Hosting a giveaway on your Instagram is one of the easiest ways to increase engagement. But to run a successful one is more challenging and requires some planning. We’ve created a guide on the basics of running an Instagram contest. For this article, we’ll focus specifically on Instagram photo contests that require user participation and entry creation.

Among the variety of ways to run an Instagram contest, those that involve user-generated content risk a lower engagement. If customers are tasked with creating a recipe or snapping a photo, they have to be invested in the contest.

The advantage of running a photo contest is more high-quality entries. You won’t have to worry as much about spam or fake accounts winning a prize.

Basics of a Successful Instagram Photo Contest

To run a successful Instagram photo contest, you’re going to need user-generated content. On top of that, you will want to keep a few items in mind when running the contest through social:

High Reward

To entice people to enter, you need an attractive prize pack. Take a $25 gift card, for instance. If the contest was an easy “leave a comment on the post to enter” or “like to win,” the barrier is low and people will enter. A $25 gift card seems like an attractive enough prize if all you have to do to enter is double click on a photo. But if the contest involved spending hours to create and post a recipe, you’ll find that the entry numbers will significantly drop.

The higher the entry barrier, the more enticing your prize needs to be.

Clear & Easy Rules

No one likes complicated rules. If you have to take a photo with a certain product and a specific filter and post it on a Saturday, you’re going too far. Make sure that the rules can be easily summarized in a caption. For the fine print, you can always create a page on your website and link to it.

Build-up, Promotion & Wrap-up

Like in any contest, you’ll want to promote before and during the event. You can do this a few different ways. When planning, you can take multiple photos to use for the promotion of the event. This would be examples of an ideal entry. Another route would be to work with influencers to promote the contest and create content with the caveat that they not able to win. Then you can use their created content to promote during the contest.

After the event is over, you should have plenty of contest entries to continue sharing on your page. The winner announcement can also be turned into a blog post, making the contest’s reach more cross platform.

9 Examples of Great Instagram Contests

There are many different ways to run an Instagram photo contest. Some of these ideas can be combined together for your business. For example, you could partner with a local business to create a recipe contest without being a food-based business yourself:

1. Recipes

A common contest in the food and beverage industry, the recipe contest involves the customers creating an original recipe and submitting it as an entry. Sometimes the company running the contest requires you to use their product. Other times the contest will allow the category of products to be used.

In celebration of National Dairy Month, Florida Dairy Farmers hosted a contest that asked for a recipe featuring anything dairy. The contest had four weekly winners, a grand prize winner and received over 600 entries.

2. Event Promotions

Most often used in partnership with other businesses to raffle off entrance tickets, the event promotion type is meant to spread more awareness about the event. If you’re hosting an event, you can even run your own contest.

To win tickets to the annual Brewers Fest, the Washington Beer Commission asked their fans to submit photos and to complete a sentence in their caption. The weekly winners then went head-to-head in an audience vote to score the tickets.

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The Washington Beer Commission is excited to announce their third annual #DrinkWAbeer Instagram campaign! Discovering Washington Beer can bring you to many amazing locations and stops throughout our state and we want to know more about you and what your favorite #DrinkWAbeer moments are. Share your unique adventures with us by posting them on Instagram answering the question “I #DrinkWAbeer because…”⠀ ⠀ Every Monday, starting May 8th and running through June 5th, the Washington Beer Commission will select a winning photograph and award the owner of that photo with “The Washington Pint” made by @northdrinkware! The Washington Pint is a hand-blown, 16 oz pint glass with USGS data of Mt. Rainier – Washington's highest peak – molded into the base of the glass. The five winning photographs (one selected each week) will then go head-to-head and you all will decide the winner of the third annual Washington Beer Commission Instagram contest. The grand prize is, drumroll please, four tickets to the biggest beer festival of the year, The 12th Annual Washington Brewers Festival on June 16-18, 2017 at King County’s Marymoor Park. ⠀ ⠀ How to Play:⠀ 1) Follow the Washington Beer Commission on Instagram at @Washingtonbeer⠀ 2) Include a can, bottle, branded pint or growler of Washington beer in your photo⠀ 3) Use the hashtag #DrinkWAbeer⠀ Winners will be chosen based on creativity, clever caption, and the beautiful environment surrounding your favorite Washington beer. ⠀ ⠀ The Grand Prize winner will be selected by all of you. We will put all of the five finalists up against each other; like the photo and cast your vote by commenting your favorite. We will tally up the votes at the end and will announce the winner. ⠀ ⠀ Have fun, be responsible and DrinkWAbeer!⠀ ⠀ #drinkWAbeer #PNW #craftbeer #upperleftUSA⠀

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Another type of event promotion contest is hosting it during the event itself. The goal here is usually brand awareness and attendee engagement with the host’s account.

The Chainlink in Chicago hosts bike rides and other events. During their rides, they encourage bicyclists to snap photos and post them with the event hashtags for a chance to win prizes.

3. Fan Dedication

This type of photo contest targets the super fans of your product. The entry requirements usually ask for showing some sort of dedication to the company or product. Prizes can range from a year’s supply worth of product to a gift card.

In Domino’s Pizza’s case, their contest is integrated into their loyalty program. With every online order, you receive points that build up to a free pizza. Additionally, you receive an automatic entry into receiving 10 shares of their stock. The contest runs for a year and is enticing enough to encourage fans to keep ordering online.

On top of the standard contest, Domino’s also ran an Instagram contest that asked fans to prove how much of a super fan they were. All they asked for was a photo and a hashtag.

4. Show Products Being Used

For companies that sell products, this type of contest is an excellent fit. It targets current customers and helps the company give back to their customers. It’s usually structured in a way that asks fans to show how they use their product at home for a chance to win more products or another great prize.

Maybelline wanted to promote their eyebrow tools and ran a contest asking for fans to document their brow transformation. Their customers already enjoy talking about makeup and tools. For a chance to win a trip to Los Angeles, documenting the process and sharing it to their followers is a no-brainer.

5. Holiday Promotion

You don’t need a reason to host a contest but if you had to, why not tie it to a holiday? Between non-traditional holidays like National Donut Day and the standard ones like Mother’s Day, you have a wide pick of celebrations.

Petco created a contest (PDF) that capitalized on the cuteness of pets in costume. For a $10,000 prize, pet owners submitted over 1,500 entries featuring their pets in Halloween costumes.

6. Partner With a Business

Choose a business with a similar customer base as yours and partner up for a contest. With this type of contest, you have double the promotional power and you’re able to introduce your brand to an audience that might not have known about it.

In a twist on celebrating Mother’s Day, Sniff & Barkens and 1–800 Flowers asked fans to submit photos of dogs and their human moms.

The premise was easy and many dog owners enjoy sharing photos of their furry friends already. The prize packs included products from both companies, making sure that the winners were able to experience a variety of products.

7. Weekly Contest

For businesses like restaurants or stores that have a loyal customer base, building in a weekly or monthly contest is a great customer retention strategy. The barrier is usually low, asking users to use standard brand hashtags to automatically enter to win. And every week or month, you select a winner for a standard prize.

In a cafe setting, the prize could be a cup of coffee and a pastry. Having a regularly occurring contest makes it easy for you to operate and continually generates new content for you to engage with.

OpenTable hosts a weekly contest where you’re asked to hashtag your photo with #dishpics, tag @OpenTable and geotag the restaurant. The prize is always a $25 gift card. The contest benefits everyone involved: OpenTable is promoted, the restaurants sees photos posted and it’s feedback that the service is working.

8. Take a Selfie

Users on Instagram love the camera and selfies are no exception. This type of contest can be combined into almost any of the previously mentioned types. It’s simple: take a selfie with a product, at a location or doing an activity. Add a hashtag and that’s your entry.

Pike Place Market ran a holiday giveaway with a prize pack of the market’s products. All they asked fans to do was to snap a selfie of them in the market.

9. Show How Much You Need a Product

This type of contest doesn’t usually involve a required product or location. Instead, it targets potential customers by asking them to share how much they need your product or service. These types of contest are more successful with higher price point products. You may have lurking fans but the idea is that you can convert them to loyal customers.

FreshBooks ran a contest targeting new customers to promote their new app. To win cash, users had to take photos of how they work on the go. The contest didn’t necessarily require fans to use their products but it did help the company better connect to potential customers.

Use Tools to Keep Track of Contest Hashtags

In an Instagram photo contest, you want to track and quickly respond to new entries. Our Instagram management tools can help you make sure that no entry goes missed and the analytics reports provide final statistics on how well the contest performed.

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For brands creating contests, you have to ensure your efforts paid off. With our in-depth and powerful tools, you can track comments, hashtags and other forms of engagement to see what gets people submitting. Learn from your data so you can plan an even better Instagram photo contest next time!