In this article, you’ll find tips and inspiration to help you plan a successful Instagram competition that supports your marketing goals.
What Are Instagram’s Rules for Contests?
Instagram makes it relatively easy to run contests, compared to Facebook regulations that limit entry requirements and conditions.
When it comes to Instagram contests, a dominant rule to adhere to, and which most people are unaware of, is the statement of release. The following statement (or a similar one) MUST be included on all contest posts shared to Instagram:
Be sure to insert this statement at the end of your Instagram contest caption.
Tip: If you plan to regularly run contests, consider copying this verbiage and posting it in a note or app on your mobile device for easy access for future contest posts.
Instagram requires you to run your contest legally, ensuring you don’t violate any federal, state, or other laws applicable to your area. In addition, Instagram requires you to include official contest rules and terms of eligibility.
Remember that you can’t tag anyone in the contest post who’s not actually in the post itself, and you can’t ask users to tag themselves in a photo in which they do not appear. Users can mention (tag) people in the comments of a post but can’t be tagged in the actual post itself.
If you have a legal notice on your website regarding contest rules and details, you can post that link in your caption. For an updated list of the terms for Instagram contests, visit their help center.
Now that you know the restrictions and requirements for running a contest, here are the steps to take to run a contest on Instagram.
#1: Choose a Goal for Your Instagram Contest
The first step is to define a goal for your contest. For instance, you might want to:
- Generate more engagement on your posts.
- Grow your Instagram following.
- Get more people to sign up for your email list.
- Produce user-generated content (UGC).
In general, contests are a great way to grow your audience and expand your reach on Instagram. When using contest requirements to “tag a friend in the comments,” as in the post above, your existing audience does the work of sharing your content with their friends. And if their friends have similar interests and like your Instagram contest, they’ll enter and tag their friends too. Your follower count then grows exponentially.
If you’re launching a new product or service, a giveaway campaign can be a resourceful way to drum up excitement and interest. For product-based businesses, UGC is a powerful way to generate fresh content and gain a new perspective about how your product is being used.
Instagram contests will usually boost your post engagement, resulting in multiple benefits in relation to the Instagram algorithm. With your post performing well, it may rank higher in hashtag searches, allowing new audiences to find your content. And if your audience isn’t typically responsive to your normal posts but engages with a contest post, it can help bump your regular content higher in their feeds for a period of time.
#2: Plan Your Instagram Contest
Once you’ve chosen a goal for your contest, you’re ready to plan it.
Select a Relevant Prize or Incentive to Participate
Your Instagram contest prize should be something related to your business or brand. Don’t give away an iPad just to get traffic; it won’t bring in quality participants who will actually benefit your business. You want to choose a prize of significant enough value to warrant the level of participation. The more valuable the reward, the more participation and participants you’ll get.
To illustrate, asking people to take a photo with your product or performing an action and posting that to their profile is a big “ask” and warrants a larger prize. Conversely, asking people to like a post and tag a friend in the comments is a small request and would warrant a low-value prize.
In this example from @stickstonestyle, the prize is a leather backpack, which is a relatively expensive prize and worth the effort to craft a post to win.
Set a limit to your prize value or units available. You may recall the @sunnycoclothing Instagram contest that allowed “everyone” who reposted their photo within 24 hours to receive a free bathing suit. The campaign went viral, taking the account from 7,000 followers to over 750,000 followers overnight, but the small local company couldn’t fulfill the orders for all of the free suits.
They ended up shelling out over $73,000 in refunds for shipping costs alone. Had they put a limit on the contest for “the first 5,000 people,” they could have controlled their exposure and liability.
Determine How Users Will Participate
You also need to decide how users will enter the contest. Some possibilities are to follow your account, like the post, @mention one or more other users, post something with a hashtag, go to your website, and so on. Entry requirements can be one or any combination of these criteria.
The key is to make it easy for users to participate. Limit the entry requirements to three or four steps.
In this example from @shelleywebb, entrants must follow two accounts, like the post on each account, and tag two friends in the comments of the post. These three steps are easy to follow and worth the effort to win free tickets to a social media conference.
Requiring contest participants to create content as an entry requirement ensures you’ll acquire new sources of UGC that you can regram to your account (with their permission) after the contest. In addition, when your audience is out there creating content about your brand and posting it to their own profiles, their followers are seeing that content and you get the reward of added exposure at no cost.
Define Contest Rules or Conditions
Going beyond the information listed in the previous section, do participants have to be a certain age or are there certain restrictions (like U.S. residents only)?
Also decide how long the campaign will run, as well as the start date and end date. Will the campaign be 1 day, multiple days, 1 week, or 2 weeks? Numerous studies have shown that for large-scale campaigns, 1-2 weeks is the optimal length of time. If the requirements to enter involve participants sharing an image or other more time-consuming action, the campaign may need to run longer.
Select a Campaign Hashtag
Your campaign hashtag is paramount for promoting your contest and sourcing content shared as entries in the contest, as well as tracking your success and analytics. Choose a hashtag that’s related to the campaign, theme, product or service, and/or your business.
The campaign hashtag should be exclusive to that individual campaign. Also make sure no one else is using it.
Hashtags for campaigns can be longer than usual but should be easy to recognize and spell. In this example from @dunkindonuts, they’re using the #DDLoveContest hashtag and encouraging followers to post content using that hashtag and around the theme of their love story.
Determine How to Choose and Notify the Winner
When planning your campaign, you also need to decide how winners will be chosen and how you’ll notify them. Will you use a random generator tool (free online tools are available) or will entries be judged? Will you email the winners or DM them on Instagram? Or use another method?
Once you’ve notified the winners, you can publicly announce them on Instagram via a campaign post. It’s a best practice to inform winners privately before publicly announcing them on Instagram.
#3: Launch and Promote Your Instagram Contest
In your contest post, you can communicate your contest or giveaway with text in the image or graphic. This way, it won’t be dismissed as just another photo when people are scrolling through their Instagram feed.
Choose an image that’s related to the theme/content of the campaign. In your contest post caption, include the terms of entry and legal disclaimers mentioned above.
How you promote the campaign will depend on how long it will run. Decide if you’ll post multiple times a day or once daily. Based on your Instagram analytics, determine the best times of the day to post (which may differ for different days of the week).
It’s important to note that most contests won’t go viral and generate massive results for you overnight. Your first contest may only get a few participants. If your audience isn’t used to you hosting contests, they may be hesitant to enter or may not even notice it’s a contest you’re hosting. Repetition and consistency in hosting contests will help build momentum for your brand.
To ensure more people see the contest, cross-promote it to your Instagram Stories, your Facebook group or page, your newsletter, or in your store.
Note: If multiple people manage your Instagram account or you’re managing the campaign for a client, it’s important to establish who’s responsible for engagement and answering questions related to the campaign.
#4: Evaluate Instagram Contest Results
Track the results of your contests to measure the participation, increase in followers, clicks to your website, and other criteria. You can begin to compare the data from each contest to determine which types of prizes, the times of the year, the content, and the types of participation that drive the best results for your business, based on your individual goals.
When the contest wraps up, I recommend that you edit your post caption to read “Contest CLOSED” at the very beginning of the post. This will ensure that users who see the post after the contest has expired won’t attempt to participate.
What do you think? Are you excited to try an Instagram contest? Have you run a contest before? Please share your thoughts or tips in the comments below.