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Hacking Instagram to Grow a Huge Following and Build Better Engagement with 'Instagram Pods'

Hacking Instagram to Grow a Huge Following and Build Better Engagement with 'Instagram Pods'

Towards the last half of 2016 many people, especially photographers, began to write off Instagram as a lost cause. So much frustration over lost engagement and dropped followers lead many to leave the platform or simply lose interest in posting more. The algorithm that began with a Facebook style feed that did away with chronological order and brought you "what you wanted to see" was the main cause for all of this. Though, with that comes new techniques to grow a following and hack the system if you will; enter "Instagram pods."

Pods are not a new idea and may sounds a bit silly at first, but overall they are what have built some of the biggest Instagram followings in the world and spawned a new era of collaboration. The idea is gathering a group of friends with similar mindsets and posting times that can notify each other when they have a recent post, that then sparks them all to go like and comment on said photo or video. In turn this builds more comments and likes from heavy users to push more people to see your posts in the feed. Sound simple? Here are a few tricks to get you started and begin a pod of your own. 

To preface, I had never really paid close attention to numbers and analytics until I began freelancing as a photographer and designer. That is when I looked into building goals and yearly milestones to make sure I was always bettering my craft and knowing it was going in the right direction. At no point should follower counts and likes make a difference in how you approach your career but in todays age its difficult to compete in this very competitive field without using that as a measurement of success or clout. In the end, I am finding pods to be a great way to collaborate and communicate with some of the best photographers around the world. 

Find Friends to Collaborate With You

Finding the right people is key to gaining a bigger bang for you buck with pods. The more like-minded creatives you add to your group of friends, the better the outcome. Personally, I found friends that posted as much as I did and had similar followings but any number helps as the more that see and engage with your work the better. 

Instagram direct messages seems to be the easiest solution to reaching out to each of these people and keeping a group like this active. Right now I am active in a couple pods to test out what this might do for my numbers, so far its been outstanding. Direct messages has a max of 15 users on Instagram so filling that out to the max can be a goal but it come down to who you add as well. Everyone must be in agreement that when a notification comes in for their new post you go through and like and comment on those posts. 

Tracking the Analytics of Pods

I have written about how to see the full analytic tools for Instagram for absolutely no cost at all here, but without turning that on I am able to see more likes and comments than before without going too deep into those. I am averaging 30+ comments per image and doubled my average engagement from last week. 

If you want to see your average likes per photo you can use tools like Iconosquare which has a free trial that allows you to see basic information. You can also add up likes for your last 15 posts and divide by 15 to come up with a rouge average. Its not a perfect science or a super in depth but its will be enough to gage an idea of how well the trick is working. 

Find Me on Instagram, Let's Start A Pod

For the last five years on Instagram I have followed the same 400-500 people and always fail to find new and incredibly talent people from around the world, one of the original draws I had to Instagram in the early years. So lets connect and start our own pod! You can follow me here, or click any of the photos in this article above and send me a direct message to begin a pod. Whether you have 200 followers or 50,000, it doesn't matter, I would love to connect on Instagram. 


Andrew Griswold's picture

Andrew Griswold is a photographer and designer based in Indianapolis. Born and raised in Indy he has made a name for himself by staying very active in the creative community in both photography and design. He has also founded a community of photographers via Instagram connecting them with brands to work with and shoot locally.

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For having 67k followers you have a very low engament rate. It always intrigue me when a see this accounts with great work, a lot of followers but very few likes. Anyway you can find me here https://www.instagram.com/arq.ba/

I've been interested in this for a little while now. please find me on IG @joshakatz

I am testing it out. I have a backlot of DM's right now in the request folder that I am meaning to get to and I bet you in there. If not, shoot me a DM today!

Interesting article! @danielsnare is my instagram account, would appreciate a folllow :)

Right on man, hit me up on IG with a DM and make it a group chat to start a pod

Just followed you Daniel. Looks like we share the same home town.

Posting an article on Fstoppers is probably a good way to boost your followers too!

Yes, yes it is.

I have been interested in this as well. Nice article and I will make sure to send you a message. I am at @bartaphoto and @cityagram

Right on, hit me a DM on IG with you and another person to start a pod.

No longer interested in PODs.

This sounds relevant since I'm jumping back in doing portraits and plan to work on my social media game. My IG is: @frattlephotography

I would be interested in trying this out. My instagram is https://www.instagram.com/richthul

This is a great ideal. @brad_aulsebrook is my IG. Ill send you a DM. I will also follow the rest on here that reply.

I probably have a different style than most of you amazing button clickers, but I am always intrigued by peoples work and would like to try this out and be involved. www.instagram.com/prosser_photography

Nice work! just followed you.

This is a very interesting tactic, and a great way to meet a lot of like-minded individuals. I will be following and messaging :) Also, if anyone would like to be in a pod.. feel free to follow & message me @yessyones

Interesting. Not sure how it works when you live in Isolationville, West Australia (aka Perth) Been following you for a while though lol

I've been stuck with the same amount of followers for a long time. Would be interested in being part of a pod to see if it changes anything. www.instagram.com/dustincantrellphotography

thanks andrew for posting this article!

Great article! Just started fresh with my travel portfolio from Tea Horse Road, would love to build an active audience!

This sounds like a great way to boost engagement! I'll DM you. I'm at @s12photography

Sounds good to me. I'm interested. @captureitwithlem

So far the pod has been great. I would be interested in a more specialized pod that includes only portrait photographers. If anyone is interested in that please find me on IG @joshakatz

I've just seen mention of "pods" a couple weeks ago and am certainly curious about them. @refrainphoto

I'll follow all of you commenting on this for a follow back as well. Thanks @jlishamer

This is new to me. Sounds amazing! Would appreciate a follow @05.19.95

Great read and I will give you a follow and DM. I've been interesting in something like this too. I'd love to connect and get a couple pods started with people. Everyone find me on IG: @ckennedyjr I gave most people in the comments a follow.

I'm down for working this for engagement. :) look me up @griegelphoto

I would love to start one of these. Anyone else down? Find me on IG @ jhipphotos, shoot me a DM. :)

I'd love to join if your invitation is open to amateur photographers with small following. I'm in a couple of travel pods, and it's been working really well. It increases engagement, but also you get to know the people in your pod a bit and the whole IG game becomes a bit more human and interesting:) it works best if the people are in similar timezones - as the faster people like/comment on the things you post, the higher percentage of your followers see it on their feeds (just like Facebook...). Here's my IG @auste.t and my timezone is UTC+7

Sounds like a good idea. Any swimwear/portrait photographers out there want to start one?

Great idea, indeeed. Started following you just now, good Sir. Hope to find more fellow photographers around the world. #madcappiktures

This seems like an interesting idea. If anyone wants to start doing this let me know and I'll help out. https://www.instagram.com/jamesdixson/

It looks like the author is backed up in requests, but I am a film photographer and have a small pod going that isn't filled up. There are digital photographers in it as well.. you are welcome to join or start with me a new one if you'd like! Can never have too many pods :) @yessyones

Great post Andrew! I have been involved with several Pods and have gotten mixed results. Always worth trying or you won't get anywhere fast. Would love to join another one. My feed is @bryanyork4 Let me know if your inbox is full to or can try DM.

Best Regards!

I'd love to see people put a ton of effort into this "hacking" and then have IG modify their algorithms to nullify all that work. And if they haven't already, snag those idiots who buy followers and just deactivate their accounts.

This is an interesting option, not sure how effective it would be. But if someone wants to give a try shoot me a Dm @escape_the_paradigm

This is a great piece. And I am very interested in how it works.
However I’m also interested in the psychology behind the need to grow your personal audience.

Say you have 1 million followers, with 10,000+ likes and 5,000 comments per post? Is this an ego popularity contest? Is it, ‘My account is bigger and better than yours?’ or are we ALL looking to be sponsored and make money from advertising? Or even brought by a bigger company?

Can you charge more if you have 1 million followers on Instagram for your weekend photography job? Because you are so popular? Is it the need to be loved and told that your images are beautiful, creative and forward thinking? If your photography is good enough then is there a need to chase growth? And if you do get more ‘popular’ on Instagram what does that actually do to your off line world?


If anyone wants to join a pod, DM me @dreamvisually. My account is a feature account, but im likeing and commentinc on everyone in my pods!

Gonna check you up and follow, @photography_by_amin

I'm up for this Pod adventure, feel free to DM me on @mbeiter
If you are looking for a landscape Pod, DM as well. I'll start a new if anyone is interested.

Now THAT sounds like fun...!
I'm definitely up for it 👍🏼 I'm into Beauty, Fashion and visual creative content 📸✔💯
Connect with me on IG on @loudenim or https://www.instagram.com/loudenim

Just found this article and would love to be apart of any pods. I will follow back as well and be happy to comment and like any photos. Just DM me if anyone is interested. www.instagram.com/joshuarwinters

Nice article. Would love to join your pod. Thanks! @adjieandro

Sounds fun. Please check my IG out! https://www.instagram.com/jboyerphotos/
Landscape, Travel, Street, Portraits & Events. Fuji Mirrorless shooter

I have a ton of new fashion week content to add, so ill jump in this pot. Add me @edo_photo :) :)

I'm down to see how this experiment works. Add me if you'd like - @andrewhwaters

I'd be interested in joining a portrait pod if you guys are looking for more people: @marktiuphotography

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