There are many reasons you might want to run an Instagram contest, whether you’re looking to quickly grow your online presence or simply want to give back to your followers.

But there are some rules and guidelines you need to keep in mind if you want to host an Instagram contest to ensure that it’s both legal and successful.

To help make sure you put on the best Instagram contest possible, we’ve put together this guide on how to run an Instagram contest that your audience will be excited to enter and share. Let’s dive in!

Instagram contest rules

First things first, we need to go over Instagram’s rules and legalese. You may have noticed that most Instagram contests or giveaways come with an extra long caption with lots of fine print.

This is because Instagram has a lot of rules and guidelines in place to ensure they’re released from any liability in case any party doesn’t follow through with their end of the deal.

Here’s a quick summary of the most important points in Instagram’s contest rules:

  1. You are responsible for the lawful operation of your Instagram contest.
  2. Avoid inaccurate tagging in photos.
  3. Include a complete release of Instagram by each entrant, as well as copy clearly outlining that your contest is in no way, shape or form sponsored by Instagram.
  4. Instagram will not assist you with your contest.
  5. You run an Instagram contest at your own risk.

You can read the full policy here, but basically, Instagram is making sure you know they’re not liable, and that you make sure your followers know that Instagram is not liable, regardless of how your contest pans out.

Instagram contest ideas and examples

So you’re ready to start planning for your Instagram contest. But how exactly do you want to have people enter, and what are the benefits for your overall marketing strategy? There are several different types of contests you could run, so we’ve put together a list of our favorites for you to choose from.

1. Like, comment and follow

One of the most popular methods of entry is to have people like your photo announcing your Instagram contest, leave a comment and follow your account in order to gain entry.

Here’s a great example of this type of Instagram contest put on by CAUSEBOX.

instagram contest - causebox contest example

Simply name your prize, lay down the ground rules and watch the entries fly in. You can ask people to comment with why they should win, nominate someone to win or simply tag a friend to spread the word.

However, that last option is a great contest idea all on its own–read on for more ways to make tagging friends in contest work effectively.

2. Tag a friend

Want to really get the word out about your Instagram contest? Ask people to tag a friend when they enter! Users can tag as many friends as they like in order to get even more entries.

Then, those users are likely to enter and tag some of their own friends, creating a ripple effect of awareness around your contest and brand.

You can also host a tag a friend Instagram contest in order to ask your followers to nominate someone who deserves a prize, like in this example below, run by doll10beauty.

instagram contest - doll10beauty contest example

In this example, they asked followers to tag a doctor, nurse, grocery store worker or another essential worker who has been going to work non-stop through the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is a great way to thank people who have been working hard to help others, as well as grow your customer base at the same time.

3. User-generated content

If you’re looking to put together a campaign around gathering user-generated content (UGC) to share online, creating an Instagram contest around that concept can be a great way to do it.

Ask your audience to share a photo onto their feed using a specific hashtag or tagging your business so that you can easily find all of the entries in one place.

Not only does this reward your customers for helping you out, but it gives you an entire arsenal of user-generated photos to share on your feed for future content planning.

4. Collaboration

Another great way to broaden your audience is by collaborating with a similar brand involved in a contest together.

If you go this route, users will then have to follow each brand going in on the contest together in order to enter. Here’s an example of what this might look like from Ring Concierge and Elemis.

instagram contest - ringconcierge contest example

Many influencers also host collaborative giveaways like this, meant to help their followers discover new brands and bloggers, and vice versa.

If you’re working to grow your Instagram presence, a collaborative contest or giveaway might be your best bet.

5. Instagram stories

While Instagram contests are all about giving back to your audience, there are important benefits for your overall Instagram marketing strategy too: brands can garner a lot of attention and generate a bigger audience through them as well.

Having your audience share a post on their Instagram Stories as a form of entry can be another great way to get the word out there.

It’s super easy for users to share posts to their Instagram Stories, so asking for something like this as an entry isn’t asking too much of your audience, and can be a great way to spread the word.

How to run an Instagram contest

Now that we’ve covered a few great Instagram contest ideas, let’s take you through a quick step-by-step guide on how to actually run your contest or giveaway.

1. Define your Instagram contest objective

Before anything else, you need to make sure you define the overall objective of your Instagram contest so that you know how to determine whether or not it was successful in the end.

Are you trying to engage your audience more in your content? Are you aiming to generate a larger following? Is your plan to build a library of UGC to share on social media?

Whatever your main goal or objective is, keep it in mind throughout your entire contest planning process so that everything you do makes sense for your end goal.

2. Choose your entry method

How will users enter your Instagram contest? Think back to the examples we shared above. Which falls most in line with your main goal or objective?

Be sure that whatever you choose, it’s easy for people to enter your contest. No one is going to enter a contest that requires them to do a lot of work–people want your entry process to be simple and easy.

Once you decide the best entry method for your contest, it’s time to start planning out the rest of the details.

First, determine how long your Instagram contest will last. How many days will your audience have to enter? Make sure that deadline is predetermined and that you clearly let your audience know when entering will end.

Second, are you going to use a hashtag for your campaign? Whether you have people post photos with that hashtag or ask them to use it in the comments, creating a campaign-specific hashtag that no one else is using is a good idea. This way, you’ll be able to tell the contest entries from regular posts about your brand.

Third, what is the theme for your contest? This is especially important for UGC-focused contests. You want to make sure your audience knows what types of photos you’re looking for them to share.

And finally, how will you notify the winner? Will you tag them in a comment? Share a new post? Message them? Tag them in an Instagram story? This is something you need to have planned beforehand and let your entrants know early on.

3. Select a prize

Before launching your contest, you need to select a good prize. You want this to be specific to your target audience, and not something that anyone would want to win.

For example, a cash prize or an iPad or iPhone could apply to anyone, whereas a gift card or product from your shop would appeal only to the people who would buy from you anyways. This helps engage your target audience further and can also help your awareness goals–if the winner posts their own photos of the products they received from your contest, you’ll get additional awareness and reach out of your efforts.

4. Design your campaign assets

Put together graphics to promote your Instagram contest so that you can cross-promote it on various platforms, in your email newsletter, on your website and more.

Be sure to create imagery both for your Instagram feed and to share on your Instagram Stories to increase the number of followers who see the contest early on, giving you plenty of time to collect entries.

5. Pinpoint who will manage your Instagram contest

You don’t want to have too many cooks in the kitchen, so pinpointing who will manage what on your Instagram contest is a good idea.

You can also utilize Sprout Social’s team collaboration tools to ensure that everything runs smoothly and no entries are missed.

instagram contest - smart inbox team collaboration

Just assign various comments and posts to the corresponding team members to ensure nothing gets left behind. You can also tag posts as related to a specific contest, so that it’s easy to sort out these mentions and posts from other types like customer service-related messages or posts relating to a different campaign.

6. Launch your Instagram contest

You’re ready to go! Launch your Instagram contest, wait for the entries to roll in and announce your winner!

Make sure to check your metrics to see how your Instagram contest performed against your initial goals. If your contest was a success, consider adding regular contests and giveaways into your social media strategy.

Create your next Instagram contest today

Now that you know how to run a contest on Instagram, it’s time to get started. Pinpoint your goals, decide the best way to gather entries and start giving away fun prizes to your audience.

Find other ways to ramp up your social media strategy with our free social media toolkit.