A Step-by-Step Guide to Running Instagram Contests

by Adrienne Erin. 0 Comments


No social media marketing campaign is complete without Instagram. Since its beginnings in October 2010, Instagram has garnered 200 million users as of March 2014, an impressive feat for a site brimming with vintage-style food photos and selfies. As a marketer, you can tap into this large growth potential by using the site to run contests, as detailed here.

Set Specific Goals

What do you want the contest to accomplish? Do you want to inform your existing followers of a new product, or do you want to increase your followers by X percent? Answering these questions will help you whip up a good set of contest mechanics, which, in turn, will ensure that your contest will sail as smoothly as possible during its course.

“Borrow” Ideas from the Competition

If you’re not sure about your contest idea, take a look at what your competitors have done. Analyze what made these contests successful and what could’ve made them better. From here, you can make a rough outline of a contest idea, put your own spin to it and tailor it for your target market.

Profile Your Target Market

A word of warning, though: Just because a contest idea worked for your competitor doesn’t mean it will work for you too. It’s possible for you to have a different—rather than overlapping—follower base from your competitor. Therefore, you’ll have to dig deeper into what makes your own followers tick, so you’ll have a better idea about what kind of contest and prize will appeal to them.

To do this, use apps like Iconosquare, which generates relevant metrics such as your total “likes” received, your average “likes” and comments per photo, etc.

Pick a Contest Type

The simplest Instagram contest type follows the “snap, tag and hashtag” pattern, like this:


Source: BestFriendsPetCare.com

Here, contestants can upload a photo as per the mechanics, tag the photo with your Instagram username and add a contest-specific hashtag – more on this later.

If your goal is to increase your number of followers, you can also ask the contestants to tag people who they follow in their entry in addition to all the steps mentioned above, like so:


Source: Naturamin’s Instagram

Sometimes, these simple mechanics won’t be enough to keep the entrants invested in your contest. To spice things up, push them to exert a little more effort, like this:


Source: ZealOptics.com

Pick a Contest Theme

As you can see in the sample contests above, each of them has a specific theme. A theme—especially a timely one—makes your contest more memorable for would-be participants and, therefore, makes it more likely for them to join. For example, if you sell sunglasses, you’ll have much better luck promoting your contest during the summer, when people need their eyes to be protected from the heat and glare.

Create a Contest-Specific Hashtag

Not only will this keep your contest trending on Instagram, but it can also draw in entrants from outside your immediate network. Use your contest theme to come up with your hashtag, and use Iconosquare, or similar tools like TOTEMS, Piqora, Tagboard and Picdeck to check whether your hashtag has already been used by others.

Choose Your Prizes Carefully

Your prize—or set of prizes—can be a gift card, a ticket or any other freebie you can afford to give away. No matter what it is, it should help you market your brand, meet your target market’s needs and support the goals behind the contest all at the same time.

Sort Out Your Logistics

Aside from the basic contest mechanics, you should set additional rules and regulations – number of winners, contest duration, how winners can claim their prizes, what happens when a winner forfeits a prize, etc. – to keep things in check. Also, decide what platforms you’ll use to promote the contest, such as e-mail blasts, social networks and newspaper advertorials.

Create an Attractive, Mobile-Friendly Ad for Your Contest

Even if your contest is meticulously planned, it will fly under your followers’ radar if you don’t have an attention-grabbing ad for it. Create an ad like this using a professional-looking photo, overlaid with concise, yet compelling, copy on the contest mechanics.

Promote through All Your Social Media Outlets

At this point, you’ll have launched your contest. Spread the word through all your media outlets, and keep track of user engagement while you’re at it. Use third-party apps to help you manage your contest, such as the ones listed here.

Once the contest ends, contact the winners and encourage them to spread the word about their good fortune. People are more likely to join future contests if they hear about the successes of those who are like them, as opposed to hearing about the winners from a faceless corporate entity.

Have a Post-Contest Evaluation

This is the part where you crunch the numbers, write the reports and objectively evaluate your contest. What did the participants like about it? What didn’t they like about it? Use the answers to these questions as a guide to help you create your future contests.

In theory, executing an Instagram contest is easy. In practice, it takes several tries to perfect the art of running such a contest. The moment you master the art, though, you’re well on your way to social media domination.


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