How to Run a Winning Instagram Contest

How to Run a Winning Instagram Contest

I have been enjoying my Instagram business account for a while now. It has been going fairly well since I started using it about two years ago. I want to do something back for my followers while simultaneously trying to grow my account and boost engagement. A contest is something I have been thinking about, but since it would be the first time, I want to be prepared. What are the dos and don’ts when it comes to an Instagram contest? What rules should you follow? And what are the best practices? I have researched it and want to share with you what I found.

‘How to Run a Winning Instagram Contest’ I want to do something back for my Instagram followers while simultaneously trying to grow my account and boost engagement. A contest is something I have been thinking about, but since it would be the first time, I want to be prepared. What are the dos and don’ts when it comes to an Instagram contest? What rules should you follow? What are the best practices? I have researched it and want to share with you what I found:

Learn the Instagram contest rules first

Before you start getting creative with your content ideas, you will want to know what is allowed. Understanding and following the rules ensures the success of your contest and protects your brand. Christina Newberry has listed dos and don’ts of running an Instagram contest that I find very helpful.

·       Follow the law

Most brands do not intentionally set out to break the law when they run an Instagram contest. However, laws and regulations governing contests can be complex. Make sure you understand the laws and regulations in your area. If you plan to allow entries from people outside of your country, you are wading into complicated legal territory. If you work with influencers, make sure you follow the appropriate disclosure rules.

·       Create a clear set of official rules and make them easy to find

You could post your Instagram contest rules on your website and include a link in your Instagram profile for the duration of your contest. Alternatively, you could post them as the first comment on your post. Either way, be sure to tell people where to find the full rules.

If your contest is only open to people in a specific geographic area, you may wish to include that information right in the post. It will eliminate unqualified entries from people who do not bother to read the rest of your rules.

·       Make it clear that Instagram is not involved in the contest

According to Instagram’s promotion guidelines, you must advise potential entrants that your contest “is in no way sponsored, endorsed, or administered by, or associated with, Instagram.”

·       Do not encourage inaccurate tagging

You cannot ask people to add inaccurate tags to a photo. That means you cannot ask someone to tag your brand in a photo that does not include your products or services or ask them to tag a friend in a photo unless the friend actually appears in that photo. You could ask people to use a branded hashtag or to tag themselves or a friend in the comments on a post.

·       Do not request Instagram support

If you choose to use Instagram for a contest, their promotion guidelines say you need to figure things out yourself. They “will not assist you in the administration of your promotion and cannot advise you on whether consent is required for the use of user content or on how to obtain any necessary consent.” If you use Instagram to administer your promotion, you do so at your own risk.

Nine types of Instagram contest to choose from

After learning about the rules, it is time to decide what type of contest makes the most sense for your brand and your goals. Both Newberry and Victoria Taylor have given me much inspiration. There were some types that I have seen myself and some types of which I was not aware. Food for thought!

·       Like or comment to win

Like or comment to win is one of the most common Instagram contest ideas. It is easy to enter and easy to moderate.

This ease of entering might present a challenge for marketers, though. If you are using a contest as a lead-generation strategy, you could bring in a large number of leads. Still, they may not be of very good quality, especially if all you ask for is a like.

Asking for a comment directly related to the photo will help ensure people learn something about your brand through the contest. It may also weed out people who are just hunting for an Instagram contest to enter.

·       Follow to win

To increase your Instagram followers, you can ask users to follow your Instagram account for a chance to win. This entry method also comes with a warning as it usually works 50/50.

One on hand, you can grab viewers who might genuinely like your brand. On the other hand, you will be attracting others who just want to enter your contest and then leave.

At the end of it all, you will be able to retain a significant increase of followers who will keep following your account in the long run.

·       Photo caption contest

A photo caption contest allows fans to show off their humor while also showing their loyalty to your brand. All you need is an interesting or unusual photo. Ask fans to post their caption in the comments.

·       Tag-a-friend

A tag-a-friend contest can be a great way to expose your brand to people who may not have heard of you before. Ask users to tag their friends in the comments of your post for a chance to win a prize.

Each person who is tagged will get a notification and will likely click through and see your post. If they like what they see, you may end up with a new follower. In a very simple way, this method works like a referral system.

The more friends users tag, the more brand visibility you get, and the better your chances are for an increase in followers and potential customers.

·       Click the link in the bio to enter

If you are looking for a way to get more subscribers to your email list, this should be your method of choice. Encourage viewers to click the link in your bio to go on your website or landing page. Once there, they can submit their email and other details to enter your Instagram contest.

If you consider using your website, it can also drive traffic to your online store. Once a user has finished entering, they will most likely browse your website to see what you have to offer.

·       Trivia or skill-based contest

A trivia contest can be a great way to bring in a lot of brand love. People respond to questions and show how much they know about your brand. You could also ask trivia questions about a subject related to your brand. People who do not know a lot about your brand may end up researching the answers and learning about your brand in the process.

Asking fans to show off a skill related to your product or brand is another great option. This works especially well if you offer products or resources that help people learn or develop those skills. The entries that come in can serve as social proof of how well your products work.

·       User-generated content contest

An Instagram contest is a great way to collect content from fans that you can share across your social channels. Please make sure it is clear in your contest terms that you may share the photos and text that people submit.

For instance, you could ask users to show themselves using your product. You can ask for a story of how your product or service has improved their life. You could also ask them to post photos that are related to your product or service.

·       Instagram Stories contest

Instagram Stories could also be an interesting place for a contest. You can run a 24-hour contest from your Story using the questions feature to collect entries. Use a good prompt to get users engaged. You can also run a contest that lasts longer than 24 hours using Instagram Stories ads.

·       Scavenger hunt contest

A scavenger hunt can be a fun way to get your Instagram community involved with your brand. You can use your Instagram feed to provide clues that people need to follow to find a prize or give people a list of photo tasks to complete and post on their Instagram feed or Instagram Story.

How to run an Instagram contest

So, where do you start with a contest? But also, how do you keep the interest and entries going, and how do you finish it? Newberry and Taylor have helped me answer these questions.

·       Set clear goals

Knowing what you want to accomplish with your contest is the first step. What do you want to do? Expose your account to new potential fans? Get more Instagram followers?  Build a library of user-generated content to post later? Increase sales and online purchases? Drive traffic to your website or landing page? Promote new or current products and services? Learn more about how your customers use your products?

Those are all valid goals. The answer will help determine what kind of Instagram contest to run and allow you to measure your results. Remember, your Instagram contest goals should be S.M.A.R.T.: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.

·       Plan out the details

Create a plan to reach your clear and measurable goals. What do you want entrants to do? Write a simple statement to explain how people can enter. What are the rules and parameters? Make the complete rules of the contest available online. How long will your contest run? Set a start date and an end date and clearly state them in the contest. Will you use a campaign hashtag? If you plan to use one, include it on every piece of promotional content. How will you notify the winner? Make it clear in the contest rules.

·       Make it easy for people to enter

Instagram is primarily a mobile social network. That means people are tapping on mobile screens rather than typing on computer keyboards. So, your contest entry process needs to be simple. Minimize the number of taps required to maximize your number of entries.

·       Choose an appropriate prize

Your prize should be valuable enough that it motivates people to enter your contest but not so valuable that it encourages entries from people who have no real interest in your brand.

·       Select an eye-catching contest image or video

Instagram is a visually-driven platform. Your Instagram contest image can make or break your Instagram contest. And it is not easy to stand out. About 38% of Instagram users check Instagram multiple times a day, and 95 million photos and videos are shared on Instagram per day.

As a result, you have to ensure that your Instagram contest image or video stops them from scrolling past. To stop your followers in their tracks, show them the prize that is up for grabs, in a way that brings out your brand’s appeal.

·       Write the perfect Instagram contest caption

In addition to adding a visually pleasing image to your Instagram contest, you will need a show-stopping caption.

Giveaway captions have to be detailed to avoid confusing followers. They should include your entry guidelines, prize details, beginning date, and end date. As mentioned, they should also follow Instagram guidelines.

The first line of your caption should capture your reader’s attention and let them know what is going on. You are running an Instagram contest! Next, use clear instructions. This may seem a bit tedious, but it increases engagement and reduces the likelihood of user errors.

·       Promote your Instagram contest

First, think about pre-promotion. When you let you let your followers know ahead of time that you will be doing a giveaway, you will help build anticipation. You can also view the level of engagement with your pre-promotion post to get a glimpse of how many people are looking forward to entering.

Once you have opened the contest, use Instagram ads to place your giveaway squarely in front of potential contestants, and use Instagram Stories as well. A Story disappears after 24 hours. Unlike a post in your Instagram feed, you can upload your Instagram contest post as often as you like without annoying your followers.

Then cross-promote your contest on other channels (with a direct link to the contest!). Make sure fans know about your Instagram contest even if they are not yet following you on Instagram. This also gives them a nudge to follow you there.

Finally, it is important to publish a contest reminder approaching your end date to keep your Instagram contest fresh in the minds of your followers.

·       Pick the winner of your Instagram contest!

Now that your contest is over, it’s time to pick your winner. Based on the entry method you selected, you know how to select your winner and how to notify them.

·       Measure your results

Decide on your key metrics and how often you will track them. Think about the number of entrants and comments, engagement levels, follower count, website or landing page traffic, product trials or purchases, and positive and negative sentiment.

You might also want to analyze the kinds of comments and questions you got. Did people understand how to enter? What was the quality of the content you received? Did you learn anything about your potential customers? This type of information can tell you how to improve your contest for next time.

·       Use custom audiences to follow up after your Instagram contest

You will probably see more interaction with your Instagram account than usual. You can use all those extra interactions to build a custom audience for Instagram ads once your contest is over to make sure you stay visible to people who may have liked or commented on your contest post but not followed your brand account.

Social media translations

I have learned a lot for my first Instagram contest. In my day-to-day life, I am a professional translator. Recently, I wrote a blog post about social media translations as social media are such a huge part of marketing our businesses and an easy tool to reach an international audience.

If your company is working on an international market, you have to decide whether you want to stay in your native language or adopt a multilingual approach. If you want to adopt a multilingual approach, please contact me to talk about your translation project. My email address is