What is an Instagram follow loop?
And why are they and 'pods' a bad idea for serious freelancers and small business owners?
Follow loops and pods are not unique to Instagram. In fact, they exist on pretty much all social media platforms.
In this blog post I will cover:
What is a follow loop?
A follow loop is pretty much what it says on the tin.
Basically, to be in a follow loop there are certain 'rules' you have to follow to be involved. These rules typically include:
You have to follow the admin/creator of the follow loop
You have to post a specific image at a specific date/time which can be an issue depending on the time zones.
You have to use a specific hashtag
You have to follow everyone who posts to that hashtag
What is an engagement pod?
An engagement pod is like a follow loop however it focuses on people engaging with each other's content. Engagement pods are typically groups on social media, WhatsApp, Telegram or Messenger.
Some engagement pods charge you to be a member and there are some very strict rules. I have reports where the owners of engagement pods have turned very nasty to members who do not follow the rules, including having their accounts blocked (mass reporting of the account by other members in the pod) etc.
The premise of engagement pods is that everyone in the pod is obliged to engage with the content of others within the pod. So if you are in a pod, when you make a post to your social media platform, you then post the link to this new post to the pod group. Members are then expected to engage (like, comment, save, share) with your content as soon as possible.
Why do people use follow loops or engagement pods?
Growing your audience on any of the large social media platforms takes a lot of time and effort these days. Most large platforms have significantly throttled organic reach. Organic reach is the number of people who see your posts without you needing to boost it or pay for an ad campaign.
Because of this restricted organic reach, people believe that follow loops and engagement pods are a convenient 'shortcut' to grow their audience.
You will get more followers.
You will get more engagement.
Why should I avoid using a follow loop or engagement pod?
Whilst follow loops and engagement pods may seem a good idea in theory, I strongly recommend that if you are serious about your businesses long term success, that you refrain from being involved in them.
Firstly, follow loops and engagement pods go against the community guidelines of pretty much every social media platform around today. And it's not surprising really, is it? You are engaging in activities that circumvent the way in which the platforms are intended to be used. The platform algorithms have been designed/updated to look for follow loop and engagement pod activity. And it's really not that difficult for an algorithm to spot this activity.
Follow loops as mentioned will require you to post a specific image, with a specific hashtag at a specific time. That's a massive red flag to an algorithm when suddenly it detects multiple accounts posting the exact same image with a common hashtag on each.
Therefore, if you're looking to have your account restricted in a hurry, a follow loop is a good way to go about it.
Similarly, with engagement pods, the algorithm will detect that the same group of people are engaging with your posts in a short period of time, this is again an immediate indicator to the algorithm of 'dodgy activity'.
Besides the risk of having your account blocked by the social media platform, and possibly even more important, is the impact being involved in a follow loop or engagement pod has on your brand.
We've all heard about 'You don't get a second chance at a first impression' right?
What do you think a prospective lead/client will think about you and your business if they were to see you taking part in a follow loop or engagement pod?
People I have spoken to about this subject have all stated the same thing, 'It's lazy'. Is that really the image you want to portray about you and your business? That you are too 'lazy' to put in the efforts to grow your audience authentically? That you would rather resort to activities that are frowned upon not just by the social media platform themselves, but most people who are aware of follow loops and pods?
The benefits you get from getting a few new followers, or forced engagement on your posts do NOT outweigh the damage you do to your brand being involved in this schemes.
Short term benefits for long term damage
Yes, joining a follow loop or an engagement pod will result in immediate and short term benefits. You will gain a few followers. You will get more engagement on your content. But these benefits will only last as long as you escape the detection of the algorithms.
What then happens is that you find that you have hundreds (perhaps 1000s) of ghost followers (followers who do not engage on your contact, ever). And when your audience does not engage on your content you're effectively telling the algorithm that the content you post is not of value or interest to your audience. This in turn results in your content being distributed to fewer people! So you effectively damage your own reach and the possibility of being seen by people who are genuinely interested in your content, services and/or products.
In an engagement pod, again, you get several likes and comments by the same group of people each time you post. If the algorithm does not detect your activity (which given that all social media platforms are clamping down on pods is more difficult to get away with these days) your engaged audience certainly will start to see a trend of the same people commenting on your posts, often with very tell-tale comments like, "Thank you for sharing 🙏", "Very useful, thank you" etc. So whilst you may get more engagement and reach on your content, those commenting have ZERO interest in you and are simply engaging because they HAVE to.
So before you decide to join a follow loop or an engagement pod, please do consider these questions:
Do I want to risk having my account blocked?
Do I really want fake followers and engagement from people who are doing so simply because they HAVE to?
Do I really want my reach to potential leads/clients reduced for the sake of vanity metrics?
If you are genuinely serious about making a success of your business in the medium to long term, then please refrain from participating in follow loops and engagement pods and instead invest some time into your chosen social media platforms to build your audience with people who are genuinely interested in what you have to say, your services and/or products because it's these people that will be spending money with you, not those you acquire through follow loops!
If you don't have the time to invest the time you need to on your chosen social media platforms to build an engaged audience, then check out my social media services designed to authentically grow your brand awareness on social media.
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