Let’s start off with a little disclaimer, shall we?
I’m not hating on pods, I’m not against pods or those who are part of a pod. I just wanted to share my experience with pods and they’ve been a huge part of Instagram life and my blogger career.
I can’t remember the exact point in time when pods became a “thing”, they just started appearing on my Twitter timeline. I struggle with Instagram engagement as much as the next blogger, and thought it would be fun to try a pod, maybe meet some new people and get a little inspo along the way.
Instagram is a tricky thing, it’s easily one of my favourite social media platforms, as I’m nosey and love to see what others get up to. But as a blogger, it’s one of the most insufferable platforms because it’s becoming increasingly difficult to grow. It’s almost discouraging as you see the amount of ‘likes’ go down, and realise this isn’t because people hate your content, it’s because Instagram isn’t showing it to them. With shadow banning and the (stupid) algorithm, Instagram seems to constantly be pushing sponsored posts in our faces, which I know many (including myself) aren’t into. There’s nothing wrong with sponsored posts, chase that coin! But for bloggers like me, it’s just not in the budget for me. My debit card doesn’t stretch as far as paying for my posts to be seen.
Instagram pods were created to try and beat the algorithm, and to help bloggers interact with each other in a more positive way online. Over the past year, I’ve been a part of six pods, and left my remaining two over the last week. My heart wasn’t in it anymore, liking felt more like a chore.
When joining the pod, if it’s properly managed there’s usually rules, for example:
1. You must follow each pod member.
2. You must like each post shared in the post.
3. You must comment on each post shared.
4. Comments must be more than four words (otherwise it doesn’t count as engagement).
I’m pretty happy with rules like those, but the problem arises when there are a few who chose not to follow the rules, and in fact just ignore them all together.
One thing that irritated me the most about rule breaking, was how unfair it was to others. Whether it’s not liking a post until they had one to be liked, or simply jumping in and out of the pod whenever. It meant that those who were most active, were commenting on posts, but those who hardly ever logged on were getting engagement without giving some back. Not to whinge or anything, but following the rules just makes it so much easier.
Sometimes there are pods that work very efficiently, with a good number of bloggers involved and everyone following the rules as well as being fair. My most recent pod groups were like this. However, over time, I started to get sick of seeing a little badge icon over my Instagram app, knowing it was another post I had to like without genuinely enjoying the content. It also altered my timeline, meaning I was missing content for bloggers I really admire.
There are some awesome bloggers in pods that publish brilliant content. But to be liking every single photo just felt manufactured to me, and also disingenuous. And I got the same vibe on my posts, as I’d look at the comments, I almost felt like they weren’t real – I didn’t earn them.
It was that final thought that lead me to leave every pod I was a part of. Sure the rule breakers were annoying, but I could get over that. And liking/commenting on every photo was weird but I just kind of went with the motions. It was looking at my own posts and engagement that had me second-guessing my memberships.
I came to the conclusion that I’d rather have low engagement, likes, comments, saves and so forth, if it meant they were real numbers I was looking at. Because one day, I’ll look back and admire how much I’ve grown in my dream job. But if I continued in pods, those numbers wouldn’t be real, the comments were very sweet but not natural, and I wasn’t discovered. Seeing the same people comment on my photos every day made Instagram feel like a chore, something I don’t look forward to.
It may sound odd to some, but I guess I’ll stay seated in the under 1k club until I finally get my chance to shine. Slow and steady wins the race, right?