Instagram is one of the fastest growing social media platforms today. Along with Snapchat, it is the most popular social media platform among younger demographics, and it continues to be one of the most difficult platforms for many when it comes to growing their audience.

When social media managers don’t know how to create content that interests their target audience(s), they panic and try to find any way they can to show their marketing bosses that their social media strategy is working.

One of the new, lazy ways to build followings on Instagram is by forming Instagram “pods.”

What Are Instagram “Pods?”

Here’s a helpful description of Instagram pods from Rachel Thompson in an article on Mashable from earlier this year:

Pods are formed by creating group messages of around 10 to 20 users, usually bloggers, influencers and content creators, with the occasional business in there too. Users are expected to follow one another in the group. Once that’s done, they send over a photo they’ve just posted so that other pod members can like and comment on it.

The hope behind the pods is that the increased engagement from comments and likes on the posts will make them more likely to appear higher in their followers’ feeds. Since joining the pods, Rose gets around 120 likes for each picture she posts within the space of a few hours. She also gets around 40 comments per post. “Prior to this I was getting around 30-40 likes, 60 on a good day! And only 1 or 2 spam comments,” she says.

There are, of course, some ground rules, but these depend entirely on the nature of the pod. Some groups are strict and expect you to be a very active user, posting at least once a day and expecting you to like and comment posts soon after they’re posted. “For others it’s a bit more relaxed as long as you can catch-up before you post your own picture,” says Rose.

Basically, people and companies are using pods to game the algorithm in such a way that their content appears more popular than it actually is.

So, Should You Create or Join an Instagram Pod?

I’m not going to sit here and say that anyone who is part of an Instagram pod is unethical. But I will say that I don’t really see Instagram pods as any more commendable than buying Twitter followers or gaming the Facebook algorithm in some way.

The best, most effective way to grow your audience on a social media platform like Instagram is to use the platform effectively and provide content for you audience that they like and with which they want to engage.

Joining together with other Instagram users in a back-scratching like-for-like campaign like an Instagram “pod” seems like a lazy way to build a social media following to me, and it seems like it could backfire in a number of ways.

Chris Martin

Chris Martin is the Co-Creator and Chief Content Officer at LifeWay Social as well as a Content Strategist at LifeWay. He and his wife Susie live outside Nashville, TN.