Guide to Using Instagram Contests to Build a Following

If your brand has a presence on Instagram, then you have a great opportunity to run contests to promote your products or services. There are several steps in running an effective Instagram contest. In this post, we will run through these basic steps and also provide you with some additional tips and tricks for success.

Step 1: Choose the type of contest that you want to run.

On a lot of social networks, you’re fairly restricted in the types of promotions that you run. Instagram however gives you a great deal more freedom, so you can be as creative as you want in running your contests. This also means that you can run a number of different types of contests. So your first step is going to be deciding what type of contest you want to run.

Like contests. If you are looking for a contest which is going to get a lot of engagement, this is one of your best options. To enter, all Instagram users have to do is simply “like” your photo. Since this is incredibly easy and takes next to no effort, you’ll probably get a large number of entrants.

Comment contests. This is just like the type of contest above, but to enter users need to leave a comment on your photo instead of just hitting “like.” This type of contest is a great way to stimulate dialogue and get feedback. Plus, you can require that entrants tag a friend. This helps to get the word out.

Example of an Instagram comment contest.

Mejuri asked followers to leave a comment, sharing their “favourite element of happiness” to enter and have an opportunity for the word to be featured on their pendant. This was a great way to do some research and get feedback into what words they may want to incorporate into future pendants.

Photo challenge contests. Despite the fact that this type of contest can take more effort to enter than either the types above, they are actually quite popular. To enter, users must post a photo to their feed according to your instructions. They then need to include the relevant hashtag that you tell them to use.

Instagram Contest Idea From GoJaneHere’s an example from GoJane asking users to create a collage for their photo contest challenge and to submit the photo with brand related hashtags #GoJane and #DateWithGoJane making it easier for anyone to find the submissions in the future. 

This type of contest increases your brand visibility throughout Instagram. If you are creative, you can also come up with a prompt which will compel your customers to showcase their products in clever ways. Plus, you get the benefit of user-generated content on your side!

Photo Challenge ContestAnother example of a photo challenge, this time from Show Me Your MuMu. Photo challenges are a great way to get user-generated content as well as to increase engagement.

If prefer, you could create your own photo and then ask users to report the image using the hashtag you designate. The advantage of this is that you can control the message, however the disadvantage is that you aren’t getting unique user-generated content.

 Instagram Photo Contest

An example from Mahina Jewelry asking followers to repost a specific photo as well as use brand related hashtag #mahinajewelrycontest.

Tag a friend contests. With this type of contest, participants must make a comment within your post and tag another at least one of their friends in the comment section. This is a great way of increasing your brand’s reach and building brand awareness through your followers. By having your followers tag one of their friends in the comment section, they are helping to introduce new potential customers for your business.

Tag A Friend Instagram Contest From Chaarg

Example from Chaarg which not only asked participants to tag a user in the comment section, but also encouraged participants to get the person tagged to follow Chaarg for motivation & inspiration.

Email gated contests. With this type of contest, you ask people who want to participate to follow you and enter their email address.

Lulu Frost's Have2Have.It page

Because Instagram users typically want contests that are easy and seamless, this type of contest might not generate as many followers as some of the other types of Instagram contests mentioned above. However, it’s a great way to build your email list and if you use, then asking for an email address is a much more seamless process (see screenshot above).

Email gated contest from Teathos to increase followers and email leads

Example from Teathos which recently created an email-gated contest. They ask participants to follow them and to then head over to their website and enter their email address.

Step 2: Design your contest.

After you decide on the type of Instagram contest that you would like to run, you still have a few other important decisions to make. You will need to choose a theme for your contest and also decide on its unique and relevant hashtag. Decide whether you will be running this contest only on Instagram, or whether you will be running it through other channels as well.

Ask yourself other questions as well such as how long the contest will run, whether you will run the contest again in the future, and how many winners you will select and according to what criteria. You also need to figure out a prize to motivate entrants. For some more complex types of contests, you may also wish to invest in a third-party app to help you manage the contest.

Step 3: Go live with your contest and promote it.

Finally, it is time to go live with your Instagram contest. You will need to launch your contest with an effective and compelling post which instantly grabs attention. In order to do this, you will need a concise and powerful title along with exciting visual content, which could include photos, videos, or a combination of both.

When it comes time to go live with your contest, do not forget to promote the contest everywhere, not just on Instagram. If you are on other social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter, be sure to announce your contest on those sites as well, even if you’re running it exclusively on Instagram. You should also announce the contest on your company’s own website. Make sure that you link users on these other sites directly to the contest post on Instagram. As the contest unfolds, post regular updates on all of your website and social media properties.

These are not the only techniques you can use to promote your contests either. You can for example send out newsletters, guest post on industry blogs, send out press releases, and even promote your contest offline if you have a brick-and-mortar presence.

Step 4: Announce the winner and thank the participants.

Once your contest comes to an end, your final task will be to select a winner, inform the winner personally if possible, and announce the winner publicly on Instagram and through your other social media channels. Be sure to share the winning entry, and thank everybody who participated in your contest for their contributions. This shows your appreciation, and makes it even more likely that users will return to participate in your next Instagram contest.

If your next contest is already in the works, this is the perfect time to announce it. You should also analyze the completed contest. What you discover about user engagement will help you to design an even more effective contest the next time around.

Here are a few additional quick tips:

  • Make sure you have concrete, measurable goals in mind when you plan the contest. When the contest is complete, analyze metrics to figure out whether your contest was truly successful or not.
  • Clearly identify your target market and choose a contest which will appeal to its members.
  • Don’t forget to be clear about rules for entering and winning your contest.
  • Run contests on Instagram regularly and predictably. Doing so will keep users coming back to your feed to see if there’s a new contest for them to participate in as well as help grow your brand’s presence.

Getting your first Instagram contest up and running takes time and dedication, and a fair amount of trial and error as well.

The more contests you run, the more you will learn about your audience, their interests, and what keeps them engaged. With each successful Instagram contest, you’ll have an opportunity to expand your audience, instill brand awareness, and generate enthusiasm for your products. Best of all, you will be building relationships with your customers!