Instagram is a great place to make new connections and market your business.
And then, as so many people use the platform – 1 billion people every month, if you can believe it! It means Instagram is the perfect place to naturally reach out to potential new clients.
Oh Instagram: we love you!
But there is a dark side to Insta… a sort of black-market trading of “likes” and follows.
As quickly as entrepreneurs spotted Instagram’s business value, certain individuals tried to work the system to their benefit.
Buying fake followers; using bots to spam comments on other profiles… Hopefully, you look at these practices and think, “Yeah… that’s not for me.”
Quite an easy call, isn’t it? Paying money for fraudulent activity? Um.. count us out!
It’s a little less black and white, though, when it comes to Instagram pods.
While insta pods aren’t necessarily bad… we see them as being detrimental to building your business and attracting real paying clients.
And we wouldn’t recommend you use them. BUT before we dive in…
What is an Insta pod? And what do they do?
Don’t be ashamed if you don’t know what a pod actually is. They are a fairly new phenomenon; popping up over Instagram in the last couple of years.
To sum it up: a pod is a group of 15-20 people, give or take, who typically work in a similar industry. Are they potential partners, or actually competitors in the same market? It’s hard to say exactly; this will probably change from pod to pod.
Regardless: by joining the pod, all members agree to support each other’s social reach.
When one member of the pod uploads a post, all other members will like, comment — and maybe even share with their following.
Because, as you may know, Instagram’s algorithm now promotes posts depending on levels of engagement.
When you open the app, the first pics you see in your feed aren’t the most recently posted ones, but the ones which Insta has chosen to show you, based on the amount of likes, comments and shares that post has got and the type of post you’ve liked, commented, and engaged with in the past.
People were kind of in uproar when Instagram made this change, and we can sorta see why.
It makes it particularly hard for newcomers to get content to reach their audience.
Imagine: you’ve just established your wedding photography business in 2019, so you’ve only got a small number of followers. How are you supposed to grow your audience base, if Instagram doesn’t actually display any of your posts because Instagram thinks your followers would rather see other content?
That’s why a lot of people choose to join a pod. It helps boost engagement, sending you rocketing up the Instagram algorithm and into plain view of potential clients.
There’s also a community benefit of pod-ing too. By connecting with like minded creatives and entrepreneurs, you’ve got a new support system and source of inspiration.
So, yes: pods can do some good.
But as we’ve already said, they can also do substantial harm to your wedding photography business.
Pods aren’t all they are cracked up to be… For all their benefits, pods also have big drawbacks
Insta pods are a maaaajor drain on your time.
As a wedding photographer, we can’t imagine you’ve got many free hours in the day. Joining a pod, you’ve now gotta somehow squeeze more hours in to make sure you’re liking, commenting, and sharing 15-20 other photographers’ content?
If each of them uploads to Instagram once or twice a day… that’s, seriously, 30-40 posts for you to engage with every single day. Even if it only takes three minutes to open Instagram, look at the post, like, comment and share… that’s (quick calculation!) two hours of extra work for you.
And don’t forget your own Instagram strategy, too!
The Insta pod takes priority over potential clients.
When you’re part of a pod, who are you really posting for? Are you choosing photos based on your potential clients’ interests and needs? Or are you really posting content that you think your pod will jump on immediately?
You begin to serve the pod, rather than the audience you joined Instagram to reach in the first place. The pod is likely not full of engaged couples. Your pod members are not your ideal clients. Therefore, your content shouldn’t be for them.
Honestly answer us this: Have any of your pod members paid you for photography? You aren’t getting any new leads from Instagram Pods. They attract the wrong audience – other photographers. And while it feels good to have other photographers engaging with your work, it’s not making you money.
Insta pods force you to spend your effort growing someone else’s Instagram.
We’d argue that by joining a pod you erode the value of Instagram as a business tool.
Absolutely, Instagram can be a fantastic place to connect with other photographers. And we are definitely not saying you shouldn’t use Instagram to meet people, make friends, and truly connect.
But, when you’re part of a pod, you’re forced to do so. Where’s the authenticity in that?
Will you be able to honestly interact with their photos… every single one?
Will you start comparing their work with yours, their follower count with yours, how many comments their post got versus yours?
Sure, some pods can be nurturing and supportive and not at all competitive. But are you willing to take that risk?
Insta pods limit your scope.
Not only do pods detract from Instagram as a business tool, they also result in a super narrow inspiration pool.
The Instagram algorithm pushes content into your feed that a) it thinks you’re interested in based on your previous activity and b) that has lots of engagement…
… so whose posts will make up the bulk of your feed? Your pod’s!
And this can even impact your discovery feature too; Instagram will assume you’re only interested in accounts similar to those in your pod.
This will seriously limit how inspiring your Instagram feed becomes. Instead, you’ll be flooded with work that’s similar to yours. You’ll miss out on interacting with potential clients. And at the end of the day, you want to be attracting and engaging potential clients.
So, what can you do instead?
As we’ve said: you can, and should, use Instagram as a way to connect with other photographers and wedding vendors, as well as clients of course.
But, instead of doing so via pods, go for a more organic reach. Design and plan your feed so it’s bursting with relevant, engaging and persuasive content — photos, captions and stories which potential clients will love.
Use hashtags to find client leads; search #engaged, for example and start a conversation. Talk to the people who want to hire you; not just other photographers.
Sure, this may be more of a slow burner than the instant engagement you get from pods; but, if you want our opinion, this is a far more sensible and authentic route.
To top it all off: IG has really started cracking down on pod activity of late. So if you want to future proof your Instagram strategy: steer clear of pods. That’s the bottom line from us!
Is Instagram only one piece of the puzzle for you? Or are you also wondering how to boost engagement for your wedding photography Facebook account? If that’s the case: check out our blog on 7 Facebook hacks for wedding photographers!