How to Run an Instagram Contest and Boost Your Fan Base

Instagram has become a popular way for brands to connect with their target audiences and build a fan base using visually engaging content. If you’re looking for ways to boost your Instagram following organically, running a contest can be a quick, fun means to building brand awareness.

Unlike many other platforms, Instagram’s promotion guidelines are fairly loose, meaning you have the freedom to create a variety of different contests without a lot of red tape. Today, we’ll walk through the steps to create a contest that boosts your fan base.

Step #1: Choose a Prize.

What do you want to promote? Do you want to offer a freebie, a vacation, a consultation? Think about what’s appropriate for your brand and the best ways to spread the word.

Ideally, the prize allows people to remember you and associate the prize with your brand. For example, giving away a Nintendo Switch is great if you’re a video game company, but not so great if you’re a beauty brand. That is, you want to build an audience of users who are interested in your core brand offerings and not just the prize you’re giving away.

#Instagram contest tip: Give away a prize that's related to your brand. #giveaways Click To Tweet

Step #2: Build Your Contest

There are many different types of Instagram contests, and you can combine elements of each to boost your potential engagement even more. Here’s a quick breakdown of a few of them to help you decide on a contest type.

  • Like contests. These are quick and simple: Just ask users to like your photo to be entered for a chance to win. You can also ask for a “follow” on your account for an extra chance to win. As more and more people like your photo, you’ll increase your reach, possibly even show up on the Explore page where new followers will find you.
  • Comment contests. Ask users to comment on your photo. Comment contests are great when you’re seeking customer input and feedback. You can pair this type of contest with a like contest and, again, offer users an extra entry when they not only like and follow, but also comment. Furthermore, you can invite users to tag friends in comments for extra entries.
  • Loop giveaways. This type of contest incorporates several brands all at once, anywhere from five to 30-plus brands that collaborate to host the contest. The organizer creates a graphic that instructs users how to like and follow their way through a “loop” of brands for a chance to win a prize. Organizing a loop is more time-intensive than the contest types above, but you can also simply participate as a brand for the sake of gaining new followers. Here’s a good walk-through of the process if you’re unfamiliar with loops.
  • Photo challenges. Ask users to post a photo on their own pages using a specific hashtag you provide. Make sure the hashtag is unique and brand-specific so as not to overlap with any other users’ pages and so you can easily find and record the entries. (For more on choosing hashtags, see this post.) You can alternatively ask users to repost a photo from your page using a repost app and tagged with your brand-specific hashtag. Other hashtags to include could be: #Instagramgiveaway, #contest, #giveaway, and #(your brand name).

Here’s how yoga brand CorePower Yoga handled an Instagram challenge asking its audience to post photos of themselves in tree pose tagged with #yogisplantingtrees. For every post, CorePower Yoga agreed to donate $1 to the Canopy Project, which in turn would plant one tree for every dollar. The result? A thousand extra trees in the world, thanks to this effort.

Step #3: Spell Out the Rules

As you’ll see in Instagram’s promotion guidelines, the rules are fairly simple. Be sure to acknowledge that the contest is not affiliated with Instagram in any way, and do not inaccurately tag content or encourage users to do so (for example, don’t tell people to tag themselves in photos if they aren’t in the photo).

Provided your rules are not overly complicated, you can include the rules and disclaimers in the caption of your post. Here’s how one Instagram account handled a dress giveaway, combining elements of a like, follow and comment contest:

 

 

The disclaimer is included in the body of the caption.

 

If your rules get too long and complicated for a caption, you can instead create a landing page on your website with the rules and, if necessary, an entry form. Just tell users to click the link in your bio to enter to win, and update your bio with the correct URL.

Should you decide to host your contest as a campaign with a landing page, you’ll have the added benefit of collecting user data such as email addresses. That way, you can connect with entrants and continue to build customer relationships long after the contest ends.

Step #4: Follow Up

Once your contest is over, use any data you’ve collected to follow up with your new followers. And then keep the momentum going by trying out different contest types. Above all, keep engaging with your audience so they continue to follow you. New followers aren’t worth much if you ignore them and they end up unfollowing you later.


Have you run successful Instagram contests? What other tips can you share?