What Are Instagram Pods and Why Should You Join One?
Before we dive into Instagram pods and how they can boost your visibility, let’s rewind.
June 2, 2016 was a dark day for many Instagram lovers. Instead of sticking to the chronological feed that many of us had come to know, love, and rely upon, Insta switched up their algorithm to show users content they’re most likely to engage with first and bury the rest of the posts further down in the feed. Individual users were irritated, but businesses were outraged. Instagram was now a rigged game, just like Facebook, and it was rigged against brands. Entrepreneurs and businesses who’d been able to get their content in front of fans for years would now be ranked against celebrity posts and kitten photos, decreasing the likelihood that their content would get seen at all.
Ever since then, users have been trying to “hack the algorithm.” Teens use a coded “like back” system that’s remarkably effective… but as a wellness entrepreneur, you probably aren’t keen to comment “lb” on Kardashian family posts to boost your own engagement. Luckily, there are other ways. One of the best ones? Joining an Instagram pod.
Just what IS an Instagram pod?
The teens are definitely onto something; hacking the Instagram algorithm takes teamwork. Since the app calculates the value of a post based on how quickly it accumulates multiple comments and likes, there’s not a lot you can do to manipulate it as a single user. But with a little help from your friends, you can skew the odds to your advantage.
So invite your wellness colleagues to form an Instagram pod! A pod is a collective of Instagrammers, bloggers, or entrepreneurs who have agreed to help boost each other’s content quickly and strategically. Pod members alert each other when new posts have gone live, and everyone in the pod quickly heads over to the poster’s feed to like and comment. For comments to “count” they need to be more than four words long, excluding emojis. A fast-paced rush of activity pushes the new post to the top of your followers’ feeds, and encourages other (non-pod member) users to view, like, and comment.
How can I structure my Instagram pod?
While you can certainly ask your friends to join your Instagram pod, you probably want to limit membership to other wellness folks and small business owners. That way, everyone will have the same investment in pod success and be genuinely interested in supporting each other’s work. Convening a pod of several dozen users might seem like a great plan but most successful pods have 12 or fewer members. A tight group helps create accountability and makes communication easier.
Speaking of communication, choosing a system that works for all (and doesn’t annoy anyone) is essential. A few ideas include:
Create a group message thread in Instagram: Add all pod users to the group message, and ask everyone to reply to the message whenever they’ve got a new post that needs likes and comments.
Rely on Insta’s notifications: Start up a group message thread that includes all users, then ask everyone to turn on post notifications for all group members. Then, whenever a member posts, others can scamper right over and comment.
Create a private Facebook group: Pool all your pod members into a private Facebook group with a daily thread. Ask everyone to comment with a direct link whenever they’ve got a new post up on Instagram.
A handful of groups communicate via text message, Slack, or email, but the majority prefer to keep communication within social media. Doing so makes the process seamless and simple.
Instagram pod etiquette
You can certainly join an existing pod if you aren’t up for creating your own. You can scout opportunities through The Gram Gang or Instagram Marketing Mastermind, or through your own social circles and colleague connections. But whether you’re the pod founder or a regular member, everyone who participates in Instagram pods is expected to follow some simple guidelines.
Give as much as you get: The quickest way to get kicked out? Demand likes and comments without reciprocating. Joining a pod means agreeing to actively support all members, and that means being willing to pour time and energy into every member’s post as it goes live.
Comment with care: Again, make sure every comment is more than four words long and use emojis sparingly. Try to tailor your comments to the image or caption, and mention or tag the poster whenever you can. You want genuine, relevant comments instead of throwaways like “love it” or “great photo.”
Create pod-specific rules: As a group, agree on some operating guidelines. It might not be reasonable to expect everyone to like/comment within an hour of a post going live, so consider asking for responses by the end of the day. You might want to set limits on pod activity, perhaps saying that if a user posts more than five times per day, other pod members only need to respond to the first five. Ground rules make expectations clear and help prevent conflict.
The ethics of Instagram pods
Most pod members view their activities as being entirely above-board. After all, Instagram switched its format to favor certain content, so why wouldn’t savvy users ensure that their content is among the favored? But others believe the ethics involved are suspect. Instagrammers who avoid pods feel that rigging a rigged game is still cheating, and that organic user engagement is the only engagement worth measuring.
If the motivations behind and activities involved in pod membership feel smarmy to you, by all means, stick to posting solo! Simply being an active and engaged Insta user who leaves lots of genuine comments on other folks’ posts will bring you both goodwill and likes. But if you feel like your presence is lagging behind and dig the idea of actively boosting a select few colleagues in exchange for a boost yourself, join or form an Instagram pod. Doing so will push your posts to the top of follower feeds and forge strong bonds with like-minded wellness practitioners.
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