How to Run a Competition On Instagram in 10 Steps


With roughly one billion monthly active users, Instagram is a powerful marketing platform for any business – especially when it comes to running contests.

Creating a worthwhile Instagram contest can help you grow your business online with more engagement, followers, and yes, increase sales.

60% of Instagram users seek out and discover new products on Instagram, and research shows that more than half of all adults in the U.S. enter at least one contest or sweepstakes every year.

With Instagram sweepstakes and contests becoming increasingly common, you have an audience both familiar with, and interested in your Instagram contest, available to you for free.

At the same time, the last thing you want is to end up with an Instagram contest that leaves you with no results or little impact on your brand. So in this post, I’ll be showing you, step-by-step, how to run a winning Instagram contest.

Let’s get into it!

Step 1: Create Your Instagram Campaign Goals

Most brands make the mistake of running their Instagram contest without thinking ahead, only to see their contest fall flat on its face. Later they’ll complain that Instagram contest doesn’t work.

Fact check: An Instagram contest is a powerful tool, but only if you have a plan of action.

First things first, you’ll need to decide what your Instagram contest campaign will be. What do you want this contest to accomplish?

Here are some Instagram contest goals you can choose from:

  • Increase your followers on Instagram
  • Increase sales and online purchases
  • Drive traffic to your website or landing page
  • Promote new or current products and services

You can choose more than one goal for your Instagram contest, and the goals you choose can guide you in designing the best entry method for your contest.

NOTE: Though social engagement can also be a good goal, it’s only useful if you’re planning to do something with it. Remember that your goal is to get more customers for your brand. Likes and comments are great… but they don’t mean much if you’re not turning these engaged users into paying customers.

On top of setting a goal for your contest, take this time to define a target market for your upcoming promotion. Do you want to target all of your potential users or just a segment of them?

For example, a clothing brand might make clothing for both males and females but run a contest targeting only females to promote new women’s apparel.

Defining your target early on in the campaign design process will help you maintain clarity and a consistent, focused marketing message moving forward.

Step 2: Choose Your Instagram Contest Entry Method

It seems like a small detail, but it will be crucial to the success of your campaign. Your contest entry method should complement your Instagram contest goal. For example, if you want to drive more traffic to your website, you can ask people to click the link in your bio to enter. From there, you’ll be able to convert your Instagram traffic into website traffic.

That’s what the World Photography Organisation did for their Photography Contest.

There are numerous ways to design an Instagram contest. However, once you choose, it wouldn’t be wise to change it once your Instagram contest kicks off. This can cause frustration and anger among contestants. As with marriage, once you say I do to an entry method, it’s ‘til the end of the contest do you part.

The Five Most Popular Instagram Contest Entry Methods

Not sure where to get started when putting together your Instagram contest? Here are five of the best entry methods for all kinds of Instagram competitions.

1. Like-to-Win or Comment-to-Win

As the name suggests, in this method, contestants have to comment or like your Instagram contest post to enter for a chance to win.

As a social media platform, Instagram has the highest engagement rate of all platforms. That’s because the Instagram algorithm values engagement above all. The more engaged people are with your content, the more likely it is to appear at the prized top of your followers’ feed or rank for search via any of the hashtags in your Instagram contest post. Essentially, this method helps to promote your contest without running ads.

Comment-to-Win Example: Mickey Trescott Book Giveaway

2. Follow To Win

To increase your Instagram followers, you can ask users to follow your Instagram account for a chance to win.

This entry method usually works 50/50. One on hand, you can grab viewers who might genuinely like your brand; on the other, you’ll be attracting others who just want to enter your contest and then leave. At the end of it all, you will be able to retain a significant increase of followers who will keep following your account in the long run.

Follow To Win Example: USANA Health Sciences, Inc.

3. Tag-A-Friend To Win Contests

Ask a user to tag their friends in your Instagram contest post to be automatically entered to win. This helps to post engagement for your Instagram contest, which is always a good thing. And in a very simple way, this method also works as a basic referral system.

The more friends users tag, the more brand visibility you get, and the better your chances for an increase in followers and potential customers.

Tag-A-Friend Example: Tono & Co.

4. Use The Hashtag To Win

Ask contestants to use your brand’s hashtag or your contest hashtag to enter to win your Instagram contest. This is mainly when requesting user-generated content (UGC) from your followers. This can be done in two ways:

You can ask them to repost your contest image on their own social media platforms, or you can ask them to enter a photo contest and upload their picture with your hashtag to automatically enter your contest to win. If you need more inspiration, check out this list of Instagram hashtag contest examples.

Use The Hashtag To Win Example: Hashtag Contest

5. Click The Link In The Bio To Enter

If you’re looking for a way to get more subscribers to your email list, this should be your method of choice. Direct viewers to click the link in the bio to go on your website or a landing page. Once there, they can submit their email and other details to enter your Instagram contest.

If you consider using your website, it can also drive traffic to your online store. Once a user has finished entering, they’ll most likely browse your website to see what you have to offer.

Link in Bio Instagram Example: Mehron x Mimi Choi MakeUp Contest

Want more leads with a social media landing page?

Book a call to learn how our team of contest experts can help you create high converting landing page today.

Step 3: Choose An Amazing Contest Prize

Now that you’ve decided on your Instagram contest entry method, it’s time to choose the prize.

It’s important to pick a prize associated with your brand or brand’s lifestyle so that you attract the right audience to your Instagram contest and page. Granted, you can’t always avoid people who are entering just for the sake of entering, but your prize should appeal to the people you want to convert into loyal followers and customers.

For example, Lifestyle blogger and photographer Iacomini Andrea and beard grooming company Copenhagen Grooming joined forces for a Beard Kit giveaway.

Both Iacomini and Copenhagen Grooming share a similar target audience – men interested in lifestyle products – so naturally, their collaboration worked. They offered their male followers a product of interest, whether they had a beard or wanted a kit to get started, the prize was worthwhile.

In today’s market, an Amazon gift card isn’t going to cut it. Here are some killer Instagram contest prizes you can offer:

*New or Best Selling Products
*Shopping Sprees
*Product Bundles
*Free Tickets to an Event
*Brand Ambassador Title
*V.I.P or Early Access to Products/Services

Step 4: Select An Eye-Catching Contest Image or Video

Instagram is a visually-driven platform, and your Instagram contest image can make or break your Instagram contest.

It isn’t easy to stand out. About 38% of Instagram users check Instagram multiple times a day and 95 million photos and videos are shared on Instagram per day.

With so much visual content on Instagram, you have to ensure that your Instagram contest image or video stops them from scrolling past (your caption can do some of the heavy lifting, but we’ll talk about that later).

Boring images get scrolled over without a second look. To stop your followers in their tracks, show them the prize that’s up for grabs, in a way that brings out your brand’s appeal.

Like here, with this Beach Waver and Just Nay Product Launch Giveaway

The look and feel still matches their brand aesthetic, but it shows off their new coconut hair shampoo and conditioner in a fun and simple way.

Step 5: Write the Perfect Instagram Contest Caption

In addition to adding a visually pleasing image to your Instagram contest, you’ll need a show-stopping caption.

Giveaway captions don’t get the luxury of being short. To avoid confusing followers, you have to be detailed with your entry guidelines, prize details, and beginning and end date, not to mention following Instagram guidelines.

The first line of your caption should capture your reader’s attention and let them know what’s going on…you’re running an Instagram contest.

Take Liquid Culture, liquor blogger, Monica who hosted a giveaway with Collective Arts Distilling & Brewing for a ticket Collective Arts famous Liquid Arts Fest. Take a look at the first line of the post.

For more on creating eye-catching captions and content for your Instagram contest take a look at these 15 Awesome Examples of Instagram Posts that Drive Sales.

Next, for your Instagram contest caption are your contest guidelines. Always use clear instructions like which Instagram post to Like, how many friends to tag, and what and where to comment.

Doing all of this may seem a bit tedious, but it increases engagement and reduces the likelihood of user errors, which might cause trouble down the road.

Pro Tip: Add popular contest hashtags and Instagram’s Geo-Tag location to your post. This increases your Instagram contest post chances of discovery for people looking at content specific to your hashtag or in your location. You can also use this guide to learn How Use Instagram Geotags & Hashtags to Grow Your Following.

Step 6: Craft a Hashtag

Once you’ve chosen your contest type, you’re going to want to create your hashtag. Having a hashtag creates a “thread” that links all of your contest entries and materials together. If you choose to promote your contest on other platforms, like Facebook or TikTok, it’s a good way to maintain consistency.

Though rules concerning hashtags are pretty open-ended, there are a few best practices you should aim to follow…

  • Be campaign-specific: Choose a hashtag that relates directly to your contest so it’s easy to track and differentiate from other hashtags you might be using. Make it easy to remember, in case people see it now but don’t enter until later.
  • Make it short: Depending on the type of contest you run, your hashtag might be the only way you’re able to track your entries. Keeping your hashtag relatively short to minimize the chance entrants type it incorrectly.
  • Make it unique: A common hashtag misstep is choosing a hashtag that’s already been used, or even worse – is still in use. Do a little research beforehand and make sure the hashtag you choose is unique.

Step 7: Follow Instagram Contest Guidelines

No matter how big or small your Instagram contest is, it’s vital to abide by the Official Instagram Contest Rules.

Instagram advises all its users to run contests or giveaways legally so be sure to do your homework offline: read up on any laws that might apply to your area.

Where Instagram is concerned, the first thing is to officially include the rules and terms of eligibility, like:

  1. Use the Correct Terms
  2. Choose a Goal for Your Instagram Giveaway
  3. Include the Brand Hosting the Instagram Giveaway
  4. Write Clear Guidelines on How to Enter
  5. Include the Start and End Date of the Giveaway
  6. State That Instagram Is Not Associated with Your Instagram Giveaway
  7. Include participation restrictions
  8. Decide How to Announce the Winner
  9. State How the Prize Will Be Delivered

Instagram Guideline Example: Fashionably Late

Not sure how to add any of these?

Don’t worry; here’s The Complete Instagram Giveaway Rules Guide (With Examples).

Step 8: Promote Your Instagram Contest

When you promote your Instagram contest from start to finish, it helps to drive a snowball effect of contest entries, each getting you closer to the results you want.

Here’s why.

Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms, but it has one of the shortest content lifespans.

On Instagram, content lasts between 21-24 hours. Once that 24-hour window passes, so does your opportunity to reach viewers. Without promotions, your contest can be lost or forgotten in a sea of content for viewers who didn’t instantly see your post or keep up with your content.

5 Powerful Ways to Promote Your Instagram Contest

While there’s a lot that can go into Instagram marketing, here are five of the best ways to get your Instagram competition out there.

1. Pre-promotion: Promote Your Instagram Contest Before It Starts

Just like a warm-up routine before a workout, you want to start flexing those contest muscles before the real work begins.
When you let you let your followers know ahead of time that you’ll be doing a giveaway, you’ll help build anticipation. You can also view the level of engagement with your pre-promotion post to get a glimpse of how many people are looking forward to entering.

Instagram Contest Example: Cape Shark Co

2. Instagram Ads: Use Ads To Expand Your Instagram Content Reach

Use ads to place your giveaway squarely in front of potential contestants. Since Instagram ads are twice as effective as Facebook ads, you’ll have a better chance of successfully driving traffic to your Instagram contest.

Not convinced? When the stylish furniture company ran their Instagram ads, they saw a 69% in higher return on ad spend compared to the previous sale.

Instagram Ad Example:The Aaptiv App

3. Instagram Stories: Constantly Promote Your Instagram Contest

Roughly one billion accounts use Instagram Stories every day, including businesses. You can even run Instagram Story Contests?! Once you upload an image or video to your Instagram story, it disappears after 24 hours. Unlike a post in your Instagram feed, you can upload your Instagram contest post as often as you like without annoying your followers. You can even run Instagram Story contests!

If you decide to promote your Instagram contest in your stories, you can use Instagram story ads as well, ensure that the post design matches the required dimensions.

Instagram Contest Example: Maille US

Because Instagram users scroll quickly through their feeds, your ad should immediately communicate to users what they get for swiping up. That means you should be direct and straightforward in both your headline and copy.

Need help mastering Instagram stories? Take a look at these Amazing Instagram Stories Examples (With Tips & Tricks to Copy)

Pro Tip: Use a hashtag in your Instagram story. It has the same effect as if it was in your Instagram feed, allowing users searching the hashtag to discover your story.

4. Instagram Contest Reminders: Don’t Let Them Forget You

Earlier we spoke about how short an Instagram post’s shelf life is, so it’s important to publish a contest reminder approaching your end date to keep your Instagram contest fresh in the minds of your followers.

Instagram Contest Example: Nana+Livy Handmade Bath Treats & Old Tea Canada
For their Father’s Day contest, they added the line “Don’t forget to enter the Odd Tea’s and Nana+Livy’s Father’s Day Giveaway!” Straight to the point, and letting viewers know that the contest is coming to an end.

5. Cross Promotion: Promote Your Instagram Contest On All Channels

Make sure fans know about your contest even if they’re not yet following you on Instagram. Promote your contest on all your other social channels to maximize the number of entries. This is also a great way to ensure that people who already follow you on other social channels know about your Instagram account so they can follow you on Instagram.

Step 9: Choose Your Instagram Contest Winner

Now that your contest is over, it’s time to pick your winner.

Based on the entry method you selected, you should know how you’ll select your winner. There are Six Brilliant Ways to Pick An Instagram Contest Winner you can choose from for your own contest.

After you pick your winner, the most exciting part: telling them! You can do this via email, Instagram direct messaging, post the winner on your page, or all of the above; it’s actually one of the 5 Best Ways to Announce & Notify Contest Winners.

It’s better to do them all, so you’ve covered your bases by reaching out to the winner about their newly won prize.

Instagram Contest Example: I Love New York

Step 10: After Your Instagram Contest Ends

You’ve made it to the finish line, and you’ve more followers, great engagement, and even some steady traffic on your website, plus some great brand awareness.

So now we’re done, right?


Remember having a lot of followers doesn’t mean having a lot of sales; it means you have people who love your brand on Instagram, and potential customers. Now it’s time to turn all your new followers into loyal customers.

Four Things To Do After Your Instagram Contest Ends

To get the most value out of your Instagram competition, try these three strategies.

1. Send a Follow-Up Email or Post

Send your contestants a follow-up email with a big “Thank You” for entering your contest; let them know that they aren’t just a number on your Instagram page, but you value them. Keep them up to date for the next one and even give a small discount to show your appreciation.

Here’s a template you can use…

Hey {{first_name}},

Thanks for entering [contest name]!

Unfortunately, you didn’t win this time – but all of our entries were great and made it a tough decision.

As a special thanks for entering, we’d like to give you 30% off your next purchase at [brand]!

Click here to claim your coupon.

We’ll be running another contest next month – keep an eye out for it!

Until next time,


This tactic ensures you’re keeping these leads warm – and helps you turn disappointed contest participants into customers looking to take advantage of a great discount coupon. Though your margins on these customers may be smaller, something is better than nothing!

2. Promote Your Products

Now that you’ve gotten some new eyes on your brand, it’s time to start pushing your products with content marketing.

This is the most straightforward (and most common) method of marketing on Instagram. Don’t just post images of your product; show it off with UGC (user-generated content), lifestyle shots, and creative shots.

Have a balance between selling and engaging, you can’t have one without the other, or you’ll lose sales.

Instagram Content Example: Manduka

3. Engage With Your Followers

You didn’t just get new followers – you added to your brand’s Instagram community. Don’t just leave them hanging, or they’ll get bored and unfollow or forget about you. Both results in losing potential sales for your business.

Instead, take the time to engage with them, answer questions, ask questions, or show them that you listen to what they have to say about your products (the good and the bad).

Instagram Engagement Example: Glossier

4. Measure Your Success

Though contests generally do well for brands, your mileage may vary – so make sure you’re always tracking your success, especially with respect to your goals. Here are some metrics to track:

  • ROI: Unfortunately, contests don’t come free. You need to pay for your prizes, any software you’ve used to build your contest, and for any ads you may have run over the course of your contest – that’s your investment. A little while after your contest ends, your return can be calculated by finding the total value of the customers who converted using your post-contest coupon. Before then, take note of any revenue spikes you might have on your website as the contest is running – this might be a good indicator that your contest is leading people to buy your products.
  • Social engagement: Though this really is just a vanity metric, it’s good to monitor if social is one of your big revenue drivers. Make sure you’ve activated your Instagram for Business account so that you have access to deeper analytics, like impressions and follower insights. Track the number of followers and impressions you received as your contest was running, and compare these numbers to previous periods to see the effect it had on your Instagram account.
  • Website traffic: Changes in website traffic are a good measure of how interested people are in your product. Seeing rises in traffic during contesting periods means you’re catching people’s attention enough to get them to click on your website. This could mean great things and new opportunities – for example, you might want to add an entry popup to your homepage during contesting periods to take advantage of new traffic.


It takes a bit of work to have a successful Instagram contest, but as with anything, the more you do it, the easier it gets. If you need more inspiration, check out this list of Instagram contest examples.

By following these steps on how to run a competition on Instagram, you’ll be able to maximize the success of each content. Add contests like this to your regular Instagram marketing strategy, and you’ll see just how much they can grow your business!

So, to recap, here are 10 Steps to Run a Winning Instagram Contest:

  1. Create Your Instagram Campaign Goals
  2. Choose Your Instagram Contest Entry Method
  3. Choose An Amazing Contest Prize
  4. Select An Eye-Catching Contest Image or Video
  5. Write the Perfect Instagram Contest Caption
  6. Craft a hashtag
  7. Follow Instagram Contest Guidelines
  8. Promote Your Instagram Contest
  9. Choose Your Instagram Contest Winner
  10. Stay Engaged After Your Instagram Contest Ends

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