When you hear the term “Instagram pods,” did you instantly think about Tide pods or coffee? Yeah, I did too.
Unfortunately, these pods are not the ones you stick into your favorite Nespresso machine to create the caramel macchiato of your dreams, or the ones you put in your washing machine to get freshly clean clothes—please don’t eat them—but rather are direct messages where Instagram users meet to discuss which posts they’re going to like next.
The idea behind it is to beat Instagram at its own game. A group of 15-20 influencers in similar industries (fashion, comedy, beauty, etc.) will join a direct message. Whenever an influencer shares a new post on their feed, they will also share it within the group, prompting members to like and comment on the post immediately. As that happens, the post rises to the top of their followers’ feeds. Due to the increased level of engagement, the post will also likely be featured on the Explore tab, increasing its visibility even further. This benefits everyone in the group as it operates on a like-for-like or comment-for-comment basis.
In 2016, Instagram changed its algorithm from showing posts in chronological order to ranking posts based on their popularity. The posts with the highest and quickest levels of engagement shot to the top of users’ feeds. By asking influencers in the same industry to like and comment on your posts right away (and that in turn, you’ll do the same), you’re almost ensuring that this content gets in front of as many eyes as possible.
Doesn’t this sound familiar?
The concept itself is not new. In the mid-to-late-2000s, #teamfollowback was all the rage. Twitter users would include the hashtag in their posts and would follow others using it, as long as they promised to “follow them back.”
In the early days of WordPress and Blogger, bloggers would often ask you to put them on your blogroll, a list of links posted on a sidebar that typically featured the blogs of friends and people you liked. Internet privacy expert and veteran journalist Doc Searls coined the term in the early 2000s and even he eventually grew sick of it.
And, of course, we can’t forget the hundreds, if not thousands of “LB” comments you see on Kylie Jenner’s Instagram posts.
For those of you who don’t know, LB stands for “like back.” The idea is that if you like someone’s post and then comment LB on it, the person is then supposed to return the favor and like one of your recent posts. In Kylie Jenner’s case, however, people are just spamming her feed to try to raise their visibility. She hardly ever responds and even complained about the trend in 2012 (though it certainly hasn’t helped much):
STOP WRITING LB ON ALL MY INSTAGRAM PHOTOS AND USING ME AS A WAY TO ADVERTISE YOURSELF.
— Kylie Jenner (@KylieJenner) November 30, 2012
So, it is worth it?
According to Mashable, to join an Instagram pod, you have to comb through either Facebook or Twitter and see if anyone’s talking about it. Others are using the messaging app Telegram to rendezvous with interested parties there.
Either way, Instagram pods are secret groups which are not endorsed by Facebook, Instagram’s parent company. Facebook has recently cracked down on groups employing like-for-like tactics, meaning that the mystery surrounding them is only likely to grow and not go away.
Is it worth it, then, to use a strategy whose roots are shunned by the platforms where they’re taking place? My answer: No.
Not only are you robbing authentic users of the chance of getting their content seen and heard, but you are also potentially jeopardizing your brand’s future. The closing of these groups could diminish your brand’s visibility and reputation and if it does not, metrics-wise, how will you be able to tell the difference between the audiences who actually liked your content and the audiences who liked it because you asked them to?
The influencer trend is dying. The space is becoming saturated, forcing many older influencers to resort to other means to maintain their lifestyles. Do not resort to spammy tactics to maintain or boost your visibility. Develop a well thought-out engagement strategy and slowly watch your seeds grow.
It will be worth it, and ChatterBlast can help you do that!