We’re all striving to get more engagement on Instagram and for a while, comment pods seemed like a great way to get a little boost – but not anymore.

A comment pod is a group of Instagram users that get together and systematically engage with each other’s posts, thinking that they’ll all get more reach from the mutual likes/saves/comments. While that may have been true at some point, lately it’s looking like comment pods can actually do more harm than good. Here’s why:

1. Instagram has already started cracking down on comment pods.

Facebook (owner of Instagram) has already broken up several large comment pods and removed a significant number of Facebook groups that were used to organize comment pods on Instagram.

This not only means that they’re aware of the phenomenon and don’t like it, but it also likely means that it’s only a matter of time before they develop algorithms to take down even smaller pods that are more difficult to detect. Why invest your time in a strategy that is borderline unethical and doomed to fail?

2. You have better things to do with the time you spend on Instagram.

Most of us have limited time for social media marketing, and the time we do have never feels like enough. When you belong to a comment pod, you spend a significant amount of time and effort engaging with the content of other pod members. Have you ever considered the various ways you can up your game on Instagram if instead, you spent that time updating your hashtag strategy, planning your content in advance, or engaging in a genuine way with your target audience?

3. Pods screw up your analytics.

You’re likely checking checking which of your previous Instagram posts received the most engagement so that you can use this knowledge to plan your future content but what if your likes/saves/comments are inflated during the hours that most of your pod is active on Instagram? What you really want to focus on is which posts your target audience on Instagram is most likely to engage with – and your pod’s activity can be really misleading here.

4. Pod comments look fake (because they are).

If you collect a bunch of general, pod-like comments on your feed, it looks as fake as it is. You’ve seen this before: you pour your heart and soul into a caption and your fellow pod member says “Amazing!” Fake engagement is an especially bad practice for a small business; you want your potential customers and clients to browse your feed and feel a sense of genuine trust. Invest your time in cultivating relationships with people who comment thoughtfully and actually contribute something to your overall brand on Instagram.

The reason that Instagram doesn’t look favorably on comment pods is the same reason that you should leave yours: Instagram should be a place where you build your brand by developing real relationships with your target audience.

Fake engagement doesn’t do anything for your business in the long run. Leave your comment pods and get to work on building a scalable, ethical, and purposeful Instagram content strategy that drives results for your business.