5 Steps to Running a Successful Instagram Contest

Social media contests are one of the best ways to generate buzz around your name while boosting brand awareness. It’s a solid way to improve engagement with your social networks, promote your product or service, and increase followership.

Instagram is a killer platform to execute your social contest because users tend to be extremely responsive with content shared on this network. From liking, commenting, reposting, and finding new content through hashtags, followers are seeking to engage in interesting visuals that appeal to their interest. You’ll create huge success running an Instagram contest to achieve your marketing goals.

The good news is the simplicity of hosting a contest on Instagram. You could hold one weekly to create the expectation with your audience or have it monthly to help meet your business goals. The point is that it makes a great addition to your social media strategy.

Here are five strong Steps to Running a Successful Instagram Contest and to breed more excitement around your brand.

#1 Be Clear on Your Goal

It’s important that you have a distinct goal on what you aim to accomplish through your contest. Are you looking to grow sales? Do you want to increase awareness? Or perhaps you’d like to collect more user-generated content? Whatever your objective, this must be established at the beginning to ensure that your planning and promotion aligns with this goal.

Therefore, set one specific goal for your Instagram contest then share it with your team so everyone is clear on its true purpose and the activity needed to make it happen!

#2 Map Out the Contest

With your objective in mind, you want to strategically plan your contest for success. The more you map out the details, the more clarity your team will have in the execution phase. The following are key components to consider when planning your contest on Instagram.

Define a Theme for Your Contest

Choosing a theme for your contest lets users know the types of content (images or videos) to share. Especially if your contest is based on user-generated content, your theme gives direction to participants creativity in what content to post.

Select a theme that would interest your market or aligns with your products. Holidays and special times of the year work well for contest themes too. The key is to keep it exciting and relatable that compels people to participate.

The Timeframe, Budget, and Benchmarks

Knowing how long your contest will run is vital for participants and when creating your campaign to promote the contest. Building a sense of urgency is suggested as it encourages users to enter now versus later…when they’re likely to forget. Try a variant of timeframes (one week, two weeks, a day, etc.) over time to test which works best for your audience.

Depending on the timeframe, establish your budget for paid marketing and visuals. Facebook Ad Manager is a great, cost-efficient tool to create more exposure about your contest.

Finally, create benchmarks where you and your team can gauge how well your contest is running based on results. For example, if your contest is for one week, decide the metrics you should be generating daily to get to your ultimate goal.

Create Your Contest Hashtag

Along with your branded hashtag, each of your posts should include the “perfect hashtag” for your contest. This makes it easy for your team to monitor (more on this later) and for other followers to check out your contest content. It also promotes awareness so create a contest hashtag users can leverage as a means to enter and/or highlight your brand.

Determine How Users will Enter

The beauty about Instagram contests is that you can make it simple for people to enter and encourage their followers to participate too. One tactic is the “Like My Post to Enter” contest where users can easily double-tap your visual and have an entry. Another entry method is simply posting their own content (user-generated) and including the contest hashtag.

A more strategic approach is creating a targeted landing page on your website for entry. This is a great lead generation method as every participant will be placed on your email list. Since building your list is the lifeline to your business, setting up a landing page will pay huge dividends to your email marketing and exposure.

Be sure to include your landing page link in your profile bio on Instagram.

Establish Contest Rules

You’ll want to either create an image of the contest rules or set up a website page that gives a detailed outline. This doesn’t have to be complicated but here are a few guidelines to provide structure.

Decide How Winners Will Be Selected and Prize Distributed

Who will be your lucky winners? Will they be chosen at random like a lottery system? Or must contest participants generate the most likes from their content to win? Determine how your winners will be selected and ensure that this is included in your contest rules.

Also, be clear on how the prize will be given to the winners (mailed, picked up, etc.). It’s a great idea to use your own products and services as prize giveaways to grow your customer-base and collect more testimonials.

#3 Promote, Promote, Promote!

Now that you’ve decided on the goal of your contest and have mapped out the details, it’s time to get it in front of people. Increasing exposure requires promoting…not just on Instagram, but on other platforms. Here are a few ways to get the word out:

  • Share it with your list – they’re your biggest fans and are more likely to talk about your contest with their social networks than anyone else (Source: QuickSprout)…leverage them to your advantage
  • Promote your contest on other social networks – Facebook, Twitter, and live-streaming videos are all fair game to boosting awareness. It also increases your followers. Let them in on the fun!
  • Include banners and CTAs on your website – add colorful graphic banners that highlights your contest
  • Create a Facebook ad – retargeting is a great way to keep your contest in front of your audience long after they leave your website or Facebook Page
  • Blog about it – write a post on your blog and share it

#4 Monitor Your Contest

It’s important that you have a way to monitor your efforts and those who are participating to truly gauge your results and see if you’re on target. Without a proper way to monitor submissions, you may miss out on opportunities that could generate future revenue.

Decide on the metrics that you’ll be using to measure submissions and ways to keep track. Certain metrics include the number of submissions and participants, top participants, total likes, and follower growth during the contest. Instagram tools like Iconosquare can help you evaluate progress in these areas.

#5 Highlight the Winners

Publishing winners make your contest credible and increase the desire to follow you in the event you decide to launch another contest. It’s also a way to make winners feel special by being recognized on your global platform.

There are multiple ways that you can highlight your winners to enrich your marketing strategy:

  • Share winning photos on your Instagram page and other social channels
  • Shoot a live-streaming video using Instagram Stories to share how you chose the winner to boost engagement
  • Send a follow-up email to contest participants thanking them for entering and offering a special discount to convert them into customers
  • Post teasers for future contests on Instagram to keep your followers hooked and engaged


Instagram contests are solid tactics to growing brand awareness and your followership. Use this guide to ramp up your Instagram strategy. You’ll experience an increase in traffic to your site, boost in leads, more sales, and added exposure to your brand.

Much success.

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