So I recently did a very scary thing… I left all of my Instagram engagement groups. Yep. Every. Single. One. EEK!
I spent a long time trying to decide if I should, and I can’t tell you how strongly I feel that it was the right decision. I’ve had a lot of questions about it, so I wanted to take the time to address them all in a post. Honestly, I don’t have all the answers, but this is just what I’ve found to be true for me.
1. My engagement has been crazy for weeks.
Okay so I know that everyone has been dealing with this. Since the new algorithm was introduced back in January, many people have struggled to figure out just what is going on with their engagement. Rumors of a “shadow ban” have been rampant as everyone has been trying to understand why their engagement has been so poor. What we do know is that Instagram’s technology is improving, and more and more emphasis is being given to your actual photos. I don’t believe in the shadow ban, but I do believe that Instagram’s technology is now recognizing what’s in our photos and categorizing them accordingly. For example, if I only post a pair of shoes, all that can be recognized in the photo is the shoes. On the other hand, if I posted a picture of me sitting at a table, with a coffee in my hand, flowers on the table, a handbag on the table, etc., more categories could be recognized in the photo. Makes sense right?
2. It felt so forced and sometimes fake.
If you have created your own engagement group, then you probably love every account in it. However, if you signed up for a group through someone else, you were probably randomly placed in one. Random placement doesn’t always guarantee that you’re going to be in a group with accounts that you would normally follow and engage with. For example, in one of my groups, there were food accounts. Now I have absolutely NOTHING against food accounts, and these accounts’ pictures were beautiful, but food/recipes is not really something I am interested in. I have never cooked a meal in my life. I’ve been married 3 years, and still haven’t had to do it. (Thank the Lord for Adam!) So obviously, recipes are not of any interest to me. I never knew what to comment on those pictures and usually just posted something generic, and if we’re being honest, fake. On a green soupy dish, I would say, “Ooh that looks so yummy!” When in real life I was thinking, “No way. It’s green. It’s soup. I can’t even.” Obviously I have a very limited palette, and I’m sure that most of those accounts had no interest in my fashion posts. Our time could have been better spent engaging with similar accounts.
3. It became super repetitive.
Because I was involved in so many groups, I got to the point where most of my comments (which had to be 4-5 words) were basically the exact same. “What a cute top!” “I just love that dress!” “You are too cute!” And while I usually meant what I said, if I didn’t have so many accounts that I had to comment on, I could have written a more detailed, real comment. As bloggers, our ultimate goal is to engage and connect. I began to realize that I was not building meaningful relationships by saying “That skirt is so adorable!”
4. It was sooo time consuming.
Oh my goodness. I cannot even tell you how much time I devoted to these comment pods. I started to realize how long it was taking, so I began telling myself that I would try to knock out as much as possible in 15 minutes. Well that goes back to the repetitive and fake comments. By trying to write as many comments as possible in a set amount of time, I was cutting my comments even shorter and barely hitting the 4 word minimum. Real engaging right?
5. I no longer organically engaged with anyone else in my feed.
Because all of my time was being spent catching up on posts within my comment pods, I no longer took the time to just scroll my feed and engage with other accounts that I used to love. I have been stuck at the same follower count for awhile, and it finally dawned on me: because I was engaging with all the same accounts, all the time, it left no room for growth. And I missed out on so many accounts that I love 🙁 sorry guys!
6. I think it was messing with my own personal algorithm.
Okay I don’t know if this actually exists, but I will say this: Once I left my pods, I began to see accounts show up in my feed that I haven’t seen in months. It made me wonder if they haven’t been seeing mine either due to the fact that I have been stuck in this loop with the exact same accounts day in and day out.
7. Brands are beginning to notice.
I have read multiple articles and blog posts about how brands are taking notice of accounts that are using comment pods, and I totally get it. Brands want an organic reach for their sponsored posts. They want the post to convert to sales and if you’re not producing genuine interest on your posts, it’s obvious. Basically, you’re limiting yourself and the potential reach for your posts by constantly engaging with the same accounts.
8. My engagement with my other followers suffered.
This is perhaps the biggest reason I chose to drop the engagement groups. I have always thought that responding to the comments on my posts to be of the utmost importance. If someone is taking time out of their day to comment on something I’ve posted, I want to write a genuine response back to them. There were people outside of my engagement groups who were taking the time to comment on my posts and once again, because I was spending so much time commenting on other accounts, I no longer had the energy to respond to comments on my own posts. This is a big no-no for me personally. Again, how are you supposed to build meaningful relationships by just hitting the little heart to show them you saw their comment?
9. I want a real audience.
I want people to follow my account because they truly enjoy the content I post. I want to follow other accounts for the same reason; not because we were placed in a group together. I want to use my time more wisely and engage with those accounts that I love, and be able to respond to the people who enjoy mine. I felt like I’d placed myself in this fake, cushioned Instagram world. Catch up on comments, post, catch up on comments, post. Lather, rinse, repeat. It was time to break the cycle.
Okay, okay, so I lied… I kept one group – but it’s more of group of friends that chat and support each other. We talk about our jobs, husbands, kids, Pinterest, photography, etc. Not exactly an engagement group, although we do comment on each others posts, but it’s because we genuinely love them. Even without the group, I would still engage with them. I think that support groups are great. I have learned SO much from these girls, and I genuinely love and care about each one of them. (They actually inspired the “break up” theme of this post. Thanks girls!)
But I truly caution you about comment pods. It’s fake, it’s time consuming, and Instagram and brands are taking note. I feel such a relief opening my Instagram account and not seeing a ton of messages in my inbox. The split from my pods was scary and a little sad, especially since I felt like I was leaving some friends behind. But ultimately, it was right for me. I feel good about the breakup. Really good. And we… are never, ever, ever… getting back together.
Have you recently split from your engagement groups? I’d love to hear your thoughts.