We’ve all been there! Admiring those Instagram moms with the beautifully stylized photos and tens of thousands of followers. How on EARTH did they do it?
And then there’s the others that REALLY make you scratch your head! Product placements galore, grainy cell phone photos, questionable captions, and… 50 thousand followers? Seriously, how?!
My first month on Instagram was incredible! I posted twice a day, I wasn’t concerned about how high or low quality my photos were, and somehow I went from zero to 1,000 followers in 28 days! But then month 2 and 3 slowed down, I only had around 2,000 followers at the point that I started to notice things really plateau. People followed only to unfollow and all sorts of other silly games! I was so frustrated.
And then, there it was! I was invited to be part of my first Engagement Group. I had no idea what these were when I got the DM and if you’re anything like me, the word Pod now makes you cringe!
And so, after hours of time spent in these exclusive hush hush private groups, I want to share every little detail you might be wondering about them and how Instagram Influencers use them to inflate their statistics.
What is an Engagement Group/Pod?
An Engagement Group (or Pod, as it’s also known) is a forum where Influencers gather to share their latest content and send posts to one another in different daily threads. Reciprocation comes in either the form of likes or likes and comments.
For every link shared, a member MUST reciprocate on ALL other links shared in that thread and if you do not complete this by a certain time (normally stated in the group’s or that specific threads rules), you risk being removed from the group.
Why Do Influencers Participate in Pods?
Influencers participate in pods to generate engagement (hence the interchangeable term, engagement group).
These days, if you want to work with big brands, you must have a certain level of engagement (usually around 3.0%) on your posts to even be considered (this is calculated by adding likes and comments divided by your total number of followers).
Do Engagement Groups Have Rules?
Yes. Every group is different though but in general, users must normally adhere to something like the following:
- Follow All Admins
- One Link per Account per Day
- Number your Post
- Write your Handle
- Post your Link
- Reciprocation Must be Completed within 24 hours
- Do Not Participate in a New Thread Until You Have Completed Your Last One
- Write “Done” under your comment once you have completed the thread
How Often Do You Need to Participate?
It depends on the group. Some have thousands of members and daily participation is not required. Other smaller groups will require that you interact on EVERY SINGLE POST or you will risk being removed.
Where Do I Find Engagements Groups?
Engagement groups exist in Facebook, Telegram, WhatsApp, and even through Direct Messages on Instagram. You can easily find a list of engagement groups through a quick search on Pinterest or Google.
How Long Do Engagement Groups Take?
In my experience, hours!
If you want to get decent numbers (35-80 comments per post), expect to post a photo on Instagram and then spend about an hour of your time posting to various groups for exposure. Then, you should also budget another hour or two for reciprocation! Imagine that it takes about one minute to like each photo and two or more minutes to read and comment on other users’ photos.
Oh, and if you’re a member of Facebook Engagement groups, be sure to go back and check that your link “stuck“. I had this experience far too many times; I would post a link to an engagement group only to come back, an hour or two later and discover that after commenting and liking everyone else’s photos, my link was now deleted!
This is not the moderators picking on you, this is Facebook detecting your link as spam. Despite adding text before and after my link though, this just continued to happen and added hours or extra time that I just don’t have to my “engagement time”.
Are Engagement Groups Worth It?
In short, NO.
After months of participation and frustration with Facebook and the Telegram app, I have finally had enough! Where as I found so much more success in genuinely engaging with my followers and other similar accounts through Instagram, Engagement Groups have actually killed my love for this incredible app.
Instead of spending time doing what you love, you end up wasting more of it to be part of the in crowd rather than actually taking the time to chat with those who are genuinely interested in you! There is only so much time in a day and it is incredibly precious!
Plus, a lot of the comments you receive in return is just crappy! I don’t have another word for it! For example: “I love this capture”, “You look really beautiful”, “She is so cute”. Catch my drift?
Ever since joining my first Engagement Group, I came to find posting to Instagram far too stressful (hence the reason I went from posting twice a day to once a week). It’s an event and shouldn’t have to be!
Taking photos takes time. Clean editing of those photos takes time. Writing captions takes time! And now throw in 3 to 4+ hours of engagement groups? No, thank you!
When I joined my first Facebook Engagement Group, it actually really bothered me that following other accounts was mandatory (on top of that, admins come and go and you are actually expected to keep up with this or again, risk losing your spot in the group)!
In addition to this though, moderators are also exempt from reciprocating in threads as their “moderating” takes time (checking to make sure that everyone has liked/commented on others in the thread – in my experience though, most groups are not very well moderated and not everyone plays fair).
In my opinion, no one should be forced to follow anyone that they are not truly interested in and I personally found this method creates a hierarchy environment and in turn, some cattiness.
I understand that moderating, if done correctly, takes time but I prefer the smaller social group method whereby everyone follows and supports one another instead of holding “lessers” hostage.
And then there’s Telegram, ugh! Rules on this app are a bit different. You must either catch up on the last, for example, 10 posts or 24 hours AND if you miss a post, you will receive a warn even if it is not your fault!
I personally found this app super glitchy and as much as the moderators stress that you must sign in and out every single time you use the app, it never worked for me. For some reason, I still faced “time gaps” whereby the app simply didn’t show me any posts that were sent during certain durations of time when my computer was not running.
Again, I understand that rules need to be enforced to make sure that everyone plays fair but sometimes, and often when we need it to be, technology is simply not reliable.
Instead of “babes supporting babes”, Engagement Groups are more of an “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” kind of situation. Very rarely, if at all, do you actually connect with anyone who is truly interested in what you are offering.
At the end of the day, the real game changer for me was realizing how much of my day these pods were taking and how much quality time I was losing with my family. My little girl needs me and real followers are far more valuable than fake ones ever could be.
Check out this awesome article on AgoraPulse for an even more in depth review as to why “Instagram Pods are a Waste of Time“! I love their use of the Scientific Method for real results! #sciencenerd
Epilogue: Instead of being the victim of dozens of massive pods (it’s addictive in the beginning, trust me!), I stayed in one small group that I like to call my “squad”.
The girls here are genuinely interested in one another and take the time to leave decent feedback, not bogus “my time is more valuable than yours” comments!
Another tip that’s drastically improved my engagement rate since the aftermath of ditching pods is to comment on recent posts for various hashtags as well as those displayed in my feed!
While not everyone will comment back, some do! And these are the ones you should “turn post notifications on” for; each time your girl posts, you’ll be one of the first to know, so comment right away because chances are, she’ll reciprocate… each and every time!
An amazing way to build friendships on Instagram and support your fellow blogger or influencer.
What strategies do you use to boost engagement? Have you found your Instagram squad? Drop me a line in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you and how you do social media!