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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Why we're abandoning pods to grow our following


You will all have heard about the horrible, not-so-recent changes to Instagram with its algorithm of doom. For many this has been disastrous for engagement and we have seen lots of you on Twitter talking about how your following growth rate has died and influencers have reported massive drops in likes and comments. The non-chronological feed is certainly a prime culprit, and there is little motivation to post and even keep up with new content when you cannot even be sure you will see your fave account’s most recent pics on your feed. It is so demoralising, and as Instagram is reluctant to revert to how things were we explored alternative methods of growing our following and improving engagement and joined some Pods.

We didn’t want to consider using bots or buying followers because not only is it unethical and costly, we want followers we can interact with and genuinely want to engage with our content so we joined a couple of pods. Pods are basically groups of bloggers that convene in a group chat and like and comment on each other’s content. This is great because you get a guaranteed response to pics but it is obviously not organic. This was my first niggle about using pods because as lovely as it is to have non-bot comments, they are contrived by very virtue of the fact that the person commenting has to comment on your pic because it is a two way process and they want comments back.
Pod usage is taking centre stage at the moment because of Instagram’s reported crack down; they are apparently banning users and deliberately hiding their content from feeds as a form of punishment for inorganic engagement. This is when a burst of engagement is happening from the same cluster of users around the same time that are all linked to a private group chat. There are ways around this such as being more discrete and not sharing posts directly to the group or taking the group off of Instagram and over to Whatsapp entirely. This isn’t a sure fire way to avoid detection and actually we have found that most pods don’t all react to new posts simultaneously, so there would be no pattern emerging in terms of the likes and comments even if Insta is actually bothering to delve into our group chats and see what we are posting. There is nothing even to indicate that these accounts wouldn’t be liking and commenting on each other’s content anyway because the themes tend to be fairly similar and we wouldn’t be following those accounts/ be members of the same pod if we didn’t genuinely rate the content. In fact, as only one of us monitors the pods and the other uses Instagram ‘normally’ we have found that our account has already liked/commented on the pictures not realising that it was a pod member’s content that we were obliged to interact with. This means that we can continue this way of 'organically' interacting, without being 'linked' to them in any way that Insta can see.
There are other drawbacks to pod usage because it makes it feel like a chore. We love Instagram and it is probably our favourite social media app; it is visual and it is easy to find and interact with some lovely content.  When you feel like you have to go on just to catch up on engaging with other pod member’s content it kind of takes the fun out of it and we wouldn’t want anyone to feel like that about our posts.
We have decided to say goodbye to pods (for now at least) because the possible ramifications far outweigh the rewards and we do not want to risk being banned or penalised for using them. We are however staying in contact through Whatsapp with our pod babes so we can keep chatting and supporting each other in other ways. 
If we are honest, our engagement actually improved drastically with the new algorithm and we were seeing upwards of 2k likes on some pics but that then took a massive dive around the same time we started joining pods and we have been seeing lower than pre-algorithm engagement, losing followers everyday but seeing more comments.This may be completely coincidental but we are so keen to grow, or at least maintain on Instagram that we do not want to take that risk. We have been introduced to some utterly lovely blogging gals through the pods and will continue to follow them and engage with their content organically but moving forward we are going to focus on making sure we are totally happy with our content and go back to basics with our Insta strategy.
We have really been making an effort with Instagram this year, and have probably neglected the blog a little because of it. We have seen our following increase by around 2,000 in less than six months and we have attributed this to our golden rules: 
  • Post quality content. It is better not to post at all if the quality of the content is not up to scratch. It is better to wait a day and post a pic you are proud of than to post any old shite for the sake of it.
  • Post regularly. I know this kind of contradicts the above statement but we literally haemorrhage followers if we don’t post for a couple of days so we try and post once, every single day. This can be something we struggle with but luckily there are two of us so we can pass the buck if we have forgotten to snap anything decent but we are contemplating bulk photo taking and scheduling to take the pressure off a bit.
  • Engage. Engage. Engage. Don’t be shy- it is so important to interact with your followers, in the comments as well as liking others’ content and following accounts that have great posts. In the post-algorithm era I really don’t think we can expect to see gains in followers if you are unwilling to ever follow anyone even if your content is bomb af. Tbh we are always kind of suspicious of accounts with 20k followers that only follow 200 accounts themselves. Funnily enough, these same accounts tend to be the ones that follow and unfollow a couple of hours later. 
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2 comments

  1. Nice sharing! Glad to read your post!

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  2. I hear you girls! This is a very valid post and kinda underpins how we felt about pods. You get to meet some awesome girls but you never want to feel that commenting/having others comment on your pics is a chore. The new algorithm SUCKS ASS but I just hope taking on tips and being genuine with our engagement helps kick it.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Leigh at Fashion Du Jour LDN x
    www.fashiondujour.co.uk

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