Instagram Tips

10 Best Practices for Running Contests on Instagram

Running contests on Instagram is a great way to raise your follower count, further engage your audience, and grow your brand. Applying best practices to your contest strategy can help you avoid wasting your time promoting to the wrong audience and prevent your contest from becoming a lesson in failure.  

Though growing the amount of followers you have shouldn’t be your only objective, promoting through Instagram contests when done right can really do wonders for your brand’s reputation and the overall quality of your brand awareness and follower engagement.

Best Practices for Running Contests on Instagram

In this article, we’ll cover the top ten tips we have found to be most effective for running Instagram contests that deliver the results you’re looking for:

Tip # 1: Create a Branded Hashtag to Use for Your Contest

Each and every time you create a contest you should also create a branded hashtag to go with it.  This is the best practice for any social media giveaway or contest promotion, and it applies especially for promotions run on Instagram.  Requiring users to include your branded hashtag in order to enter the contest will allow you to track the entries and any conversations people are having about the promotion.

Don’t forget to also add a few generic hashtags to your contest captions though.  These less specific hashtags are what will help a broader range of people find your contest when they search on Instagram’s Explore page.  The best way to differentiate between the two is to use line breaks between your caption with the branded tag and the rest of your usual or more generic hashtags.

Tip # 2: Create a Captivating Graphic, Photo, or Short Video

Instagram is best known for its focus as a visual platform, which is unsurprisingly one of the most important factors in marketing or promoting contests on the app.  The image you decide to use should be appealing and should motivate others to engage with the post. If you put something cheap looking together with pixelated clip art, you likely won’t attract a lot of people for your contest.

Choose great graphics

A good thing to consider is coming up with a theme or design template for your brand.  This way, your branding remains consistent through cross promotion of Instagram posts to your website or other social platforms. There are great user-friendly and free graphic design apps like Canva that can be very helpful for creating an attractive image for easy sharing on Facebook, Twitter, or any of your other social networks.

Tip # 3: Pick a Prize that is Relevant to Your Brand

Everybody loves winning prizes and getting stuff for free without having to do much work. So picking out a really appealing prize for your contest should be enough, right? Nope. You see, one of the most common mistakes businesses make when running Instagram contests is giving away a prize that has nothing to do with their brand or industry. Most of these businesses just choose a prize simply for the sake of increasing the amount of entries.

Sure, giving away a brand-new laptop will probably get you more entries, but that’s not likely to attract high-quality followers to your page. When we say high-quality followers, these are individuals who are more likely to engage with your posts on the platform.

Choose relevant prizes
Generic prizes often draw in more people looking for freebies than anything else.  These users care very little, if at all, about your brand or product and are just looking to win something for free.  So instead of going down that route, come up with a cool, niche prize that represents what you do and how it benefits others.  Prize options could include a gift card to your online store, a coupon for a free service, or something similar to help spread brand awareness as well as give people the opportunity to try out your product.

Tip # 4: Make Joining the Contest Easy

The process of entering your contest should be easy.  Whatever your process may be, make sure the directions are clear, simple, and straightforward.  It is also important to make sure the rules are clearly stated and can be accessed through the duration of the contest.  Creating a landing page or listing all of the rules and guidelines on your website can be a good place to keep everything in one place.

Make joining the contest easy

You can also include guidelines to your contest in the captions you create to promote it.  The more you clearly state the list of rules, the less questions you will get and the more compliant with Instagram’s rules you will be.

Tip # 5: User-Generated Content as Entries

There are multiple options when it comes to choosing how people will enter your contest.  Some require users to like and repost a photo, while others ask for a follow or write a creative comment on the contest post itself.  Most of the time, the less you ask users to do, the more entries you will get. The best way to generate more engagement and grow your following however, is to get people to perform some sort of action to join the contest, for example, by posting a picture and tagging your brand.

Encourage user-generated content

All of the pictures submitted to your contest should somehow relate to your brand or business. Why not try asking them to include your logo or submitting a creative photo of them using your product? This will significantly add to the amount of user-generated content your brand has on Instagram, which is great considering that UGC is trusted 50% more than any other form of media. What better way to market than organically letting your audience do it for you?

Tip # 6: Let the Public Pick a Winner

Allowing public voting is one of the best options for determining who will win your Instagram contest.  Opening up the voting process to pick the contest winner is a great way to build community, promote engagement, and organically spread awareness as people go about sharing their entry with their friends.

Tip # 7: Keep Your Contests Between 1-2 Weeks

A good way to look at the length of your Instagram contest is to imagine it as a product sale.  If the sale doesn’t end for 30 days, how likely are you to rush to the store to buy the product?  The objective is to excite people into entering the contest and voting for a winner, don’t give them a reason to procrastinate and potentially forget all together.

Set a specific time frame for the contest

Most successful Instagram contests last about a week.  It can sometimes make sense for a contest to be longer but a week usually gives people enough time to discover your promotion and submit an entry.  Always make sure to clearly state your start and end date so you can avoid a barrage of questions about when people can enter or when they’ll know if they won.

Tip # 8: Make Your Contest Creative and Fun

No contest should ever be run just because it needs to be.  Try to stay away from the generic “like and tag to enter” strategy as much as you can.  Running contests on Instagram should be the result of fun and exciting ideas that inspire users to engage with your brand.

Make Instagram contest exciting

Some of the best contests on Instagram have been most successful because of how innovative they were.  A good example of a creative contest would be requesting users to submit a piece of original art where the winning submission becomes the image on your newest product label.  Of course if you were looking to hire a graphic designer anyway, offering an added cash prize can be a way to sweeten the deal as well.

Tip # 9: Promote the Contest in Your Instagram Profile

If you are someone who posts multiple times a day or even regularly each day, the post you mention your contest on could be buried before many people have even gotten the opportunity to see it.  Including a link with a short sentence or two about the contest on your profile saves people from having to search through all the previous posts on your feed to find it. Doing so is also a great way for brands to let people know about their current contest if they run several throughout the year.  Instead of users having to dig for the opportunity to give you their engagement, make it easier for them with some helpful info from the get go.

Tip # 10: Make Your Life Easier with Tools

Managing and keeping track of Instagram contests is no easy task.  Without any contest or features built into the app, everything from finding entries to monitoring conversations and tracking votes has to be done manually.  Thankfully there are a few good tools we’re aware of that can save you stress and make life a little easier. A few of the more popular ones are: Gleam, Wishpond, and Woobox.

The best part about these tools is that they’re specifically designed to be used for photo contests and include hashtag integration.  They also make it easy to share your contest in your blog or across other social media platforms and give you access to analytics so you can better keep tabs on all the moving parts of your giveaway.


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