- Influencers are gaming Instagram's algorithm to boost visibility in the platform's Explore tab by partnering with fellow influencers and participating in pods, according to Digiday.
- This happens when influencers join with up to 30 others — the maximum number of Instagram users allowed in a pod — and comment on each other's posts at least daily to increase engagement analytics for each pod member and cause the platform's algorithm to favor them and display their content to more users on the platform.
- Digiday reported that pods artificially improve numbers and create false competition. Typically, influencers go from receiving about two comments a day to 40-100 after joining a pod and can gain hundreds or thousands of followers a day with the added visibility. This also skews payments, as brand marketers often assess the value of an influencer by their following and level of engagement.
The comment pod tactic is an understandable response from influencers after Instagram instituted an algorithm that disrupted their numbers on the platform, but it's also a cautionary tale for marketers relying on influencer campaigns that have notoriously been bought and sold on murky measurements.
Though pods are not always bad, one downside for marketers hiring influencers in a pod is that their engagement numbers are artificially improved. That means their following could be misleading as other members of the pod are engaging mainly to boost their own visibility — not because they're genuinely thrilled by the branded message. This could create false competition, as well as impact the nature of the audience the brand aims to target and the amount of money an influencer's partnership costs, as fees are often based on audience size.
Research from Bloglovin found that 32% of marketers using influencers see the tactic as essential to their overall marketing strategy, and 41% reported more success with influencer campaigns than with traditional advertising. Sixty-three percent of those using influencers planned on increasing that budget this year, according to Bloglovin.
Social media influencers are still relatively new to the marketing mix. Marketers should consider that this space still has no established standards or dedicated watchdog, and what might look like an engaged audience could simply be a group of influencers hoping to elevate their visibility by gaming a platform's algorithm.