What Is An Instagram 'Pod' And Do They Actually Help You Get More Likes And Followers?

What we know about the Social Media 'hack'

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Have you seen any activity like this on your Twitter newsfeed or your Instagram DMs?

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These are invitations to join groups of bloggers who are hacking Instagram one post at a time.

Confused? Well don't worry, we'll break it down for you.

Back in 2012 Facebook bought Instagram for a cool $1billion (around £7.7million) and it took them only a year to add, you guessed it, sponsored content and adverts into our feeds.

So far, so familiar.

It had a few people miffed, but users knew that Instagram needed to make dollar somehow, and as long as it meant keeping our favourite app free at the point of use, it was a pill we needed to swallow.

Come 2016, things started to really change on the photo-sharing app.

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There was a redesign, Instagram stories was introduced, you could livestream, get sent notifications when something was screenshot, buy clothes tagged in photos via the app and they extended the video length to a minute.

Alongside these exciting evolutions, came a less welcome shift, an introduction of a new algorithm.

Dun, dun DUNNNN.

Yeah, it hasn't gone down super well...

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What the algorithm appeared to do was bin the traditional, chronological order of the user's feed and replace it with one which surfaced content according to how much the user usually likes content from that person.

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Also introduced was a 'Search & Explore' page which supplied you with content from accounts you don't follow, but might like to.

Instagram explains in their help centre:

Posts are selected automatically based on things like the people you follow or the posts you like. You may also see video channels, which can include posts from a mixture of hand-picked and automatically sourced accounts based on topics we think you'll enjoy.

And, in light of this algorithm, bloggers and the like have been trying to find ways to 'beat the system'.

We're creatures of habit aren't we. We don't like change...

A 'pod' is a secret group of bloggers or influencers that want to ensure their content is always seen, despite the new algorithm.

They believe that not only does a user's own interaction with a particular account make it appear more frequently in their timeline, but when the post has lots of interaction from other accounts too it will appear higher up in their feed.

Wishing I was still antiquing in Dorset rather than @ my desk 😞 #banknoliday

A post shared by P A N D O R A S Y K E S (@pandorasykes) on

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So, a pod is a group of Instagrammers (that could be anything from 15 to 100 people) who tell each other when they post and promise to like and comment on everyone else's to promote their visibility.

Be Well Squad is one that promises on it's homepage,

We are an online community of health, wellness and clean beauty bloggers who are on a mission to share our passion with the world. One of the best ways to grow your Instagram audience and engagement is through a pod. Be Well Squad connects you with likeminded Instagrammers, who support one another through likes & comments. By joining, you gain access to our invite only Facebook group, full of resources to help you grow your IG, and a way to connect and learn!

However, there seems to be no actual evidence that this system works.

Jenn Herman, a social media strategist, says, 'People think pods work because they do work on Facebook, and people assume the Instagram algorithm is the same as it is on Facebook... which it's not. To 'beat' the algorithm on Instagram requires better content, a selective posting schedule, [...] good captions, and effective calls-to-action.'

I.M. Pei's Miho Museum... just yer average backdrop @louisvuitton #LVCruise

A post shared by Susie Lau (@susiebubble) on

Herman does admit that 'good content' is partly determined by pictures 'responses' i.e. likes and comments, but it is unclear as to whether having someone random comment on a photo will mean it will appear higher up on your feed if you personally haven't been engaging with that account.

In fact, it seems that someone's personal interaction is what is really making a differenceinteraction is what is really making a difference, including what you search for as well as screen grab and direct message, in what comes up in your feed.

This doesn't make these pods redundant, however. These groups will probably help get content onto the 'Search & Explore' page, which will in turn probably help the account gain visibility.

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water sports ~

A post shared by Paloma Elsesser (@palomija) on

They will also help make an account seem more popular. This might help an influencer earn more money from a post, and make new visitors be more likely to interact with a post and account lots of other people are interacting with.

There is also something to be said for people building communities online.

Whilst on one hand you might view these pods as sinister, on another you might consider that it's a way for like-minded people to support, learn and interact with each other.

Though, like every fad, the fall-out is already visible.

This blogger has written a post about her decision to leave pods for many reasons, namely that the engagement isn't actually real, brands and agencies are catching on, that Instagram is only one facet of being a good influencer (she considers her website's following) and that she enjoys the challenge of engaging realistically with her followers.

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Different pods also have different rules, which means the experience of one pod member might be different to another. Some groups have time limits on when people need to like and comment, some have a minimum word comment and ban on emojis to avoid generic comments.

All these 'rules' mean whilst some groups are supportive and helpful, others are anxiety-inducing.

Rachel Thompson wrote about her traumatic experience in an Instagram pod saying:

When I left high school in 2006, I thought I'd kissed goodbye to the days of not being one of the cool kids. But, 11 years on, I'm back to feeling like the class loser. And it's all thanks to Instagram 'pods'.

We love the idea of people helping each other out and supporting each other, but since when did a little camaraderie have to have so many regulations?

And, on top of that, we don't like the idea of being tricked into liking something. Sort it out Instagram pals, we can't quit you!

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