Just as many Instagrammers were celebrating the closure of Instagress, a new ‘fad’ was quietly taking its place. It was a transition from ‘Bots’ to ‘Pods’. You would have definitely heard of the term ‘pods’, right? And nope, we are not referring to an adorable ‘school of dolphins’ on Instagram.
‘Pods’ are a group of Instagrammers who follow each other and constantly like or comment on members’ post to boost engagement. Instagram pods essentially consist of members who manually do what bots did; boost engagement. The key difference being these are real comments from real profiles who have real followers.
So currently in the world of Instagram, on one hand, there are Bots and on another there are Pods. Both seem to promise higher engagement through likes and comments. One is a simple AI while the other is a group of Instagrammers. So which is THE better way to building a credible profile? Let’s find out!
Round 1: Bots are fake vs Pods are ‘real’
Bots crawl Instagram accounts based on hashtags or profile names and leave automated comments and likes that have been pre-set. The hope is by engaging with a larger number of people, these profiles would eventually ‘follow-back’. The obvious problem is that these bots give rise to inorganic engagement. There is little value in the resulting engagement of a bot. The comments were preset and it is an automated response to a prescribed set of conditions. I would most certainly cherish one real comment from one real person as compared to 10 preset comments from 10 different bots. How about you?
Instagram pods, on the other hand, have strict guidelines when it comes to membership and engagement. Some pods are invite-only, for others you might need to have a certain number of followers or be posting about a similar genre e.g. fashion or sports. These pods usually consist of 15 to 20 members and there is an understanding that once a member post, he/she will inform the group via the chat and rest of the group would either like, or leave a relevant comment by the end of the day. This system of ‘support’ seeks to increase the reach and engagement of the post.
Round 1: Draw!
Sure, you might think that pods are better than bots as they are real users leaving genuine comments. I would claim it to be the lesser of two evils. It is hard to avoid the fact that like bots, the members of such pods are ‘required’ to ‘like’ or comment on posts. There is the lack of free will. These accounts are essentially engaging with posts for the sake of engaging and not because they might truly appreciate them. Hence in the long run (similar to using bots), these profiles might jeopardize their reputation amongst their followers.
While some pods might combat this issue by curating content or setting specific requirements for posts, it still raises the issue that the engagement is not entirely 100% organic. It is an artificial support system set to work around Instagram’s algorithm that favors posts with higher engagement against chronology. While Pods are not Bots, they certainly aren’t 100% organic either. In terms of authenticity, I personally believe it’s a draw.
Round 2: Bot’s comments vs Pod’s comments
What if we just look at the quality of engagement. Bots today can be sophisticated. Some of them are farmed and nurtured daily to include genuine followers. They actively engage with posts on Instagram and even ‘posts’ images daily. As great as the advancement of bots are, I believe it is still hard to fake relevant comments. That is why most bot comments are “Awww!”, “Cute!” or a parade of emoticons “? ? ? ? ? ? “. Bots are unable to sense context. To work around this problem, most users of automated services would pre-set generic comments. After all, it’s hard to go wrong with one worded comments. P.s (If you find your posts are getting a lot of one worded comments, chances are they are mostly bots!)
As mentioned, Pods do come with some community rules. Some of them are strict guidelines on how to engage with posts. For example, it is usually recommended that comments be more than 4 words and relevant to the post. They should not be copy-paste and Pods even encourage members to tag followers or the author for a more personal touch. These guidelines serve as a reminder that Pods are striving to promote quality engagement. They certainly deserve an ‘A’ for that effort.
Round 2: Pods!
Sure, I will admit that community guidelines of Pods will result in more relevant engagement. Your posts might even gain greater exposure but it does still raise the issue that the engagement is ‘forced’ or ‘expected’. There is the slight benefit that the comments are from real accounts with real followers who might be interested in your posts. In this case, I guess Pods does have the advantage over Bots. Pods win,
Round 3: Beating the Algorithm
This one is obvious. The closure of Instagress does point out that bots are losing the battle against Instagram’s algorithm. It is not their fault though. With current limitations, bots can only work a certain way and Instagram’s algorithm is set to highlight these behaviors and eventually block these accounts.
Pods on the other hand, leave relevant comments and likes that increase the engagement for the post and that post eventually receives greater exposure. Not to mention these are genuine profiles! It seems for now; Instagram Pods are beating the algorithm. If Instagram’s algorithm wants to give priority to more popular posts, Instagrammers will follow suit and support each other to boost their posts’ engagement. Can’t really blame them for trying!
Round 3: Pods!
Pods are winning again. As of today, Pods does seem to make some difference. Compared to the fake engagement of bots or automated services, Pods is definitely a better alternative.
If it is a battle between Bots and Pods, Pods are clearly winning. The key reason being Pods are formed through the cooperation of like-minded individuals who are equally active on Instagram and they leave relevant comments and likes for each other. This mutual support increases engagement and provides increased exposure that would otherwise be difficult to attain by oneself. In the simplest of terms, Pods exemplify the notion: “You scratch my back. I scratch yours.”
However, it does not mean that Pods are the answer to building a credible account. Pods are at best a temporary measure. It is a quick fix and nothing more. Comments and likes are required of members. This means the resulting engagement are not really genuine either.
The best way to build a strong profile is to go “old-school”. Create quality content, study the resulting engagement (perhaps consider the use of analytics for better insight) and continue tweaking your content till you find what works for you.
Nothing can beat the engagement of quality content or the innate joy of a genuine comment. Bots are on their way out, Pods might be here for now but your followers here to stay. There is no shortcut around quality engaging content.