The 10-Minute Guide to Instagram Contest Rules – Social Media Playbook


Running an Instagram contest is a fantastic way to generate leads, grow your account, and reach new followers.

As an Instagram user (or fiend some may say..) myself, I see Instagram contests everywhere. From brands promoting everything from shoes to bidets –there is no shortage of free stuff you can win on Instagram.

Now, if you plan to run your own Instagram contest you’ll need rules. You’ll need to outline things such as, what qualifies or disqualifies an entry. Like John Snow, your rules are meant to establish order and restore peace to the land. After all, no one wants angry contest participants.

If you don’t know how to run an Instagram contest, you won’t know what to anticipate. Luckily, we’ve run thousands of contests and have advice on what to include in your contest rules.

In this article, I’ll share what we share with our clients when it comes to creating Instagram contest rules. We’ll go over contest laws, types, Instagram guidelines, and best practices. Here is the 10-minute guide to Instagram contest rules.

Contest Laws

Before you get to making your own rules of your contest, you’ll need to think about the really important rules – the ones set by your local government.

Often, contest or competition law sets strict laws on what each type of contest is, and which ones can be privately run.

The three main contest types are…


Sweepstakes are the most common type of contest, in which entrants win a prize based solely on chance. No purchase or payment (known in law as consideration) can be made necessary to enter. This is very important – consideration can include substantial time or effort that the participants spends on a task that benefits the sponsor. In some states, even contact information can be deemed consideration if it is used for marketing purposes – so read up on your state laws to make sure what you’re doing is legal!


A real contest is skill-based – it’s a campaign in which effort or skill is needed to enter. For Instagram contests, this usually takes the form of a photo or video posted by the entrant. The element of chance does not generally exist within a contest, though this can vary.


A lottery is the final type of contest. As opposed to sweepstakes, lotteries require consideration from the participant, chance, and a prize. However, if you’re running an Instagram contest, don’t run a lottery! Private lotteries are illegal in many places – it’s not worth the risk to run them on your Instagram account.

So really, you’re left with two options for your upcoming promotion: a sweepstakes or a contest.

Before you go to create your contest, Instagram has a few things they want you to keep in mind.

Instagram Guidelines

Instagram’s knowledge base has a short section on promotions, where they outline the guidelines they have for users looking to run promotions on their platform.

I’ll copy it here for your convenience:

If you use Instagram to communicate or administer a promotion (ex: a contest or sweepstakes), you are responsible for the lawful operation of that promotion, including:

The official rules;

Offer terms and eligibility requirements (ex: age and residency restrictions); and
Compliance with applicable rules and regulations governing the promotion and all prizes offered (ex: registration and obtaining necessary regulatory approvals)

You must not inaccurately tag content or encourage users to inaccurately tag content (ex: don’t encourage people to tag themselves in photos if they aren’t in the photo).

Promotions on Instagram must include the following:

A complete release of Instagram by each entrant or participant.

Acknowledgement that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Instagram.

We will not assist you in the administration of your promotion and cannot advise you on whether consent is required for use of user content or on how to obtain any necessary consent.

You agree that if you use our service to administer your promotion, you do so at your own risk.

This is pretty light as far as legalese goes, but let’s go over some of the main points here so they’re clear.

First, Instagram says you are responsible for the lawful operation of your promotion – this means it’s up to you to find out what the laws, rules, and regulations regarding contests and competitions are like in your area. This means drawing up a set of rules that govern your contest, making eligibility requirements (e.g. entrants must be 19 and up, etc.) clear, and taking care of any registration that might be necessary based on your location and your prize. This last point is important because prizes over a certain value must be registered in some jurisdictions.

Secondly, Instagram aims to reduce the amount of spam on its platform – so your contest shouldn’t do something like ask users to tag 10 people in a photo of yours that they repost. Reposting photos is fine – but when you ask users to tag others randomly in their content, it’s a no-no.

The third point basically says Instagram is not connected in any way with contests run on the platform (besides being the service used to administer the contest). Though they say each entrant must provide a “complete release” of Instagram, I’ve seen they’re not too strict about this. Just make it as clear as possible to your participants that Instagram doesn’t actually have a hand in running your contest.

The fourth point explains that Instagram won’t help you with your contest in any way – and that they won’t help you in figuring out whether or not you need consent to use content from your users. Basically, Instagram is just a medium – they won’t provide any support for anything to do with your promotion.

Finally, Instagram informs you that any risk or loss you incur running a contest on its platform is all on you. If you waste $5,000 sending a prize to an illegitimate entry, it’s your fault. Fair enough!

Now, let’s get into some best practices for rules when you’re creating your contest.

Contest Rule Best Practices

Your rules will vary based on the type of contest you run, but here’s a few best practices to help you get started.

Keep it simple

Keeping your Instagram contest rules simple will lower the barriers to entry. If – for legal reasons or otherwise – you need a giant rules wall of text, drop it on a subfolder on your webpage and link to it in your bio. Leave a CTA in your contest photo caption saying something like “for full contest rules, check the link in our bio”.

List out all the steps

To make sure your contest entrants don’t miss anything when entering your contest, list out your entry requirements in steps. Include everything entrants need to do to win, as well as the contest end date and how winners will be announced. For example…

To enter our contest, follow the steps below!

  1. Follow @youraccount and @contestpartner on Instagram
  2. Repost this photo with the hashtag #contestname
  3. Tag @youraccount and @contestpartner in the photo

That’s it! Winners will be notified via Instagram DM on [contest end date}

Keep your eye on the prize

Chances are, your participants entered your contest because they were interested in your prize – so make sure you mention it in your contest rules. Mention the prize, its value, and how many people will win.

For example, “Enter now to win 1 of 5 prize packages, worth $500 each!” This makes it clear to entrants what they’re entering for, and gives them an idea of their chances to win. Make it incredibly clear what the prize is exactly.


Even if your company has a big reach, there may be laws preventing you from running a contest in some regions, or from having contest entrants below a certain age. Companies like Starbucks always say something like “Contest open to U.S. and Canadian citizens age 18 and up.”

Research competition laws for your specific region to ensure your contest isn’t breaking any rules.


There you have it – a little bit of information to help you set the rules for your next Instagram contest. I do want to stress that this isn’t legal advice – make sure you do research regarding competition laws in your region before you run a contest.

But besides that, have fun – contests are an awesome way to engage your audience and increase interest in your brand.

Good luck, ‘grammers!

Related Reading

Wishpond’s Facebook Contest Apps make it easy to create sweepstakes, photo contests, Instagram hashtag contests & more.


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