Instagram Influencers are Crowdsourcing Higher Engagement via Pod Strategy.

The tactic isn’t exactly “cheating” though.

@natepoekert
Aug 12, 2019 · 3 min read

The below is a screengrab of an IG message from an influencer that was sent to a friend of mine.

I found this to be fascinating for several reasons:

For one, it’s actually an incredibly savvy way to battle the algorithms that most social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn) use to “decide” what shows up in your feed or not — I will detail this out more so below.

On the other hand, and at it’s core, this “Pod” system is creating fake engagement which is incredibly important for marketers and advertisers to understand and watch out for.

HOW IT WORKS.

An influencer will reach out to you and ask you to join their pod. If you agree then the admins will then add you to an IG group to be a part of their POD. After that, here’s how it works:

  1. Follow every member of the pod / group chat.
  2. When you post a photo, you’ll then share it to the pod / group chat. Everyone in the group chat is then expected to engage with it.
  3. Like and comment (at least four words) on each post.
  4. Save each post that a pod member posts (this is important).

WHY ARE INFLUENCERS DOING THIS?

Besides the affirmation and validation, there’s a very strategic and sensical reason for doing this:

  1. Posts that have high engagement via likes and comments are “pushed’ to the top of feeds in FB/IG’s algorithm. This creates more opportunity for organic engagement.
  2. Marketers are often drawn to influencers (specifically micro-influencers) who don’t have huge followings but seemingly have large engagement.
  3. Likes can be faked. Real and contextual comments can’t be faked.
  4. Marketers often ask for “saves” and “shares” stats in influencer agreements as they want to see how many people are truly interested in what is being promoted.

WHAT ARE SOME WAYS TO SPOT THIS?

  1. Influencers who have way above average post engagement vs. the number of followers they have. For example, my friend Patrick Janelle, (@aguynamedpatrick) has about 432,000 followers on IG. He averages around 3,200 likes on a post and 50 or so comments which gives him a solid engagement rate for an influencer at his level . That said, if an influencer has only ~10,000 followers, gets around 400 likes but also gets 25+ comments, that’s SUPER HIGH engagement and should be questioned.
  2. Posts on an influencer’s feed that frequently have the same people commenting over and over again. This is the easiest way to suspect someone belongs to a “pod”.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR MARKETERS?

TBH, not much. It’s very hard to delineate the difference between true engagement and a pod strategy. As I said above, this is an incredibly savvy and, in several ways, genius approach to both solving for the algorithmic aspects of IG that influencers hate and also creating what appears to be legitimate and impressive engagement numbers.

If anything, influencers using a pod strategy to get your sponsored content to the top of their follower’s feed actually helps you out in the long run as it will get more organic traction. So while the method to doing this feels a little like buying bot likes and comments, it’s not necessarily something I’m overtly criticizing.

Thoughts or comments? Hit them my way @natepoekert on twitter or find me on LinkedIn and shoot me a message.

@natepoekert

Written by

Global Communications Director — BMW Group, MINI Innovation & Brand Strategy. Former Ad Agency Creative Director. Brand Consultant. Retired Photographer.

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