social media how to Do you want to increase engagement on Instagram?

Have you thought about Instagram contests?

Instagram contests are a great way to get people talking about your business and increase your followers.

In this article you’ll discover tools and tips to help marketers run a successful Instagram contest.

#1: Follow Contest Rules

When you’re hosting or promoting any kind of contest, you have to follow certain rules. Here are the guidelines for running an Instagram contest:

instagram contest tools and tips

Discover Instagram contest tips and tools for success.

Listen to this article:

  • Don’t inaccurately tag content or users, and don’t encourage participants to inaccurately tag content or other users. For example, don’t ask users to tag themselves in photos if they aren’t actually in the photos.
  • Acknowledge that your contest isn’t associated with or supported by Instagram. You don’t need a neon sign stating this. Just be sure you’re not inadvertently making it seem like Instagram is endorsing your promotion.
  • Follow proper eligibility requirements. Some businesses feature products or offer prizes that have age or residency restrictions. If you’re a winery, for example, clarify that users must be 21 and older to participate.

While most of these guidelines fall under the umbrella of common sense, it’s important to make note of them. It’s easy to forget about audience restrictions or forget to state them.

#2: Pick a Contest Type

If you’re planning to run a promotion or contest on Instagram, you’ll have to decide what type of contest to run, how it will operate and how users can participate.

Here are some different types of Instagram contests to consider.

Comment on the Post Contests

This is a popular type of Instagram contest where you ask users to comment on your post. For example, you might ask fans what their favorite flavor of ice cream is. Asking a question generates engagement because users have to engage beyond simply liking the post.

Beauty by Earth asked fans to like and comment on their Instagram post for a chance to win a free exfoliating sponge set. To follow up with contest winners, the company tagged the winners in an Instagram post with a request to privately send their contact information.

host an instagram content when users can comment on your post

Host an Instagram contest where you ask users to comment on your post.

Like the Post Contests

Another type of Instagram contest is to ask fans to like the post that’s advertising the contest. While this tactic can generate some engagement, and fans are likely to participate because it’s easy to do, many businesses would rather see a more deliberate interaction like commenting.

Post Your Own Photo Contests

For this type of contest, you ask fans to post their own Instagram images along with the contest hashtag. Make it clear to fans which hashtag they should use to participate. That makes it easy for you to find them and lets you know who’s entering the contest.

Starbucks’ Red Cup Contest generates a ton of engagement and attention each year. Fans are asked to post photos of their red cup moments with the hashtag #redcupcontest.

starbucks red cup contest

Starbucks’ Red Cup Contest generates lots of engagement and media attention.

Combine Contests

You can also combine several of these contest types. For example, you might ask users to like your post and comment, or follow your brand and upload their own posts with a certain hashtag.

Keep in mind that you don’t want to ask users only to follow you, because you can’t track this action effectively or reliably.

#3: Choose a Tool to Manage Your Contest

You’ll find a number of great tools to set up, run and manage your Instagram contests.

Because Instagram has made it clear that they won’t be associated with or help support any contests on the platform, all of the tools available for managing contests are from third-party companies. Here are three to consider:


Gleam‘s contest platform makes it easy to host a contest on Instagram, and comes with a slew of helpful features. The company boasts an average of four actions per user in their competitions.

The interface is easy to use and straightforward, featuring a dashboard with current and scheduled competitions. It allows you to specify start and end dates for your contest, set terms and conditions and add age restrictions. Additionally, you can offer other ways to participate, choose what actions users need to take and specify the number of winners.

gleam interface

Gleam has an easy-to-use interface with plenty of advanced features.

Gleam allows you to place a widget on your blog to encourage users to enter the contest. You can also capture lead information from users, such as name and email address.

gleam blog contest widget

Promote your Instagram contest on your blog.

The free plan allows you to create, schedule and run contests. Upgraded plans (starting at $39 per month) offer additional features like restricting users by country, gaining full control over widget text and more.


Wishpond‘s app supports photo sharing/hashtag contests. Like Gleam, it allows you to choose where you want your contest to show up. You can promote your contest on Facebook, embed it on your website or blog or feature it on your domain.

wishpond promotion

You can promote your Instagram contest on other platforms.

Designate the hashtag you want to use for the contest and set other actions necessary to be eligible to win. You can also moderate entries before they appear in the public gallery, which you can customize with a variety of options.

wishpond photo sharing contest app

Wishpond’s photo sharing contest app requires you to use a hashtag.

Once the contest is up and running, use the app’s analytics to keep an eye on its progress. You can see the number of conversions and viewers for the contest. It’s easy to export the lead information, and you can view all of the entries and stop the contest at any time.

wishpond navigation bar

A user-friendly navigation bar makes it easy to track your contest and see the impact it’s having.

Wishpond will walk you through the setup process if you have any questions. There’s a free trial available. Pricing plans start at $44 per month (upgraded plans allow you to specify more users as admins, capture more leads and get API access).


Woobox, like Wishpond, offers hashtag photo sharing contests where you designate a specific hashtag fans must use.

woolbox social media platforms

With Woobox, you can allow entries via hashtag across multiple social media platforms.

Woobox features cross-platform integration and it’s mobile-compatible. You have the option to set an age restriction, manually approve entries, limit the contest to one entry per customer and collect valuable lead information.

woolbox customize content

Woobox makes it easy to customize your contest.

If you want, you can allow fans to add captions and share their photo entries. Once the contest is over, Woobox will randomly pick a winner for you (although you can override this).

You can try Woobox for free. With upgraded plans (starting at $30 per month), you get more features, including a higher participant threshold, more brand pages per account and more apps and contests.

Final Thoughts

Instagram contests can offer a lot of benefits for your business. Remember Instagram’s rules and choose what type of contest you want to host, and the contest apps and tools listed above will do the rest for you.

What do you think? Have you run contests on Instagram? How did they go? What tools do you use to run social media contests? Share your thoughts, experiences and knowledge in the comments below.

marketing through instagram contests

Tips and tools marketers can use to run successful Instagram contests.

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  • Thank you for putting all this info together, Ana. For a single brick and mortar store with e-commerce and decent social media presence, do you recommend one of the 3 platforms over another? TIA.

  • Your timing could not have been better. We are planning our first Instagram contest now. Thanks!

  • Ana

    I love it when timing actually works on your side! I’m glad the post could help! Let us know how it goes 🙂

  • Ana

    Steve, I think each of these 3 tools are well suited for small and medium-sized business. Each are reliable, and some offer some cool different features (like Woobox randomly selecting a winner if you choose). I personally like Gleam’s interface the best, but Wishpond has my favorite analytics. Each offers free trials or free basic plans, so I’d try them out and see what fits into your personal preference.

  • Deborah Levine

    This is great! We’re pre-planning a contest across several social media sites. Is Woobox the only one that will randomly pick a winner? And does it (or others) work on multiple sites?

  • Ana

    Deborah, by multiple sites, do you mean on multiple social media sites, or do you mean that you can place the widget/contest app on multiple sites? I believe in all cases that the answer to either of these questions is yes– you can use them cross platform, and I don’t see why you couldn’t place the widget on more than one site (though I could be wrong).

    Woobox and Gleam both have random drawings, but Wishpond definitely does not have the random winner (I just asked).

    Great questions! I hope this helped.

  • Deborah Levine

    Thank you!

  • Ana

    Of course! Let us know how it goes!

  • Lee S

    I was thinking about conducting an Instagram contest that would be something to the effect of “Become the Face of” my site. The people could send their selfies to enter. I wondered if it would be better to say anyone can enter (hopefully stimulating a large amount of engagement) or tell them to show themselves wearing their favorite product from the site (less entrants, but offering more social proof for products). Not sure which way to go with it. Any thoughts? Thanks for directing me to the great contest apps!

  • Ana

    It depends on what you’re looking for- social proof can obviously be extremely important, and this is a strategy that’s worked well for many other companies. Ultimately, if the prize is big enough and you promote it enough, you’ll likely get plenty of engagement either way 🙂 Good luck, if my comment made it in time!

    I’m so sorry for the late reply!

  • Neat. Thanks for sharing this! 🙂