A Rival IQ study published in 2019 showed that except for higher education, engagement rates dropped from a median of 1.73% to 1.60% across all industries. With engagement rates in a slow decline, it’s tempting to join Instagram pods, which offer a fast and easy way to increase likes, comments, and follows.
Should you or shouldn’t you? Some marketers may vehemently advise against joining Instagram pods while others may encourage you to participate with caution. Here, we’ll explore the benefits and drawbacks of joining these controversial groups to help you in your decision.
Instagram Pods, Explained
Instagram pods are social media groups or private chats that allow you to participate in like-for-like, comment-for-comment, or follow-for-follow activities. You share an Instagram post to the group, and members will like or comment in exchange for the same type of engagement. Often, these groups have a strict no-mooching policy: If you join the group to receive, you must give in return. Otherwise, you will be booted off the platform.
Instagram pods operate in secret through private message groups and Facebook groups. Usually popular, they attract hundreds of members. The IG Engagement Space group, for example, has 31,000 members to date.
Attitude Toward Instagram Pods
Although thousands of Instagrammers use engagement pods, not all Instagram users see them as beneficial. President and Founder of Quinn Social Media Management Roberto Quinn, for example, doesn’t find pods to be helpful:
Personally, I’ve not found pods to be particularly helpful. Large pods help certain posts receive an influx of engagement but from my experience, it’s rare to see a significant increase in follower count. By nature, they’re also incredibly impersonal, which makes the engagement noticeably impersonal.”
However, Quinn does recognize that certain pods, particularly smaller ones, can be helpful to small businesses.
Niche pods, or smaller pods, I’ve found to be great for small business accounts or niche markets. A great example would be a group of local businesses banding together to support one another’s efforts through social media.”
Of course, there are other ways to grow your Instagram account. Quinn prefers building authentic relationships.
I’m not saying that pods can’t work for you, but that perhaps the time and energy could be better allocated. Spend the time researching, finding like-minded accounts, and developing real relationships. Not only will your engagement be richer, you may end up finding great people to collaborate and grow with.”
The Pros of Joining Instagram Pods
Of course, it’s important to weigh the benefits of Instagram pods before deciding whether you should or shouldn’t join. These are the benefits.
1. You Can Rapidly Increase Engagement
Joining Instagram pods is an effective way to increase your engagement. With strict no-mooching rules enforced, people are required to reciprocate.
2. You Can Increase Your Followers
Instagram pods also allow users to participate in follow-for-follow threads, in which members follow participating members’ accounts. This activity will help you quickly gain followers.
3. You Can Appear on the Discover Feed
Rapidly gaining a heavy influx of engagement will propel your post to Instagram’s Discover feed. A spot on Discover increases your reach and provides potential for gaining followers and engagement.
4. You Can Gain Loyal Followers
It’s possible that some of the hundreds of members that visit your account will turn into loyal followers. That is, of course, if they enjoy the content you post.
5. You Can Gain Strong Support
As Quinn previously mentioned, some pods can be beneficial to certain accounts. Niche pods, in particular, can provide value to small businesses. According to Quinn, it’s possible to create strong support and lasting relationships with the people you’ve interacted with.
6. You Can Make Connections
Participants of Instagram pods are often eager to grow their accounts. You can build connections, even proposing collaborations with fellow pod members.
The Cons of Joining Instagram Pods
It’s also important to weigh the drawbacks of Instagram pods before joining. Here are some downsides to consider.
1. Not Everyone Reciprocates
Although Instagram pods have a strict no-mooching rule, not all admins enforce it. Many Instagram pods have thousands of participants, so it can be difficult to catch violators. Some pods do have call-out threads that list the names of violators, who are consequently booted off the group.
2. You Can Never Leave
Maintaining the same level of engagement requires you to stay. When you leave your pod, your engagement will drop significantly, which may be jarring to followers. After all, it’s strange to see your engagement go from the hundreds to double digits.
3. Most Followers Won’t Engage with Your Posts
Although Instagram pods create follow-for-follow threads, most of the followers you gain won’t engage with your content since they followed out of obligation, not because they enjoy your content.
4. Participation Is Too Time Consuming
You are required to reciprocate the efforts of every member who engages with your post. Depending on the size of the pod, you may sometimes need to engage with a hundred posts, which takes up a considerable amount of your time.
5. Pods Are Against Instagram’s Policy
Because the platform values authenticity, Instagram has made efforts in curbing inauthentic behavior, including purchasing fake followers and engagement. Joining Instagram pods is no exception. Although pod members are savvy enough to circumvent the system, gaining fake engagement and followers does come with risks.
6. You’re Forced to Like Bad Content
Since reciprocation is required, you will sometimes be forced to like or comment on bad content. This may be difficult if you’re, for example, forced to like a post with sentiments that you don’t believe in, with messages that you find offensive.
7. You Won’t Receive Quality Engagement
Since members are commenting artificially, you won’t receive thoughtful engagement. Roberto Quinn says it well:
Too many businesses and individuals want to receive timely and quality engagement, but they don’t put in the work to provide quality engagement. What you’re left with are accounts full of ‘OMG great post, love it!’ The biggest thing to remember is that everyone in these pods are there to, first and foremost, serve themselves.”
Instagram Pods: Should You or Shouldn’t You?
Instagram pods have their benefits and drawbacks. Before joining, weigh the pros and cons. Take into account your long-term goals and schedule when making a decision. Different people will give you different advice — it’s up to you to decide.
By Anne Felicitas