Create a winning Instagram contest in 6 easy steps

One of the fastest ways to grow a social media following is to host a contest! Since Instagram is a very visual-forward network, user-generated content contests perform quite successfully. We’ll walk you through the steps of hosting your very first Instagram contest.

According to a Quintly study of 5,000 profiles, the interaction rate on Instagram was 4.8% – far higher than Twitter (0.25%) & Facebook (0.72%). Interaction here was defined as likes & comments. While Instagram has fewer active users than Facebook, the engagement rate gives a strong argument to take advantage of the network.

Step 1- Define Goals

To run a successful contest, you must clearly choose & define your goals.

Here are some example goals:

  • Gain more followers
  • Increase engagement
  • Increase brand recognition
  • Drive sales
  • Boost community
  • Collect email addresses

Once you’ve defined your main goals, choose how you will measure the success of the goals. For example, if the goal is to gain more followers, set a number of followers in mind as the goal and track the progress throughout the contest.

Step 2- Choose Length of Time

Now, choose length of time. This is as important a step as the others. Is this a one-time contest? Are you hosting it weekly or monthly? One-time contests are often set up around a celebratory event (reaching 1,000 followers). Weekly or monthly events are used best for continual brand recognition & community engagement.

TIP: The longer the contest, the more often you'll need to remind your followers that the contest is ongoing. Less time means more urgency for your followers to enter!

Step 3- Choose Entry Type

The goals you defined will help you choose your entry type. For example, if the end goal is to collect as many email addresses as possible, then you need to have an entry form that will allow someone to enter their information & upload a photo.

TIP: Being present on Instagram is a must for hosting a contest. Contest entries that have extra steps, such as taking you off the network, is a barrier to some & may lower the entry count.

Step 4- Choose Prize

Like all contests, the more compelling the prize, the more entries you'll receive. The prize does not need to be a service or goods you offer. The prize only needs to be relevant to your followers’ interests.

Step 5- Choose Contest Type & Rules

There are many ways to run an Instagram contest! Choose one that best matches your goals & entry method. When writing the rules, be sure to include any restrictions (like shipping a prize to a US address only).

TIP: The more complex the rules, the less entries you'll receive.

Let’s start with the easiest:

Pick a winner from your followers.

Goal: Boost community
Needed: Two photos
This can be used when you're close to reaching a follower goal, like 1,000 fans. Announce that you will be choosing a winner when you reach your milestone. To encourage more people to follow you, ask your followers to tag their friends. Once your milestone is reached, choose a winner from your follower group & announce the winner in the next photo. Easy!

Repost to win.

Goal: Brand recognition
Needed: Engaging and attractive photo, content hashtag
Ask them to use the contest hashtag & choose the winner from the hashtag group.

Comment & tag

Goal: Increase follower, increase engagement
Needed: Compelling photo
To execute this one, post a photo & ask the followers to follow you & tag their friends. Choose a winner from your new follower base or from the group of commenters on the photo.

Enter online

Goal: Collect emails for newsletter
Needed: Entry form
Paste the link of your contest into the link of your Instagram profile. This type of contest works best when it is hosted across multiple social networks.

User-generated content

Goal: Brand recognition, increase engagement
Needed: Contest hashtag, compelling prize
A user-generated content contest is set up with a hashtag & announced with an attractive photo. This often gives you the most brand recognition, because your fans are voluntarily posting about you to their networks. Word of mouth is still the strongest form of advertising out there. Run this contest on an expected timeframe (weekly, monthly) or as a one-time contest.

The submissions you receive are content for you!

TIP: If you’re using this around an event or for a brick-and-mortar location, be sure to place some signage in your location!

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Collaborate with a local business or influencer to give a combo prize.

Goals: Brand recognition, increase engagement, boost community
Needed: Contest hashtag, compelling prize pack
Another useful type of contest for brand recognition, this type gives you maximum brand exposure. In working with an influencer, you are able to reach their network of followers!

Step 6- Announce, Promote & Follow Up

And now that you’ve decided on a contest idea, be sure to announce it! Cross-post the contest to your various networks & create a blog post out of it. Once the contest is running, be sure to be active in responding to contest entries. As the winner is chosen, announce it on Instagram & depending on the contest type, utilize any content for your future posts!

Follow us on Instagram or Twitter @ThinPigMedia for more great social media tips.