Instagram Contests – 7 Tips To Successfully Leverage Contests

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Instagram Contests – 7 Tips To Successfully Leverage Contests

The value of the Instagram contest: A few years ago, brands may have written off Instagram as just another app for hipsters or foodies or fashionistas. A latest trend to be quickly bypassed.

Not anymore.

With a global community of 1 billion, over 95 million photos shared daily and 4.2 billion likes per day, Instagram is a force to be reckoned with.

Instagram is important, and brands should be utilizing it and taking advantage of its natural strengths. That includes doing everything they can to get their products seen and used. You know what really makes people interested in your products? If you give them away for free.

That’s why Instagram contests are a crucial tactic that you can start using now – and here are the 7 steps to creating the perfect Instagram Contest:

  1. Ask why
  2. Pick the type of contest
  3. Clearly define the rules
  4. Pick a hashtag
  5. Launch and promote
  6. Track results
  7. Celebrate and follow-up

Before we get into these steps, let’s talk about the value of using this strategy on Instagram.

Once you have a strong social media presence, learn how to use your customer content in User Generated Content campaigns to increase your conversions and brand engagement.

The Value of Instagram Contests

Instagram lends itself perfectly to User Generated Content campaigns and platforms such as Flowbox. Users are already sharing their photos and videos on the platform. If your brand can find a way to direct those existing interests and habits, you can engage Instagram users in a fun and meaningful way.

Incorporating Instagram contests into your marketing strategy can help you expand your reach, increase your followers and build loyal brand ambassadors. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into what makes an Instagram contest successful – and how you can apply the best practices to benefit your brand.

How to Design a Successful Instagram Contest

Keep these seven steps in mind as you start to plan an Instagram contest, and set yourself up for success.

1. Ask why.

So you want to launch an awesome Instagram contest. Fantastic!


This may seem like an obvious question, but you’d be surprised by how often it gets neglected until far too late in the planning process.

Why exactly do you want to host this Instagram contest? Are you just aiming to increase Instagram followers, or do you have another goal in mind? How do you plan to reach these goals?

Now is the time to be specific. Don’t just say, “We’re going to get a lot of followers and build a ton of brand awareness!” Set concrete, measurable goals; you won’t know if your Instagram contest is successful unless you can define what success looks like.

The answer of this question will guide you through the rest of the strategy. For example, you might want to engage with your local community and find beautiful content for your brand. Then you launch a contest inviting local artists  to share images related to your brand offering them exposure and the opportunity of becoming brand’s ambassadors. An Instagram contest is not only about finding new followers but about engaging and creating a win-win situation between your followers and your brand.

2. Pick the type of contest.

Even though the platform is simple and straightforward, Instagram offers a lot of room for creativity in contests. Decide what kind of Instagram contest will best align with your brand’s goals.

Here are a few examples of how you could structure a photo contest:

  • Follower contest: Encourage Instagram users to follow your brand’s account during a set period of time to be entered to win.
  • Like/comment contest: Ask users to like or comment on your photo to be entered to win.
  • Photo challenge contest: Tell users to post photos to their Instagram accounts that fit a certain theme, sharing with a contest-specific hashtag.
  • Contest hybrid: You can even bridge Instagram with other points of your marketing by asking users to do one of the above while also filling out a form with their email address. Now you can mix your marketing tactics and reach them via other channels.

Define your audience, and make sure that this Instagram contest also fits their interests. What would catch their attention? What’s in it for them? Why would they want to participate?

Choose a prize carefully. It obviously has to be realistic for your budget and resources, but it should also make sense for your brand and customers.

For example, a trendy clothing boutique probably wouldn’t want to host a fashion photo contest and not giveaway their an article of clothing or jewellery as a prize. If Instagram users don’t get it at first glance, they won’t bother reading further. Plus, this is an opportunity for them to try one of your products and fall in love! And if they win, you can encourage them to take a picture with their new product, which means more content for you.

3. Clearly define the rules.

Write out the rules for participation. How long and complicated are they? Could you explain them in 15 seconds to someone who knows nothing about your Instagram contest? If not, simplify them until they’re easy to understand and explain quickly. Remember that you only have a limited amount of space to get your message across, and Instagram users have a short attention span.

Go back to your contest goals yet again, and make sure your rules are still on track. No matter what your other guidelines are, it’s smart to make it a requirement that participants follow your Instagram account to enter. That way, you start off building followers as a baseline, and you can increase engagement from there.

Set the dates for your Instagram contest. Is it a one-time competition? A weekly giveaway? An annual event? When will you announce the winners?

Create two versions of your contest rules: one that’s a quick, at-a-glance overview you could put into a graphic or post and one that’s a thorough outline that will keep your lawyers happy. Double-check that you meet Instagram’s requirements as well:

  • Acknowledge that the contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Instagram
  • Don’t inaccurately tag content or encourage users to do so

4. Pick a hashtag.

Creating a unique hashtag for your Instagram contest is essential. You want a hashtag that’s clear, branded and memorable, so users can recall it easily and you can track it accurately. Remember, if you’re goal is to get more users posting on your brand hashtag in general, then this is a great reason to have an Instagram contest! Simply use your main brand hashtag and this will encourage more people to latch on even after the contest is over.

Find out more about creating hashtags for your brand.

5. Launch and promote.

Once the design is done and the marketing plan is in place, you’re ready for takeoff. Make the contest live, and promote it like crazy – on your website, on all your social channels, through your email list, through your PR people.

Look for ways to give back to participants and keep building on engagement. For example, regram a few entries a day, or start a Pinterest board with all the photos people have posted.

6. Track results.

Using the metrics for success you laid out in the very beginning as guidelines, track and analyze your contest’s progress. Are people engaging the way you hoped they would? Are you going to meet your projected goals?

7. Celebrate and follow-up.

Once you choose a winner, shout it from the social media rooftops. Announce it on Instagram first, then on your company blog and other social platforms. Make it a big deal so your winner feels special (and encouraged to become your brand ambassador in turn).

Important: make sure you get your winners their prizes as soon as possible. You don’t want to be known as a brand how doesn’t follow through!

Do an internal debrief right after the contest is over. What went well? What could be better next time? What did you learn?

Well-Designed Instagram Contests

A successful Instagram contest may look simple – but it takes careful planning and execution to get it just right. Here are six examples of brands that did it well.


Netflix created a lot of buzz by launching an Instagram contest that pretty much everybody wanted to win. The prize? Spending two weeks traveling throughout Europe and the Middle East to take pictures on Netflix TV and film sets and getting paid $4,000 for the privilege.

Netflix made the prize desirable and the entry requirements extremely simple, ensuring that the contest would get a lot of entries. To enter, photographers had to:

  • Follow Netflix’s Instagram account (key to building more followers)
  • Choose three original photos that showed off their photography skills and interests, tagging each #Grammasters3 in the caption (entering only once).
Instagram contest

Netflix received entries from all over the world, giving them awesome content and Instagram engagement!
Instagram contest

Though not every brand can afford to offer such an extravagant prize! Let’s look at some more examples of brands pulling off amazing Instagram contests.

Califia Farms

Beverage company Califia Farms has a well-branded and aesthetically appealing Instagram presence. The company posts colorful, cheerful photos and videos that highlight their products’ healthy characteristics – as well as the unique shape of their bottles.

Califia runs regular Instagram photo contests to engage their followers on a long-term basis. Users are motivated to follow the brand’s account to stay updated on what the newest theme and prize are.

For example, a weekly coupon giveaway encouraged users to post photos of how they use Califia products in day-to-day life, using the hashtag #CalifiaRollCall. The photos submitted were diverse and vibrant, and they allowed the brand to show off how much customers love Califia products.

Instagram contest

They’re also in the game of partnering with other brands in order to provide customers with an even more exciting prize. This is a great tactic because it spreads the reach of the contest – each brand will be posting about the contest meaning a higher likelihood that you’ll garner unique users! Plus, it shows that your brand plays well with others and gives customers an idea of how else they can match your products with those of others.

Instagram contest

Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that builds homes for people in need around the world, hosts an annual Instagram photo contest. Since it’s not a brand that sells products or services, its approach is a little different – but it shows it understands its audience.

To enter the 2015 contest, participants had to post photos depicting Habitat for Humanity’s mission and impact, using the hashtag #HabitatPhotos. (In this case, we’d recommend a stronger unique hashtag, especially since it’s a recurring contest; however, it’s still a great example of how a nonprofit can build engagement on Instagram.)

One winner, chosen by the organization, won a grand prize to volunteer at the 32nd annual Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project in Pokhara, Nepal. Another viewer’s choice winner received a gift card for the Habitat online store. The entries showed the real-world impact of Habitat through the work of real people – volunteers and families.

Instagram contest

Editor’s Choice winner:

Instagram contest


Angry Orchard

Angry Orchard, a hard cider company, took a simple giveaway idea and turned it into an effective six-week photo contest.

The brand encouraged customers to take photos that showed how they were “being adventurous or branching out in new ways with Angry Orchard,” and posting with the hashtag #BranchOut.

One winner example:

Instagram contest

Participants could enter on Instagram, as well as Twitter, Facebook or Iconosquare, and a new winner was randomly selected each week over the course of six weeks. The weekly prize was a branded Angry Orchard tent, which fit with the theme of adventure and “branching out.”

Since the barrier to entry was low and there was an opportunity to win six times, the contest encouraged followers to keep posting and checking back for updates.

The Angry Orchard team continues to use Instagram contests as a way of engaging followers, coming up with new hashtags to connect with.

Instagram contest

Do you have more great and fun examples of successful Instagram contests? We are always looking for new references, so feel free to share in the comments below!

Looking for more Instagram tips? Head to our complete guide to Instagram Marketing, where you’ll find everything you need to know about promoting your products on this crucial platform.