Over the last couple of months, you might have seen some of my posts get a large number of likes or comments, and will have seen me liking and putting bland comments on some posts that really don’t interest me. I need to confess. I’ve been experimenting with membership of a LinkedIn pod.

What is a LinkedIn Pod?

A LinkedIn pod, or engagement pod, is a group of people who agree to like and/or comment on each other’s posts. The idea is that LinkedIn will tend to favour posts with more engagement, so if you get more likes and comments, then your posts will perform better. Pods can be automated or manual, and the idea is that membership will ultimately drive a greater reach for your posts.

For this experiment, I signed up with Lempod, and joined a couple of B2B marketing pods (one was US and the other was UK-focussed).

What are the downsides of LinkedIn Pods?

In terms of getting likes and comments, there really are few downsides. You do get banal comments from automated engagement pods as they are machine generated and therefore not specific to your post. If you are happy with lots of comments like “Great post”, you’ll probably not worry about this, but I felt that the banal comments were a drawback.

One thing that will happen, particularly with automated pods, is that you lose your ability to decide which posts you like. So an algorithm will start clicking the like button for you on other people’s posts, which may not be the type of content you want to share with your network. I certainly got a couple of questions about the posts I was liking by people in my network. If my network questions why I am liking content (which then means it appears in their feed) then I think that’s a problem.

Is there a Benefit to LinkedIn Pod Membership?

We all have egos, and I must admit that seeing 10x the likes and a stream of comments attached to my posts definitely massaged my ego! It feels good, even though you know it’s fake.

But the goal of becoming a LinkedIn pod member is to increase reach. Did my posts get more views because of my pod membership?

Initially, I looked and was pleased to see a small uplift in impressions. That’s good – it must be working! But a deeper inspection simply showed that my additional audience could be almost completely attributed to the other members of the pod who interacted with my post. Actually, the system automatically generated the interaction, so realistically pod membership did nothing to increase the real reach of my posts.

To make things worse, it’s also much harder to work out whether a post engaged your audience or not, as the engagement pod interactions can swamp real engagement. Losing this feedback means you could easily drift towards writing less engaging posts.

Why Don’t Pods Work?

LinkedIn has claimed it can detect pod activity and will ignore it when ranking posts. My experience is that the system does this very effectively. It’s not clear how it identifies pod likes and comments, although I suspect that one of the issues might be dwell time. The LinkedIn algorithm uses the time that viewers spend looking at a post as one of the primary indicators of engagement, and it’s likely that automated systems don’t generate this dwell time.

The good news, however, is that none of my posts appeared to be penalised for being hyped up by the pod. As I mentioned before it was impossible to see any significant change in views, other than the “views” from the pod.

Are Engagement Pods a Bad Idea?

I guess this is a difficult question. For me, they were not a great experience: no real increase in reach and the downside of losing control of the posts with which I engage. Basically no benefit, other than a slight ego boost, and it left me feeling a little dirty. So I’d stick with the “white hat” techniques in Kevin’s post about LinkedIn tips and tricks.

It is important to remember that some people claim that LinkedIn pods are “the secret to going viral” on the platform. Clearly, they had a different experience.

Overall I’d say that the experiment showed that automated pods are not a good idea. If you have the time, however, then agreeing to like, comment on and share the posts among a group of friends is probably a great idea. You’ll be able to control what posts you engage with, you’ll write and receive genuine comments and there will be significant dwell time generated. Anyone fancy forming a LinkedIn engagement pod like that?