photo they are liking. It's impossible to tell, which means that by participating in a pod you are falsely inflating your engagement. It might not be legal fraud, but its certainly dishonest.
Facebook made it clear what their opinion of pods is when they shut down 10 of the largest groups dedicated to pods. These groups had thousands of members and were made up of hundreds of smaller pods, all of which violated Instagram's terms of service. They sometimes required members to like or comment on hundreds of posts each day, the moment they were posted, regardless of content or quality. These stringent requirements, aside from falsely inflating engagement, are stressful and can be overwhelming for influencers. One blogger describes how participating in a pod was time-consuming, repetitive, and generally sucked the fun out of social media. Just because these pods were shut down, though, doesn't mean they're gone for good. Many simply reformed elsewhere.
To be clear, I certainly understand the motivation behind joining pods. The influencer game is hard. There is a lot of competition and it can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. It seems like if you could just get that little boost you could get yourself over that hurdle and finally start really making it. Well, the disappointing news is there really is no "quick-fix" or way to game the system. Similarly to using bots, which tend to harm your engagement rather than help it, there is no evidence that pods actually help you rank higher on the newsfeed. The entire premise is based on a conjecture about how we think the Instagram algorithm might work. There's just as much evidence that being a member of a pod has no effect or even harms your engagement. Overall, that just feels like a lot of time and effort to put in for a maybe- time that could be spent editing your incredible photos or writing a truly compelling blog post. The bottom line is you're going to have to put in a lot of work to do this thing right, so you might as well focus your efforts on where it really matters: creating authentic, high-quality content every day.
There is an upshot to all this, though. In their most basic, absolutely stripped down form, pods are just groups of influencers who want to help each other out. People who join pods mostly do so with the best of intentions; their goal is to give each other a boost, not to defraud brands. Helping other influencers is something you totally can- and should- do, albeit in a less formalized way. Have friends who are trying to be influencers? Visit their pages every day and give them a double-tab. Not because you have to, but because you want to and you genuinely like what they're doing. Discovered an up-and-coming blogger whose content you love? Consider leaving a comment rather than just a like, because you know how much it helps. Keep your engagements authentic and honest, and remember that sincere words of encouragement, whether in person or as a comment or DM, go a lot farther than mindlessly hitting the "like" button.
We're all in this together (just not in a pod).
Agree or disagree? Sound off in the comments!