Instagram new features - May 2018

Instagram Pods / Engagement groups

What is an Instagram pod/Engagement group?

During one of my IGTV videos I mentioned Instagram pods / engagement groups. This sparked an interest from a few people who had never heard about them – and also it triggered a few people who don’t like the concept. I thought I’d take the opportunity to explain a bit more about them and detail some of the advantages and disadvantages.

Simply put – An Instagram pod/Engagement group is a group of instagrammers that exchange engagement on posts.

Why use an engagement group?

Engagement groups, also known as pods came about following the introduction of the algorithm on Instagram. When you first share a post to Instagram, they serve that post to a small percentage of your total audience. Based on how that post performs with a small group of people (in addition to quite a few other factors such as caption contents, network, etc.), Instagram will grade the quality of your content. This “score” determines how your post is delivered in the feed as well as in the Discover tab. By using pods, users can increase the volume of engagement they are receiving in the small testing window, and therefore increasing your content’s “score”.

What is engagement?

Engagement is the number of people who like, comment or save your work as a ratio of your followers at the time of posting.

Instagram new features - May 2018

What are the advantages of an engagement group?

Engagement groups/pods are a way to ‘play’ the algorithm, by communities of like-minded Instagrammers teaming up to interact with each other’s posts. They work best when everyone has a similar interest/genre and when everybody participating in these groups is willing to like and/or comment on other members’ posts in exchange for their own posts getting liked and/or commented. 
If immediately after posting get 10 genuine likes and sincere comments, it can be a very good thing for the engagement on your page.

Engagement pods can:

  • Increase the amount of likes and comments
  • Increase organic reach in the feed
  • Increase the chances of your post ending up on Discover
  • Be a positive community

The disadvantages of engagement groups.

Instagram engagement groups take a lot of investment of your time and the notifications can become overwhelming. You need to be committed to contributing to the group. If the group is not managed well, some users can take advantage – and demand more from the other users (compared to what they give back).
There’s a big risk of members not genuinely being interested in your content and the comments will be generic and lack authenticity. There’s nothing worse than fake engagement.
There has been suggestions that users get what is called a ‘shadow ban’ for being part of an engagement group – however Instagram have recently said that there is no such thing as a shadow ban!

What apps are used for engagement groups?

There are a number of social apps people use to manage a pod. Which one you choose will depend on the group preference:

  • Whatsapp
  • Telegram
  • Slack
  • Facebook Messenger
  • Facebook Groups
  • Instagram messenger (limited to 15 people)

What's the problem?

Why are people triggered by engagement groups? 

Some people frown upon engagement groups as they are considered a bit sneaky and users don’t generally ‘announce’ when they are part of a group.

Many users are ‘purist’ and believe that it’s deviating from the ‘pure’ way of organically using Instagram.

How do I find an engagement pod?

This is probably the trickiest element of engagement groups. They’re not usually openly shared and they can be hard to find.

  • Network with other accounts within your niche
  • Join Instagram-related Facebook groups. 
  • Search Twitter for mentions of Engagement Pods
  • Read the Instagram Subreddit
  • Google it! 

My personal experience of using engagement groups

I have, during the last 8 months – been a member of approx 4 different engagement groups/pods. I left two of them within a couple days as they were not particularly something I wanted to be associated with. They were not really niche, they had awkward or inefficient rules (such as you could only share a post when you had liked and commented on the previous 6 posts… which was great until there wasn’t 6 posts for you to engage with). They were far to prescriptive and quite frankly…fake! I stumbled on these groups by googling.
One other pod I was invited to, was made up of a group of photographers from my region (Devon, UK) – however the group slowly dwindled to nothing and unfortunately it then became ineffective.
The final engagement group which I was also invited to – which I am still an active member of, has become a small Instagram sub community and offers a lot more than just being an ‘engagement group’. What makes this group work so well is that we are all aligned in our style of photography – many of us live within the South West of the UK (although we have members across the UK and overseas) and we all genuinely have an interest in each others photography. The group has expanded to offer technical support, image reviews and general chit chat. I would consider the members ‘insta-friends’. Several members have met in real life to. For me – this is what a true engagement group should be about – the likes/comments/engagement are a bonus because I get so much more from being part of it.
It is also worth noting – that I have seen little impact on my engagement from being part of the group. I believe this is because I have such a large following – 5 or 6 people commenting/liking my photo is not really going to have a huge impact.

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A journey to plant based diet.

On 3rd January I decided to switch to a plant based diet. The fact that this was at the start of January, was co-incidental rather than being a new years resolution. This wasn’t something I did on a whim or as a ‘fad’. I had actually been building up to this point for months (years?). For several years, I had been aware that I was probably lactose intolerant. Whenever I consumed a large amount of dairy (particularly milk on it’s own) I would feel nauseous, bloated, have an upset stomach and generally feel unwell – so I switched to Lacto-free milk a long time ago. I think it was probably this awareness of how milk impacted on my body, that initially sparked my interest in plant based diet.

Several friends of mine began sharing information, pictures and details of their plant based diet (and the benefits it was having) and they captured my attention. I am a lover of vegetables anyway, I’ve often opted for Quorn products (over meat) and when dining out I would naturally gravitate towards the vegetarian option. Towards the end of 2017 I met The Holt Twins at an Instagram meet up. They spoke eloquently, openly and convincingly about their journey to plant based – this spurred me to begin researching a plant based diet and to pay attention to those who were plant based.

I was shocked to learn of the impact that meat and dairy has on the human body. I go to the gym regularly in order to keep fit and healthy, so it seemed counter productive to be consuming foods that didn’t provide my body with optimum fuel and health.  It’s shocking how many links there are between milk and diseases such as cancer (sources: [1][2][3][4][5]). Society is aware and understand how bad smoking is…yet are oblivious to the fact that dairy/meat presents a similar level of risk to our bodies. It’s consumed because we are conditioned to do so and because industry wants us to… (or else they will go out of business)!


The WHO notes:

Top 10 causes of death worldwide

Of the 56.4 million deaths worldwide in 2015, more than half (54%) were due to the top 10 causes. Ischaemic heart disease and stroke are the world’s biggest killers, accounting for a combined 15 million deaths in 2015. These diseases have remained the leading causes of death globally in the last 15 years


Dr. Linda E. Kelemen published a study in February 2005 which reconfirmed the link between meat consumption and heart problems. The study, which was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, concluded that among the 29,000 participants, those who ate the most meat were also at the greatest risk for heart disease. The researchers also reported that a high intake of protein from vegetable sources like tofu, nuts, and beans lowers our risk of heart disease by 30 percent. Dr. Linda E. Kelemen, the scientist who headed the study, told reporters, “Not all proteins are equal”—while vegetable protein can help keep our hearts healthy, eating animal protein can put us in an early grave. [SOURCE]

I also watched two films on Netflix “What The Health” and “Forks Over Knives”. One is more sensationalised than the other, but nevertheless, these also helped secure my decision to switch to plant-based.

I’m not strictly ‘vegan’ because my driver to switch diet is driven by my health desires, however on switching I am becoming increasingly empathic towards the plight of animals – especially knowing that there is no need to consume rotting flesh and baby cows milk. The more I think about it, the more I find the thought of it repugnant.

To conclude, I am 15 days in and I have never felt better. I have so much energy. I can comfortably complete a days work (often my job is quite physical), a solid hour in the gym – and still have plenty of energy to keep going. I can cope better on less sleep. My skin and hair feel healthier and I am toning up much quicker than I have ever before. I’ve not been hungry once and my meals are tasty, satisfying and quick! The whole process has been quite liberating rather than restricting. Knowing I only need to choose from plant based food groups is far easier for me when it comes to shopping and cooking.

Angkor Wat temple Cambodia

All templed out!

7th Wonder of the World

As mentioned in my previous post, the khymer temples at Angkor Wat are a must see if you’re in Cambodia doing the tourist thing.

Here’s a little overview of the temples from Tourism Cambodia

ANGKOR WAT was listed in World Wonder List

Angkor Wat, in its beauty and state of preservation, is unrivaled. Its mightiness and magnificence bespeak a pomp and a luxury surpassing that of a Pharaoh or a Shah Jahan, an impressiveness greater than that of the Pyramids, an artistic distinctiveness as fine as that of the Taj Mahal. Angkor Wat is located about six kilometers (four miles) north of Siem Reap, south of Angkor Thom. Entry and exit to Angkor Wat can only be access from its west gate

Angkor Wat temple Cambodia

Temple tickets = good value

The entry pass is definitely good value ($62 for 3 days) – especially if you make the most of it and see as many temples as possible…although, having said that it’s really easy to end up templed out as many of the temples end up looking the same.

Ta Prohm is the temple I found the most intriguing as the walls have been overgrown by trees in places and it’s fascinating how nature has taken hold. 

Haggled and hounded

When you arrive at any of the temples be prepared to be hounded by sellers peddling their wares, persistently! They’re mostly adults but children as young as five or six hounded me, relentlessly trying to get me to buy their freshly cut mango & pineapple, postcards, magnets or guidebooks. They would follow me around, loitering beside me at every twist and turn I made.


Small children at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Buying from children is a big no-no. It keeps them trapped in the poverty cycle when actually the best solution for them would be to go to school and get an education (and not to be forced to work). It takes quite a lot of strength to resist their charming English pleas (“pineapple, fresh, cheap $1), but you must politely decline and walk on by. After a while, you get used to it.

Monkeying around!

Also in and around the Angkor Wat site it is very likely that you will see monkeys (Long-tailed Macque). They are a delight to watch but beware – they will go for humans, especially if they think you have food or water!

Shortly after taking the photo below, of the monkey admiring its reflection in the moped mirror, I turned around to photograph another monkey and felt a jolt on my back, I spun around and the monkey had jumped onto my backpack… Much to the amusement of three children looking on! Fortunately, it jumped off straight away but i definitely wouldn’t have wanted to get into battle with it! 

Monkey at Angkor Wat - cambodia

I definitely recommend a visit to the temples. They are a sight to behold. I was lucky enough to spend three days touring them during my trip to Cambodia. I hope to return one to see them again one day.

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The information compiled within this book is designed to help the frustrated and struggling photographers to increase the interaction, following and exposure for the photography work they share on their Instagram account. The book aims to encourage you to get actively involved in the Instagram community by sharing your amazing photographs, connecting with like-minded individuals and interacting with the community. Too often I see people give up and lose patience, so hopefully the tips presented within this book will enable you to streamline your time on Instagram and facilitate a workflow that gets the best for you.