18 February 2017

Are Comment Pods Really Cheating?

Before we begin can we just take a step back because woah I am uploading a blog post twice in one week! This literally never happens even though I wish it did, but juggling a uni course, part time retail job and a blog whilst some how trying to find time to write scripts and relax means that's unfortunately not possible. Oh well I feel like a profesh blogger right now and I'm going with it!

The reason I felt so strongly to update my blog today is because of a post I read couple of days ago about the sudden rise in Instagram comment pods and how they are faking engagement. This stopped me in my tracks because I never viewed it this way. I then saw some other bloggers talking about their dislike for them on twitter yesterday which really got me thinking and it's been playing on my mind ever since. 

What even are comment pods? 

In case you don't know what comment pods are I'll give you a quick briefing. Comment pods are basically Instagram group chats with about 10-15 other people (usually bloggers) where you can share your latest picture. The members of the group will then like and comment on the picture. You then do the same for them when they upload something. I first discovered them through the Instagram posse Facebook page last summer and they have become more and more popular since then. They originally started off as something you had to do through this group. You would fill in an application form and the admins would group you with other people in a similar niche. However recently groups of people have been creating their own pods and now it seems almost every blogger is doing it. 

The main point being brought up against them is that the engagement you are receiving is organised and fake and you are therefore tricking brands who see your Instagram account into thinking you are more influential than you really are. If this was a couple of years ago and Instagram was what it used to be like then maybe I would agree but in reality it's just not as simple as this anymore. 

The scary, evil Algorithm.

I'm not going to pretend to be an expert at the Instagram algorithm because I'm really not but one thing I know is that Instagram are making it harder and harder for smaller accounts to be seen and to grow. That's why relevant hashtags are important but honestly it's not enough. Remember the outcry last year when they revealed they were changing the order you see your timeline in? It's basically that. No longer do you see pictures in chronological order but instead in order of popularity. So for example, if you post a picture and it gets 20 likes and 5 comments in the first 5 minutes, it's more likely that your photo is going to get seen by more people and in the long run get more likes and comments than someone who gets 10 likes and 0 comments in the same time frame. The more likes you get, the more chance there is of your posts actually being seen by your followers. So can you really blame people for using the pods? 

Here's another thing people don't seem to get - not all of the engagement is coming from the pods! In most pods there are only about 5-10 active users. So this means 5-10 extra likes/comments on your post. Not quite the "thousands of boring and repetitive comments" some people on twitter were claiming the pods create. The idea of the pods is to help you to gain real engagement, not just to get "fake" engagement. If all the engagement was from a bot or a pod member then yes it would be fake but that's not what really happens. 

Brands play a big part

A lot of the negativity towards comment pods is focused on how using them is basically lying to brands. But I think that brands actually have a lot to answer for. Maybe if they cared more about our content and what we had to say rather than the number of Instagram followers we had then maybe people wouldn't feel so inclined to use comment pods to help them grow their accounts. In fact, the whole of the internet and social media would be a much more enjoyable place if brands (and everyone else) rated quality over quantity. 

Pods create a community

Another argument raised was that the comments being received on the photos were repetitive, boring and unrelated to the subject whist the people who are commenting wouldn't even care about the photo if they weren't in the pod. Whilst this may be the case with some pods, it definitely doesn't have to be and isn't with the two I am in. 

It's really important to make sure you are in a group with people who have similar interests and style to you because then the comments you send and receive are actually genuine and it's more enjoyable. That's why many groups of friends and bloggers are making their own pods together, so they never miss each other's posts and can help each other. It's really no different to when my group of friends from college would ask each other to like their pictures from time to time. I've also found that the comment pods I am in have become little support networks. We celebrate each other's victories, we give advice and even rant to each other sometimes too. After all, social media is supposed to be just that - social - and I've never experienced Instagram to be such a social network until I joined the pods.

So are comment pods cheating?

No, I don't think so. There are many ways you can cheat on Instagram such as buying followers/likes or using automated comment bots but I honestly believe that comment pods are one of the most authentic ways you can grow your account. Real people you have connected with or are friends with never missing a post and helping you get your photos seen rather than being buried by the algorithm? That' far from cheating in my eyes.

I believe that the comment pods are something really positive and honestly if you're not in one already I suggest you join one or set one up with your friends. 

What do you think? Is using comment pods lying to brands? Is it cheating your way to the top? Let me know your opinions in the comments below! 

See you soon, 

Beth x


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