Running an Instagram contest is the perfect remedy for improving engagement rates and increasing followers.

Every day Instagram users post 80 million images and hit the “like” button at least 2.5 billion times. Yes, we said billion.

In order to get a share of even 100k of these likes, it crucial to have an epic marketing strategy in place. Part of this epic marketing strategy includes running an Instagram contest.

It may not seem like much, but an Instagram contest can help you to boost engagement rates, earn more followers, get more likes and regrams and direct more traffic back to your website. The ultimate cherry on the top when it comes to running an Instagram contest however, are the leads.

Running a contest allows you to collect leads, which could go on to become some of your life long customers and most dedicated fans.

But, how do you get started?

A lot of people shy away from running a contest because they think it is a lot of work. But really, running a contest takes very little time and effort. This is why it is one of the most effective strategies around for boosting your Instagram feed.

Many small businesses have gone viral because of their Instagram contests and have earned the type of attention that most marketing teams only dream of.

One of these businesses is Macallan Whisky. Ok, while it may not be a “small business” the boutique Whisky maker ran a simple, yet highly effective Instagram contest that is an excellent example of what to do.

They asked fans to snap an image of themselves enjoying a glass of Macallan and post it along with the hashtag #meandthemacallan. Five of the best photos would then be chosen as winners. These winners would then go on to receive a prize and be featured on the company’s blog, and official Twitter and Facebook page.

The interesting thing about this competition was that the price was a mystery. Still, thousands of people signed up to the competition and posted images of themselves with the whiskey. This is not only helped to organically market the product, but it also helped to generate press and publicity.

This is just one example of how running a very simple Instagram contest can help to boost your reputation in the industry.

You may argue that Macallan’s contest worked because it was an already established brand. While there may be some truth to that, there is a way for all businesses, established or not, to take part in the action.

After all, there has to be some reason behind the 25 percent of Fortune 500 companies that use Instagram in creative ways in order to promote and grow their business.

It is likely that one of these reasons is User Generated Content.

Having your fans generate their own content is the fastest way to boost engagement and even go viral. Why?

Because when a user generates content, it receives far more engagement from their followers, family and friends than your perfectly positioned ad ever will.

So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get started with how to run a very successful Instagram competition –

Step 1: Plan Your Contest

Planning is never fun, however in order for your contest to be successful, there has to be some method to the madness.

Before you launch your campaign, it is important to go over the who, what, where, why, how basics. These include working out your:

  • Ultimate Goal: like any marketing campaign, you need to work out what your ultimate objective for running the campaign is. This will help you to determine the effectiveness of your campaign and your ROI. Examples of your ultimate goal include scoring more followers, increasing your engagement or receiving email leads.
  • Target Market: think about what specific audience you want to go after on Instagram. This will help you further down the road when it comes to determining the style of your contest.
  • Budget: set a budget, and stick to it! Remember to factor in advertising costs and the prizes that you are hoping to give away.
  • Prize: speaking of prizes, you need to think carefully about what your brand is willing to give away. It has to be something of value for your audience, but at the same time, you don’t want to offer something that is going to undermine the value your products or services.
  • Type of contest: on Instagram it is all about the photos, which is why having a photo-driven contest is usually the best option. Inspiring users to post their own images is the easiest and most effective option, but there are other creative ways to use the platform. Here are some examples of what you could do:
    • Have your audience post a photo with a specific hashtag to win a prize
    • Have your audience follow you to win a prize
    • Have your audience tag your brand to win a prize
    • Have your audience comment or like on one of your posts to win a prize
  • Hashtag: in order to easily find your user’s photos and to help create a viral contest, you need to have your participants use an original, branded hashtag. This will help your business to generate more attention and will support your branding efforts. When coming up with a hashtag, choose something catchy, fun and easy to spell. This will help to build engagement around your contest and enhance the reputation of your brand.
  • Time Frame: it is important to determine when your competition is going to start and end. Depending on your ultimate goal, most competitions need at least 10 days in order to build up a decent amount of momentum.
  • Rules: it is important to go over all the possible rules of your competition in order to avoid any conflicts later down the track. If you are going to be choosing the best photo, ensure that you tell your participants what qualifies as the best photo.
  • Entry Method: some competitions require users to sign up on a dedicated landing page along with sharing their photos on Instagram. There is no right or wrong here, as long as you make your competition easy to take part in.
  • Landing Page: it may be worthwhile having a landing page for your competition, this will act as a resource for your followers and provide them with additional information about any rules or guidelines. It is also a great way to collect email addresses if it is not already part of your competition.
  • Measuring Success: once you have the framework for your competition. It is important to determine how you are going to measure its success. Putting appropriate tracking in place will help you with this and will ensure you understand where your contest was effective and where it may need improvement for next time.

Step 2: Build Your Contest

This is where the fun begins. Now that you have a plan all mapped out, it is time to get to work on constructing your contest.

In this step, you need to work out how you are going to inform your audience and how you are going to execute your competition.

Essentially, this step can be broken down into –

  1. Coming up with awesome promotional images
  2. Deciding on the written copy for your competition
  3. Constructing your landing page with all the necessary information

Creating Your Awesome Promotional Images

The success of your campaign largely depends on the quality and effectiveness of your images. You need to be able to create images that are going to grab your audience’s attention and alert them to the fact that there is a competition going on.

While you don’t want to give a laundry list of rules on your image, you need to find a way to use text on your image that can easily communicate to your followers what they need to do, and what they win if they do it.

Once you have gained their attention, you will be able to direct them elsewhere so they can read about the competition in more detail.

There more creative you can get with your image or images, the better, but here are some rough guidelines to follow-

  • Make your image bold, bright and creative
  • Keep the text on your image very brief eg. “Share your #hashtag for a chance to win xyz”
  • Keep your image aligned with your brand (perhaps even include your logo on the image)
  • Make sure your image appeals to your target audience

Creating your Copy

When it comes to writing the copy for your competition, short and sweet is definitely best. Especially on Instagram, you want to avoid going into lengthy detail about the ins and outs of your competition (save this for your landing page.)

To help you create copy that is going to be effective, here are some simple guidelines to follow:

  • Be able to summarise your contest rules in 1-2 sentences
  • Create a very brief outline of what to do and post this in the comment section below the photo
  • Make a title that grabs your audience’s attention
  • Keep all your copy short, sweet and witty

A good example of what you can write in your comment section comes from the Mintapp, an online personal budgeting and financial management company.

This is what they wrote for one of their recent Instagram contests in the comment section below their image-

“Share a moment when your finances & #dreams came to life and tag with the hashtag #MyMintMoment for a chance to win $1,000! Ends @ 11:59 PT tonight!”

Constructing your Landing Page

This page should be home to all your rules and regulations. If you are offering monetary prizes, you may also need to include some legal disclaimers.

Think of this page as a resource for your competition and as a way for your followers to find out more. Topics or information you may want to include on this page could be-

  • Rules and regulations of your contest
  • How winners are chosen
  • How winners can claim their prize
  • When prices will be announced
  • Dates and time period of contest
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
  • The winning images
  • Legal information (Note: you may have to acknowledge that your promotion is not sponsored or endorsed by Instagram.)
  • Privacy information

Keep your landing page user-friendly and upload the link to your Instagram biography. Then you can direct followers who want to know more about your competition to this page.

You can also use this page to collect email addresses that you can add to your list. You can either choose to make this part of your contest rules, or you can just have an opt-in box on your landing page for followers that want to keep updated about the contest and  notified of future contests.

Step 3: Promote Your Contest

When it comes to promoting your contest, you need to think bigger than just Instagram. While your Insta users will definitely be a good place to start, expanding your reach can help you to attract more interested contest participants.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Promote your Instagram contest photo using Instagram Ads: to do this, you will need to log into your Facebook Ads manager and create an ad from here. Facebook’s Ad Manager platform is very easy to use and will guide you step by step to help you select the right target audience and budget for your image.
  • Promote your Instagram contest on other social sites: there is no harm in cross-promoting and seeing as Facebook and Instagram are sister companies, marketing on Facebook is a good place to start. You can also promote your contest on other platforms like Twitter, Snapchat and Pinterest.
  • Promote your Instagram contest over email: emailing your followers about your contest is a great way to promote and drive more attention to your Instagram. For best results, create a subject line with a clear and exciting call to action. In your email, be sure to include the prizes up for grabs and how they can enter the contest.
  • Promote your Instagram contest in a blog post: if you have a blog, writing an article about your contest can be a great way to promote it. In your blog post, you can also go into more detail about the prizes and rules, and even offer examples for your followers to see.
  • Promote your Instagram contest on contest sites: there are websites out there that list all the contests going on across the web. By submitting your contest onto these sites, it can help to draw more attention and perhaps even start the ball rolling for other people to play along too.
  • Promote your Instagram contest using a banner: making a beautiful banner to advertise your contest is a great way to generate interest and promote your contest. You can post the banner on your own website, or even pay other blogs and websites to post it for you. This can go a long way in helping your contest to get the traction it deserves.
  • Promote your Instagram contest amongst your family and friends: the best way for your contest to spread like wildfire is through word of mouth. Having your colleagues, staff, family and friends post images can be a great way to get the ball rolling. Just remember, in order to keep the competition fair, avoid selecting family, friends and staff as winners.

On average, it takes at least 5 days for a small business to gain traction with a contest, so be patient with the process and keep tweaking and adjusting your marketing strategies and promotions as needed.

It is also advised to keep track of your contest through the various platforms you have promoted it on such as Facebook, in your emails and on your blog. This will help you to tweak and make any necessary changes to the marketing or promotion of your contest.

Step 4: Manage and Monitor Your Contest

Now that your contest is up and running and is being effectively promoted across the world wide web, you need to be monitoring things very closely.

We all know how important it is to actually monitor the work that we do online, and contests are no different.

Some suggestions for monitoring your Instagram contest include-

  • Using Google Alerts: set up Google Alerts to notify you when anyone uses your contest hashtag. (This is where an original hashtag becomes a serious advantage.)
  • Using Facebook Insights: if you are running an Instagram or Facebook ad, you will find the metrics for these on Facebook’s Ad Manager tool. Here you will be able to track clicks, likes, comments and views.
  • Using Google Analytics: this can help you keep track of how many people are clicking your landing page, banners and any other promotions that you are running from your website.
  • Using Instagram search: any easy way to check your statistics in realtime is to search your hashtag directly on Instagram. This will help you to see how many people are sharing images and what the overall response is.

Another effective and simple way to monitor your campaign is to track the increase in likes, shares and followers on Instagram. This will help you to know whether your contest has been effective in earning you more Instagram engagement.

It is important that along with keeping tabs on the likes and followers earned from your contest, you also keep track of your submissions as well. This will also help you to also determine the effectiveness of your campaign and how people are actually responding to your contest.

Submission metrics that you may want to consider tracking include-

  • Total number of posts submitted
  • Likes gained per submission
  • Number of total participants (if users can submit more than one image, you may also want to attract unique submissions as well)
  • Top participants (keeping track of this helps you to engage and understand your biggest fans)
  • Total likes on all your submissions
  • Total reach of your contest
  • Total increase in followers during the contest

If you are suspecting hundreds of submissions for your contest, you may also want to consider using dedicated Instagram software like Iconosquare to help you track your contest more effectively.

Step 5: After Your Contest

Ahhh…your contest is now done! But unfortunately, there is still more work to be done before you can have that long awaited sigh of relief.

Here is what you need to do after your contest-

  • Choose your winners and notify them: picking your winners may be tough, but it has to be done. Once you have chosen your winner or winners, send them the necessary information on how to collect their prize. Be sure to also notify them of any necessary terms and conditions.
  • Promote your winner’s photo: chances are, all your followers will want to see who won your competition, so be sure to showcase the winning photos on Instagram, on your website and anywhere else you promoted your contest. Remember, if you don’t promote who won your contest, people are likely to lose interest and avoid participating next time around.
  • Collate your Metrics: in order to officially determine whether your contest has been a good investment for your business, you have to collate all the metrics and see what results you are left with. This will help you to determine if your contest has helped you to achieve your ultimate goal.
  • Repeat: once you have run one contest, the rest will be a breeze. Consider repeating or running new contests in order to achieve new goals and milestones. Over time, you will also learn from your mistakes and discover the best and most effective way to run and manage your Instagram contests.

Once your contest is all said and done, you should have more followers, increased engagement and stronger reputation on Instagram, which can all go a long way in helping your business to thrive.

Instagram contests don’t have to be a struggle. By following these 5 steps, you will be well on your way to creating inspiring and effective contests that will help you to grow your business.