Comment pods exposed: brands warned to watch out

When Instagram changed its feed from chronological order to algorithm-based, it sent content creators into a frenzy. From asking followers to ‘switch on’ updates to loop giveaways to more *ahem* creative ways to outsmart the algorithm.

The new algorithm means Instagram serves posts it deems relevant up higher in the feed based on multiple factors. This has resulted in influencers and bloggers attempting to bypass the rules to superficially inflate their engagement on posts.

Enter comments pods, also known as engagement pods, an increasingly popular mechanism influencers are using to inflate their engagement, which brands are being warned to watch out for.

What is a comment pod?

Ever came across a sponsored post promoting a product or service that is - put simply - pretty boring, yet it’s somehow generated a lot of engagement? At first glance you might shrug it off and scroll past but next time take a closer look, specifically at the comments.

A comment pod is a group of Instagram users who band together to help increase engagement on each other’s content. This can be done through likes, comments, or follows. The amount of people in each pod can vary with some boasting 1,000 active users. With New Zealand being a smaller market they’re smaller but thankfully in brand’s favour, they’re glaringly more obvious.

How to spot a comment pod

Lazy commenting: Some members of Instagram pods can start to copy and paste their messages. Look out for generic comments like emojis (heart eyes, fire…), ones that don’t relate to what’s pictured or extravagant/over the top compliments i.e. “OMG you are AMAZING!!!”

Suspicious activity: The same people continuously like and comment on posts.

Skewed ratios: An unusual like vs. comment ratio may also be a red flag.

It’s not ethical

If you’re working with brands as an influencer, then it’s definitely not okay to use comment pods. The brands that you’re working with will be looking at your engagement statistics to see whether you’re truly influential or not. It’s also incredibly deceptive to your audience.

False engagement

The most concerning factor of comment pods is the false engagement, which is misleading for brands and consumers. It’s important brands invest time into researching potential brand partners and not be falsely lured in by artificial engagement.

Aligning with an influencer who engages in comment pods can negatively affect a potential customer’s trust in you.

Will they be banned?

Facebook and Instagram are explicitly against engagement tactics. As reported by Buzzfeed, Facebook recently removed 10 groups on their platform that were trading likes for likes. Any kind of attempt to beat the algorithm violates their terms of use. While we await further enforcement from Instagram, brands are being advised to be more conscious than ever of who they align with, seek authentic engagement and prioritise long-term ambassador relationships over mass partnerships for short-term gain.