December 9, 2016

Running an Instagram Contest: Boost Your Fan Engagement

If you’re like me, you love free stuff. Who doesn’t? And especially if the free swag happens to be the prize for winning an easy, fun contest

That’s the basic principle behind creating an Instagram contest. You pose a challenge to your followers, they follow the contest rules you have set into place, and you award the winner a prize, in the form of product, services, or discounts. With Instagram contests, everyone wins. Your followers get a prize and you get something even more valuable — brand recognition and loyal followers. And chances are, they’ll visit your website and Instagram account more frequently on the look-out for your next contest. To help you create your first Instagram contest we’ve got a list of tips and ideas below we think you’ll love! Read on for more…

Set a goal.

Before you start hashing out your contest idea or theme, you have to first decide on your desired outcome. Do you hope to generate brand awareness and gain more followers? Or do you want to drive traffic to your website? Is this an annual or seasonal event? Or just something fun to increase user engagement? Knowing your desired result is very useful in determining how you measure your success (keep reading, we’ll get there).

Choose your contest type.

There are several different types of Instagram contests you can run that will get people excited and engaged. Most of them require very minimal effort on the part of the user, which is good. Here are just a few ideas, feel free to tweak or get creative depending on your brand:

Like- or comment-to-win: These kinds of contests simply ask a user to like or comment on a post. You can offer your gift to the first X number of people do so, or award your prize to the wittiest/funniest/most creative comment.

Caption contest: Similar to the comment-to-win scheme, a caption contest asks people to create a caption to a photo you’ve posted. This promotes engagement and creativity and the pay-off is double – both a prize from you and to see their caption on your Instagram page!

Follow to win: This type of contest asks users to follow your Instagram page to enter for a chance to win something big. This is a great idea if you want to increase your number of followers – you’re giving incentive to people who haven’t had the chance yet to discover how great your product is. Once the contest is over it is highly likely they’ll stick around.

Repost-to-win: Super simple in concept, this strategy asks your followers to repost on their own page something you’ve posted to your page. You can award small prizes to the first X number of people to do so or enter them in a chance to win something big, like a gift card to your online store.

Tag a friend: to spread the word you can offer a prize to users who tag a friend in the comments section of a photo, which will get people who maybe aren’t regulars to you page aware of what you’re up to.

User Generated Content (UGC): UGC contests are another great and very popular kind of contest because it generates some great content. This format asks users to take a photo of your product and then use a contest-related hashtag in the caption to draw attention to both your product and your contest. One of the best examples of this type of contest is Starbucks’ Red Cup Contest. It asks users to make designs on or out of their Starbucks holiday cups for a chance to win a $500 gift card. Participants submitted their entries by posting their pics with the hashtag #redcupart and then Starbucks announced the winners via Instagram.

Come up with a great prize!

You will probably give away your product as a gift – people love to get hooked up with stuff! If you’re company is service oriented feel free to offer a free service or consult, or to give a discount on a service. Gift cards are also a great way prize because it’s free money for the winners and guarantee sales for you!

Create some ground rules.

People need to understand the rules of the game before they play. Although very slim, there could still be a chance that someone might claim your contest to be unlawful, so clearly stating your terms and conditions (maybe even with the help of a lawyer, depending on your brand, contest, and prize) is highly recommended. Things you might want to lay out in the rules section of your contest page are:

  • Dates of the contest
  • Restrictions on who can enter the contest (are employees restricted? Is there an age requirement)
  • Contact information
  • Guidelines for how people enter the contest
  • When the winner will be chosen
  • How the winner will be notified
  • You also probably want to check out Instagram’s Promotion Guidelines, just to be sure you are in compliance.

Track results. How to measure success.

Now that your contest is over, was it a success? Based on the goals you laid out at the beginning, you can determine the metrics you’ll use to measure the contest’s success. Things like number of comments and likes, follower count, website traffic, and product purchases are the most common and useful for knowing if you’ve achieved your aims during the contest dates. Also, consider things like questions or feedback that you receive on your site or you Insta page – if there seem to be a lot of confused users or alternatively, a lot of positive comments, then you’ll be able to gauge how your contest was perceived. For relatively small participation (under 40 participants) you (or someone you designate) can probably track the results manually; but for anything over that amount you’ll want to use a tool, like Iconosquare. You can also use apps like GoogleAlerts and Tagboard to track when your hashtags are being used. This tracking would be especially useful if you’re using the type of UGC contest idea above.

Promote your contest!

This part shouldn’t be too hard since you’re already out there promoting your brand! While promoting your product and brand, promote your contest, too. Sending emails specifically promoting your contest is an easy and direct way to let people know what’s going on and how they can get involved. This method engages people who already follow you. These followers are often the best for of advertisement – you can usual count on your loyal followers to spread the word, and even encourage it by asking them to pass the email along!

You can also use other social media platforms to announce you’re having an Instagram contest which will widen your reach. Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat are great places that get a lot of views. And even elsewhere on Instagram can be a great place to draw in participants. Creating a hashtag for your contest (whether it’s part of the contest submission or not) is a great way to make people aware that you’ve got something going on and to increase participation and engagement. Be sure the hashtag is catchy, short, and related to the contest content so that it is targeted for use just this one time and won’t get confused with something you might have used before or might want to use later.

You’re off to a great start. You’ve got ideas and a plan of action in mind. Set the ground rules and promote away! You and your followers will be so happy you did!