I’d like to preface this post by saying this is not a knock on those who use comment/engaement pods. I’ve utilized this strategy for months. I’ve also connected with some wonderful women through pods. What I am about to share is simply my point of view as they’ve evolved over the past year.
First of all, what is it? The purpose of comment/engagement pods is to beat Instagram’s algorithms. A group of 10-15 Igers with similar niches form a direct message on the platform. Users share their uploads on the thread and the other group members are then supposed to like and comment on the photo. The idea is that the initial surge of engagement directly after the upload tricks the algorithm. It tells IG “oooh, this post is poppin’! Show it to more users.”
Last Spring, albeit small in size, my account started to attract the attention of small brands. These small shops saw value in my feed to garner influence and brand awareness. It was then that I realized that I, too, could make a little extra income for my family through influencer marketing. I’ve always loved a good challenge so it became my mission to learn the ins and outs of IG to ensure my success. I joined a couple of pods to help my account get going. At first, it was fun. I was in a pod with mom bloggers who’s reach varied in sizes. The veterans gave insight to the newbs like me and on off days, we’d lament about the every day struggles of motherhood. It was fantastic. It gave me access to like minded women. I couldn’t exactly talk Instagram strategies to my personal friends; they didn’t get it, but these moms did.
After awhile, I went through phases when I was completely uninspired by Instagram. I would go through week-long hiatuses when I wouldn’t post. I later realized that it was because of the pods. Instead of exploring the app for fresh content and inspiring accounts, I spent a majority of my dedicated IG time engaging the same people. Despite all of us being mom bloggers, some of their content wasn’t something I would necessarily vibe with. It began to feel forced then it was no longer fun. For example, as most of you know, I’m vegan… yet when a pod member dropped a photo at the zoo, of a new leather bag, or a plate of steak, I’d still have to “like” it and think of something to say about it. This often left me conflicted.
The lack of authenticity.
The more I got to thinking about how forced my pod practices were, the more I realized it was smokes and mirrors. I used to pride myself in being relatable and authentic but my Instagram was sugar coated with forced “how cute” and “good job, mama” comments. I was working with brands but was I really being an asset to them? Our partnerships formed on the premise that I could drive influence, but how well was I doing my job if I had to fake some of the engagement? I felt as if I was doing a disservice to myself, the brands, and other bloggers. Because if brands don’t see ROI on micro-influencers my size, then why would they continue to work with us?
Faking is a slippery slope.
The problem with faking engagement through pods is that it’s a gateway drug to ultimately buying engagement and followers. I’ve heard this practice justified by “everyone, all big bloggers, are doing it” or “it’s like paying for boosts on Instagram”. I understand the temptation with buying likes, specially since IG has made it harder and harder for content to be seen. You have to pay to play. But when you pay to play the proper way through Instagram, all it does is show your content to more eyes. Your followers decide whether or not they’d like to engage. You still command the influence based on the quality of your work. Buying engagement is nothing but manipulated numbers from fake accounts who ultimately serve no one but the company they are bought from.
In early January, I decided to leave the pod I was in. I’ve noticed a drop in “likes” but that seems to be the consensus across the board with other IGers. This has allowed me to focus on those who engage because they genuinely want to. It also felt like significant weight off my shoulders since I no longer stress about being on top of the comments on the pod. My goal to keep learning, and growing the old fashion way: through hard work and creating quality content. If my engagement is down, all that means is do better. Work for long term success, not immediate gratification.
Food for thought.