How to Run an Instagram Contest: Four Easy Steps

Learn how to host Instagram contests that engage your audience and build your fan base in just four simple steps.

By Dana Kilroy ・5 min read
Social Media

Is your company active on Instagram? Want to host a contest to build excitement about your business? Instagram makes it easy to run quick contests that engage your audience and build your fan base.In this article you’ll discover four simple steps to host Instagram contests that build buzz for your brand.

#1: Choose the Type of Contest

The beauty of Instagram is that it doesn’t have as many promotion limitations as other platforms. That means you have the opportunity to be as creative with your contest concept as you’d like. Here are a few ideas to get you started. Like ContestsThis is one of the easiest contests to host—simply ask users to like your photo to be entered to win. The benefit of this type of contest is that it’s so simple to enter that you can easily increase your engagement. Restaurant Buffalo Jordan usually receives about 50 likes on each of their Instagram posts. When they hosted a series of Instagram Like giveaways, that average rose to about 200 likes per post.

buffalo jordan instagram contest image

An additional perk of Like contests is the chance to show up on Instagram’s Discover page (formerly the Popular page). This is where Instagram shows users images based on people they follow, photos they’ve liked or images that are popular in their country.When more people participate in your Instagram Like contest, it increases the chances of your giveaway being featured on the Discovery page. This is great exposure for your contest and account! Comment Contests Asking people to comment as an entry is similar to a Like contest and it’s just what it sounds like: let users know they have to comment on your photo to be entered to win a prize. If your goals are to gain valuable feedback and increase post engagement, a comment entry contest is the way to go. You can also ask your followers to tag their friends in the comments for an entry. A contest that requires tagging helps your company get direct, organic traffic to your brand’s Instagram account, making it especially helpful for gaining new followers. Photo Challenge ContestsA photo challenge is probably the most popular type of Instagram contest. Tell users who want to enter to win to post a photo on their personal account and use the specific hashtag you designate (so you can find and note the entry).

nasty gal instagram contest image

Selfies are ubiquitous on Instagram, and a lot of brands have been using that to their advantage by asking fans to post selfies in creative ways that incorporate their product, store, etc.

The retail company Nasty Gal issues a weekly photo challenge. In the example above, the challenge asks users to take a selfie with a stranger, then post it using the hashtags #StrangerSelfie and #NastyGalTruthorDare for the chance to win a Nasty Gal gift card.Instead of asking users to take and post their own Instagram photo as an entry, you can follow the lead of Drop Dead Dollbaby Boutique and ask them to repost a specific Instagram image from your brand account. One benefit of this type of contest is that your brand can control the message and aesthetic of your giveaway.

drop dead dollbaby boutique instagram contest image

To repost, users can either take a screenshot or use a repost app. You’ll need to create and require a specific hashtag so you can track the entries.

#2: Share the Rules

Compared to social platforms like Facebook, Instagram doesn’t have very many promotion rules. You just need to do two things. First, acknowledge that the promotion isn’t sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Instagram. Second,don’t inaccurately tag content or encourage users to inaccurately tag content. With fewer limitations, your contest rules can be as loose or as structured as you want. Just be sure to make them obvious.Contests that require a like, comment, tag or repost (or a combination of these) are pretty straightforward. If you’re hosting a contest like this that doesn’t require a lot of rules, then it’s best to display your rules in the caption of your Instagram image.Here’s an example of a multi-step Instagram contest hosted by TurboTax. The tax-filing software isn’t exactly a sexy product, but the Instagram contest they’ve built around their service is fun and the rules are right up front.

turbotax instagram contest image

Fashion blogger Mary Summers-Hafner has a more involved set of rules and disclaimers that she included in the image caption.The caption outlines the requirements, deadline and when winners will be announced. It also explains that the contest is not affiliated with Instagram itself:

Per Instagram rules, we must mention this is in no way sponsored, administered, or associated with Instagram, Inc. By entering, entrants confirm they are 13+ years of age, release Instagram of responsibility, and agree to Instagram’s term of use.

When you run a more rule-intensive contest like this one, you have a couple of alternatives for sharing your in-depth rules and/or terms and conditions if you don’t want to crowd your caption. You can create a Rules page on your website. Birchbox, the company that ships out monthly boxes of beauty samples, frequently hosts contests on their social networks, including Instagram. To avoid the hassle of having to include rules and conditions in each post they share to announce a giveaway, they simply link to the Rules page on their website:

birchbox instagram contest rules image

Another option is to create a campaign landing page that houses both your rules and your entry form. Third-party services like ShortStack, HubSpot or Lander are all good choices for this. A major benefit to hosting your Instagram contest as a campaign is that it allows you to collect important data (like email addresses), so you can connect with your entrants after the promotion ends.

shortstach instagram contest link image

This type of campaign also lets you keep your Instagram posts short and sweet. Instead of fussing with excessively long caption copy, you can simply announce or promote your Instagram contest using a couple of witty sentences, and then saying, “Click the link in our bio to enter to win!” Super-simple—just make sure you update your Instagram bio to include your campaign’s URL.

#3: Choose a Relevant Prize

As with any social media contest, you don’t want just any followers, you want the right followers. The best way to find those people is to offer a prize that’s relevant to them as well as your brand.Giving away an iPad or an iPhone might attract a lot of attention, but the entrants may not be your target audience. You’re more likely to attract users who are actually interested in your brand if you give away something that’s related to your product or service.

#4: Spread the Word

Using the right hashtags in your Instagram post and comment sections is key because it allows you to track entries easily. If you’re not sure what type of hashtags to use, here’s a good list to start with:

  • #(your brand’s name)
  • #Instagramcontest
  • #Instagramgiveaway
  • #contest
  • #giveaway
  • #instagood
rawthreads instagram contest

Raw Threads uses their company name as a hashtag for contests.

Hashtags aren’t just for tracking entries. They also help boost the exposure of your content to the most relevant people for your brand. The right combination of hashtags will give your contest the exposure it needs to succeed.Just because you’re hosting your contest on Instagram doesn’t mean you can’t promote it elsewhere. In fact, you should promote it on all of your social channels. Post about it on Facebook, tweet the link, use Hello Bar on your website or blog and don’t forget to encourage your entrants to ask their friends to get involved too.ConclusionInstagram’s broad promotion guidelines give you the freedom to create and host giveaways without a lot of hassle.To have the most success, be creative with the types of contests you run, choose the right prize and use popular related hashtags to attract the right audience. This article originally appeared on Social Media Examiner.

About the author

By Dana Kilroy ・5 min read

Dana Sullivan Kilroy is a communications professional with more than 20 years of experience delivering compelling content. Her work has appeared in national, award-winning publications and sites, including: The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Fast Company, Inc.

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