How To Run An Instagram Contest – 5 Step Guide

Winning a free flight to the Maldives and all you have to do is post a cool photo of your sunnies – could it sound any more exciting?

That’s the enticing play of an Instagram contest, one of the most effective tactics to quickly increase engagement and grow your audience. From selfie competitions to superb giveaways, there are endless ways to plan the perfect contest.

Not sure where to start? Keep scrolling.

1. Create an entry method

It is important to define what will take for your audience to enter the contest, therefore clearly outlining the entry requirements in your post. Choose between different contest types and feel free to get creative!

Like-to-win / Comment-to-win / Tag-to-win contests
Very simple. A like-to-win contest is one that asks users to like a photo you have posted (and your page) for a chance to win a prize; a comment-to-win contest will also want them to reply to your post; and a tag-to-win contest will incentivise your followers to lead their friends to your page by tagging them in your picture.

Photo Challenge contests – User-Generated Content (UGC)
To enter a photo challenge contest, fans must share a photo on their personal account based on a theme that you selected (and a specific hashtag which we’ll help you choose later). This is ideal to boost an engaged Instagram community and get your name out there!

2. Define a clear theme

If you’re feeling creative and opted for a UGC-based contest, it’s now time to pick a theme! You might want to choose something that aligns with your market and your niche interests, but don’t hesitate to step on upcoming holidays, current seasons or any other popular trend.

Let us inspire you with some examples!

  • Selfies are always a good idea

Jump on the selfie bandwagon and give your audience the opportunity to share their favourite self-portrait! Whether you ask them to feature your brand or just strike a crazy pose in the mirror, this is a great way to generate a successful buzz competition.

@Got2b invited fans to show off their freshest hairstyle for a chance to be the face of the next campaign and win free products! Needless to say, the contest went VIRAL.

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  • Introduce your products

If dirty mirrors and kissy faces are not your thing, skip the selfie game and try a different way. Just encourage people to pick their favourite product from your catalogue as a prize they would like to receive, and ask them to reply with a comment to your post and/or share the picture on their own channels.

Swim and fitness wear brand @Albionfit are king in this type of contest. Here they asked entrants to follow their account, choose one of these four swimsuits as their prize, and tag a friend on the picture. What better way to grow your followers than getting them all so close to the point of purchase?

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  • Take inspiration from Weekend Hashtag Projects

We mentioned it already in our Ultimate Guide To Grow Your Fashion Instagram, the Weekend Hashtag Project is a series of designated themes and hashtags chosen by the Instagram Community. Packed with tons of creative contest themes, the weekly challenge is sure to give you great ideas!

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#Magic, #EyeTricks, #LightAndShadows, #ThisIsHome, take the subject you feel will most likely boost users’ imagination, and turn it into a massive photography competition. But remember to make up your OWN hashtag, so that only people actually intentioned to enter the contest will use it (and here we get to the next point).

3. Find the perfect hashtag

A sea of hashtags is being created every day, coming up with a unique one can sometimes be tricky. Keep calm and bear in mind the following rules if you don’t want to commit any hashtag faux pas!

Short and catchy – long hashtags can be tough to remember and won’t grab much attention. Keep it simple, and create something that sticks in people’s minds.

Relevant to your brand/theme – whether you want to associate the contest to your brand or a general theme, make sure to incorporate the right keyword in your hashtag!

Rare and original – how many Instagrammers are already using your tag for other purposes? If more than 3, head back to the drawing board. A contest named #suncream is not specific enough; make your hashtag special, so that unrelated pictures to the contest won’t be included.

4. Choose an appropriate prize

Rewarding people with a prize matching the entry action is essential. But don’t forget that the main point of the contest is attracting more followers: you must offer something relevant to your business and your target audience’s interests.

If you own a music shop, don’t give away a hand mixer; people will just be entering to win the award and not because they would ever be concerned with your channel!

Little hint: it might be worth to feature the award in your picture, just to make everything more tempting.

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5. Spread the word like crazy

Once the plan is done, you must think of a promotion strategy. No one will enter your contest unless they know about it!

When sharing the promotion photo on your channel, try to use a high-quality and catchy picture. Adding the word “Giveaway” or the actual contest hashtag into your image may also help to capture followers and generate more submissions; just like the American fashion brand @Nastygal have done for their cracking #TruthOrDare competition!

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Check also that your post includes all of the following:

  • The entry rules to the contest
  • The hashtag to use in the post
  • The timeframe to enter the contest
  • The date of the winner announcement

If your contests lasts for a long time, it’s important to keep it active and remind your followers what they could win. Unless you’re Ben & Jerry’s and give away free ice-cream, not every user will scroll through your past posts in search of a contest; so make sure to post reminders and keep participants informed throughout the period!

And finally, just because it’s happening on Instagram, doesn’t mean it has to stay on Instagram. Post your contest on Facebook, blog about it, tweet the link, or use a Hello Bar on your website! In short, share it EVERYWHERE.

Ready to run your own contest? 

Then don’t waste any more time; put our tips into practice and let us know how it goes!

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