How to run a successful Instagram contest

Instagram contests are one of the most effective and impactful ways for brands and businesses to increase their engagement and grow their audience.

Contests are extremely powerful for a number of reasons; they increase audience engagement, reward your followers, gain access to user-generated content (UGC), drive traffic to your website and enable you to reach new audiences.

Unlike Facebook, there currently aren’t any restrictions to the type of contest or giveaway you run on the platform. 

For example, Facebook won’t let you require people to like your page in order to entry your contest. However, that’s fair game on Instagram.

On Instagram, you can ask users to like a photo, leave a comment, tag a friend, post a follow using a specific hashtag and/or follow your account in order for their entry to be valid.

Instagram also lets you run both contests and/or giveaways on the platform. 

What’s the difference?

A contest means that a winner will be chosen based on merit; be it the quality or frequency of their entries.

When running a giveaway, the winner is chosen randomly.

Regardless of whether you’re running a contest or a giveaway, there are a number of rules and regulations that you need to follow when running a contest or giveaway on Instagram.

Rules and Regulations:

Instagram requires users to post a release statement on all contests.

This means that in the caption of the photo you post for your contest or giveaway, you must state the following:

  • Rules: The official rules of the contest which detail how users enter – meaning, the specific steps they have to take to make their entry valid. If they need to tag a friend, follow your account and/or post a photo using a hashtag, you have to include every one of those steps in the caption. You also need to spell out exactly how the winner will be chosen, regardless of whether it’s a contest or giveaway.
  • Offer terms & eligibility: All eligibility requirements must be stated clearly. State when the contest starts and ends (the specific time,) entry rules and how a winner will be chosen and notified. If you have to live in a specific geographic location, or be a set age, in order to enter, spell it out. Don’t leave anything open for interpretation, or you could get yourself into trouble. Eligibility requirements can also include that the user’s profile must be public.
  • Compliance: Add the sentence “void where prohibited by law” to give yourself blanket coverage. You also need to add Instagram’s boilerplate statement for contests that alleviates them of legal responsibility. Click here to get those nitty gritty details that you’ll need to include.

These rules and regulations must be included on every single post about the contest or giveaway that you make on your account.

Now that you know the legal mumbo jumbo that you need to include, you’re going to want to brush up on the best practices for running an Instagram contest or giveaway.

Getting set up:

When running a promotion on Instagram, it is critical to plan ahead.

You need to give your team ample time to prepare everything (the graphics, goal, tracking methods and rules) in advance.

Because engagement is everything on Instagram, you want to be sure that you’re carving out time to engage with contest participants on a daily basis.

Staying active and responsive to your Instagram audience is the best way to build your community throughout the giveaway.

Below are 9 steps to follow when setting up your next Instagram contest or giveaway:

  1. Get a goal: Decide exactly what you want the contest to do – whether that’s increase the number of followers, encourage usage of your brand hashtag or build up a library of user-generated content. Defining your goal will enable you to analyze the success of the promotion when it ends.
  2. Choose a prize: Pick something that’s relevant and valuable to your audience. Your prize should be related to your business, and the value of the prize should be related to the effort required to enter the contest. Greater levels of participation should be rewarded with great prizes.
  3. Nitty gritty details: Define all of the entry and eligibility requirements for the contest. Determine exactly how many steps and what exactly you’ll ask users to do (follow our account, tag a friend below, use a hashtag, etc) to enter. Make it as easy as possible to enter your contest. Also, be sure to define the exact rules and conditions for entry in the caption. State the start and end date, steps of entry and eligibility requirements like age, geographic location, number of entries, etc…
  4. Plan promotion: Create a promotional schedule for how you’re going to spread the word about the promotion. How early are you going to start talking about it? How often are you going to mention it across your social media networks? Planning the promotional content schedule out ahead of time will make it much easier to implement the plan when the contest starts.
  5. Make a hashtag: You need a hashtag to pair with your campaign in order to make it easily trackable. Be sure to include the hashtag in all of your captions for the contest, especially if you’re requiring users to post a photo using it as their form of entry. The hashtag should also be included in all of the promotional imagery you create for the contest or giveaway. Make sure that your hashtag hasn’t been used before; it needs to be unique to your campaign if you want to have accurate analytics at the end of the promotion.
  6. Make imagery: Now that you’ve got your hashtag and details, start creating beautiful, branded imagery to promote the contest. Put the hashtag and prize details on the graphics so that users have a good sense of what’s expected of them.
  7. Create criteria: Decide on the winning criteria; determine how contest entries will be judged, and/or how you’ll generate a random winner for giveaways. You also need a plan for how you’re going to notify the winner and if it will be done publicly or privately.
  8. Write rules: You want to write out the entire caption for the contest before posting the photo announcing the contest. Ideally, write the caption in a notepad or word document that you can share with your team to get a second set of eyes for approval. Be sure to include whether it’s a contest or giveaway, entry rules and eligibility requirements, timeline, prize details and how a winner will be chosen and notified. Include any necessary disclaimers and save the document for future use.
  9. Plan for analysis: Decide beforehand what tools will you use to track the hashtag usage and engagement throughout the campaign. You want to have a plan for how often you’ll be engaging. It’s smart to define how you’re going to measure success beforehand, so that everyone is on the same page.

There’s no doubt that Instagram contests take a ton of planning and strategic thinking.

However, they are incredibly effective for driving engagement and generating a sense of community on the platform.

By following the 9 steps above, you’ll be set up for success for your next Instagram contest. 

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