When Instagram changed from a chronological home feed to one that prioritized photos the app thinks you’ll like, much like when Facebook made a similar change, it led to a lot of frustrated users. On the one hand, you have users who just want to see their friends’ content in the order it was posted. On the other hand, you have savvy users who want to use the algorithm to their advantage – or at the very least, not get penalized for it.
This has led to various strategies to try to capitalize on the algorithm, if anyone can truly figure it out. If Instagram “rewards” content with a high number of likes and comments, how can you get more likes and comments?
Enter the Instagram Pods.
What is an Instagram Pod
There are a few different ways to do Pods, but the basic idea is the same – a group of users who agree to like and comment on each other’s photos and videos as soon as possible after they are posted. These groups form in the Direct Messages section of Instagram, or on a third-party app called Telegram.
How do you join an Instagram Pod
You can either create your own Pod and add your friends (make sure they are interested in participating), or you can find an existing Pod to join. There are numerous private Facebook Groups for influencers, and pods are often formed there. You can respond to someone else’s post for “Who is interested in joining a Pod for XYZ topic?” Or, post something similar and set up (and manage) your own pod.
How do Instagram Pods work
There are a few different ways Pods work. Some are “likes only” where you only have to “like” everyone else’s content. Most are “likes and comments” where the expectation is that you will like the post and also leave a quality comment – i.e., at least 3-5 words (not counting emoji). The quicker a post receives likes and comments, the more likely it is that Instagram will think it’s a quality post, so the goal is to get as many likes and comments as quickly as possible. Pod members will alert their Pod that they have a new post as soon as it goes up. Some Pods are very active and expect users to respond within a set amount of time to a new post, while others are more relaxed and just expect that you catch up on everyone else’s posts before posting your own alert about a new post.
What’s the Time Commitment?
If you’re in one or two Instagram Pods, it’s not going to take up much time. Because Instagram limits Direct Messages to 15 users, Pods that live there can only have 15 members. Pods that live on third-party apps like Telegram don’t have a limit on members, but might only require you to engage with the previous 5-8 posts before posting you own request for engagement.
It might seem tempting to join more Pods so you’ll have more engagement on your own posts, but remember, that’s more users’ content you’ll also have to engage with yourself. Like anything, it’s a balance.
Because Pods are kind of “underground” – they exist to basically hack the Instagram algorithm – there is no way to regulate them and make sure everyone is playing fairly. (Although some Pods on Telegram use bots to regulate and make sure everyone is following the rules.)
If you’re going to join a Pod, there are a few basic things to follow:
- Join Pods that match your interests. Most Pods are grouped by niche – they can be as basic as Fitness, Food, Lifestyle, Parenting, Travel. If you create one, make sure it is clear what the niche is.
- Stick to sharing posts that are relevant to that Pod. If you’re in a Fitness Pod, don’t share your non-fitness posts. Don’t try to justify that it’s somehow related. Respect your fellow Podmates. If you post a lot about two topics, join separate Pods on those topics (or look for Pods that cover both) and share different posts to different Pods.
- Catch up before asking for likes/comments. The Pod works if everyone works together. In most Pods, it is expected that you catch up on all the alerts from fellow Pod members before asking them to engage with your content. It’s only fair that if you’re asking a favor of others to do some the same in return.
- Don’t overask. Some Pods have rules that you can only post one alert per day. Even if they don’t, try to wait until a few other people have posted alerts before posting another one.
- Leave the Pod if you can’t keep up. It’s OK to take a break from a Pod. Usually, users let everyone know (such as “I’m going on vacation for a week and won’t be engaging” etc). If you’re not engaging with your Podmates’ content, don’t post an alert asking for them to engage with your content. But don’t ghost your Pod if you feel like it’s not a good fit or you can’t keep up. Let them know you’re leaving and then leave the conversation. Instagram limits group messages to 15 users, so you might be taking up a spot that could be filled by someone who will be more active.
Risks of Joining an Instagram Pod
The biggest risk of joining a Pod is that Instagram could notice that while your content is receiving increased engagement, the engagement is coming from the same users over and over. That might not be an issue, but like all technology that relies on algorithms, they quickly pick up on patterns and adjust.
However, keep in mind that scams can happen. Do not ever pay to join a Pod. The apps to use them are free, and the people participating in the Pods are the ones doing the legwork. Your “payment” is merely participating fairly in the Pod.
In addition to Pods that exist via private group messages on Instagram, there are Pods that exist on the Telegram app. These Pods are similar – organized around a certain niche, with the same expectation that you like/comment on other users’ posts. However, Telegram does not limit group messages to a certain number of users, so more than 15 people can participate in a Pod. I’ve seen Pods with tens of users and Pods with hundreds of users. In those cases, the expectation is you only like/comment on the most recent posts (anywhere from 5-10), or all posts from the previous 24 hours, before posting an alert for your own content.
One upside to these larger Pods is that you are engaging with different users every time – and receiving likes/comments from different users every time – so Instagram won’t “catch on” to the same users commenting on your content over and over. Additionally, because there isn’t an expectation to engage with everyone’s content, and just the most recent content, it’s easier to only engage when you have time.
However, in many cases, there is less of a screening process with who can join a Telegram Pod (the strategy in regards to number of users seems to be “more is more”) so the quality of the content you’re required to engage with isn’t always that great, and might not actually fit the niche of the Pod (if there is a niche).
Should You Join an Instagram Pod?
If your goal is to increase your Instagram engagement and grow your following, try it out and see if it’s for you. I have personally joined – and left – quite a few Pods. What works for me is when I can find a Pod made up of other users whose content I genuinely like. I have “met” a lot of great Instagrammers through Pods. But when I find myself in a Pod with users who post content that really doesn’t resonate with me, and I’m forced to like/comment on those posts, it starts to feel like a chore, and also very fake, so I leave those Pods (politely). Also, if I’m in more than 5 very active Pods at one time, it can get overwhelming and I find all I’m doing is engaging with the Pods and not with other people I follow on Instagram.
You will get increased engagement with your posts once you start participating in Pods, and not just from your Podmates, but over time you’ll notice others engaging as well. So, if that’s your goal, joining Pods can be a good strategy.
Written by Maggie Wolff