Last month, I wrote an article called Hacking Instagram to Grow a Huge Following and Build Better Engagement with "Instagram Pods" that was received far better than I ever thought possible. I received hundreds of direct messages within the app of people asking about Instagram pods as well as wanting to join one. I apologize to those I have not yet gotten back with but rest assured, the hack seems to work and has sparked new life into my social media experience on the platform. Not only has it doubled my engagement, likes, and blown comments through the roof in comparison to a few months ago but its become a new found way to connect with new creatives from around the world.
To summarize, the idea behind Instagram pods has been around for a few years but didn't catch steam until late in 2016 when people began to build their own micro communities within messaging apps and direct messages in which when someone posts a new photo, the post it to these group chats.
Tricks and Tips to Creating a Pod
I had never done something like this before so there was a bit of a learning curve, but here is what I learned and best practices to keeping a solid pod going while engaging with those also willing to join me. To start, you need a messaging system communicate with the rest of your pod or group. I personally like Instagrams built in direct messaging, it's already built into the app and the groups aren't so big that I feel destroyed by replying to everyone's messages and posts. Each DM has a max of 15 people and to start a group chat you MUST have at least three people in the chat.
- Adding a naming convention to the group chats, more more than one group, to keep them organized
- Those you add must be engaged with the app already and post often, once a day or every few days at least
- People with larger followings have more clout but its not a must
- The more posts you and the group are willing to upload the better, more to engage with
- The longer the comment, the better. This builds higher on the algorithm
- Make groups based around not just comments but asking questions to drive more engagement
As seen above, this is within a DM and we began hard linking the posts so it was easier for people to see the most recent and know who was posting what faster. Some groups have used the simple, type an emoji and we will go to your feed and like the most recent but this form seems to work very well.
The example above shows the unique naming of each group that I am in so I can select the paper airplane icon on each of my posts after they go live, click that, then search "gram frands" and then type the emoji that I have correlated with each DM.
Community and Engagement
In the end the idea behind Instagram is still community. The way I have seen complete strangers come together in a group message or in person at meet ups through Instagram has blown me away. The same thing can be had with pods, these groups have become their own ecosystems of support and in a couple pods I have been able to make them more specific to asking for feedback on our work and growing on that energy. It's incredibly thrilling ot be a part of a larger group and be able to have that support system to keep creating while also engaging with each other.
I have found the key tips above will help in more engagement and higher quality likes or comments form the community. They are not a must, if you have between 1,000-5,000 followers which the majority of high user bases already have its a solid foundation and a good audience to build upon. If you can sneak in a few guys that have over 30,000 followers that's even better.
In the last 30 days I have seen my engagement overall double or more with likes, comments, and overall impressions. I am able to track all of this via the built in Instagram analytics tools which you can learn more about here. The stats below are what you can find within analytics and as you can see the before and after numbers for each photo.
In the end, what I am tracking here is total views per post and and when I expand this out to all my posts over the last year every post since beginning pods has been in the top nine ranking spots.
Let's Start A Pod
I am less than a few dozen messages away from zeroing out my inbox from requests from last month but am more than happy to take on more to build pods for photographers in the community. So hit me up on Instagram and send me a DM request that has more than two people in it, this is very important, as this wil allow you to add people after the first DM. Look forward to connecting!
Overall, the idea behind creating micro communities in the form of pods does indeed seem to build engagement for more likes, comments, and followers. Is it worth the investment? It depends on what you are after. If you find Instagram as powerful as a tool as I do and pull in a decent number of clients, collaborators, and marketing leads then hell yes. If you find that time being spent better somewhere else, that is great and totally up to you but for as many times a day as I have been asked "How do I grow a following on Instagram?" or "How can I get more likes on my photos?" Well, this is a very legitimate tactic to do those things with a fairly minimal amount of time. If you are on the fence and aren't sure, please feel free to hit me up in the comments below or directly on Instagram. Happy to help and chat more.