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When you are just getting started on Instagram, it can feel like you’re talking to an empty auditorium. Even with a well-thought-out social media strategy, it takes time to increase engagement.

Those who are impatient might resort to bad practices, such as buying likes and followers. Word to the wise, avoid this tactic at all costs. If you need to put your social media performance on the fast track, one solution might be Instagram pods.

Instagram pods are groups of Instagram users who support each other by increasing the engagement on each other’s posts.

There may be a downside to Instagram pods though, so keep reading to find out if they are right for you.

How Do Instagram Pods Work?

Instagram’s algorithm favors accounts that already have high engagement. This means that if you increase the engagement on your posts, you increase your chances of your content being shown to other users in their recommended or search section.

So yes, pods do more than get your fellow pod members talking on your posts. They also help get new eyes on your posts. Instagram pods can have a domino effect on engagement, which is exactly what you’re looking for in your early days of growing your Instagram account.

Both influencers and businesses might use Instagram pods. Usually, pods have a niche attached to them. This means all of the members are posting similar Instagram content. For example, a pod might be for lifestyle brands, photographers, fashion-related content or local businesses and so on.

The size of an Instagram pod can range from fewer than 50 to over 1,000 users. Each pod has its own rules for joining, what kind of content you post and the engagement requirements you have to keep up with to stay in the pod.

There is usually a set time when pod members drop their content for engagement. Each member then has a set amount of time to go in and like and comment on the other members’ posts. If you aren’t keeping up with the schedule and requirements, then you may get removed from the pod.

This is called leeching, where you reap the benefits of the pod, without fulfilling your requirements to engage with the other members’ content.

The Negative Effects of an Instagram Pod

If Instagram pods sound pretty tempting, consider their downsides before joining. These groups can be a big-time commitment. You want to make sure that the effort you put into engaging with other accounts will be worth your while. Be mindful of these common frustrations you might encounter while participating in a pod:

You Don’t Receive Quality Engagement

If you have a group of people assigned to your posts, and their job is to comment on 50 other accounts, you can imagine those comments are not going to be very personal. Pods do bring you some engagement but you need to consider the quality of that engagement. Other Instagram users notice when your comment section is not authentic.

When you have a comment section with quality engagement you will have followers responding to each other. You can’t create a community with impersonal comments. Just like the number of followers you have doesn’t determine your influence on Instagram. If your followers are authentically engaging with you, you will have a bigger impact on their network, furthering your reach.

For example, interested followers will tag you in posts and expose your brand to their following. They will also tag friends in your comment section. Members of an Instagram pod are not likely to participate with this level of engagement.

Not Everyone Follows the Engagement Rules

Instagram pods do have strict rules, but the admins may not always be on top of enforcing them. The bigger the pod, the harder it is to notice when someone is not reciprocating the likes and comments. You may also gain followers in the pod that won’t engage at all.

Pods May Be Against Instagram’s Policy

Instagram values authenticity and it flags accounts for inauthentic behavior. Similar to buying likes and followers, pods are bringing you inauthentic engagement. Instagram has flagged accounts for using third-party apps to boost engagement levels with bots. Pods can get close to that line of bot-like behavior.

Smaller pods can be more authentic than larger pods. When you have a group of local businesses supporting each other on Instagram, that is a pod. This pod may be built on authentic connection rather than the larger pods where you never get to know the other accounts.

Pods May Not Support Long-Term Success

When you join an Instagram pod, your engagement rate increases. What happens when you leave the pod? It decreases.

Once you join the pod, you may be stuck there. As soon as you leave your engagement levels can decrease and that doesn’t look good for your brand.

An Instagram engagement group can become fake engagement. If followers see this engagement as fake, that is very damaging to your brand. They may notice the same people commenting with just a couple of words. It makes your comment section not very tempting to join.

Growing your audience authentically ensures you have people in your comment section that want to be there and want to interact with your brand. These people don’t require you to spend hours commenting on content you are not interested in.

How to Join an Instagram Pod

If you want to join an Instagram pod to increase engagement rates, where do you find them? Instagram pods don’t broadcast their sign-ups on Instagram. The large pods with over 1,000 users in them are not hard to join. Finding a smaller niche pod to join is trickier. Pods are secretive on Instagram so you will want to search them out on another platform. Here are a few ideas of how to find a pod.

You can check out third-party sources like Reddit, which has a subthread called IGPods for pods that are looking for members. You can also start your own pod and ask for members in your niche.

Telegram is a messaging app that allows users to create chats of up to 100,000 members and you don’t need to have all of the members in your contacts. This messaging service is very popular among pods.

Networking and reaching out to people in your niche is the best way to find people to form a pod or pods that are already formed. People don’t broadcast that they are in a pod.

A lot of pods are invite-only. The people who run pods want to invite people that they trust to join. They are more likely to trust you if you know mutual people or they see you engaging with people they know.

When done right, Instagram pods are similar to networking in person. You make connections, and hopefully, they introduce you to other connections. When you help someone, they want to help you back.

Take into account the pros and cons before joining an Instagram pod. Not all pods are created equal. While one pod might take up your time without benefit, another pod might be the perfect networking group to help grow your Instagram account.