Tips For Hosting Instagram Contests

Marketing on the photo-sharing website – whose users now number more than 300 million – requires a certain style which stays true to the platform’s noncommercial roots. This can intimidate some businesses and make them hesitant with regard to content creation, especially the launching of Instagram contests.

However, more and more businesses are beginning to use Instagram to host the kind of contests and giveaways that have proved popular on Facebook for quite some time.

Consequently, in order to remain competitive, your business needs to leave trepidation about correct use of the platform behind. Fortunately, for those considering broaching Instagram contests for the first time, we’ve outlined some tips to give your efforts the best chance of success.

Decide on the type of photo contest you want to host

Part of the appeal of Instagram is that its promotional guidelines are not as limiting as those on other platforms, which gives you more creative freedom when conceptualising your contest.

When embarking on your first Instagram contest, you may wish choose from one the most popular contest ideas listed below:


This contest format requires users to “like” an Instagram photo you’ve posted to gain entry to the competition you’re running. The example below from restaurant Buffalo Jordan quadrupled the average number of likes for their posts.

Another benefit of this type of contest is its effect on Instagram’s Discover page. When several users like your brand’s photo to enter your ‘like-to-win’ contest, it increases the chances of your photo being featured on the discovery page. This is great exposure for both the contest and your brand.


As the name suggests, this contest type requires users to comment on your contest’s photo in order to secure entry. This can yield valuable feedback and increase post engagement among your followers. When used well this format stimulates users to provide their input on products.


This contest type incentivises your followers to lead their friends directly to your brand’s Instagram content or account. Users simply need to tag a friend (using the “@” symbol) in the comment section of your brand’s Instagram contest post to be in the running for a prize.

Tag-to-win contests generate direct, organic traffic to your brand’s Instagram account. Therefore, this contest type is particularly helpful in the pursuit of new followers.

Photo challenge

Unsurprisingly, this is the most popular type of Instagram contest. Users must post a picture on their personal account featuring a specific hashtag created by your brand to secure entry.

Many brands host selfie or photo challenges that inspire users to showcase their products or store in a creative fashion. Both of these approaches have been employed by retail company Nasty Gal. The example below shows the brand asking users to post a #StrangerSelfie using the hashtag #NastyGalTruthorDare to gain contest entry.


This contest type, takes a slightly different tack. Instead of asking users to go to the bother of taking ajb-nastygalnd posting their own Instagram photo to enter, repost-to-win contests require users to repost a specific image published by your brand. Followers can accomplish this by either sharing a screenshot or using a reposting app. Your brand will need to create a specific hashtag for entrants to use in order to track  contest entries.

One advantage to ‘repost-to-win’
contests is that they allow your brand to control the message and aesthetic of the giveaway. While this is great for tone and brand consistency, a potential pitfall is that your brand’s aesthetic may not align with the entrants you’re trying to engage. In such instances, these users may elect to opt out of your contest.

Hereunder is an example of a successful ‘repost-to-win’ contest from Australian boutique Drop Dead Dollbaby. To gain entry, users had to repost this image with the hashtag #DDDSUPASUNDAYS and follow the brand’s account.

Compose Rules For Your Instagram Contests

In comparison to Facebook, Instagram does not have many promotional rules. Businesses must only abide by the following: 1) acknowledge (in the post’s caption copy) that the business’ promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed/administered by or associated with Instagram; 2) refrain from inaccurately tagging content or encouraging users to do so. This liberates businesses to make their contest rules as loose or structured as they see fit.

Basic contests that require users to perform only one task (such as like, comment or tag) to enter are less common than those which require users to perform more than one task to enter. Frequently brands will require entrants to like a photo, follow the brand’s account and comment on its photo.

Successful  multi-step Instagram contests featuring a prize require people to carry out two tasks: 1) follow the comoany’s @hadnle; 2) post a picture depicting the required content or theme.

Hosting your Instagram rules in the correct location

If you’re hosting a simple Instagram contest that doesn’t require a lot of rules, then it’s best to display your rules in the caption copy of your post. However, If you’re running a more rule-intensive contest then there are two options available to you regarding in-depth rules and/or terms and conditions

1) Create a rules page on your website

Beauty sample shipping company Birchbox frequently host Instagram contests with links to their rules page https://www.birchbox.com/rules/.

2) Host your rules on a Campaign

This approach involves creating a landing page for your Instagram contest, which can host your contest’s rules and entries. Tools such as HubSpot can be used to facilitate this.

One advantage to hosting your Instagram contest as a Campaign is that it allows you to collect data like email addresses which can be used to connect with contest entrants once the promotion has run its course.

Another benefit to this option is that eliminates the need to fuss with excessively long caption copy. Instead, brands can simply announce and promote their contest using clever sentences instructing users to “click the link in our bio to enter to win” or a variant on this. Howeer, if adopting this approach, it’s imperative that you update your Instagram bio section to include your campaign’s URL.

Give away a relevant prize

When deciding on what contest prize to offer, it’s important to bear your goal in mind. The purpose of your contest is to attract the right followers to your brand, so the best way to achieve this is by offering a prize relevant to your brand.

You’re more likely to attract followers who’ll use your product/service if you give away something appropriate to your brand. Remember that it’s the prize that entices fans to register for the contest in the first place. So, make sure your prize will please your target audience. Some of the best prizes can be your own products or gift cards for your business.

Publicise the contest

To maximise exposure, it’s key to use the right hashtags in your Instagram post’s caption and comment section. Below is a template to follow:

#(your brand’s name)

#(the name of your prize)






Hashtags don’t merely track entries, they also associate content you share with similar content. Furthermore, they boost exposure of your content to the most relevant types of people for your brand. Combining hashtags correctly can lend your contest the exposure it needs to succeed. You should also promote the contest across your other social channels to maximise exposure. Hosting your contest on Instagram doesn’t preclude you from promoting it elsewhere!

Emailing your customers an announcement about your Instagram contest is one of the most effective means of getting people to participate. Don’t discount or overlook this promotional avenue! Moreover, email contacts are often the best people to enter because they already like your company and are apt to become ambassadors for your brand to their friends.


Instagram’s appeal is rooted in the fact that it’s a creative platform. Nevertheless, from a business perspective, if your brand is looking to create an impact on its community, it’s necessary to follow the app’s lead by applying a creative mindset to the posts you publish and the contests you run. Essentially, contests are away to recognize and reward your followers on the platform. They also spur people to engage with your photos and help you garner new followers.

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