Pods, Shop Share Groups and Follow Trains: 3 More Ways to Boost Engagement

In our post on 3 (Unconventional) Ways to Boost Engagement, we introduced some of the most popular methods teenagers use in order to increase engagement to their accounts. None of the methods mentioned there were targeted–as long as these posts received more likes and comments, the account owners did not care who they were from. As these tactics are mainly used by meme accounts, whose main purpose is simply to go viral, it does not matter how they became viral or which audience they were becoming viral among.

This, however, does not apply to brands or to influencers with niche markets, both of which typically have a specific target audience they wish to reach. So today, we shall introduce 3 more methods to boost engagement and follower count that brands could potentially use in their social media marketing strategies.

Let us begin with something that may be familiar to some of you.

I. Pods

When Instagram first decided to sort posts algorithmically instead of reverse chronologically, many brands and influencers began to worry about how the algorithm would affect their reach and their engagement. Instagram pods were conceived of as a solution to game the algorithm.

What are pods?

Pods are essentially groups of Instagrammers who agree to like and/or comment on each others’ posts. The most common pods are formed via Instagram’s Direct Messaging function, where users will share their post to the pod via DM and the rest of the users in the group will like and/or comment, usually within a few minutes of the post’s appearance.

An Instagram pod hosted on a Facebook group by Alex Tooby.

It is important to note that there is some controversy surrounding pods. Some brands believe that they artificially boost the engagement rate of the influencer, making it difficult to gauge how much of the engagement is actually organic. On the other hand, being part of a pod (or two) may actually help an influencer increase their organic engagement rate, since a high level of engagement helps to put the post onto more feeds. A post with an increased engagement also stands a greater chance of appearing on like-minded users’ Explore pages, hence increasing engagement.

Things to Note

If you still want to join one anyway, make sure you take note of the following things:

  1. There are all sorts of pods with different rules out there. Some are comment-only pods, while others require you to like and comment within a specific period of time. Make sure you take note of what these rules are and whether you are able to abide by them.
  2. The larger the pod, the more likes and comments you will get for each of your posts. But this also means that you have more work to do, as each member of the pod will be expecting you to like and comment for them as they have done for you.

II. Shop Share Groups

Shop share groups are similar to pods in that make use of other Instagram accounts to boost engagement. However, engagement does not come in the form of likes or comments, as with a  shop share groups, as their names suggest, are more specific to brands or influencers who have a product to sell.

How does it work?

Join a shop share group and the leader will roster you for a day of the month. On that day, you will have to share with your group an image that you would like the rest of the members to post on their Instagram accounts, which they will do, with a mention back to your account. Thus each member of the account spends several days of the month promoting other members’ products and one day of the month having their product promoted.

@stitchesandmoor sharing pompoms made by user @tcwiboutique.

As mentioned above, shop share groups are only useful for those who have products to sell. Hence this method of increasing reach is probably most relevant for small-scale brands who wish to advertise their products without having to pay extra to do so.

@womanshopsworld sharing the tasseled bracelet by @glow.designs.

Things to Note

As with pods, each shop share group has their own rules and it is best if brands or influencers with things to sell take note of these rules before joining the group. For an example, some groups allow members to remove the post after a few hours while others request that members not post again within a few hours of posting the shop share post.

III. Follow Trains

These are sometimes also called gain tricks or gain parties. Given that follow trains are also used by teenagers running meme accounts, it may be a little bit more difficult to get the target audience you wish to reach through this method.

What is a follow train?

A follow train on Instagram typically begins with a post with a series of foolproof instructions either in the post itself or in the captions. The instructions usually go along these lines:

  1. Follow the account who posted the follow train as well as a number of other accounts
  2. Like the post
  3. Follow everyone else who likes the post
  4. Comment or put an emoji in the post
  5. Follow everyone who follows you

Hence, any user who gets onto the follow train gains users by manually adding them from a list of those who have liked the post or by following those who have followed them. Find a popular follow train, and you could have a thousand new followers that day in under a few hour’s work.

For brands and influencers, it is paramount that you find (or create) the right follow train in order to ensure that you are able to reach your target audience. As it is pointless for you to have a thousand new followers if these followers are not the least bit interested in what you do, join (or create) a follow train specific to your purposes.

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