If you’re anything like me, you have maybe been feeling a bit frustrated with Instagram lately. The algorithm has made a big difference in the kind of engagement I’m getting on my posts.
Only a year ago, I’d easily get 100 likes on a post, and I had 1,000 less followers back then. Now, I’m grateful to hit 100 likes, as sad as that may sound.
So, for you, dear reader, I did science. Science!!
I started an Instagram pod. BTW, if you aren’t following me on Insta, you can find me @rebeccacoleman (I post mostly food-related content).
For those of you who are unfamiliar with what an Instagram pod is, it is a group of Instagram users who enter into an agreement to like and possibly comment on, each other’s posts. The idea is this: Instagram’s algorithm looks at what kind of engagement your posts get, especially in the first hour or so. If you do well and create an engaging post, your post gets shown to more people in your feed. If your post is really engaging, it gets pushed to the discover page, which can have a huge impact on your account’s growth and engagement. If you’re interested in learning more about how the Instagram algorithm works, this is a great article to read.
So started one. This is just one option, there are tons of others, I’ll talk more about those later.
Our pod contained 12 accounts all together. We started a group chat on Instagram DMs, and every time one of us published a post, we’d let the group know via the group chat. Then we’d all jump on there and like and comment on the post, ideally as soon as possible, but at the maximum, within 24 hours. We also were looking for comments to be a minimum of 3-4 words. Some pods only require you to like, not to comment, but we all had fairly similar lifestyle-type content, so decided to do a like and comment pod.
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I have been making these vegan, gluten-free peanut butter cups for a decade, and for good reason: they are errrrythang! #vegan #veganfood #glutenfree #dessert #peanutbutter #chocolate #peanutbuttercups #sweet #foodie #love #instagood #tasty #foodgasm #happy #yum #desserts #eat #foodstagram #sweets #amazing #homemade #foods #sweettooth #foodpic #hungry #eating #delish #youtube #vlogger
We did this for a month.
Let’s dig into the analytics, shall we? *rubs hands together in glee*
Okey dokey. Let’s start with follower growth, shall we? The theory being that the more engagement our posts get, the more followers we’ll get because our posts will be shown to more people. Here’s a representation of follower growth from our group:
|Member||Previous to Pod||After Pod||Follower growth|
You’ll notice one member experienced a huge increase in followers. Unfortunately, these weren’t actual followers. Somehow, that member got onto some kind of list and had 1000 people follow them overnight. They weren’t sure what exactly happened, but had gone back and blocked a bunch of them, as they weren’t real accounts. They planned to do the rest, but these things take time.
Other than that, it feels to me like it was business as usual. I didn’t really experience any huge growth in my followers (I’m #7) as a result of the pod.
Okay, cool. But engagement. Let’s talk engagement. I mean, that’s the real reason why we’re here, right?
I tracked the 24 posts immediately prior to the pod, and then 24 posts during the pod. You can see my spreadsheet of numbers here, but here’s the reader’s digest condensed version:
Prior to the pod, I got 1903 engagements on my posts (an engagement is a like or a comment), or on average, 79 engagements per post. During the pod, I saw 2106 engagements, or 88 engagements per post. Original engagement rate: 2%. After the pod? 2.38%.
In addition, pretty much everyone in the pod reported an increase in their engagement.
So, do they work? It seems like I did experience a growth in my engagement, so yeah, I’m gonna say they work.
Here are some takeaways from my experience:
- It’s important to note that the bigger your account grows, the more your engagement is going to fall. The smaller your audience, the better chance that they will be engaged with you. It’s a real double-edged sword. We all want more followers, but it’s harder to get those followers to engage when you have more.
- Size matters. Our pod was small. We were just starting out, and we wanted to keep it manageable. My feeling is, had we created a larger pod with more members, I would have seen bigger growth in my engagement.
- Likes + Comments trump Likes only. There are some pods out there that you can join that only require you to like the post. Ones like ours, which require you to like and comment definitely have a bigger impact (I know this because one of our pod members was in a likes only pod, and made this observation). This makes sense with what I know about Instagram’s algorithm.
- But beware the big guys. You don’t have to start your own like we did. You can join ones already in place. The best way to do this is to search for groups on Facebook and join one that fits for you. However, here’s the “beware:” the bigger the group, the more work. And the better the chance you’ll be required to like or comment on something you don’t actually like or wouldn’t be caught dead commenting on!
- Be aware of posting differences. One of our members only posted a few times a week, and it was challenging for that person to have to like and comment on the posts of those of us that posted more often.
- You may want to communicate off of Instagram. We used Instagram’s DMs to communicate, but many pods work using an app called Telegram, which is not owned by Facebook (What’s App and FB Messenger are). The idea is that maybe if Instagram knows you’re in a pod, they may ban you? We didn’t really have this experience, but I think many people don’t want to take the chance. Pods aren’t against the TOS, but they are certainly on the shady side.
Have you been in an Instagram Pod? I’d love to hear your experiences, good and bad. Please comment below!