I know I’ve written a lot about comment pods, ‘like-for-like,’ and other attempts to manipulate your engagement on your blog or Instagram, but today I wanted to write a bit about comment pods specifically, and why I think they have the potential to do more harm than good.
For the benefit of those of you who are mercifully unaware of what I think of as The Dark Side of the blogosphere/social media, comment pods are when a group of bloggers get together and agreed to all comment on each other’s blog posts/Instagram photos, purely in order to boost the comment count on each post/photo. The people who do this kind of thing genuinely think it will help their blogs: here are three ways I think it could hurt it, instead…
Look, we all hate the algorithm: you can take that as read. Attempting to manipulate by agreeing to engage with posts you might not necessarily like, purely to artificially inflate your engagement, however, is making things worse, not better, All that happens is that the genuinely good content on Instagram ends up getting pushed out in favour of posts that have been submitted to pods, and we end up with an Instagram in which it doesn’t really matter how good your photos/ captions are: all that matters is how many pods you can join, and how much time you’re willing to spend on ‘like-for-like’ activities. And even if you do manage to cheat the algorithm and post does well because of it, you’re still going to be left with a bunch of totally fake likes and comments: you might LOOK popular, but… you know you’re not REALLY, right?
Most people who use comment pods justify it by saying it’s the only way to get brands to notice them. Well, no one’s going to say, “Actually, I just really want to look much more popular than I am!” are they? Honestly, I have my doubts about how much importance brands place on comments these days, but let’s just say for the sake of argument that some of them are taken in by your cunning ruse, and they decide to book you for a campaign, on the strength of your loyal fan base, who comment on every single post to say how much they “Love this!” That’s not going to work out all that well for you, is it? Because brands don’t collaborate with bloggers in order to make themselves LOOK popular: they do it because they actually want to BE popular – and popularity, in brand terms, means selling products. They probably won’t sell many products to the members of a comment pod, who aren’t actually interested in the blog they’re pretending to love, so … that’s going to be a bit embarrassing, isn’t it? (Quite apart from the embarrassment you should already feel at knowing you’ve essentially tricked someone into paying you for something you can’t actually deliver, that is…)
Bottom line: it’s better to BE popular than to just LOOK like you’re popular. Probably more satisfying, too, I would imagine.
(Also, if you’re working with an agency, they will often require access to your analytics, in order to verify that you really are doing as well as you say you are. And that’s when things like that dodgy bounce rate will start to come into play…)
I’ve read a few Facebook threads now in which people have discussed their experiences with comment pods honestly, and one of the things that came up time and time again was the sheer time-suck it is, and how people felt that they were missing out on the rest of their feed (in the case of Instagram), because all of their time was spent fulfilling the obligations of the “pod”. I’ve never used comment pods, but a few years ago, I did make a resolution to start leaving comments on X number of blogs per day (I think it was 10), because I’d read that it would boost traffic to my own site. First of all, it didn’t actually make a difference to my blog’s traffic, but second of all, wow, was it time-consuming. I should say here that I was only commenting on the blogs I read anyway, and I was taking the time to read them first, so I wasn’t leaving generic, “Love this!” comments, but it still made me feel a bit fake, in a way, and I gave it up after about two days, because I honestly didn’t have time for anything else while I was trying to stick to this dumb rule.
What I learned from that experience was that there were other, better things I could be spending my time on than forcing myself to leave comments on people’s blogs, purely for the sake of it. Now, I’ll be the first to admit here that I suck at commenting: I feel bad when people don’t comment on my blog, but I don’t make the effort to do it on other blogs, either, so I really have no moral ground to stand on there. While it’s a great thing to support other bloggers, though, and to comment on the posts you genuinely enjoyed, it’s kind of an awful thing to feel like you HAVE to do it – and it must be even worse when, rather than it being a self-imposed “rule”, as mine was, it’s actually a rule that will get you called out by name on a Facebook group with thousands of members (Yes, I’ve seen this happen) because you “owe” someone a comment which you haven’t delivered yet.
TL: DR There are tons and tons of things you could be doing to grow your blog, which don’t revolve around either vanity, or attempting to dupe people into thinking you’re more popular than you are – I wrote about five of those things here, but here are plenty of others, too: and most of them will provide more than just a short-term ego boost, into the bargain.