9 Steps to Run a Winning Instagram Contest

With over 500 million Instagram accounts worldwide active every day, the platform has a lot of untapped potentials: especially when it comes to running contests.

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

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 your 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.

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.
9 Steps to Run a Winning Instagram 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

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 their 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

9 Steps to Run a Winning Instagram Contest

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.

9 Steps to Run a Winning Instagram Contest

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.

9 Steps to Run a Winning Instagram Contest

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 to enter a photo contest and upload their picture with your hashtag to automatically enter your contest to win.

Use The Hashtag To Win Example: France.fr 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

9 Steps to Run a Winning Instagram Contest


Step 3: Choose An Amazing Contest Prize

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

It’s important to pick a prize that’s 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 to 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.

9 Steps to Run a Winning Instagram Contest

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 *Discounts *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

9 Steps to Run a Winning Instagram Contest

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.

If you’re unable to get professional photography at the last minute, you can try Luke Ayres DIY Product Photo Project.

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.

9 Steps to Run a Winning Instagram Contest

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: 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 it’s 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 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
9 Steps to Run a Winning Instagram Contest

Not sure how to add any of these?

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

Step 7: 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.

No Brainer Ways to Promote Your Instagram Contest

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 to 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

9 Steps to Run a Winning Instagram Contest

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 at successfully driving traffic to your Instagram contest.

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

Instagram Ad Example:The Aaptiv App
9 Steps to Run a Winning Instagram Contest

3. Instagram Stories: Constantly Promote Your Instagram Contest Over 500 Million accounts use Instagram Stories every day, including business. 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.

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

9 Steps to Run a Winning Instagram Contest

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.

9 Steps to Run a Winning Instagram Contest

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 8: 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 with reaching out to the winner about their newly won prize.

Instagram Contest Example: I Love New York

9 Steps to Run a Winning Instagram Contest

Step 9: 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, potential customers. Now it’s time to turn all your new followers into loyal customers.

Three Things To Do After Your Instagram Contest Ends

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.

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

9 Steps to Run a Winning Instagram Contest

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

9 Steps to Run a Winning Instagram Contest


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.

Here are 9 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. Follow Instagram Contest Guidelines
  7. Promote Your Instagram Contest
  8. Choose Your Instagram Contest Winner
  9. Stay Engaged After Your Instagram Contest Ends

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