How to Run a Successful Instagram Competition


Instagram competitions are awesome for business. They help you reach engage new fans and generate leads with the serious potential to drive massive sales.

They’re one of the most popular ways to market on the visual media platform, because it’s one of the most effective methods to reach new customers and drive top-of-mind brand awareness.

You might be convinced of the value, but you’re not sure where to get started – luckily, I’ve put together this step-by-step guide that will help you run your own Instagram competition!

Let’s get started.

How to Run an Instagram Competition Step 1: Choose your prize

When you’re putting together your Instagram competition, you’ll want to think long and hard about your prize. Why? Your prize is generally the biggest determinant when we’re talking about people choosing whether or not they want to enter your contest.

As beloved as your company may be, even your most loyal fans won’t enter a contest if there’s nothing in it for them. You wouldn’t give someone your email and personal information if there wasn’t some sort of benefit in it for you, and neither will they. Keep that in mind when you pick a prize – you want it to be awesome and exciting enough that people will take the time to enter your Instagram competition.

Here are some Instagram competition prize ideas:

  • Choose a prize that’s related to your brand. We’ve all seen companies give away things like iPads and trips to Mexico. This is great for large brands who are doing it to generate immediate buzz and remain top-of-mind, but it’s not awesome if you’re a business looking to generate real results and drive sales. Picking a brand-related prize like one of your products or a gift card helps you make sure everyone who enters your Instagram competition is interested in your business.instagram competition
  • Create a prize bundle: Putting together a package of prizes helps sweeten the deal by upping the value of your prize. A potential participant might not want to enter if they only stand to win a $10 product, but a $500 prize package might help change their mind. The best package is a bundle of different products from your brand, but you can also add other related products.instagram competition
  • Partner with other brands:* Consider partnering with other companies within your industry to offer an enticing prize package. Besides allowing you to create a bundle that’s a little more exciting than one that includes only your own products, partnering with another brand allows you to double up on your marketing efforts, effectively increasing the reach of your Instagram competition and maximizing its success.instagram competition

How to Run an Instagram Competition Step 2: Define your competition rules

Instagram’s an awesome place to run your giveaway because pretty much anything goes. This is awesome because it gives you a ton of different options when it comes to actually running your Instagram competition. Let’s look at the different types of Instagram competitions, and the rules for each of them:

  • Comment to enter Instagram competition: This is definitely the most common type of competition I see on Instagram. Basically, a participant simply needs to comment on the competition post to enter. Sometimes the comment will need to be an answer to a question, or some information (shoe size, for example, if the prize is a pair of kicks). A best practice for this competition type is to get entrants to tag a couple friends in their comments, to help it spread organically.

instagram competition

  • Repost to enter Instagram competition: This is another common type of Instagram competition. As the name suggests, a participant simply needs to repost your competition post with their own followers, helping to spread the word about the contest itself as well as your brand. I’d note that this type of contest, though effective in its ability to increase reach, isn’t great because it’s a little intrusive (it requires people to go through the effort of sharing your post).
  • Photo competition: This is a pretty logical use of Instagram as a competition platform, no? Get your participants to share a photo on their own feed with a hashtag you create (make sure it’s contest related – “#WishpondWinter2017”, for example). Create some sort of prompt to go with your photo; something that’s related to your brand works best, so you can use it as user-generated content in the future. Once your contest is over, randomly draw a winner or choose your favorite photos.
  • Instagram Sweepstakes or Hashtag Contest: Using a third-party app to run your Instagram competition might cost you a little coin and take a little time, but it’s the best way to guarantee you turn entrants into eventual sales. Basically, you’ll host your contest on a separate landing page that collects entrants’ emails (and other information if you so choose). Long story short, this allows you to market to them through email, which is generally more effective at converting these new leads into sales. More on that later.

instagram competition

How to Run an Instagram Competition Step 3: Create your competition

Time to build your Instagram competition.

The one thing you’ll need to do, regardless of the type of competition you’re running, is create a competition post that you can share on Instagram.

The first thing you need is an awesome piece of Instagram competition media. If you want a simple solution, using a simple photo of one of your prizes is the easiest way to go. Don’t cheap out here – use an official product shot or use a good camera (even a modern smartphone will do) to take and edit a great-looking photo that helps you highlight your prize. You can even overlay some text, like “WIN!”, to grab people’s attention and ensure they’re aware it’s a contest.

instagram competition

If you’re looking to get a little creative, you can also use a video. Most contest videos I’ve seen have a brand representative describe the contest, show off the prizes, and explain how to enter. Though they can work pretty well, I’m not a huge fan of videos for contest media because they usually require people to listen to them (subtitles can work, though).

instagram competition

Next, your caption. You’ll want to outline all of your rules here, so people know exactly how to enter. I’d recommend a step-by-step bullet point list to make it as easy as possible for entrants to understand. If you’re partnering with other brands, tag them in the caption as well.

instagram competition

If you’re running your contest on a third-party app, you’ll need to create a landing page. Though I won’t really cover it in-depth here, you should follow landing page best practices: have a good headline, use strong visuals, minimize your form fields, and include social share buttons.

How to Run an Instagram Competition Step 4: Competition promotion

Along with your prize, promoting your Instagram competition is the aspect that can make or break your contest and determine its success.

Organic is one way to go. Make sure you share your Instagram competition on all of your social platforms, as well as to your email list. If you have the resources, add a popup to your website so you can direct brand new website traffic to your competition.

A new development on Instagram is Stories – I’d make sure you promote your contest regularly on your Story as well.

instagram competition

Though organic is a good place to start, I’m not a huge fan of this method of promotion because you’re just preaching to the choir – most of these efforts will only reach people who are already interested in your brand, or have already been customers in the past.

Your best bet, if you’re looking to generate new leads and get new customers, is to look at paid ads. Instagram Ads are great because they run on the Facebook Ads platform, and that means super-precisely-targeted ads served to the people you want to turn into customers.

instagram competition

Though Instagram Ads can be a whole different beast, make sure you target well based on your customer profile, create an eye-catching image and choose the right CTA for your ad.

Once your promotion efforts are underway, launch your contest and let it run!

How to Run an Instagram Competition Step 5: Competition follow-up

Once your Instagram competition has wrapped up, it’s time to pick a winner. If you’re running a simple comment-to-enter, a share-to-enter contest, or even a sweepstakes using a third-party app, you’ll just want to put all of the entrants into a randomizer (or go old-school and drop them in a hat) and randomly draw a winner.

If you’re running a photo contest (either through Instagram or on a landing page), you can either choose a random photo or pick the best ones.

Regardless of your contest type, announce your winner on your Instagram profile and post the winning photo if you’ve run a photo contest.

instagram competition

Most contests end here, but you should have a new host of followers and social media fans who are now engaged with your brand. You can DM entrants directly or simply post a photo thanking people for entering, accompanied with a discount code.

If you ran a competition using a third-party contest app, you’ll have a list of emails who you can market to directly. Again, I’d give them a discount coupon as a thanks for entering, and to keep these leads warm so they’re more likely to purchase.


There’s a quick step-by-step look at how to run an Instagram competition. Whatever your business, Instagram competitions can be a great way to generate leads and drive sales from new, interested customers.

Have any questions? Go ahead and ask them in the comments below!

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