Instagram Pods: A More Social Network
Whether you are a neatnik or more of an organized chaos kind of person, you have a method of organizing the information that comes at you each day so that you can move forward without being totally overwhelmed. Social networks use algorithms in much the same way. But an algorithm doesn’t have to mean you lose connection with your audience.
According to a collection of Instagram statistics posted by Hootsuite in early 2018, Instagrammers share 95 million posts per day. That number is only expected to increase as more and more users join Instagram each day. With all that new content, Instagram has moved from a chronological content sharing methodology to an algorithmic content sharing methodology. Switching methodologies causes Instagrammers to explore new ways to connect with their audiences so they avoid seeing fewer likes or comments than they had previously become accustomed to.
Social media pundits have developed multiple recommendations for making the best of the Instagram algorithm, from hiring a professional photographer for more beautiful pictures to strategically planning how your posts are organized on your profile page. The approach I’ve found most interesting and engaging, however, is the concept of Instagram pods.
Instagram Pods – Friends Helping Friends
As defined in a blog posted in July 2018 on workmacro.com, an Instagram pod is a private group of 10 to 15 like-minded Instagrammers who agree to like and comment on each other’s posts in an effort to increase each other’s engagement numbers. After hearing about Instagram pods for the first time on Chalene Johnson’s Build Your Tribe podcast, I decided I wanted to dive in to a pod. My presence on Instagram is purely personal, so I spent some time thinking about the entrepreneur or business I wanted to support with my pod membership. The first person I thought of was my sister, a freelance photographer in North Texas.
I called her up and asked her about her experience with Instagram pods and she told me about a pod that she was a part of, full of local photographers. She allowed me to join, even though I am not a photographer, with the understanding that I would support the others in the group with likes and comments.
I was then invited to a direct group message, where each of the pod members would tell each other about their new posts.
What I Have Learned as a Podster
Pods can expose you to interesting content you might have missed otherwise. As a member of the pod, I get notified every time the talented photographers in the group post a photo. I get to see their photo series and have a greater understanding of the stories behind their work. It’s a more comprehensive and holistic view of their work.
Commenting makes the experience of Instagram more exciting and engaging. I admit that when I first joined Instagram, it was strictly as a voyeur. I loved being able to look at the beautiful and inspiring images as a sort of mental break. Occasionally I would post my own pictures, but more often than not, I was just there to scroll ad nauseum. Now that I have agreed to support my fellow podsters, I am forced to slow down and truly appreciate the posts, their context, and the greater story they fit in to. In addition, I endeavor to make thoughtful comments of more than four words, as recommended in a post by Bolieau Communications, so that the algorithm will see and “believe” that my interaction is a genuine engagement. Sometimes, thinking of a thoughtful and insightful comment can be challenging, so this experience pushes me to search my mind for a new angle from which to approach the post.
It is now, and has always been, difficult to sense tone in text. One of the more interesting experiences I’ve had as a podster was commenting on a photograph and mentioning a particular affinity I have for photos of footwear worn by people at important events, such as weddings, galas, etc. The poster, however, wanted the focus to not be on the footwear, but on the artful crop of the photo. Though I can’t be completely certain, I don’t think the poster was pleased with my comment. This is awkward because the sole reason that I am even commenting on this fellow podster’s post is to help boost their engagement scores on Instagram. Because I joined this group through my sister, I don’t know the other photographer very well and decided just to leave well enough alone. The situation has, however, alerted me to the fact that it’s probably better to join pods with people you know, so you can read through the lines of their comments more effectively.
Instagram pods are full of generous people. As I mentioned before, I am not a photographer, as all the other members of the pod I joined are. I agreed to join the group so I could get a feel for how pods work and understand the dynamics of supporting each other in this way. As such, I don’t feel right in asking the podsters to like or comment on my personal posts, as infrequently as they pop up. However, the pod members have extended the invitation to me, that if I ever wanted to share my posts in the direct message, they would happily reciprocate the engagement. I think that’s the coolest thing about Instagram pods – they are an opportunity to serve your fellow business owners with very little effort and no financial commitment. The altruistic angle jives with my ethos.
If you are an entrepreneur or business owner using Instagram to promote your brand, Instagram pods could be an option to help you rise to the top of Instagram’s algorithm. I think the most important things to consider as you dive into the pod game are:
Keep the group small to medium-sized so everyone can benefit.
Choose your participants wisely, focusing on people who know you and want to see you succeed.
Set clear expectations from the beginning, so nobody is disappointed or feels overwhelmed.
Get busy supporting each other – that’s what it’s ALL about.