Planning An Instagram Contest

Want to do more than just post pictures on Instagram? Everyone likes free stuff. Right? I know I do. I also convey this message to clients as well. Activating your social media followers by planning an Instagram contest will increase the value of your social media engagements. Simply posting pictures of your product won’t cut it.

So, I recommend the following steps in planning, launching and managing your Instagram contest:

Planning An Instagram Contest

1. Set Your Contest Goals


Defining the contest goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is critical to your contest success. So, it’s important to dedicate ample time to identifying your goals and KPIs.

Determine what are you trying to achieve when executing your contest? Here are some suggestions:

To Acquire Instagram Followers

Are you trying to build your following by creating a contest that activates your following and their networks? If so, you should prominently display your Instagram handle so that users can follow you before they conduct any other action.

Planning An Instagram Contest

SSiDECALS makes following the first step in its Instagram contest. If acquiring new followers is your goal, make this a priority.

To Generate Brand Awareness

Are you looking to quickly reach as many people as possible? If so, you should make the contest participation as easy as possible to increase your reach. In this case, Under Armour is incorporating its brand into base jumping photos.

Savvy move as base jumping photos are already on Instagram. Under Armour is attempting to generate brand awareness by owning that segment of the sporting industry. Instagram is a great social network to launch this campaign as photo sharing is ingrained in the base jumping culture.

Planning An Instagram Contest

To Capture Data

If your goal is to collect data from Instagram users, you must have a plan for capturing customer information as well as make submission easy. This is usually done by developing a landing page that collects the user’s information as they enter your contest.

Popsugar does this nicely.

Notice how the “Enter Now” is prominently displayed. This is important as many users flock to Instagram and review the contest hashtag before entering.

Eliminate that friction. Make visiting your contest site a contestant priority.

Planning An Instagram Contest

Be clear about your target goals and then define the KPIs.

Typical contest KPIs include:

  • Follower growth
  • Engagements
  • Entries
  • Total unique participants

After selecting your goals and KPIs, now you must choose your hashtag…

2. Choose The Hashtag


Your hashtag is most likely to be the mechanism for users to enter your competition. Choose a specific hashtag that is short and not likely to be misspelled.

Forever 21 leveraged a popular #TBT (Throwback Thursday) social trend by having users post old pictures of themselves with popular Disney characters.

What makes this campaign successful is that it creates a trend that will surpass the life of the original campaign. Nice work!

Planning An Instagram Contest

3. Winner Selection


Planning An Instagram Contest

A common method of selecting winners is to allow Instagram to do it for you. For example, the image or video with the most likes and comments wins. This method is successful because:

  • It allows users to stay actively participating in the contest as they encourage their personal network to like or comment on their entry.
  • It eliminates double entries. Most likely, there will only be one winner.
  • It eliminates the need for 3rd party apps to manage the contest.

Another method is to randomly select a winner. Here are the Pro’s and Con’s surrounding this method:

  • Pros: You can include other business stakeholders in helping to judge. Getting others involved will help establish social media buy-in.
  • Cons: An audit can legally be requested by any contest participant which is a headache to say the least.

Next, let’s talk about the contest terms…

4. Define Terms and Conditions


It’s important to establish your contest’s terms and conditions and post where it can easily be accessed. It should detail who can enter, what the selection criteria will be, total prizes, etc. Uberliss decided to post this on its Facebook page.

Planning An Instagram Contest

5. Go Live


Now that you have set your goals, picked your contest hashtag, determined the winner selection method, and defined your terms and conditions, it’s time to go live!

Promote through other social media channels, via email, on your website and of course through Instagram. Remember, the reason why most Instagram contests fail is because of the promotion.

So, promote, promote, promote…and then promote some more. The success of your contest depends upon it.

Good luck!


  • Nawaz

    Great read Juntae. We were developing an Instagram campaign to get more followers for a Client and it helped. Would definitely use your insights.
    Humble contests are the best way to engage audience.
    Thanks again.

  • Johnny Self

    Whats your IG Juntae? Mine is @johnnydotjpeg

  • samanthastone

    Some great reminders in this post. Best of all they apply to contests across most social platforms, not just Instagram.

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  • Simple and straight-forward guide. As always, nicely done. One thing that I didn’t see addressed is the length of time for a contest. And I guess I have two questions. 1) If you are doing a one-and-done contest, any suggestions on length? And 2) do you think a long term contest with once a month winners work well? My thoughts on the later is that they can help build sustainability for a hashtag used with the contest — and represent a branding opportunity.

    • All good points here John. Contest timelines depend on the objective. Use discretion when closing the contest after submissions subside. Further, pay close attention to the analytics to determine which contest frequency works best. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Brandy A

    Glad I saw this in my Twitter feed! I’ve been caught up in the web of Instagram contests this week causing me to consider creating my own to bump up my followers and encourage engagement. This has given me a few additional things to consider as I figure out what might work for my accounts.

    • Glad this article was able to help! Thanks for reading and commenting, Brandy. I look forward to your future comments as well.