If you’ve been on Instagram since 2016, you probably know that Instagram’s algorithm update really turned things upside down. Without a chronological feed, you’re now clamoring for attention in a world where the Instagram posts with the most engagement win.
That’s why Instagram pods, which claim to easily boost engagement and follower growth can be extremely tempting!
Could they be the secret to gaming the system- and are they worth the risk?
We wanted to know the answers to these questions with hands-on research- so we enlisted the help of our marketing intern!
Calla went undercover into several Instagram pods to get the lowdown on how they work, what engagement pods accomplish, and if the engagement was really all that great.
Curious to see what our investigation uncovered? Take a look for yourself!
What is a pod on Instagram?
Instagram engagement pods are groups that trade likes and comments on Instagram posts.
Members have to engage with other posts in return for engagement on theirs.
Pods range from a handful to thousands of members, depending on the host platform.
What do engagement pods for Instagram do?
Instagram pods began to appear among influencers as early as 2016, as a result of the algorithm change.
The idea is to trade follows likes and comments on Instagram content in order to send a signal to Instagram that the post has high engagement.
The algorithm will then show the post to more followers, and potentially place it on an Explore page. This skyrockets reach for posts and helps the post perform better and better!
In theory, anyway.
How to Find Instagram Pods
There’s a ton of different Instagram pod styles across many different platforms like WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook groups and more! Usually, a search for “Instagram engagement”, “Engagement Group” or similar terms will reveal groups on each of these platforms.
Some smaller niche pods are more well-hidden, and you may have to know someone involved in one or discreetly ask around to join an Instagram engagement group.
Types of Instagram Engagement Pods
Some common types of engagement pods we saw in the course of our research are:
- Niche pods, where all members are part of a distinct industry or niche
- Like pods, where all members interact by liking posts (the popularity of like pods has fallen off ever since Instagram removed likes!)
- Comment Pods – Where all members interact by leaving comments rather than liking posts.
Each Instagram pod may work a little differently, depending on the platform, size and purpose of the engagement group.
For example, many smaller engagement pods are managed in Instagram group DMs!
10-15 users will comment when they’ve put up a new post, and each group chat member will go interact with the post.
Large groups with members running into the thousands exist on other platforms like WhatsApp and Telegram. These groups work with different rules. And, they’re often bot- moderated
You’ll usually find:
- 5X Groups, you must interact with the last five posts before tossing out your link into the chat.
- 10X Groups, you must interact with the last ten posts before posting your content.
- 24H Groups, you must interact with every post that has been linked in the last 24 hours before linking your own.
If you miss engagement once, you’ll receive a warning. If you get warned multiple times, you’ll be booted from the group!
Speaking of getting booted – did you know Instagram could ban your account for violating the Terms of Service if they catch you using pods?
The Risks of Using Instagram Engagement Pods
In 2018, Instagram announced its commitment to reducing inauthentic activity on Instagram by cracking down on spam, bots, fake accounts, and artificial engagement.
And if you think they aren’t serious, Facebook put the Instagram pod community on notice by suspending 10 Instagram engagement groups.
There’s no way around i… Instagram pods= banned. And you’re running a real risk of being banned from the platform yourself if you use engagement pods.
After all, fake engagement is against Instagram community guidelines.
Brand Risks with Instagram Engagement Pods
Here are some of our other top risks and inconveniences that make Instagram pods kind of a hard sell for us:
- You have to like and comment on posts in the group to post your link, regardless of whether the content is in line with your brand or views.
- Pods are challenging to find and can be filled with spammy material and unsafe content. You run the risk of being hacked.
- In most groups, you’re not allowed to chat or network meaningfully in the chat.
Using Instagram Pods to collect inauthentic likes and comments also negatively impacts your long term Instagram marketing strategy.
For one, fake likes and comments skew your organic engagement, which makes it hard to figure out what content is really resonating with your target audience. 📊
For another, fake engagement does nothing to help you sell your products or services. This is, of course, bad for your bottom line, but can be catastrophic for collaborations, takeovers or branded deals!
Your ability to deliver on your promises will be measured. And that includes building engagement, boosting traffic, or increasing sales
And it may also determine whether you continue to receive those opportunities! The last thing you want is a hit to your hard-earned, valuable reputation. 🏅
And believe us if every comment on your posts is filled with typos and repetitive, “Nice feed!” comments, people WILL notice. 🤥
But still, thousands of Instagram users swear by them! So is there a chance could they be worth the risk?
That’s what we tested some out for ourselves below! 👇
Instagram Pod Experiment #1
Our intern Calla bravely went undercover in the name of Instagram science to investigate engagement groups and find out:
- If they’re easy enough for the average Instagram user to utilize
- If they actually work!
First, Calla found a 10x engagement group on Telegram. This is a popular messaging app for managing engagement groups, but there’s some pretty sketchy stuff on there.
She followed the Instagram pod rules, engaging with the last ten posts before posting her own link. Here were her results:
- Likes: Same range of likes as normal
- Comments: 10 comments, significantly more than normal!
Before you get too excited, you should know that the quality of the comments was pretty terrible.
A lot of the pod members and copy and paste the same comment regardless of the content subject.
And yes, that includes typos!
Calla’s grand total of likes and comments for her first Instagram pod experiment? 37 likes and 10 comments. 😕
Instagram Pod Experiment #2
We were pretty underwhelmed with the results of our first experiment. So we tackled a 24-hour pod group Instagram channel next. (Remember, this is where you must interact with every post before yours for the previous 24 hours). ⏱
Calla liked and commented on all 51 Instagram links before posting her own link. It took nearly an hour of work to tackle all of them!
And what kind of return did she get on her time investment? 17 likes and 5 comments from the pod. 😑
The good news is her regular followers gave 44 likes – over double the number she got from the engagement pod! 👍
We took the risk to join Instagram pods and engagement groups and were truthfully underwhelmed.
All signs point to this being a cheap workaround to the algorithm, but it’s not even easy!
It seems like you would be better off investing that time and effort into growing your reach and following with the algorithm, not against it.
Safe Ways to Boost Your Engagement on Instagram
Wnt to boost your engagement without risking your account for a handful of likes and some pretty annoying comments? Here are our recommendations!
1. Perfect Your Hashtag Strategy
Relevant hashtags are still one of the most powerful ways to get your content seen by new audiences.
Carefully choosing your hashtags based on what’s in your image or video and captions is a surefire way to get attention from the Explore page. Research and create a hashtag strategy full of niche, good, and competitive hashtags for your best bet.
Want to make researching the most effective hashtags for your content and style easy? Use Tailwind’s Hashtag Finder! This handy tool populates a mix of relevant hashtags for you in real-time as you type your caption.
When you’ve found your perfect mix, you can even save all your new hashtags into a handy list to add to your content in the future. Talk about a major time-saver!
Go ahead, take it for a test spin! Grab a free trial of Tailwind for Instagram today – no credit card required.
2. Get Your Followers Talking
If you want to boost engagement with your followers and snap up likes and comments like they’re going out of style…give your followers something to interact with! 🗣 Here are our favorite examples!
Everybody loves to win free stuff, and a lot of people also like to talk about winning free stuff!
Instagram Giveaways and contests are a fast way to get likes and comments, especially if these are built into contest rules.
Strong CTAs in Your Captions
Calls to Action (CTAs) don’t always have to be super sales-y. Calls to Action can also ask a question or contain a prompt for your followers to answer in the comments.
If you make time to engage with your commenters and reply, it’ll encourage more people to comment and interact with you.
Plus, it’s fun! Just look at Helene Sula’s post below. She starts off with a question, and tells a story that her followers can relate to!
3. Schedule Your Instagram Posts for Peak Times 🕑
If you want to increase your engagement, you need to put your fresh content out when most of your followers are online and scrolling through their feeds!
Anticipate times that your followers will be scrolling Instagram (lunch break, just before bed) and post during those times! Your followers are more likely to see your post and engage.
Or, we can do it for you with Tailwind’s SmartSchedule!
When you draft your post and load it into Tailwind, we’ll automatically populate the best times during the day for you to post based on your following.
You can even adjust these windows depending on how many times a day you’d like to post! Super easy, and it takes the guesswork out of scheduling your posts, which gives you more time to engage with your followers.
Start a Free Trial of Tailwind for Instagram!
- Schedule photos and videos directly to your Instagram feed with Auto Post.
- Optimize every post for more engagement with SmartSchedule and Hashtag Finder.
- Automatically hide your post’s hashtags in the first comment to keep your caption clean & clutter-free.
- Make your posts more discoverable with user tagging & location tagging.
- Analyze what's working across every post and profile with smart analytics.
Can Instagram Pods Help You Beat the Algorithm? – Our Conclusion
Any way you look at it, Instagram Pods aren’t worth the time and effort required to manufacture engagement on Instagram.
Instead of spending heaps of time liking and commenting on random posts in the hope of capturing some engagement that ultimately won’t offer meaningful return, why not try a different method?
Flex your Instagram strategy muscles 💪🏻 by planning your feed, carefully selecting hashtags, starting engaging conversations with your followers, and scheduling Instagram posts when your followers are online!
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Kristen Dahlin is the Content Marketing Manager at Tailwind — your new Marketing team, helping you create social media designs, schedule posts, and optimize across Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest with one easy-to-use social media management tool. Kristen lives in rural Oklahoma with her husband Kyle, daughter Sophie, boxer Lila, and a very temperamental flower garden.