Engagement groups: you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours! 


Participants of engagement groups try to avoid the blunt simplicity of the follow-for-follow method and want to create more than just a one-time like-for-like exchange. The engagement between group members is supposed to be more authentic and meaningful by creating real and relevant comments for each other’s postings. Oftentimes, users form their own communities with members that are interested in the same niche i.e. travel, beauty, or fitness.

Their common and main goal is to gain followers by driving more traffic to their own social media channels. They are often called pods, which originally describes small herds of whales or dolphins and referring to the users’ attempt to appeal loyal in their commenting.


Engagement groups are active through messengers like Telegram as well as Skype, Facebook, or Instagram Messaging. Whenever a group member uploads a new post, the person also shares the content with his or her engagement group so that others can like or comment on the posting. People also create pods with group messaging so that everyone in their pod will be notified of new posts immediately.

One reason why users engage in these groups is Instagram’s new algorithm that no longer displays posts in chronological order.

Many users believe that with higher engagement on their posts, they are more likely to be placed on top in their followers’ feeds and their content is more likely to appear on Instagram’s explore page, for example, resulting in follower growth in the end.

During research, we noticed that quality of engagement groups differs extremely. While some group admins are very mindful regarding their groups’ authenticity and have limitations of members, others are less likely to focus on the groups’ loyal engagement.

InstaRevealed.com is one example that provides the opportunity to find a fitting engagement group or comment pod, as they call it, on Facebook. The pods are strictly limited to 15 people per group who are supposed to have a similar level of activity, varying from A+ to C-. They focus on forming niches and sub-niches to ensure relevant and meaningful comments and, furthermore, make their group members provide information on the comment pods they are already participating in to prevent that someone maxes out.




Members of engagement groups typically have to follow certain rules. These rules ensure the quality of engagement. Most common are rules that make members engage with others’ posts first before being able to share their own posting. Moreover, comments have to consist of a certain amount of words so that they will not appear as bot comments. Also, commenting only emojis is prohibited. In case members do not respect those rules, they will be banned from the group most likely.

Despite these regulations, it seems to be difficult to ensure a high-quality level of engagement. Some users take advantage of the commitment others make to an engagement group and are driven by increasing traffic on their own stream without keeping up the engagement standards. Comments written by those so called leeches are suspicious because they match every posting and are often just copied and pasted if they ever return the favor of engaging at all.

Some of the comments below emerged from an engagement group. Obviously, the commenters did not follow the rules of the engagement groups.

Limitlessbikes is part of an engagement group and commented on different posts that were shared in his/ her pod. As we can see, limitlessbikes uses the same comment for different content pieces which does not refer to the content of the post at all.

Additionally, some engagement groups are stage for sellers who offer likes, followers, accounts, or shout outs for different pricings.


Fake engagement, both engagement groups and purchased engagement, is hard to detect, but there are some factors that might reveal fake likes and comments. We already mentioned the quality of comments, but the quantity can be an indicator as well.

For this, let us have a look at the post-performance of an influencer.

We see that the post-performance of German influencer @ohhcouture is on a consistent level. She has a constant number of likes and comments with slight deviations that can be evaluated as normal.

The numbers in brackets show how every single post performs in comparison to the average post-performance pf the channel’s posts within the last four weeks. Some post of Ohhcouture perform slightly better and some slightly worse than the average of 1. Ohhcouture’s metrics are very good and show no signs of fake engagement of any kind.

It is rather conspicuous if the post-performance varies drastically. If an influencer receives more likes for a posting that is comparable to other postings regarding quality and content, this can be an indicator for purchased likes or activity from engagement group members.

The following influencer has a strongly varying post-performance and he receives a range of 9,000 to 142,000 likes for his pictures which is rather unusual.

Generally, obvious product placements perform worse than non-commercial content. For this influencer, the product placement post performs far better than his other postings. Thus, it is highly unlikely that this engagement is organic. Whether these engagement metrics are the result of engagement groups or purchased likes cannot be determined distinctly.


There are, in fact, pods that emphasize authentic, meaningful, and relevant engagement. Members of these pods are more likely to be interested in forming an honest community. A great upside of groups with this emphasis is that the people who are engaging with each other share the interests in their contents. In that case, the influencer’s participation in a pod is creating an additional value by engagement from people who match your brand’s target group.

But there are numerous other examples of less authenticity-oriented engagement groups that purely exist for the purpose of getting for giving. Imagine you want to identify fitting influencers for your brand. One crucial aspect you should focus on is the engagement rate, which is the feedback the influencers receive for their postings. Authentic engagement is key because only this form of engagement comes from real followers who take interest in the content.

In contrast to purchased likes and comments coming from bots, the members of engagement groups are, in fact, real people. Nonetheless, these users only engage with the content because they want others to engage with their own posts. So most of the time, no real interest is taken in the content.


From a quantitative perspective, the influencers’ engagement rate are high when participating in engagement groups. But if an influencer is member of a large pod with an unlimited amount of people, the interests in this engagement group range widely and do not necessarily match your brand. Due to the fact that the influencer engages with people from different niches that do not necessarily fit his own niche, the influencer’s engagement is most likely to be rather low from a qualitative point of view. The engagement is based on a superficial mutual exchange of comments and likes that are not valuable for the content itself and, therefore, also not of any benefit for your collaboration.

So be aware that a high engagement does not necessarily have to be qualitatively valuable. When looking for a suitable influencer for your brand, always keep in mind that engagement can be faked and examine influencer metrics carefully on a quantitative and qualitative level.

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