Instagram is a valuable addition to many social media marketing campaigns – particularly for highly visual brands. However, companies need to know how to hack the Instagram algorithm if they want their content to appear at the top of the news feed.

In 2016, Instagram changed the algorithm to prioritize engagement and timeliness. In other words, the highest-ranking posts will generate likes and shares from followers within a couple of hours of appearing on the app.

To help them access timelier engagement, some brands and influencers began using Instagram pods. An Instagram pod is a group of users who all agree to comment on and like posts created by the other members, with a goal of mutual growth.

How does an Instagram pod work?

The idea of an Instagram pod is to boost engagement on your posts, so you’re more likely to appear at the top of the Instagram Explore page. However, these pods have a few requirements to join.

Each pod comes with its own rules, but general guidelines include:

  • Comment and Like quickly to take advantage of the “timeliness” aspect of Instagram’s algorithm.
  • Don’t use the chat for networking: If you want to connect with people, send them a private message. Instagram pods aren’t for pleasantries.
  • Do not leech: Always Like and Comment on other people’s posts if you expect them to return the favor.

Since a pod is so dependent on these specific tactics, it can be perceived as a way of gaming the system and may not do much to raise your authentic engagement in the long term.

Will an Instagram pod help your numbers?

An Instagram pod may help you to develop your social media presence in some ways. For instance, you’ll find people to network with in your industry. The initial engagement on your posts may also help them to appear on the Explore page, where you’ll find genuine fans for your brand.  If a pod is truly related to your niche, you might also find some highly engaged fans through it.

However, Instagram pods aren’t fully condoned by Facebook or Instagram.

Buzzfeed reported that Facebook had begun to remove certain pod groups in 2018. These pods used tactics like trading likes for likes to trick the Instagram algorithm. Though the strategy hasn’t been officially banned, it’s in a grey area, and it’s always possible the algorithm could update further to dilute any benefits they currently have.

The issues with Instagram pods

Ultimately, an Instagram pod is rarely a valuable long-term strategy. The central involvement you’ll get will be from people that you’re asking to interact with your posts. This means that the results of your campaigns will be skewed, and it will be impossible to differentiate between genuine likes and likes you’ve requested.

Additionally, an Instagram pod may lead to additional problems like:

  • Lazy commenting: Some members of Instagram pods can start to copy and paste their messages.
  • Suspicious activity: Your target audience may notice when the same people continuously like and comment on your posts.
  • Skewed ratios: An unusual Like and Comment ratio may also be a red flag.

Ultimately, an Instagram pod might give you initial engagement. However it’s not the kind of engagement that you want for long-term growth.