You probably remember the uproar when Instagram changed its post feed formula.
It was a pretty big deal.
Instagram used to list posts in your feed chronologically from when they were posted. After it was acquired by Facebook, your newsfeed display changes so that now posts deemed most relevant show up at the top of your feed vs ones most recently posted.
This is, unsurprisingly, super similar to how your Facebook feed functions.
This switch generated some very mixed emotions.
Well, not only does it mean you'll be seeing more of the same posts in your feed vs new ones, it also has a significant impact on bloggers and small business owners.
How, you ask?
Because the new feed algorithm ranks more popular and “relevant” posts higher, posts with more engagement pop up first.
This is potentially detrimental to small biz owners and bloggers with smaller followings because it means not all of their followers get to see their posts all the time. Only some of them see posted content some of the time.
This means less exposure and interactions with the brand and then it becomes a vicious cycle. Lots of engagement ranks you higher in the feed.
But if fewer people see your posts you perpetually have less engagement, which makes it harder to grow.
This also means fewer people are getting exposure to your awesome offers and content which makes promoting on Instagram potentially less effective.
Seems a little unfair, right? Well, the good news is some crafty bloggers/social media gurus got together and created a pretty cool workaround.
Enter the Instagram pod.
What is it?
An Instagram pod is basically a group of people from a specific niche. Generally, it's a DM (direct message) group made up of Instagrammers who post content related to particular categories like beauty, fashion, travel, etc.
The aim of Instagram pods is to increase the rate of people interacting and engaging with your content organically.
How Does It Work?
It's basically a gentle-(wo)man’s agreement. When someone in an Instagram pod posts something new, they DM their pod members in a group chat.
Then, everyone in the pod will like and comment on the post. You can also have members turn on post notifications so that everyone is notified anytime someone in the group posts.
Comments also have to be valuable (I.e. Full sentences vs just one word or an emoji).
So, what's the point of this? How does it help?
Instagram pods provide an opportunity to get more engagement and potentially raise the ‘score’ of your post/algorithm.
It's basically a little workaround of the algorithm change and it's been a helpful discovery for Instagrammers with less large scale followings.
Think, even if you have 5,000 followers (no small feat), it's hard to compete with engagement opportunities that accounts with 100,000 followers have.
Having a core group or community who loyally interact with your content helps bump up your content’s ranking with authentic interactions.
Why Is This Important?
The algorithm is constantly changing but essentially, there are a lot of bots on Instagram that will comment one word or a single emoji on posts. This artificial engagement makes a post look deceptively popular, which raises its ranking in your feed.
Instagram does give more weight to comments with 4 or more words to try and combat this but it's pretty prevalent. So, when people in your pod comment thoughtfully, it raises your post’s organic ranking.
This is great for anyone whose Instagram following is smaller. If you have tens of thousands of followers already, you’re most likely sitting in the sweet spot with enough organic rank for most everyone on your list to see your posts
Joining an Instagram pod is also an opportunity to build your community and help out fellow bloggers or small business owners.
How Do You Join An Instagram Pod?
Find people in your niche and community. As with any aspect of social media promotion, you want to segment and target. Don't join a fashion pod if your specialty is fitness.
If you have multiple niches, consider joining different pods for each one.
Reach out to the other bloggers/Instagrammers/small business owners you know. Ask if they’re a member of any pods or create your own with your community.
Facebook groups are also dynamite ways to meet other people and find fellow podders.
A lot of people post opportunities to collaborate frequently in Facebook blog/biz groups.
Focus on getting to know the people in the group a little first so that you have a good idea of what their niche is and who they are. That way, when you create a pod, you create one that involves people that most complement you and your business and you can create really authentic interactions.
Keep in mind that you can only add a max of 15 people in a DM group. So, if you create a pod using DM (which is popular), you're limited in the number of people you can add to a pod.
In theory, you could host a bigger pod on another platform, like a Facebook group chat.
Can Newbies Join An Instagram Pod?
Yes, but if you’re completely new to Instagram, consider growing your following just a little first.
Work for a bit on just building up a small following before joining pods. Of course, each person is different. If you meet an awesome group of people that you hit it off with, they may invite you or be really receptive to a newbie joining.
If you do join, be supportive and engage thoughtfully with your pod member’s posts. Be reliable and don’t be a post hog. Don’t post a ton of times each day that requires their engagement.
If they give an inch, don’t take a mile, ya know?
It’s also important to remember that you have to work on other aspects of social media promotion too.
Don’t rely solely on engagement from the pod: you still need to branch out and work on growing your audience and creating great content.
It’s also possible that if you rely solely on pod interaction, you will see mostly posts from people in your pod because of the regular engagement.
Still, troubleshoot your hashtags. Try different combos and different hashtags to help promote visibility in the right places. Hashtags can be huge resources if you hit the right ones and can boost engagement even more than a pod.
So, can an Instagram pod be instrumental in working around an algorithm that favors larger followings? Yes.
But should you rely on it for all of your engagement needs? No! You still have to do your due diligence and amp up efforts on other social media fronts. Growing your following should still be a priority.
But meeting a community of others in your niche and being able to develop strong relationships with them is always a bonus. It kind of shows what a great community blogging has in general. Pretty clever hack from our fellow savvy bloggers, huh?