Should Your Business Run An Instagram Contest In 2020?

Instagram Contests Work - Stir MarketingPopular, powerful and fun, social media promotions like Instagram contests offer an effective and affordable way to boost brand buzz, grow your social following, increase engagement and drive targeted website traffic.

With over 1 billion monthly active users, Instagram is among the top of the heap in social media networks and represents an exciting opportunity for business marketing. But with so many users (including over 25 million business profiles with which to compete), not to mention an ever-changing Instagram algorithm, getting your brand in front of the right people can seem daunting. Instagram contests can help.

What’s more, you can run a contest on Instagram for fairly cheap (the network is free to use, after all), there are myriad DIY contest-builder tools to choose from, and we know that people are apt to get excited over just about any chance to win a prize. So it would seem as easy to get results as it is to build the promotion itself.

But free as it may be to get started, it’s possible to make a misstep. Avoid wasting your business’ valuable resources and running a promotion that either doesn’t earn engagement or – worse – breaks the rules by following these tips for navigating the process of running a successful Instagram contest in 2019.

Do Instagram contests work?

Yes! According to recent research from Tailwind, businesses that conduct Instagram contests grow their followers a whopping 70% faster than accounts that don’t. And Instagram contests get 3.5X as many likes and 64X more comments on average than regular posts. Incredibly, despite that fact, only 2% of marketers run Instagram contests regularly.

Instagram Contests - Stir Marketing

What could an Instagram contest mean for your brand?

If it’s thoughtfully planned and executed, a single Instagram contest post could result in more likes, follows, comments and shares than any post you’ve published before.

  • Build brand awareness and buzz: People love getting something for free and a contest, giveaway or sweepstakes can bring you the visibility you’ve been seeking. It’s a quick and easy way to get your business in front of a whole new audience. A great contest inspires your followers to tag friends, family members, colleagues, and others for the chance to win resulting in a variety of new social circles made aware of your brand.
  • Increase engagement with your business Instagram account: With a well-conceived contest can come a rush of engagements – great! This increase will work with the Instagram algorithm to provide your post with further attention, displaying it to more people, which in turn, results in more contest entries, more followers, and expanded brand awareness.
  • Boost your following: If your contest includes a follow requirement for chances to win, you can expect your follower count to increase. Choose a prize they can’t resist, and participants will do what’s required to enter –  sit back and watch your follower count grow!

What type of Instagram contest is right for your business?

Given the tremendous potential for measurable results, an Instagram contest is likely an excellent idea for your brand. But there are many different types of contests, so choosing the right one (based on your goals, your measures of success, your audience, etc.) is key. Here are the options:

how to run an instagram contest guide

  1. Like-To-Win: The most basic of Instagram contests, it’s a simple “double-tap on the post” to enter. One entry per person, this easy contest guarantees all your followers a fair shake. (Because you’re not asking for an action-to-enter, this contest type is actually more like a sweepstakes.)
  2. Comment-To-Win: Encourage your followers to comment on your contests post to enter. Let them say what they want, or have a little fun with it: ask fans to caption the photo – best caption wins! Ask them to leave their favourite emoji to enter. Your imagination’s the limit!
  3. Tag-To-Win: Highly effective at increasing brand awareness and a very popular Instagram contest option, have your followers “tag a friend” to enter (and let the dominoes fall!). That friend tags a friend, who tags a friend, who tags a friend. Before you know it, you’re growing a whole new audience usually invaluable (free) word-of-mouth advertising.
  4. Photo or Post-A-Pic Challenge: Ask your followers to post a photo on their personal Instagram account, tagging your business and/or using a prescribed contest hashtag you provide. This is another opportunity for word-of-mouth advertising — each of the entrants is helping to spread the word about your promotion, increasing visibility exponentially. Followers of participants are naturally curious and will often click through to your brand’s account to learn more and enter too!
  5. Repost-To-Win: Rather like the photo challenge, the repost-to-win contest requires your followers to post on their personal accounts, but with a specific image that you provide from your account. This specific image will typically include your branding and contest information making it easy for new prospects to find you and participate themselves. Request that your followers use a particular hashtag so you can track all the entries! A great way to amplify your contest and your brand while showcasing your product or service directly through your audience.
  6. Hashtag Contest: Hashtag contests have been a highly useful tool for brands to gather relevant, original, user-generated content (UGC). UGC is very popular with followers: it helps to develop trust in the brand, encourages word-of-mouth marketing, and embodies brand values. However, you must follow a couple of rules: use an Instagram Business Account and connect the Instagram Business Account to a Facebook Page. Additionally, your Instagram hashtag contest entries must include: the entry hashtag; an @mention of the Instagram Business Account running the promotion, and the time frame during which entries will be collected.
  7. Follow Me Contest: One of the best ways to amp things up across the board for your brand is to combine entry methods and requiring anyone who wants to participate to follow your business on Instagram. When contest participants like, tag a friend, and follow you’ve successfully boosted your engagement, increased your following, and increased brand awareness – with a single post!

A few of the best Instagram contests of 2018:

Still wondering what type of contest you should conduct? Take a look at a few examples of well-executed giveaways for a little inspiration.

Hydro Flask: Follow & Tag 2 Friends Giveaway

Instagram Contest Examples - Stir Marketing

Celebrating a 200k follower milestone, Hydro Flask launched a contest to further expand their reach. They asked followers to follow @hydroflask and tag two friends in the post comments to enter to win one of their products. With two winners and increased chances to win, the contest post alone drew more than 12,500 likes.

Fabletics & Bliss: Like, Follow, and Tag Giveaway (with Bonus Entry!)

Sample Instagram Contest Fabletics - Stir Marketing

Fabletics created a 12-day promotion featuring new contests and winners each day. A little more complex, this contest leveraged a relationship between @fabletics and @blissworld, benefitting both brands (via cross-promotion) and enabling even more prize opportunities. For the possibility to win the ultimate #SelfCareSunday package, fans had to follow both brands’ accounts, like the contest photo, and tag a friend in the comments. For an extra chance to enter, fans could also share the contest post with #GiftsForMeSweeps. Benefits all around: double the engagement, double the chances to win.

The Nitty-Gritty: How to run a contest on Instagram

Follow these steps to get started:

>>> TIME: Choose the best time to launch your contest.

  • Is there a season or holiday that dovetails nicely with your contest’s theme? Plan to run it then
  • Identify when your audience is most active on Instagram and launch your contest then
  • Plan the length of your contest — how long will people have to enter and when will you choose and announce a winner?

>>> PRIZE: The success of your contest will depend largely on the quality and relevance of your prize. Make it something your followers won’t be able to resist.

>>> RULES: You’ll have to understand the rules associated with running a promotion on Instagram, as well as create your own Contest Rules for entrants to follow.

>>> CREATIVE: Instagram is a highly-visual space, and the quality of your contest post image counts for a whole lot. Make it bright, eye-catching, engaging, evocative and relevant. Including, as possible, branding and (briefly) information about the contest itself (ie: the contest name or prize details).


  • Secure a partner: If you’re able to partner with another brand in your contest (either in the execution or in the prizing) it will double the visibility of your promotion. No partner? Engage with an Instagram influencer to help get the word out.
  • Do your own cross-promo: Once your contest is live, post about it every you can to drive more visibility. Publish links to the contest on other social networks, include a link to it in your brand’s email newsletter, write a blog post about it, create an Instagram Story about it — the sky’s the limit!

>>> ANALYTICS: As with any digital marketing or advertising campaign, make sure to pay careful attention to the results (metrics and analytics). Didn’t achieve the results you were hoping for? A review of results data will help to highlight where things went wrong.

Go it alone, or get help?

An experienced Instagram marketing agency can help to make sure that your first Instagram contest checks off all the above boxes. They can also help you to choose the best tool with which to build, manage, monitor and analyze your promotion.

Top third-party Instagram Contest tools:

To help create and administer your contest, you may want to consider implementing a third-party application or website. Some of the most popular include:

  • AGORA PULSE is a consumer competitions and social media scheduling and publishing tool for Instagram and other social media platforms. It allows you to avoid multiple entries from the same person, ensuring only one competition entry per user and provides nice visual reports.
  • GLEAM allows you to conduct your contests from start to finish. Add your prize, choose your actions, verify entries, incorporate one-click functionality for contest participants, pick winners, fraud protection, and more.
  • WOOBOX helps brands to easily administer any contest and the convenient dashboard makes it simple to set age restrictions, track submissions, approve entries, and pick a winner.
  • SHORTSTACK is a great tool not only to create and run contests but also to get explicit permission to use any collected User-Generated Content via their Rights Management tool. It can also hold voting competitions or offer discounts. This platform offers a competition embedding code so you can add the code on any page on your website.
  • WISHPOND supports photo and hashtag contests on Instagram. But you can also use Wishpond to design contest landing pages to highlight your prizes, approve or deny entries, and use the app’s analytics to keep an eye on your contest’s progress.

Want to give it a try? Stir Marketing has helped many clients over the years to plan and execute exciting social media contests and sweepstakesGet in touch with the Stir team today!