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The Best Instagram Contest Ideas For Your Brand 

October 16, 2017
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With another day or week comes another Instagram post promoting your business. These posts may spark a little engagement between your customers and your business if you’re lucky, but you really want to energize and excite people to talk about your business. While nothing might be immediately wrong with your Instagram postings, you might notice that followers are slow to join and the number of likes and comments on your posts is not at the level you want it to be.

You might feel like your posts contain engaging, quality content; however, you aren’t exactly satisfied with the amount of Instagram followers that are exposed to your efforts, nor are you content with the number of responses you are getting. You might want to find a quick and efficient way to grow your followers and make people more aware of your business. The problem is that you don’t know how to do this.

If this sounds like you, then there is an easy and efficient solution to this problem: The Instagram contest.

If done right, a simple Instagram contest can be a complete game changer. People love them, the Instagram algorithm loves them, and your business should learn to love them too. Just like any type of business strategy, there are different types of contests that can suit each individual’s businesses’ strategy and the image they want to portray.


Related: When to Use Hashtags (& When to Leave Them Out)

A social media contest on Instagram is an extremely valuable tool that should be used much more often than they are; shockingly, only 2% of Instagram accounts actually host contests, and only 0.6% of posts are actually contested. With such an underwhelming amount of contests on the platform, there is a great opportunity to throw your hat into the ring. Be two steps ahead of some of your competitors by employing a strategy that they aren’t regularly using. Besides giving you a competitive marketing edge, the numbers speak for themselves when indicating how a contest can take the number of responses to another level: “Instagram contests get 3.5 times as many likes and 64 times more comments on average than regular posts.”

A contest is clearly much more effective in being able to deliver a significantly higher level of engagement than your typical Instagram photo or video post. And, similar to something like Search Engine Optimization with Google, Instagram has its own algorithm as to how it promotes the most engaging content on Instagram. Because a contest on Instagram usually requires immediate responses due to the limited time the contest is running, the rapid influx of likes, comments, and other types of engagement can have immediately beneficial results; your followers will see the engagement, your hashtag use may your post to the top posts sections, or it may even show up on the Search page.


Better yet, the entry threshold is extremely low, opening the door to a huge number of participants: oftentimes, all it takes is a quick post, a double tap, a comment, and a worthwhile incentive to encourage Instagram users to give it a shot, regardless of the outcome. The risk is low and the time is minimal, so why wouldn’t they enter? The bigger the ask and the more time it requires, the less engagement you can expect. And with millennials, a large portion of your target market, having such a short attention span, you want to make sure you capitalize on the few seconds they give you. So make it easy and make it worthwhile. More specifically, there are a few other things you should take into consideration before hosting an Instagram contest for your company.

First, you must have a solid foundation on how to use your Instagram account to promote your business. Some basics include:

  • Ensure the quality content is there. Show off how amazing and unique your company is by only sharing your best pictures. Ordinary and pixelated pictures aren’t going to catch anyone’s eye. Instagram is all about visual content, so high quality, dynamic, and appropriately cropped  pictures will give your company the best chance at a good-looking feed (and the followers will come).
  • Consistency is key. If you want to to not only increase your followers, but also retain the following you already have, make sure you are constantly giving something to your followers on Instagram to interact with.Otherwise, it only takes a second for them to press the unfollow button. Additionally, it can be helpful to post at the most optimal times to ensure you are getting the highest reach possible. The most popular times tend to be later in the afternoon, around 3-4 p.m, Monday through Thursday.
  • Tell stories. Give your viewers the content they want to see. If you can tap into emotions and compel your followers to listen, as well as tailor your posts to popular topics and trends, your followers will be much more likely to relate, interact, and remember your brand.
  • Use your hashtags, geo-locations, and tag people/things. Use hashtags when appropriate, but don’t go overboard. They can clutter the caption and be a turnoff to your followers.. Be calculated and precise with what you choose; for example, some common hashtags are much more popular than others, while some might curate content more relevant to your post, your page or your brand in general. You can start your own hashtag, too.

Once you understand these, you can dive into specific contest considerations:

  • First, your company needs to establish a goal for the contest. Each contest is going to serve a different purpose for each type of business. Whether that be generating engagement or increasing brand awareness, you’ll need to identify what you hope to achieve through your Instagram campaign.
  • Make sure you pick the contest that works best for your business type. For example, if you’re a small business, a like-to-win contest won’t grow your followers as quickly as a hashtag contest would.
  • Plan on how you’re going to administer your prize and how much value your prize will hold.Unsurprisingly, the more value the participant sees with your offer, the higher your engagement will be. Instagram prizes of $1000 or more generate 5.8 times more engagement. Think about how this would benefit your business in the big picture. If you want to go big, make a calculated offer and be completely confident that you will be able to deliver. However, you must remember that free is free, so don’t take that for granted. Many campaigns can still be very successful even with a smaller prize, but if you want to significantly increase engagement, try something bigger. Additionally, make sure you establish all roles, guidelines, rules, and dates internally beforehand.

Related: Tips & Benefits of Instagram for Business

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s dive into the different types of contests you could run and which businesses they might be best suited for.

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The Selfie Contest

  • Selfie contests are a great option to allow people to express themselves and show how they view your product in their own context. They will also typically show happy real-life customers (something that can be important for generating positive word of mouth and personability of the brand). People can customize their posts and get creative through this type of contest because of the control they have over the picture they are going to post.
  • Even if you don’t have a physical product that the users can display in a picture, you can still get creative. For example, Human Fusbol, a company that provides a service through setting up human fusbol games, had a successful campaign by asking their participants to share a selfie of their “game face.” Don’t forget that you can also have the participants creatively flaunt your logo as well, if these other options aren’t for you.
  • The Instagram contest rules are simple: have the participants share a photo, making sure to tag the brand. They can also use a contest-specific hashtag. This contest is an excellent way to receive user-generated content. Don’t forget to repost the winner’s picture so your followers can see someone is actually winning. It will excite them to see what others did and may encourage them to try it next time if they didn’t participate in previous contests.

Hashtag Contest

  • Since the foundation of Instagram is also built on hashtags, a hashtag contest can be a very effective way to spread the word about your brand. This method also works to create a brand image: the collective pictures will show the types of users and contexts your brand is being used in. This will create a collective image of your brand, and people in that community can see how others are using the product or service. Essentially, if you would like to rapidly increase your follower base (probably best for a small business), as well as project a specific image, this contest may be right for you.
  • Luxe Fitness does these types of contests for Instagram regularly, encouraging constant interaction with their followers and spreading their brand across Instagram through the high reach this type of contest has. Because of their consistency, they have become very popular using this competition, and it was very successful in increasing their following.
  • When paired with a picture to repost, these contests can be even more effective, because the hashtag can be searched by everyone on Instagram, instead of just a selfie that’s shared with just the participant’s followers. Again, anyone who searches the hashtags will be able to see all of the associated photos, displaying an overarching theme of your brand.

Like To Win Contest

  • One of the easiest contests is the like-to-win contest, which would work well for a company that wants a specific picture to get a lot of exposure. However, because they don’t have to repost a picture to their followers or use hashtags, this contest isn’t going to expose your brand as much to other people. If you already have a large following, this would make more sense as it keeps things simple.
  • All your participants have to do is like the picture you post for a chance to win. That’s it! Selecting the winner is as easy as randomly picking someone who liked the photo.
  • These types of contests are most effective when they are offered time after time, as they continue to build brand credibility. Ensure that you include hashtags for that extra push in reach.

Voting Contest

  • This contest is a little more involved but also probably one of the most rewarding. Participants will first submit a post to the hashtag you request, then Instagram’s audience will vote collectively on who wins through whichever post gets the most votes or likes.
  • Audiences are going to put more time and effort into their post, (more so than a selfie contest for example) because other people are going to be publicly evaluating their submissions. Followers and potential participants are more likely to go through the hashtag to look into the quality of content that is being created around the contest. Choose this contest if you want your followers/customers to become closer to your business and your product. Through the contest, people will see the depth, art, creativity, or whatever trait you wish to emphasize about your brand.
  • Typically, a bigger prize goes hand in hand with this contest because of the higher risk and effort involved for the participant.
  • This Instagram giveaway contest is also more work intensive, because you must keep track of all posts, and which ones are getting the most likes.
  • Habby Travel is a travel company that was successful in their voting contest; people submitted their favorite summer Instagram photo of their travels using a hashtag, which not only spread more brand awareness, but all of the beautiful pictures from around the world inspired people’s next vacation or travel destination which they were encouraged to book through Habby Travel.

Feedback Contest

  • Simply ask your followers to give you some constructive criticism or feedback about your company, and you can either randomly select a participant or select the person who you believe gave you the most helpful feedback. However, it may be more beneficial to you if you specify where or what you want the feedback directed at, otherwise it may be too broad. It can help you solve a problem within your company.
  • Feedback contests can be extremely beneficial to help you figure out what is wrong with your company from the customer’s perspective.  If you select a specific topic for feedback, such as customer service, the feedback you receive from the contest may allow you to figure out the root of the problem (and then you can fix it).

In-Store Contests

  • A clever way to take your contest offline is through the in-store contest. If your business also has a brick and mortar store this contest may be a great method to earn some foot traffic. Have your participants take photos inside your store (which may result in a sale just in the visit alone, in addition to the promotional benefits of the contest) and share them, using a contest hashtag just like you would in a selfie contest.
  • These contest photos will also show happy customers and people being creative with your brand, possibly dawning new ideas for your business as well as generating positive word of mouth.
  • Travel Country, both an online and offline store, used this contest over the span of a month to generate a considerable amount of foot traffic in their brick and mortar stores during their contest period.

Comment/Tag To Win

  • Another straightforward contest similar to the like-to-win contest, people can either tag a friend on the photo or comment on it. The brand can then randomly select a winner from the people who tagged someone or specifically from the people who commented on the photo used in the contest post.
  • Comment to win will increase your engagement with your followers, and will act in a similar fashion to a like-to-win contest by making that specific photo popular with the added influx of comments (possibly pushing it to the search page). One idea that Doritos has used in the past is to allow people to weigh in on what the brand’s next product could be; they asked for flavor ideas, your brand could come up with product names or concepts. Whatever fits for your strategy and business.
  • Use the tag-to-win contest if your goal is to reach a very specific target audience who would be followers of your followers (their friends, families, etc.), as the people tagged by the participant will most likely be from their follower base.
  • With the tag-to-win contest, people can make their followers aware of your company even though they wouldn’t necessarily mention it to them in personal conversations. This gives you a better shot at a spot on target audience because chances are their followers might be interested in your business too.

Wrapping Up

These are only a handful of the exhaustive options out there when it comes to Instagram contests. You’ll need to find one that is right for your business and the goals you’re hoping to achieve, and before you even think about setting up a contest you should have a foundational understanding of Instagram’s business basics; maintain a high quality feed, be consistent, tell stories, pay attention to and incorporate relevant trends, and regularly use Instagram’s promotional tools.

Related: Tips & Tools to Grow Your Instagram Following

Don’t forget to take advantage of all the data that can be pulled from your daily Instagram interactions.

This is valuable information that can tell a lot about how your business is doing and what methods of promotion are working (like what contest is working best for you)! When analyzed and used properly, the insights and takeaways pulled from this data can help direct your social media strategy towards a future of success.

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