NOTE: This blog post is part 19 of my INSTAGRAM SERIES - content all about helping YOU manage your way around instagram. In the INSTAGRAM SERIES I've touched on subjects such as why am I losing followers on instagram , how the instagram algorithms really work and is organic growth on instagram still possible. Just click here to find all the other parts in the series.
Now that the cat is out of the bag and we finally officially know how the instagram algorithms really work, joining a comment pod to increase engagment and thereby beat the algorithm seems more important than ever. Or does it? In today's post I'll explore this questions in a bit more detail.
DISCLAIMER: I have personally never joined a comment pod and this blog post is consequently the result of discussions I've had with my instagram mentoring clients (some of whom have joined pods), food blogger friends who have joined pods and research via the internet and podcasts.
WHAT IS AN INSTAGRAM POD?
Instagram pods are a private group of 10-15 instagrammers within the same niche who make a promise to one another to always comment on each other's instagram post, preferably within minutes of it going live. The idea is that you alert everyone via DM that your image has gone live on your instagram grid, everyone then comments on your post in that crucial initial time period sending signals to instagram that your post is popular and engaging. This in turn should lead to instagram sharing your content with a wider audience, improving your engagement, impressions and overall reach. In short, it's a rather clever way to beat the instagram algorithm and get your content in front of a wider audience.
THE PROS OF JOINING AN INSTAGRAM COMMENT POD
YOU'RE PART OF A COMMUNITY
Anytime people come together to support each other, good things can happen. For example, you can develop long lasting friendships and encourage each other to continue to develop creatively. Though it's not usually a comment pod 'rule' BUT if you genuinely like the content of one of your pod members, why not share it on your stories or mention them in your caption? This way you give your comment pod friend an even wider reach. It's like taking the #communityovercompetition hashtag and putting it into some serious action!
SOMEONE WILL ALWAYS COMMENT ON YOUR INSTAGRAM IMAGE
It sucks when you post your best picture and write THE most lovely caption and no one gives a fiddler! Am I right? In turn, it's strangely uplifting when you post a picture and people leave kind and thoughtful comments that stimulate engagement. And it is here where comment pods can really work their magic. Many pod rules state that you need to leave a meaningful, long-ish comment to avoid looking like a bot AND to help initiate a thoughtful discussion. So clever!
THERE IS AN INSTAGRAM AUDIENCE WAITING FOR YOU
In all honesty, it's pretty freakin' hard to start an instagram account in 2018! It's even harder to build an audience in this saturated market. Hence knowing for sure that a group of people will always be paying attention to you and what you wish to share is rather reassuring. It makes it feel as though you're not shouting into a vacuum and is if you're gaining some traction, even if just a little bit.
THE CONS OF JOINING AN INSTAGRAM COMMENT POD
COMMENT PODS CAN BE REALLY STRESSFUL
Let's be real for a moment - HAVING to always comment on someone's instagram post come hell or high water can feel pretty draining. Especially if you're really busy that day, if people in your pod post multiple times a day or - God forbid - you don't actually like the content they create. And if you don't fulfil your end of the bargain there will be repercussions - your comment buddies will be hurt, disappointed, upset or angry. Turning the table around for a moment, imagine you post an image on instagram and none of your comment pod friends do as they promised, leaving you and your instagram image hanging high and dry. So stressful, so upsetting.
IT CAN BE REALLY TIME CONSUMING
Shall we envisage the worst case scenario? You've got 14 other pod members, they all post twice a day, 7 days a week, that's 28 meaningful comments a day you HAVE to leave!!!! Add to that needing to respond thoughtfully when you get comments on your image PLUS wishing to comment on other instagrammer's accounts whose content you want to praise and you can be spending hours on the app! YIKES!
YOU'RE NOT ACTUALLY LISTENING TO YOUR AUDIENCE
I'll be honest here - I'd actually be more than happy spending a few hours a day on instagram, commenting and supporting my instagram friends and dealing with pod politics BUT what has stopped me going down the instagram pod route is that I don't actually believe it benefits my business BECAUSE IT DOESN'T ALLOW ME TO REALLY TUNE INTO FEEDBACK FROM MY TRUE AUDIENCE.
So what if a fellow pod friend comments on my post?! Her comments will not give me further insight into whether the image I posted resonated with YOU, my tribe. And ironically you're the only people whose opinion I need to be concerned about. That's because getting your genuine feedback can help me discover what content you like and ensure I serve you better.
ARE COMMENT PODS ETHICAL?
Here at The Little Plantation we're 100% instagram judgement free. Meaning I pose this point as a question rather than a statement. Thing is, I can totally see why people join comment pods; the idea is rather genius and it feels like a clever way around the annoying and disempowering instagram algorithms. Moreover many people argue that it's the seemingly unfair instagram algorithms that drives them to comment pods in the first place, as a last resort. But I wonder if going down this questionable path is honest, real or helpful in an online world where we're all seeking authenticity rather than fakeness. What do you think?
CAN YOU BEAT THE INSTAGRAM ALGORITHMS WITH COMMENT PODS?
MAYBE! MAYBE NOT! The results are pretty mixed. Some indications are that comment pods are only effective for up to three weeks before instagram clocks what's going on and decreases your reach. Others claim that instagram discovers repeat comment patterns and decreases your reach from the outset. Yet others note that their engagement went up, whereas their reach went down when they joined a comment pod, and some raved about comment pods being the best thing since sliced bread, full stop. However, the clients I have worked with who have used instagram pods have NOT grown in any significant way whatsoever. Perhaps because they're not getting feedback from the people who actually matter?
THE VERDICT ON INSTAGRAM PODS
For me comment pods are a no no. I want to grow a genuine audience base to build a solid sustainable online business which relies on listening to my tribe and my tribe alone. But maybe your business model is based on sponsored content deals and within that context reach and engagement are incredible important. Maybe in that case comment pods are what you need to make it work? Either way, I hope I have given you enough food for thought to empower you to make an informed decision about comment pods.
Did I get this blog post right? Did I miss some key benefits that joining comment pods bring? Anything you'd like to share? I can't wait to hear from you.
P.S. Love this blog? Enjoy my instagram and food photography tips? Think my writing is engaging and fun? Then please consider clicking here and voting for The Little Plantation (in whichever category you like) in the 2018 Saveur blog awards. It is THE most prestigious award a food blogger can get and frankly just getting nominated is a MASSIVELY big deal. Today (Wednesday, July 25th) is your very last day to vote. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
NEED MORE INSTAGRAM HELP?
Then why not sign up to my first 1-day small business and blogger London mastermind where we'll spend the afternoon devising a social media strategy that works. It will be held on Sunday, September 23rd and you can read all about the day here. There are only 2 spots left, so be quick :).
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