Easy Instagram Contests to Grow Your Audience

instagram contestsAn Instagram contest is an affordable way to gain traffic, expand your audience, increase audience engagement and raise awareness about your brand. With the tools available today, businesses of all shapes and sizes can reap the benefits of running an Instagram contest.

Why Instagram?

One of the main reasons Instagram is a great place to host a contest is audience size. As of Sept 2017, Instagram boasts an audience of over 800 million monthly active users. That’s twice the size of Twitter! Instagram’s contest rules are more user-friendly than some other platforms and the interface makes entering a contest quick and simple.

To run an Instagram contest you’ll need an Instagram account, a great photograph, a contest hashtag, a prize and a set of rules. First you’ll need to decide what kind of contest you want to run. There are three main types of contests you can run on Instagram:

  1. Like-to-Win Contests
  2. Hashtag Contests
  3. Instagram Selfie Contests

Choosing the contest that’s right for you will depend on your goals, experience, timeline and budget.

Like-to-Win Instagram Contests

The simplest type of contest to run is an Instagram Like-to-Win Contest. This type of contest involves creating a post and inviting users to like the post to be entered for a chance to win a prize. The winner is chosen at random from all the participants. You can take a Like-to-Win contest one step further by requiring entrants to follow your Instagram feed in addition to liking a specific post.

Hashtag Instagram Contests

Slightly more complicated than Like-to-Win contests, Hashtag contests either ask participants to repost a contest image with hashtag or post an image of their own using the contest hashtags. These contests are a great way to get your contest seen by people who aren’t yet following you.


Instagram Selfie Contests

Similar to a Hashtag contest, with a selfie contest users have to upload a selfie tagged with your contest hashtag to enter. It’s important to specify what kind of selfie you’re looking for. The most common version is to ask for selfies where the user is using your product or service. Selfie contests are an excellent source of user generated content.

Choose a Hashtag for Your Instagram Contest

Every great Instagram contest needs a great hashtag. When choosing a hashtag, it’s helpful to follow Hubspot’s five step guideline. Look for a hashtag that is:

  1. Short
  2. Relevant
  3. Memorable
  4. Universal
  5. Rare

The perfect hashtag will be easy for the audience to use – easy to spell, easy to remember and easy to type. Look for a hashtag that makes sense to a wide audience and try to find one that has not been used before. If the hashtag is too common the contest is likely to get lost in the crowd.

Some brands have successfully piggybacked on existing hashtags but this needs to be done very carefully, if at all. Be particularly careful of hashtags associated with current social, political or justice-related issues as they may lead to unwanted associations that can be difficult to control.

Choosing the Right Prize

Don’t overlook the prize itself. A lackluster prize is a sure way to sink a contest. The prize should be big enough to get people excited to participate. Choose a prize that’s related to your brand, either your own product or service or something that compliments it. Consider partnering with another brand to offer a bigger prize. Many brands include a picture of the prize as part of the original contest post. It’s an easy way to entice entrants, and every post becomes an ad for your company.

Know the Rules

When running any kind of contest, it’s important to know the rules. There are laws that govern all forms of contests and sweepstakes and it’s the responsibility of the company hosting the contest to make sure that all laws are being followed. Which laws apply will vary based on where the company hosting the contest is located. Be aware that for some countries – including Canada and the United States – contest laws are not the same nationwide.

Each contest must have its own set of rules and the rules must be available to every entrant. These rules can be listed in the caption of your Instagram post or linked to on a page on your site. If the rules are stored on your site, be sure to have a clear statement in the caption that tells participants to where they can find the rules. In addition to your contest’s rules, Instagram itself also has rules that must be followed.  

Contest rules can get complicated so it may be easier to hire an agency to help ensure that everything is in order.  ShortStack has a very helpful rules template available here that can help you get started. Remember, it is always best practice to have a lawyer review the contest rules before the contest begins. Contest rules are legally binding.

Marketing your Contest

Creating the contest is the first step, but it doesn’t end there. If you don’t market your contest all your hard work could go to waste. There are several options for marketing a contest through both organic marketing and paid ad options.

Social contests should be promoted and linked it from other social accounts, on a blog, in a newsletter, on your website’s home page, etc. Subsequent Instagram posts can remind people about the contest while it’s running. Instagram Stories are a very effective way to promote the contest. Don’t just tell your audience about the contest once, give them several opportunities to participate.

One of the simplest and most effective ways to organically market an Instagram contest is to have participants tag a friend or two as part of their contest entry. Unlike Facebook which does not allow tagging others as a contest requirement, on Instagram this is within the rules. Asking participants to comment and tag one or two friends is very common, asking for more than that can get cumbersome. Traditional digital ads are also an effective way to market your contest.

If you’re ready to promote your brand with an Instagram contest Stir Marketing can help. Get in touch with the Stir team today!

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