Over the past few years, growth strategy trends amongst bloggers and small business have come and gone. One however remains strong; engagement pods. Yes, in my time as a blogger I have participated in engagement pods. But what are they and are they worth it?
What are Engagement Pods?
Engagement pods are a group chat kind of thing where users share their posts within the group so that others can engage with them. Different pods have different rules, which can vary from “like only” through to “like, comment and reshare.” They exist on all social media platforms and there are plenty of people who swear by them for increasing reach and beating the algorithm. They are particularly popular on Instagram where early engagement on a post can mean life or death for your content.
Examples of Engagement Pods
There are plenty of groups on Facebook that are engineered for this purpose. Groups will have different “days” for sharing your Instagram links, or threads where you can ask for engagement on a Facebook post. Some will even have “traffic threads” where other group members will click through to your website and visit 3 pages to help bring down your bounce rate. On Twitter it will be “follow for follow” or “like for like” threads where you drop your social links and hope to receive a bunch of followers (and hope even harder they don’t unfollow you the next day!)
They may exist as a group chat on WhatsApp or within the chat function of the platform on Instagram and Twitter. Some may be framed as a support or advice group, which can absolutely be beneficial; just be sure to check the rules and confirm what you’re getting in for. Pinterest group boards and Tailwind Tribes absolutely count as engagement pods, although the rules for these can be looser (and I’ll get to them later!)
Do I Use Engagement Pods?
When I was a new lifestyle blogger, I was involved in virtually every type of engagement pod mentioned before, including on Instagram and Twitter. I used to be very active in Facebook groups when I first started blogging and when I started out trying to grow my audience for that blog on Instagram and Twitter (note: this was long before I started this website!). To this day, I still use Pinterest Group Boards and am a member of Tailwind Tribes. The following is based on my personal experience of participating in this kind of growth and what lead to my ultimate decision to stop participating in some of them.
The number one reason I ultimately excused myself from Instagram and Twitter engagement pods was that it damaged my own experience with using those platforms. I’ve met some amazing people with fabulous content from within those pods, but I’ve also met some awful people whose content didn’t appeal to me. There were opinions I was forced to engage with but disagreed with, photos I didn’t like that I was required to promote, and articles that weren’t relevant to my target audience that I had to share. In the end, I’d ignore the pods for weeks at a time because I didn’t want to have to act like I liked something or agreed with something when I didn’t. This isn’t what I consider authentic engagement; it feels fake and forced, and ultimately if you know what you’re looking for, it’s easy to spot.
Engineering “Authentic” Growth
I also used to participate in “like for like” and “follow for follow” threads on Facebook and on Twitter. They’re popular because, in a way, they work; they’re designed to help you grow your followers in a much faster way than posting consistently and engaging with your audience alone will do.
But what do you end up with? In your feed, you’ll see a lot of posts from people you don’t know and don’t want to engage with (again, potentially posting images you don’t actually like). On the flipside, you also end up with a lot of followers who may not like your content, and either unfollow you (very common) or become a “ghost follower” - someone who follows you but never likes or comments on your content. Basically it’s the free version of buying followers. Yes, you experience rapid growth, but is it really “authentic”?
For me, I stopped participating in these because while I did experience follower growth, I would also experience follower death. It would be very like peaks and troughs; high numbers of followers = high numbers of unfollowers. In the end, there was a very insignificant return on investment. Plus, there's just a whole icky feeling about the whole thing; I was never 100% comfortable with it.
Why are "Like for Like" / "Follow for Follow" Threads Bad?
So as we know, on social media there is a progressive shift away from the emphasis on follower counts to an emphasis on follower engagement. Having 10,000 followers means absolutely nothing if you only receive a 100 likes on a photo, and a handful of bot comments leaving a few emoji’s. Algorithms reward genuine engagement and they’re more likely to serve your content up to new users if it thinks your content is relevant and interesting.
Can you see where I’m going with this?
If I’m an interiors blogger and I’ve participated in a follow for follow thread where I’ve ended up with a bunch of followers that don’t like interiors content (perhaps they prefer travel content), I’m not going to get any quality engagement from those people. Ergo, Instagram is going to decide my content is irrelevant or low quality and stop showing it to people.
This is an oversimplification, but my point stands. Irrelevant followers = low engagement = no growth.
Why are Pinterest Groups Boards and Tailwind Tribes different?
You might have gathered by now that I’m by and large against engagement pods, no matter what form they take. The only exception I make and still actively participate in, are Pinterest Group Boards and Tailwind Tribes. My reasoning is three-fold.
- Pinterest is about sharing content. Unlike Instagram where it’s all about YOU, on Pinterest you can’t only share your own content and expect to make any progress. By pinning stuff about social media from other bloggers, alongside my blogs about social media, I’m telling Pinterest that my content should be interesting to people searching for social media blogs. There’s also keywording and hashtagging involved, obviously, but that’s the crux of it.
- Rules for Group Boards and Tribes are fairly loose, and the decision about what content you share remains your own. As long as you’re in Group Boards and Tribes that are relevant, it’s fairly rare that you’ll come across a pin you don’t like. And even then, you don’t have to share it. Most Boards and Tribes have a 1:1 ratio (meaning you only have to pin one pin from someone else for every pin of your own you contribute).
- It makes finding and researching new content easy. By participating in Groups Boards and Tribes that are relevant to what I write about, not only can I learn something new, and find interesting content to share on other platforms, but it can also help me come up with new ideas for what I write about next! Obviously never use it to steal someone else’s content, but Pinterest is meant to be inspirational and instructional, after all!
I'd love to hear from you; do you or have you used engagement pods? What do you like about them or why did you stop?
Comment below or get in touch!