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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