Engagement groups/pods & the problems they present

Ever feel like you’re shouting into the abyss and nobody is listening? Yup, that is what it’s like to be a Social Media consultant and to speak loudly about engagement groups and how devastating they are for your Instagram account is one of the things that influencers just don’t want to hear about, despite the insurmountable damage they do to each and every individual account that undertakes these underhand practices. Anyone part of an engagement group will try and explain away their choices but let’s be honest about what they are right off the bat: They are faked engagement, with the aim to mislead their audience and/or brands about their popularity.

So why does Instagram hate them so much?

Which ever way you try and spin in, engagement groups are fake engagement, whether you claim you would like those accounts regardless, that chances are you wouldn’t on the scale that is either accepted or required, as the algorithm more than likely wouldn’t throw them all up at the same time, along with the fact that you generally click through from somewhere that isn’t your feed, therefore Instagram knows exactly what you’re doing.

You might think you can be clever by calling the group another name, or arguing that it’s just women supporting women together and that it’s not about the engagement, but at the end of the day, the group is an engagement group (even if it’s not always mandatory to like every post – many groups have rules that you only need to catch up the previous 24 hours before you drop your own post). Engagement groups are against Instagrams terms of service and Instagram knows what you’re doing, even if you think you’re being covert.

The Instagram algorithm is a learning machine and everything you do is being fed into that machine. Therefore every piece of inauthentic engagement is recorded and you tell the algorithm that this is how you perform on Instagram. Aside from obviously breaking the Instagram terms of service and your account being penalised for that, you will constantly tell Instagram that all you’re interested in are your fellow pod members. As time goes on the algorithm will show you less and less of people to authentically engage with. This is a huge problem overall because when you stop interacting authentically, whether it be marginally or completely, those people will also stop seeing you. So while you might be wracking up a good number of likes (which are vanity metrics only anyway – ie, they make us feel better and are full of our own self worth) your authentic engagement will slowly tank. Why is this a problem? Because when you stop using an engagement group your likes will drop because by using these groups you are ultimately ruining your natural, authentic reach. By having broken the terms of service Instagram will be suppressing your reach, so even if you step away (which ultimately happens to everyone at some point) you will have gone some way to ruining your account. I’ve worked with many accounts who have had to work to gain their authenticity back. Once Instagram realises that you aren’t playing by the rules (and trust me, they know) then they don’t necessarily let you play by the level playing field everyone else is on.

Do people in engagement groups care about this? Absolutely not one iota, they care about keeping up appearances, keeping up the likes and looking popular. They only care when they leave and realise the monumental damage it has done to their accounts.

Can brands tell?

Of course they can. If the run of the mill person can see an account that is inauthentic so will a brand. In fact many larger brands use software which can show them the inner workings of accounts they may be considering working with that will show if anything like engagement or following have been obtained inauthentically. This includes engagement groups or whether their following was gained through mass following.

Ultimately it’s inauthentic

When I show up online I work my absolute hardest to show up authentically because authenticity is the most important thing. Regardless of whether the people in your engagement pod are your “Insta family” (*vomits*) the fact of the matter is the engagement is inauthentic. You are lying to your authentic folllowers and likers, and you are showing up inauthentically and there is no way round that. When I follow someone I want to be following someone who is showing up authentically. When there is no authenticity, then what’s left?

Authentic engagement isn’t linear

People use engagement groups to keep up appearances and keep their likes at what they consider an acceptable level for their following number, but here is a the kicker – Instagram engagement, when done authentically, is never linear.

Sometimes a post flies and reaches a lot of people and gets a lot of likes. Sometimes it doesn’t do well at all, the reach isn’t there and not as many people like it. THIS IS NORMAL.

You don’t just have to listen to what I have to say, so many Instagram experts, like Jenna Kutcher, have the same views the subject too. In fact, if you look up engagement groups online anyone who knows what they are talking about when it comes to Instagram will strongly advise against them.

If you’re in an engagement group and are now nervous about leaving through fear of having had ruined your account then my advice is plough ahead and make the cut. The longer you spend using these engagement groups the worse it’ll be when you do leave. The time factor alone that you have to commit will change your life, Instagram isn’t that deep or important that you have to be bound up liking and/or commenting because you’re obliged to by people you don’t even know on the internet. Get out, stop the inauthenticity and you can start repairing the damage that has been done.

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