Instagram has 800 million active users around the world! So it’s no surprise that a lot of businesses use it to attract potential customers.

The problem is, attracting followers is a lot harder than it looks. Sure, its easy to upload and post a photo. But with 80 million Instagram posts per day, its hard to stand out.

A common tactic that businesses use to attract customers is Instagram contests.

But where do you start? And how do you use it to gain followers and engage with potential customers?

To help give you some direction, we’ve created an article to help you plan your own Instagram photo contest. From planning to monitoring your results, we’ve got it covered. We’ve also included examples of successful photo contests along the way. Read on to find out everything you need to know.

1. Planning Your Instagram Photo Contest

The first thing that you need to do is to start with a plan. Here’s what you need to do:

Set Goals and Objectives

A good way to start is to set your goals and objectives.

Think about what you want to achieve by the end of the contest. Do you want to increase your followers? Will you promote a new product? Do you want to level up your engagement? The rules and mechanics of your Instagram photo contest depend on the goals you want to achieve.

That said, here are some guide questions to help you get started:

  • What’s the purpose of your Instagram photo contest? Do you want to create brand or product awareness?
  • Who is your target audience? What’s their age, interest, likes and dislikes? It’s important to understand who your target market is. If you’re marketing to, say, parents in their 40s your message and language will be different than if you’re marketing to, say, millennials.
  • How will you promote your contest? Will you partner up with another brand or a group of influencers? You need to have an idea of how you’ll promote your posts, even if it’s vague. This will help you increase the reach of your campaign.


Plan Your Prizes

People’s motivation to enter will depend on the prize that you will give away. That said, you should consider your budget.

Are you a big brand willing to shell out thousands of dollars? Or are you a small business planning to create weekly contests? The answers to these questions will determine the prize you’ll give away.

Additionally, your prize should be related to your business. It should help you achieve your initial goals and objectives.

For example, if you want to promote your new line of products, then your prize could be a bundle of your new products. This is an inexpensive way to promote your product and increase your engagement. Common prizes include gift cards, special services and VIP experiences. You can keep brainstorming prize ideas, as long as these prizes are relevant to your brand.

If you want to make the prizes even more unique, then get it signed by an influencer in your industry. This adds a special touch to the prize. It also propels your contest to popularity, especially if the signee is famous.

Set a Time Frame

Don’t forget to determine the time frame of your contest.

How long does a typical contest run?

Some contests last one week or less. It’s short, but it gets interested participants to act fast. But, you need to make an effort in promoting the contest as fast as you can.

Two weeks works too. It gives you a good time to spread the word on social media and to generate hype. It also leads to more entries. But this means you need to sustain people’s interest for a longer time frame.

Once you’ve finished the contest and reached your monthly targets, don’t stop there! You can make photo contests a monthly tradition. This gives interested participants the chance to win the next time around.

2. Launching Your Contest

Now that you’ve got a plan, the next step is to launch your contest. Below we’ll discuss the information you need to let participants know.

Set Rules and Guidelines

It’s important to establish the rules and eligibility from the start.

You want to be clear about the eligibility of entrants. Should contestants be a part of a certain age group? Is the contest only open for individuals in a specific state or country? For example, you may want to say something like “Photo Contest open to U.K. citizens age 18 and above.”

Be sure to include the steps required to enter the contest and include its duration. If the caption is too long, you can tell participants to click the link in your bio to learn more about it.

Don’t forget to include the submission rules and guidelines. Should all participants submit only one photo? Are entries submitted in other competitions not allowed? Research previous competitions to ensure your contest has all the relevant information.

Here’s an example of contest rules from Nikon’s 2017 photo contest:

instagram photo contestinstagram photo contest instagram photo contest

instagram photo contest

Include Details About the Judging

You should let entrants know how they’ll be judged. Followers will be more motivated to enter the contest if they believe the judging is fair.

One of the popular ways to determine a winner is through voting. You can create a poll, or you can determine the winner by the number of likes on the photo. This also helps more people discover your business.

You can also have a panel of judges decide the winners. You can name the panel of judges, or have an anonymous panel. Be transparent, and let people know. For example, in Nikon’s photo contest the judges were photographers with different specializations.

instagram photo contest

Have a Creative Hashtag

When running an Instagram photo contest, you need to create an exclusive hashtag for it. Hashtags are super important because they help you keep track of your entries. They can also highlight your brand, campaign or product.

Brainstorming a witty or catchy hashtag also helps people remember your contest. For example, Homeland Florists’ created the hashtag #winitwednesday to promote their giveaway.

instagram photo contest

Post Your Prize

If you’re giving away a bundle of your new products, don’t forget to post a visual of your prize. This is a great way to motivate people to enter your contest.

Lulus Mani posted a photo of their prize on Instagram. They asked users for photos of their nail art. Their grand prize winner gets a $100 gift card to and a variety of nail products.

instagram photo contest

3. Promote Your Contest

Once you’ve launched your contest it’s time to sustain people’s interest through promotions.

Leverage Email Marketing

A simple way to promote your contest is to announce the Instagram contest via email. But don’t send a boring email!

Come up with a subject line that will attract opens. Include a personalized message and add all the important details. Let people know your prize, guidelines and theme. Include a visual that links to your Instagram post, once clicked. You can even create a drip campaign that targets subscribers who seem interested.

instagram photo contest

Create Social Media Ads

An effective way to reach a wide audience with minimal effort, is through Instagram ads. Take note that only business accounts can run Instagram ads, not individual accounts.

There are four types of ads you can run:

  • Photo ads: Tell your story through a clean, simple or beautiful photo.
  • Video ads: Share 60 second promotional videos.
  • Carousel ads: People can swipe through a series of photos or videos in a single ad.
  • Stories ads: Helps ads connect with 300M+ Instagrammers using stories daily.

You can learn more about ads on our previous guide, “How to Use Instagram For Businesses.”

You can also promote your contest on your Facebook or Twitter accounts. Create Twitter ads and Facebook ads to reach followers in every social network.

While social media ads may cost you, they get the job done.

Publish Blog Posts and Press Releases

Promote your Instagram photo contest through a blog post. Add direct links to your Instagram post and contest details. Don’t forget to include a photo of your prize to get users motivated.

In the image below, you’ll find an example of a promotional blog post by Adobe:

instagram photo contest

instagram photo contest

If you have connections with online publications, you can create guest posts as well. You don’t want your post to seem out of place, so be sure to publish in publications related to your niche.

You can also opt to create press releases for local publications. It’s not as powerful as promoting on social media, but it can attract people in your neighborhood. This promotional strategy is great for local businesses.

4. Track Results

Once you’ve launched your contest, and promoted, keep track of the impact of your campaign. Understand the metrics you’d like to use and find the best tools to help you get the job done.

Here are some metrics you ought to consider:

Number of submissions – How many submissions did you receive? Did all these submissions follow your guidelines? Keep track of this to track your eligible entries.

Likes per submission – Helps you keep track of top entries, especially if winners are chosen by voting.

Number of participants – Does your contest allows more than one submission? How many unique participants entered your contest?

Total reach – Keep track of this to determine the potential reach of your campaign

Total likes – Measure the total number of likes in your campaign

Follower growth during campaign – Measure the number of followers you gained.

If you’re a small business that’s expecting about 25 entries, then you can track results manually. You can either track submissions on a daily basis, or ask someone to do it for you.

If you’re promoting your contest via Facebook or Twitter, track results as well. Use Facebook Insights and Twitter analytics. You can also use Google Alerts to determine your hashtag’s mentions.

As your campaign is ongoing, be sure to measure your results in real-time. This way, you can tweak promotional efforts, if you’re not reaching your target results. For example, you can post ads on Twitter or Facebook, if you’ve only received a few submissions.

5. Post-Contest Promotions

Once the contest ends and you’ve picked the winner, it’s not over yet. You can still engage with participants and build relationships with potential customers.

Here’s what you need to do once the contest ends:

Announce the winning entry

Once you’ve chosen the winner, repost their entry on your Instagram account. You can even promote the winning entry on Twitter, Facebook or your own website.

The recognition makes winners feel validated for their effort. Plus, this encourages entrants to join future contests.

instagram photo contest

Reward participants

Rewarding participants is optional. But it’s a great way to build relationships with everyone who participated. The reward doesn’t have to be expensive. You can email participants with a small discount coupon.

Don’t forget to thank them for taking the time to join your competition.

Be sure to get them on your mailing list or send them an invite to your next competition, to keep them updated.

Instagram Photo Contest Ideas

There are different types of photo contests on Instagram. What photo contest would work well with your brand? What are the types of contests you can try out for yourself? Read on to find out.

Recipe Contest

A popular contest in the food industry is the recipe contest. This involves creating an original recipe and posting the entry on Instagram. Some companies require participants to use their product.

Door County Coffee asked followers to post a recipe made with any flavor or blend of their coffee. The winners get $2,300 in prizes, and a spot as the preferred qualifier in the 2017 World Food Championships.

instagram photo contest

Holiday Contest

This type of photo contest helps make your business timely and relevant. Most holiday photo contests usually ask people how they’re celebrating a particular holiday.

Krome, a photo studio, asked participants to post their Halloween costumes online. Winners got selected based on votes and received $50 in Krome credits.

instagram photo contest

Showcase Products

If you’re the type of company that sells products, then this type of Instagram photo contest is a great idea. The entry requirements usually ask customers to document how they use specific products. This is a great way to show potential customers the results of using your products.

Birchbox wanted to promote their chapstick and lip products . They ran a contest asking people to share a picture of themselves wearing the chapstick with their lip products. Their customers use Birchbox’s makeup products on a daily basis. So snapping a picture of themselves is easy. Plus, the chance to win their lip picks make this a great deal!

instagram photo contest

Event Promotion

Another type of Instagram photo contest is the event promotion contest. The goal here is to promote an event by giving away free tickets. If you have an event or you’re partnering up with a business that has an event, it’s an excellent fit.

H&M gave users a chance to win Coachella festival passes last 2012. They asked their fans to submit their festival inspired photos using #HMCoachella. Winners were chosen based on the number of votes.

instagram photo contest

Selfie Contests

Selfie contests are one of the most popular types of contests on Instagram. It’s no surprise that a lot of users want to take post pictures of themselves. Not only is it fun, but it’s also pretty easy to snap a picture and post.

Om Nom Nom cookies ran a selfie photo contest for a chance to win a branded t-shirt. All fans needed to do was to submit a photo of themselves and an omnomnom cookie with the hashtag of the company.

instagram photo contest

Over to You

Let’s do a short recap.

An Instagram photo contest is a great promotional strategy. It helps you generate engagements, attract new followers and build relationships.

It takes a lot of effort to create a successful Instagram photo contest.

You need to plan, promote, and measure results.

The good news is we’ve enumerated what you need to do:

1. Set your goals and objectives.

2. Set rules and guidelines.

3. Set a timeframe.

4. Plan your prizes.

5. Include details regarding the judging.

6. Brainstorm a creative hashtag.

7. Post your prize.

8. Create social media ads.

9. Leverage email Marketing.

10. Create blog posts and press releases.

11. Reward participants.

12. Announce the winning entry.

Put these steps into action, and you’re bound to create a successful Instagram photo contest.

There are also different types of contests on Instagram.

You can ask participants to post a selfie, or a picture of their original dishes. You can also encourage users to snap a picture of themselves, while using your product.

Another idea is to get participants to promote an event.

Got any Instagram photo contest ideas? Let us know in the comments below!