A little something different today.. not so much a recipe, as a few thoughts on the nitty gritty of blogging/social media. Specifically, why I participated in, then quit Instagram pods.
Never fear, we’ll return to the food first thing next week. I don’t do this much, so here goes nothing!
At the outset, let me say that I know many people might disagree with my take on this – and that’s OK!
A few months ago, I made a pretty significant shift in how I approach Instagram. Given that I see a lot of questions, debate, and angst about the best way to use the platform as a blogger or aspiring social media influencer, I thought I would capture my experience and thinking here.
Truth in advertising: I am BY NO MEANS an Instagram success or sensation. My following is still quite small, I feel like a total klutz when using Stories, and I’ve yet to crack the code on curating that perfect feed that is personal, professional, natural, and cohesive all at once. That said, I know I’ve really enjoyed and benefited from reading how others at my own level or with more experience approach the platform, so just maybe this will be of use to someone else out there, too.
How It Began
Sometime last year, I was invited to join my first Instagram pod. If you are a blogger or influencer, you’re probably familiar with the concept. Pods are small groups of about a dozen users, usually operating in the same niche, who agree to like and/or comment on each others’ posts. The point of this is to increase engagement and attempt to show Instagram’s algorithm that the content is valuable and therefore should be shared with more people. I had just gotten started and really wanted to grow my Instagram account, so of course I did a happy dance and jumped at the opportunity.
Fast forward a few months. I was really liking the pod. Fast forward another few months. As I continued to network with other food bloggers and accounts, I was invited to join another, then another.
Eventually I was participating in FIVE separate Instagram pods. Each had its own rhythm and dynamic, but all were active and demanding. I kept up with this volume of pod activity for months, posting as often as I could, and always religiously liking and commenting on other members’ content before soliciting the same in return, which is basic pod etiquette.
Where Are Your Real Priorities?
Fast forward again (last one, I promise). A few months ago, it began to dawn on me that I might want to alter my strategy. I think this began to surface one evening as I sat down to evaluate my to do list. (I have a day job and a preschooler, which means nearly all of my blogging and social media work needs to happen at night.. sometimes very late at night!)
I was way behind on editing photos and writing recipes for blog posts, but also behind in my pods – and I felt absolutely obliged to catch up in the pods first. Moreover, I knew I probably only had so much energy before I crashed for the night, so I most likely wouldn’t get to both projects.
It hit me: Instagram had begun to feel like a CHORE.I enjoyed engaging with each post and person individually, but with all the pods put together, it felt less like a source of inspiration, and more like a big long to-do list each time I opened the app. But even then, I kept up. What really pushed me to reevaluate was the slow but clear realization that participating in all these pods was not helping me grow.
Bottom line: I was using all my time on the platform to like/comment on the same people’s content, over and over again. This left me with very little time and energy to even create and be thoughtful about my own content, let alone explore and connect with new accounts in a genuine fashion.
Secondarily, not every member of every pod was truly in my niche, and so at times I was stretching to comment on content that was not a natural fit. I had no problem whatsoever supporting these people, but I believe this also diluted the clarity of my niche and personal interests for Instagram, and further to the main point above, took time and energy away from other types of engagement more likely to have a higher return-on-investment.
What Really Drives Growth
As I grew and learned more about Instagram, it became clear that it’s those things – high-quality content creation, and genuine outreach from me to others – that are needed to build an authentic, engaged audience. Which, it should go without saying, is the kind of audience I want to have, regardless of its size.
So, if I had time to do those things and participate in a bunch of pods, sure, the pod activity might not hurt, per se. But content creation and forging new relationships would need to be the priority. Instead, with the sense of obligation inherent to pods, these priorities were completely and unhealthily reversed in the way I spent time day-to-day.
But What About the Relationships!?
This is not to say that leaving the pods was an easy decision. I wrestled with it for a bit even after fully appreciating the points above.
The main thing that made me hesitate to quit Instagram pods was the personal connections I had cultivated with other group members. At their best, this is what pods achieve — a sense of community that goes far beyond simply double-tapping on every post.
Most groups I participated in had a really great sense of mutual support. Members encouraged and celebrated each others’ wins on and off Instagram. I knew I would miss that, and I do.
But, you can keep the personal tie without the pod. I did not unfollow anyone. I’m still in touch with many former pod-mates one-on-one. I always make a point to like/comment on former pod-mates’ material when it pops up in my regular Instagram feed. On the plus side, our collaboration is now even more natural and personal, which is nice. Other pod-mates, whose niche didn’t as closely match my own, now naturally appear less often in my feed, as I’m sure my posts do in theirs, and that’s OK!
Bottom Line: Own Your Goals, Own Your Strategy
At the end of the day, you have to own your own account and strategy. I believe that if you intend to approach blogging, Instagram, or any other social media like a business, you must be prepared to make brass-tacks decisions about allocating your resources – most precious among them, time and energy.
So what happened!? Well, I left all but the original pod, and no bottom fell out. My engagement is actually about the same, as is my approximate rate of follower growth. As I mentioned, I’m still in touch with many other erstwhile pod-mates. And, I really feel I am reaping the benefits of my new approach:
- More time devoted to crafting quality posts of my own.
- More time to simply browse my own feed and support others who I follow, as well as to explore the app, find new sources of inspiration, and engage with a broader range of content. This is both fun and good for getting new eyes on my own account!
- Most importantly, the masking effect is now gone. When a large-ish volume of people are obliged to engage with your posts, it can be difficult to tell what people are actually responding to. It’s now much easier for me to deduce what is working and what my audience finds valuable.
So, there’s the backstory to why I quit Instagram pods. Can you relate? Do you completely disagree? Let me know in the comments below! Or, you know, on Instagram! 🙂
And, if you can let me in on the secret to feeling less awkward in Stories, let me know, K?