Instagram Pods: A Legit Engagement Hack Or A Worthless Scheme?

Rafaella Aguiar

Rafaella Aguiar

Last Updated: Oct 26, 2020

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Have you ever heard of Instagram pods? If you aren’t familiar with the term, your thoughts might turn to earbuds or a group of dolphins in the ocean. But Instagram pods are something entirely different, and there’s a hot debate around whether or not they work. Keep reading to learn what Instagram pods are, what they do, and whether your business would benefit from joining in.

What Are Instagram Pods?

An Instagram pod is essentially a group direct message that helps its members get more engagement. If you’re part of a pod, it probably works something like this: You join a direct message with anywhere from a dozen to a few hundred other people in your industry (this is called the “pod”). When you post something on your Instagram, you share that post in the group message. Then everyone else in the group likes your post and/or leaves a comment. Similarly, when they post on Instagram, you’ll engage with their posts too.

The idea behind these Instagram engagement groups is to outsmart the algorithm, helping increase your engagement so that your posts will be “boosted” to the top and perform well. Being part of an Instagram pod can help your posts get featured on the Explore page so that as many people as possible can see them. 

There are a few different types of Instagram pods. The most basic and common type is a group message on Instagram. With this type of pod, you share posts in a direct message. You can also join an Instagram pod on Telegram. This is a third-party app that functions essentially the same way as an Instagram group DM, but on a stricter schedule. Finally, some pods simply ask that you turn on post notifications for the other influencers in your group so you can interact with their posts right away.

Where To Find Instagram Pods

Find Instagram pods that might be a fit for you by searching online. Facebook groups like Instagram Marketing Mastermind Pods are a good place to start. The Telegram app is also a popular platform for Instagram pods. This messaging app uses automation to get you the engagement you want. An automated bot will share a list of Instagram usernames to your group, and you’ll visit each profile and interact with their recent posts (within 45 minutes of when the usernames are shared). You can join Telegram by creating a username and then searching for a pod in your industry. 

telegram app for Instagram pods

Reddit is another place where you can find Instagram pods that might be a good fit. The subreddit r/IGPods helps Instagram users find each other and get sorted into pods. You can scroll through recent posts or create a post of your own, asking if anyone would be interested in joining a pod with you. This subreddit makes it easy to find pods that are in your niche. People are searching for pods on topics like digital marketing, lifestyle, fitness, recipes, skincare, politics, and even cosplay. No matter what industry you’re in, there’s a good chance you’ll find the perfect pod on Reddit.

using Reddit for Instagram pods

Sometimes, you can also spot pods in the wild by keeping an eye on Instagram influencer accounts. Do you ever notice that the same half-dozen people are constantly interacting with each other’s content? They may be part of a pod. Reach out to one of them via Instagram DM and ask if they have a pod and whether they’re accepting new members (make sure that you’re following them and interacting with their posts). 

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Do Instagram Pods Have Real Benefits?

Instagram engagement groups appear to have a lot of benefits for people who join them. The primary benefit is simple — more engagement. While your followers may or may not interact with your posts, the people in your pod definitely will. And the more they engage with your posts, the more likely your followers will be to interact with your posts, too. Some Instagram pods have hundreds of members — equaling a lot of guaranteed likes and comments on your posts.

Instagram pods are also a great way to boost your posts and get them at the top of your followers’ feeds or on the Explore page. In fact, this is why pods were first created. Instagram used to show new posts chronologically. Now, however, the Instagram algorithm considers a user’s past behavior and favors posts it thinks that user will like. For brands, this means your content could be less visible, even to the users who follow you.

The Instagram algorithm also tends to favor content with high engagement rates. By participating in an Instagram pod, your engagement will go up. And that means your content is more likely to be visible to the people who need to see it. Essentially, an Instagram pod can help “prove” to Instagram that your content is worthy of being top-of-the-feed. 

Pods can also be a valuable opportunity for networking. Most pods are categorized by industry or niche. So when you join a pod, the others in that pod will most likely be in your same field. As you interact with their posts and they interact with yours, true relationships have the potential to form. It’s always a good idea to intentionally forge relationships in your industry. You never know how those relationships could be mutually beneficial down the road. 

different pods

Are There Risks Involved?

Instagram pods do have several risks involved. When you use a pod, you get a lot more engagement on your page, which at first glance is a good thing. However, the engagement you’re getting isn’t 100% natural and authentic. This does two things: It messes with your engagement rate, and it also might make your company look bad if anyone found out.

If the number of likes and comments you’re getting far exceeds your number of followers, it’s pretty easy for people to figure out that your engagement isn’t authentic. Instagram itself might notice, too. Instagram pods are technically against Instagram’s terms of service because they’re a method of fake engagement. Facebook has suspended Instagram engagement groups in the past. 

Instagram pods can also mess with your engagement rate. When you first join a pod, your engagement rate is going to go up. On first thought, that might seem great. However, the people in your pod probably aren’t customers of your brand, they might not be your target audience, and they most likely aren’t planning to make a purchase from your store. So, your engagement rate isn’t going to make much sense, and it’s going to be very difficult for you to figure out what content actually performs well among your target audience and what doesn’t.

You also have to keep in mind that joining Instagram engagement groups is quite a time commitment. In order to be part of a pod, you have to be highly responsive, liking and commenting on all of the other users’ posts within a specified time frame. Instagram pods are very strict and you need to be prepared to invest all of the time it will take each day to stay caught up.

Are Instagram Pods Getting More Popular?

Instagram pods have been in use since 2016, when the Instagram algorithm changed. Over the past few years, they’ve continued to grow, becoming more widespread as a method of gaining engagement. One study showed how the numbers have climbed: It found 7,000 posts associated with pods in March 2017, 55,000 posts in March 2018, and 100,000 posts in March 2019.

Instagram pods are still popular, but are they effective? Pods might be a great choice for one Instagram user but not work well for somebody else. You’ll need to weigh the risks and benefits when thinking about whether an Instagram pod will work for you. 

Other Proven Ways To Increase Instagram Engagement

Luckily, Instagram pods aren’t the only way to get more engagement on Instagram. In fact, they’re completely optional. Here are some other proven tactics you can use to increase your Instagram engagement.

Use Hashtags

Hashtags are an excellent method for both growth and engagement on Instagram. Use mid-sized hashtags for best results and include a few hashtags in each caption you post. Krispy Kreme strategically placed several hashtags in a recent caption, including generic tags like #doughnuts, seasonal ones like #Halloween, and the brand-specific tag #KrispyKreme.

Post Videos

Videos are hugely popular on Instagram and that’s not going away anytime soon. Brands and influencers post lots of videos on Instagram, and there’s a good reason — they get more engagement. Try posting informative or entertaining videos (in your post or as Reels or IGTV) for your followers to enjoy. Trader Joe’s often shares how-to content in video format, like this Dalgona Joe recipe video showing how to make Dalgona Coffee.

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Include A Call To Action

Include a call to action in your caption, even if that’s just asking a simple question. Here, KIND Snacks asked their Instagram followers this question: What type of weekend warrior are you — would you prefer to relax at home or go on an adventure? The company asked its followers to comment with an emoji as their response.

Use Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories are the perfect place to increase your engagement. Polls, question boxes, and other interactive features allow your followers to interact with you like never before. GoMacro is one brand that’s truly embraced the power of Instagram Stories. This company shares everything from press articles, TikTok videos, and its popular “Ask An RD” series on Instagram Stories — handily organized in Highlights so you can find them all. 

go macros highlights showing they use a lot of Instagram Stories for content

Cross-Promote 

Our final tip to increase Instagram engagement is to cross-promote your account on other social media platforms. Do your Twitter followers know you have an Instagram? Do you link your IG profile in the description of your YouTube videos? Could you promote your Insta giveaway on Facebook? If someone follows your brand on Twitter, YouTube, or Facebook, there’s a pretty good chance they’d want to follow it on Instagram, too.

Increase Your Instagram Engagement 

If you feel that Instagram engagement groups are the right choice for you based on the pros and cons outlined above, choose a very small Instagram pod. Pods that only have 10-20 people and are very niched down can help combat some of the cons. Regardless of whether you join a pod, however, focusing on the other engagement strategies listed here will help grow your engagement rate and build your Instagram account.

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