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Run a Successful Contest on Instagram

Whether you’re a rookie or a veteran in the world of social media, running a contest, from time to time, through your Instagram account can be a great idea. When done correctly, a contest can get your account seen by new eyes and keep your current audience engaged.

Best practices to set you up for success

Before setting up your contest, it’s first essential to know the rules Instagram has in place. Think about what a huge let down it would be to have your contest post removed, or even worse, your IG account suspended, after you put in so much hard work planning a contest for your audience! Doesn’t sound fun, right?

  1. Review the Instagram Rulebook on contests Here we go–Straight from the Instagram Promotion Guidelines, if you are running a promotion, aka contest on Instagram, you are responsible for including the official rules, offer terms & eligibility requirements, and being compliant with applicable rules & regulations governing the promotion and all prizes offered.

  2. Be mindful of who you are tagging. Unless the contest is being run with a collaborator, or you want to tag an individual(s) in the photo you are using for the contest, it is suggested that you don’t tag any accounts at all. Always state the following at the bottom of your caption: “This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or associated with, Instagram.”

  3. Adminning IG will not assist you in administrating your contest or advise you on whether consent is required for the use of user content or on how to obtain any necessary consent. If you choose to run a contest through Instagram, you do so at your own risk.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s move on to the fun part!

Define Your Goal

Giving away something for free is super nice of you, and will make the lucky winner very happy, but at the end of the day, you are a business, so obviously, you are running a contest with a goal in mind. What is it that you are looking to gain by offering something for free to your audience? Examples:

  • Drive traffic to your website

  • Gain new followers

  • Build an email list

  • Increase account engagement (i.e., likes, shares, comments)

Contest Type / Entry Method

There are so many different ways to run a contest on Instagram. What I mean is - what will you ask of the audience? How do they enter? One way I love is a user-generated content contest. It is an excellent way to engage your audience while increasing brand awareness. For example, as an entry, you would ask your audience to post a photo or create a story wearing/using/showcasing one of your products and tag you in the photo. Examples of some other types of contests include:

  • Selfie contest

  • Write a caption contest

  • Like, Follow, Comment, Share/Tag to win

Pick a Prize

Remember, you are asking something of your audience, so you want to ensure the prize's value is worth the effort they are putting in. Of course, everyone would love to win a killer prize, such as a brand-new iPad, but does that prize align with who you are as a brand? If the answer is no, that is not the correct item to give away. You need to consider who your current audience and ideal client is and what they would want from you. Are you a restaurant? Perhaps a $50 gift card would be a good idea.

Do you own a boutique? Your ideal client may want to win shop credit or an accessory.

Another approach would be to have multiple prizes and multiple winners. If people know there is a chance for multiple people to win, they may be more willing to enter rather than thinking, “oh, I’ll never win with so many people entering for one prize.”

Contest Duration & Set Rules

Within your caption, you’ll want to include the contest details, including how long the contest will run for and any specific rules you’ve put in place. The duration of the contest is entirely up to you. To gain more followers, some strategies suggest you may want to run the contest for a more extended period, such as 15 days. Still, if you are running a contest to celebrate something like a follower count milestone or business anniversary, you’ll probably only run the contest for a few days. Examples of key points you may want to include in the caption of your contest post:

  • Why you’re running the contest (celebration, thanking your audience, etc.)

  • How to enter

  • Who can enter (i.e., is there an age restriction)

  • Specify if it’s only 1 entry per person, or if you can enter multiple times

  • How long will the contest run for - include the contest closing date

  • When and how will the winner be announced

  • How long does the winner have to respond to claim their prize

  • The Instagram statement mentioned at the beginning of this article

Promote Your Contest

You have everything planned out, you are pumped up and ready to go. Time to share with the world that you are giving away some awesomeness because you love your audience so much!

Example ideas of how you can do this:

  • Go live or create a story telling everyone to stay tuned for a contest in the near future.

  • If you collaborate with influencers, it may be a good idea to ask them to share your contest announcement with their audiences.

  • If you utilize other social media platforms, such as Facebook or Twitter, you can announce the contest and drive traffic back to your Instagram account.

  • It may also be a good idea to send an email to your email list or share the contest on your blog.

So there you have it; tips and tricks for creating and executing a successful contest that is guaranteed to be a win-win situation for you and your Instagram audience! If you have trouble coming up with contest ideas specific to what you do, we’d love to help!

Author: Vicki Goebner, My Social Philly Editor: Jennifer Hart, Hart House Creative


About the Author: Vicki Goebner, My Social Philly

Vicki Goebner is the founder of Social Philly, a social media management organization that helps small businesses and personal brands grow their online presence. Vicki is passionate about taking entrepreneurs’ social media to the next level by implementing strategies proven to initiate organic growth. She is one of Hart House Creative's collaborators. Follow Vicki on Instagram @SocialPhilly for best practices to help your brand thrive.


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Hart House Creative, its employees, partners, The Squeeze, and guest writers make no guarantees for results. Methods and marketing suggestions are based on prior knowledge and with the intent to inspire business owners and other creatives. Every client is different with different goals. None will be held liable for any negative results achieved from implementing suggestions from our website.

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