5 Simple Steps to Running an Instagram Contest


by Carolina Beltrán, Digital Media Supervisor

Summer is here and it’s a great time to engage your current Instagram followers with a photo contest. Summer is chock-full of images, occasions, and holidays you can draw a contest concept from – prom, graduation, Father’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, and BBQs to name a few.

Despite what some might tell you, running your own basic Instagram contest is easy; it’s not necessary to outsource the management to a social media contest platform unless you anticipate hundreds or thousands of entries. Assuming you already have an Instagram account, contest concept development is your very first step. instagramHolidays and occasions make good themes, but you don’t need to use these. The important thing is to tie your contest theme and prize to your brand in a meaningful way. Don’t make your followers wonder what the connection is.

The second step in creating an Instagram contest is the hashtag. The hashtag is what your followers will use to enter the contest and what you’ll use to collect entries. Your hashtag should be unique to your brand and contest and not something just any Instagram user would use (like #summer or #summer2013 for example – you’ll get too many “accidental” entries this way). You’ll need to ask contest participants to use your hashtag when entering and also follow you on Instagram. Many people make their Instagram profiles private – which means if they enter your contest and don’t follow you, you won’t be able to see their entry and it doesn’t count.

Once you have your concept and have a unique hashtag, your third step is to designate a page on your site to tell your fans and followers about the contest. Go into lots of detail here (where there is plenty of space) and make sure you set rules. Some things to consider:

  • How long does the contest run?
  • Who is eligible to enter?
  • Do participants have an entry limit?
  • How will the winner be selected?
  • How will he/she be contacted?

Put your lawyer hat on for this and make sure to cover all your bases.

With your concept, hashtag, contest details and rules ironed out, you’re ready for step 4 – promotion! Now, you could promote to only your existing Instagram follower base, but if you have followers on Twitter and fans on Facebook like I know you do, you should engage these people, too. The more you engage, the more likely your contest could go viral and expose new customers to your brand.

During the contest, periodically remind people of it – people log in to their social media accounts at different intervals and may miss your initial announcement. Consider “counting down” to the winner selection date – meaning, create a sense of urgency among your followers and fans. Prompt them to enter their photos and tell their friends to do the same by reminding them how many days are left to go in the contest and how cool the prize is.

When it comes time to select a contest winner (step 5), brands use all types of selection methods; Everything from drawing names from a hat to online random integer tools to using a panel of judges to subjectively choose the winner. Once you choose your method, all that is left to do is notify your lucky winner!

That’s it! That’s the basics of running your very own Instagram contest. If you anticipate over 100 entries, use a tool like Statigram or Nitrogram. These types of tools not only help you manage large and/or multiple contests and select winners, they also offer robust engagement analytics.

Need help with one or all of these steps? We got you. Give us a call!


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