Smart & effective Instagram contest examples & tips

If you’re looking to get more followers, engage the ones you already have, and grow your brand, you’re probably also looking to run an Instagram contest.

Excellent but, also, stop right there. Because, a successful Instagram contest, like every facet of your Instagram marketing strategy, requires a bit of planning and a touch of care. You don’t want to attract the wrong audience; that will do nothing for your brand, in the long run.

So, consider this: Merely increasing your follower count is not a good goal. Instead, work to increase your count of relevant followers. Build awareness. Attract people who are genuinely interested in your brand. Engage. Because, when your contest is over, you want your new following to remain. And engage. And stay interested.

Here’s how to do that.

Instagram contests: the basic rules

Instagram contest examples & tipsIt’s pretty easy to run Instagram contests, as long as you stick to the primary rule: Thou shalt post a disclaimer:

“Per Instagram rules, this promotion is in no way sponsored, administered, or associated with Instagram, Inc. By entering, entrants confirm that they are 13+ years of age, release Instagram of responsibility, and agree to Instagram’s terms of use.”

There are a few other rules, too: Beyond the standard disclaimer, you must also disclose your official contest rules. You may not ask users to tag themselves in photos in which they do not appear, or to tag or mention others in posts. (Tagging is allowed in the comments.)

Unsurprisingly, Instagram also requires that you run your contest legally. In other words, your contest may not violate any federal, state, or local laws. Be sure to review current Instagram promotion guidelines for updates.

An easy shortcut, so as not to gunk up your Instagram posts with legal verbiage, is to post your Instagram contest policies and legal disclaimers on your website. Then, post the link in your contest captions.

A few tips for your Instagram contests

Before you get into the minutiae of creating an Instagram contest, let’s cover a few basic rules, tips, and considerations:

Tip #1: Disclose your rules

Beyond following Instagram regulations and posting the required legal disclaimer, develop a full set of clear rules for your contest. Post them and make them easy to find.

Tip 2: Choose a specific goal

This is a general tip for all your sales and social – you always want a goal in mind. For example, your goal could be to grow your email list, boost your Instagram following, generate more post engagement, or any other tangible goal. Preferably, your objective should include measurable metrics you can track in your Instagram analytics.

Tip 3: Select your incentive and/or prize

I know it’s tempting to offer up a juicy prize, like an iPad. In truth, the best tactic is to choose an incentive closely related to your business – example: a gift certificate for your company – so that you attract an audience that’s genuinely interested in what you do or offer.

Tip 4: Create a branded hashtag

A memorable and unique hashtag is key to Instagram contest success. Not only does a great hashtag help solidify your brand but it also boosts contest recognition. As you toss around hashtag ideas, focus on keeping it short, memorable, recognizable, and relevant. And, yes, unique: If your contest runs for a limited time, so should your hashtag.

Tip 5: Study what successful contests have already done

There’s huge value in seeing what great Instagram marketers have already done successfully. Imitation – note: imitation, not plagiarism – really can be the best form of flattery. So, have a look at the types of contests commonly on Instagram. See which ones have achieved success. Bounce ideas around in your head. See what feels right.

First things first: Most Instagram contests today don’t require just a like or a tag. In most cases, you’ll require a like + some secondary action, such as a follow or a tag, or the use of a contest-specific hashtag. And now, for that inspiration:

Instagram contest example: Like contests

The Truth BarScreenshot via Instagram by @thetruthbar

Truth Bar knows that Valentine’s Day can wreak havoc on your lifestyle, so they launched a timely contest to give away some healthy treats.

Instagram contest example: Tag-to-win contests

Curiocity CalgaryScreenshot via Instagram by @curiocitycalgary

Here’s a great example not only of a tag-to-win contest, but of a good partnership: The City of Calgary partnered with Scotiabank to deliver city SCENE points, which could be redeemed for free entertainment, purchases, and more. The cost of entry: Tag a friend (and follow the partner’s Instagram account).

Instagram contest example: Comment-to-win contests

The Sage GoddessScreenshot via Instagram by @thesagegoddess

Another well-timed contest, Sage Goddess offers up a beautifully staged image and call-to-action: Call the energy of Eros into your life with a spectacular gemstone. Just be sure you comment below, in order to be entered to win!

Instagram contest example: Repost-to-win contests

Sunny Co ClothingScreenshot via Instagram by @sunnycoclothing

Often cited as an excellent example of a successful Instagram contest, Sunny Co Clothing ran a very successful (and very generous) repost-to-win contest: everyone who reposted (and then tagged the company) would win a free swimsuit.

Instagram contest example: Photo challenge contests

Mint AppScreenshot via Instagram by @mintapp

Personal-finance app Mint ran an excellent contest in 2016: Post to Instagram a moment when your personal finance dreams came to life, then tag @mint.com and append the branded hashtag #MyMintMoment to your post, in order to win $1,000. Talk about linking your contest to your brand, and your incentive to your audience’s dreams.

Reach a bigger Instagram audience

Now you’re ready to run your first Instagram contest. But first! Add an Instagram follow button to your site – the place where your target audience has already actively sought you out. Make sure they follow you here and there, and be sure to include them in  your contest.