So you want to create an Instagram Contest?

So you want to create and Instagram contest?

Photo from

“Getting your community involved in a contest is an effective way to build your market and brand message”. (Phillips, 2017)

As soon as I read that quote, I knew I wanted to run a contest on my brands Instagram. I see contests run all the time, but I have never really run one for myself. They look like so much fun. If people are already following you on social media, then they are already interested in your brand and content. It’s great to reward them for following you.

Contests are great because they can be so cheap to run on social media. (Phillips, 2017) People also love free stuff. Think about it. If someone offered you a tee-shirt for one dollar you would probably say no. You don’t need another shirt in your closest. Yet, if someone offered you a free tee-shirt, you’d probably take it. It could be the total wrong style and color. You never know when you might need it. You probably would have done something for it too. Sing a song? Sure. Do a little jig? Ok. It’s the power of the free stuff.

I thought it would be fun to talk about how to run a contest on Instagram. First, we need to speak about the types of contest generally run, and then we will discuss how to actually run one.

Types of Instagram Contests

Photo by Canva

Different types of Instagram contests


The reader has to press like on a certain picture and usually follow your Instagram too. Readers love this type of contest because it only takes a second to enter and they don’t have to share anything or do any real work. It’s super easy to set up and doesn’t cost anything besides the prize, which is always a great thing. (Phillips, 2017)

  1. Hashtag

People who wish to enter this type of contest have to place a pre-decided hashtag in the caption of an specific image type. (Phillips, 2017) For example, the #smithstravelcontest on travel photos.

This type of contest helps associate your brand with a visual image. Even people who have no idea your contest is happening will see the hashtag on other people’s posts. It could lead to new followers on your page. It can really increase your follower count. (Phillips, 2017)

The con is some people will find it troublesome to upload a picture to their page and place the hashtag in the caption. Some people will not want to do the work and participation may be lower. (Phillips, 2017)

  1. Requesting emails

This type of contest has people click on your website link in the profile bio and sign up on your sites email list. (Phillips, 2017) This is great because it also gives page views on your site. When a site is new, many bloggers or site managers are looking trying to figure out how to get more people on the actual site. This is a great way to do it. They might take the time to look around the site after first entering their email address.

The con to this is the prize really has to be worth it. Not too many people are going to through all the steps unless it’s a really good prize. (Phillips, 2017)  Especially since people know once a blog has your email, they will start sending emails to it. Some sites will be responsible with them and others will not be. Some people will make an email address just for entering contests because of this situation.

Instagram Contests Get Much More Engagement Than Regular Posts

Photo from Neil Patel

  1. Tagging

This is a super popular Instagram contest because it’s easy to set up. It doesn’t require the reader to do very much. All they have to do is tag a friend or family member in the comment section. For every person they tag, they get an entry into the contest. Every person that someone tags is a new potential follower for you. Hopefully, they check out your page and love it as much as the person that tagged them in the post. (Patel, 2017) This is probably the most common type of contest I see on Instagram. It’s usually combined with having to follow the page or pages running the contest. (Patel, 2017)

  1. Selfies

Depending on what type of account you have this might be a great contest for you. This contest would work really well if your brand or product is something they can hold or wear. (Patel, 2017)

People will post a selfie holding your product and tag you and your hashtag in the photo. It’s very important if they tag you in the photo that the photo needs to be related to you. Instagram does not like people tagging people in unrelated photos. (Patel, 2017)

This contest is great because their followers will see them using the product. People are more willing to try a product if they see their peers are using it. (Patel, 2017)

  1. Voting

This can be done in a couple different way. The first is you can have people upload a photo with a certain hashtag. The photo that receives the most “likes” wins. (Patel, 2017)

Or you can create a poll in your Instagram stories and have people vote on a certain topic. You will then pick a winner from the people who voted. You can do this a couple ways. There are websites and programs you enter all the usernames of people who voted in. The program will randomly select a name. Some people will use a random number generator and if the number is a 6, the 6thperson that voted wins the prize. If there is only a few entries, some Instagramers will write the names and put them in a hat. They can even do the draw over Instagram stories to make it a little more fun.

Both types are fun to enter because people love being heard. One is much quicker and easier for the person to enter though. So, you will have to gauge your audience’s interest level. (Patel, 2017)

There are numerous other contest types and variations of these. The most important thing is to have fun with it.

So now that you have decided what type of contest you want to run, you have to actually do it.

Instagram Promotion Guidelines

Photo by Canva

First, let’s discuss Instagram’s official promotion guidelines for the contest. Make sure you absolutely follow them.

  1. You have to clearly state the rules. They need to be very clear. We are talking your little sister needs to able to understand them and she is in grade six clear. (Patel, 2017)
  2. You have to list the terms and eligibility requirements. This means it needs to clearly state who can enter. For example, the ages and residency restrictions. If only Canadians can enter, you have to state it. (Patel, 2017)
  3. “Compliance with applicable rules and regulations governing the promotion and all prizes offered.” (Patel, 2017)
  4. You cannot encourage people to tag themselves or other people in photos if they are not actually in or related to the photo. It has to be an accurate tag. (Patel, 2017)
  5. You must include a line in the contest that releases Instagram by each entrant or participant. And you must also make it very clear that the promotion is in no way endorsed, administrated by, sponsored by or had anything to do by Instagram. You need to make that very clear. (Patel, 2017)

Instagram also makes it clear they will not assist you with any part of the promotion. They state they will not answer any questions regarding any part of the promotion too. You also agree that if you use Instagram, you do so at your own risk. (Patel, 2017)

Creating the Contest

Photo by Canva

Now that we know the types of Instagram contests and the official rules for running one, let’s get into what you need to set one up.

  1. When do you want to start and finish the promotion?

The first thing you have to do is choose a start and end date. If you don’t decide a start date then it’s easy to say you will start it “tomorrow” and we all know “tomorrow” never comes. Decide on a start date to give yourself the incentive to actually start the promotion. (Phillips, 2017)

You need to pick an end date to ensure people will enter right away. You also don’t want them putting off entering. Readers are seeing so much information on Instagram, it’s easy for them to forget about your contest. (Phillips, 2017) Those cute puppy pictures really grab someone’s attention on there.

  1. What’s the goal?

You have to figure out what you are trying to get from the contest. Do you want more followers, more engagement, are you trying to build an email list? You need to know what you want, to be able to get that result. If you aren’t clear, neither will be the reader. Take a moment to write down your goals. The more you see them, the more you can keep moving in a direction that leads to them. You are putting your time and money into this contest so make sure you get a great result. (Phillips, 2017)

  1. What is your contest hashtag?

With hashtags being so important in social media, it’s important to create a custom hashtag for your contest. Take some time to really figure out your hashtag. You don’t want one someone else has used, it should be unique to your brand. (Phillips, 2017)

  1. Is Instagram the best place?

“Ninety percent of those who use this platform are under 35 years old, with most users falling within the ages of 25 to 34, followed by those 18 to 24 years old.” (Phillips, 2017)

You have to consider if your target market is even on Instagram. You need to tailor any contest to the people you are promoting it too.

If you have a business Instagram, which you should if you are using it for business, you can look at the Insights tab and see what demographics most frequently look at your posts. Your contest should be geared towards that demographic. If it says 18-24 years old, a new hearing aid gift certificate for $50 will not be an appropriate prize to win. If it says they are based in a surfing destination maybe a surfing package might be nice. Especially if your brand is a surfing company. They are your target market. They are also most likely to have friends and family with a similar interest in surfing. (Phillips, 2017)

You always want your contest to be a success, so aim it at the people who are most likely to make it one.

  1. Theme it up!

The best contests tend to have a theme because they get people excited. It could be based on a holiday coming up, or groups like single dads. The more people can relate or are interested in the theme, the more they will be likely to enter your contest. (Phillips, 2017)

91% of Instagram Posts with 1,000+ Comments are Contests

Photo from Neil Patel

  1. What’s the prize?

What are you going to give as a prize? Just like we mentioned earlier, the prize needs to be something your readers want. It has to be geared towards them. If you want them to like, comment, etc, you have to give them a prize they want.

If you are a tee-shirt company, give away a free tee-shirt, if you are a spa, give away a free facial and massage. It has to be worth the reader’s time to enter. (Phillips, 2017)

  1. What are the rules?

Like we talked about before, Instagram says you have to clearly state your contest rules. Take some time to decide on them. They need to be very clear and easy to follow. These should include eligibility requirements, how many winners there will be, what are the prizes and what they have to do to enter. (Phillips, 2017)

  1. What’s your contests title?

Keeping with the theme you have already made up, you have to think of a super great title for your post. (Phillips, 2017)

  1. Create the actual post.

Now create your gorgeous post. It should look professional and include all the promotion rules, and information we spoke of earlier. It’s best to show the prize in the post too. Use websites like Canva to easily and quickly create a beautiful promotional post. And don’t forget those fun hashtag you thought of before.

  1. Promote

Promote your contest on all your social media. If you have a newsletter, include it in there too. Tell your friends and family about it and especially your readers. (Phillips, 2017) They can’t enter if you don’t tell them you are having a contest.

Instagram Contest Picture

Photo from Instagram user @dmariept and

  1. Who won it?

Depending on what kind of contest you are holding, don’t forget to announce the winner or/and thank the people who entered. (Phillips, 2017)

If people vote, thank them for voting. If they liked a picture, thank them for the like. If they entered through email, send them a great thank you for it. They were nice enough to enter, so be nice enough to say thank you. (Phillips, 2017)

This all seems like a lot of steps to running a simple contest, but they are all important steps. The shorter version is making sure you are creating a contest people want to enter, the rules need to be clear, the prize great, the post relevant to your brand and more importantly have fun with it. It’s a contest, and it’s supposed to be fun. Go out there and help someone win one of your great products. You know they are great, so go let one of your followers try them out too.

Have you hosted an Instagram contest? Have you entered any? What do you think is the best kind of contest to run on Instagram?


footerTwitter Did you know Instagram contests can boost your engagement levels? Check out to find out how you can host an awesome Instagram contest. #instacontest #acsocialmedia

footerFacebook Are you looking to host an amazing Instagram contest? Check out to find out what you need to do. #instacontest #acsocialmedia


Patel, N. (2017).7 Instagram Contest Ideas to Grow Brand Awarness. Retrieved from Neil Patel:

Phillips, K. W. (2017). Ultimate Guide to Instagram for Business.Irvine: Entrepreneur Media, Inc. .


One thought on “So you want to create an Instagram Contest?

  1. Thank you for your post! I love learning about Instagram because it is heavily tied to my thesis for my Masters. I think the statistic that blew me away the most was how contests lead to such a large increase in comments and likes for your brand. 64 times more comments is a significant amount. Especially if the odds of getting over 1,000 comments increases if its contest related. I think you made some really good points about the contest needing to have goals in order to be successful. Without a clear goal of what you as an organization wants from the contest, it will lead to confusion by the users. Your network wants to win, so help them win and be connected. Thanks for sharing!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.