'Instagram Pods' Can Double Your Engagement and Spark New Life Into Your Social Experience

'Instagram Pods' Can Double Your Engagement and Spark New Life Into Your Social Experience

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. 

  1. Adding a naming convention to the group chats, more more than one group, to keep them organized
  2. Those you add must be engaged with the app already and post often, once a day or every few days at least
  3. People with larger followings have more clout but its not a must
  4. The more posts you and the group are willing to upload the better, more to engage with
  5. The longer the comment, the better. This builds higher on the algorithm 
  6. Make groups based around not just comments but asking questions to drive more engagement

Adding a min of 3 people to a DM will allow you to add more people later.

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. 

Average Impressions BEFORE Pods

Average Impressions AFTER Pods

My overall impressions on posts has hovered between 7,000-10,000 per post for quite a few months with a decline in followers. This decline in followers is based on spam accounts that will be deleted by Instagram over time of a feature I had a year ago but the average impressions is far higher in the recent month due to pods. I did not track the few days after posting my last article as it hit somewhere north of 220,000 impressions overall in a week due to the attention that got and a few other places picking up the post. 

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.

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Max Leitner's picture

Seems to be a thirsty try to get your engagement up after you realized that having been suggested added a bunch of never engaging followers... I will leave you to it. Good luck!

Andrew Griswold's picture

Haha! If that's how you want to take it. Cool! I'll tell you if you're fortunate enough to have a platform like Instagram and Fstoppers to teach and educate then I'm all for the process to help both sides my own and the community. Appreciate the feedback

Mark Tiu's picture

Definitely interested in trying this out too! I sent you a DM on Instagram. :) Thanks for the tip!

Hans Rosemond's picture

Hey, I'll bite! Message sent.

Jonathan Reid's picture

I can't stand all the games you have to play to make IG work for you. Making pods to hack it, follow and unfollow constantly, use cutesy language like a teenage girl, use emoticons rather than actual sentences that mean something. I feel like I'm too old to make it work.

If only there was a tool that rewarded solid content and real engagement.

Hunter Zieske's picture

Content is king

Jonathan Reid's picture

Not on Instagram - did you see the most viewed photo by Beyoncé?

You're missing the point of the app.

But just keep posting quality images with relevant hashtags, at appropriate times.

Jonathan Reid's picture

The point of the app? Is it to exhaust the iPhone emoticon keyboard?

My point was not to slam Instagram, it was to slam the childish games you have to play to make it work for you.

It's not an app for photographers, it's an app for photography. So it takes some effort to make your work stand out, regardless of how good your images are. And there's a lot more chaff than wheat.

Jonathan Reid's picture

When you say a bit more work, are you referring to comments like this:

"Epic stream, have a look at mine, you'll love it"

"Amazing capture!"


Jessica Jones's picture

In my personal experience I have found that you can use pods for good instead of evil. Starting a pod with content you truly enjoy, and rather than giving derivative comments you can actually give critiques and useful feedback. It has made the experience a wonderful one, and at the same time upped my engagement and followers. Win/win in my book!

Jonathan Reid's picture

But what you say is backing up my original point. Why should you have to resort to a 'hack' to make it an enjoyable experience?

Jessica Jones's picture

I don't think the terminology is important... while he may call it a hack, I call it a bonus to an already cool networking tool. Instagram, for most people, is used for networking, so why not go the extra mile? My film pod has helped me fix a weird bug in my scanner, convinced me to start home developing after my last straw with my lab, and I have taught a few how to bleach their FP100C negatives. It can be way more than a hack, but everything truly is what you make it.

Andrew Griswold's picture

Incredible story, that is great to hear you are having good luck with it. You get out what you put it and in this case you put in work to network and collaborate with other creatives with like minded interets

I'm active and willing to be in a many pods as I'm invited to. Add me, derose05!

Mikkel Beiter's picture

Feel free to invite me (Mbeiter) to your Pod. As you can see on some of the photos in the article I've been a part of Andrews PODs - and it works. I havnt achieved the same engagement increase yet, but I'm quite sure the numbers will increase with the number of PODs that you are a member of and with active contributers.

Hit me up on IG with a DM - @Mbeiter

Jon Roberts's picture

I'm up for starting a UK/European pod, just so we're all on similar time zones, worth a try ... DM me @jonrobertsphotography if you want to join

Jon Roberts's picture

EU POD is up and running - DM for an invite! ALso open to non EU but similar timezones

Jessica Jones's picture

I have had success since starting a pod, and am willing to start more if anyone is interested. I don't have many followers but that's ok! I am a film only shooter, so I tend to follow more folks that are experimental and that like to travel or be outdoors. My instagram handle is @yessyones.

I'm down to give this a whirl! Always up to meet new photographers via SoMe. I'm @brianmatiash on IG (and every other channel). 🤘🏼

Andrew Griswold's picture

That's awesome. Shoot me a DM

For sure. Sent you a DM last night. Digging your IG stories, dude! Feel free to add me to as many pods as you're up for. Let's do this!

Andrew Griswold's picture

Couldn't agree more Jessica. Thanks for sharing

Anonymous's picture

No longer interested in PODs.

Mark Tiu's picture

Tried this and formed a POD with a new network today. So far so good I think. I'm interested to see how many more I end up starting/joining to network :) Thanks for the tip Andrew!

Edit: for anyone looking for more members in their POD, my handle's @marktiuphotography

Ken Schmidt's picture

I have added everyone here who has listed their handle. I am still generally new to IG and building a more followers. Would welcome joining a pod or few. @oreadstudios

Jonathan Pearce's picture

I'm down to join any pod 😀 just add me. @jonny_pearce I'm mainly an automotive photographer

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