How to Run a Headache-Free Competition on Instagram

As Instagram has very quickly become one of the most popular social networks, it’s no wonder that businesses are wanting to get on there and grow their presence. One way to do this is by running a competition to get the word of your business (and your Instagram account!) out to the world.

Competitions on Instagram can be heaps of fun: they allow your audience to connect with your business in creative and playful ways – and you, of course, get the benefit of additional reach.

But how do you run a competition on Instagram? What are the things to look out for? Listen up – here’s what you need to keep in mind.

How do people enter?

The simplest way to run a competition is to get your audience to enter your competition by taking a photo and tagging it with a hashtag of your choice to enter.

Ideally, you want to pick a photo theme or topic that relates to your business and gives people the flexibility to come up with several ideas of which they could take a photo.

I would recommend ensuring your theme is accessible to everyone to encourage several entries – is it a shot of their morning coffee, their shoes or their morning commute? Make it something everyone has access to.

You also want to ensure there is little barrier to entry in terms of finances or time to create – do entrants need to buy a VR headset to participate, or cook a roast for three days? Make sure your competition is accessible in terms of money or time.

On top of that, is the topic something an Instagrammer would share with their friends? Is it something that will embarrass them? If it is a picture of them using their accounting software, they are unlikely to want to share that with their friends, so make it something fun that people would want to put in a public space in front of their peers.

Consider what would happen if your competition were inspired by the themes of your business or brand identity?

Maybe your brand identity for your accounting software is ‘freedom’ – because it’s so easy to use. So why not get people to Instagram their favourite hobby and make the hashtag #timeforfreedom?

Be cautious of putting you brand in a hashtag unless you’ve got a really well-loved brand – this may also put people off participating.

Pro tip: Check your hashtag isn’t being used already by people already to ensure that when you are collating entries later that they are all real entries. Make it unique.

It’s also worth double checking with your local state or country laws around competitions to ensure you don’t need to pay a permit for running a contest like this in your local area. (In NSW in Australia, this competition would be a game of skill, so there are no permits needed.)

Promote it like a boss

Promoting the competition seems pretty straightforward – just post about it on Insta with a pic of the prize and how to enter in the description.

However, I would recommend that if you want to run the competition to best practice standards, you need to ensure the Terms and Conditions are accessible everywhere the post is promoted, whether that’s in the description of the copy or on the image in fine print stating “full T+Cs on yourwebsite.com.”

In terms of ensuring your T+Cs are accessible, I’d suggest host the competition information on a blog, where you can easily link to the full the terms and conditions. This legitimises the contest, but also helps the contest be found by a different audience.

I would suggest updating your Instagram bio with a link to your website’s competition page for the duration of the competition.

If you use a customize a URL shortener, you could also make a simple a URL like yoursite.com/sweetcomp so that people can remember it easily to see the competition details, even if it’s written on an image.

Ensure that however people see an advertisement about your comp, they can see where to find your T+Cs.

Collating entries

When your competition is live, you want to ensure people are entering, by searching the hashtag. You might want to encourage a few loyal customers (or friends!) to enter right at the start to get the ball rolling and to give people ideas.

Rather than trying to find a fifty entries at the end of a competition, it can be easier to do a daily sweep of entries and either screenshot or copy the URLs, so when judging comes around, you can find all your entries in one place – especially if the competition is over several months.

One of the things to consider is showcasing the entries on your site. This is an additional incentive for users to enter your competition if they know their Instagram account will be prominently featured on your site – and it provides confidence for the entrant that they entered the competition correctly.

Automatically pulling entries into your site using a service like Stackla is one way to do this, otherwise, embedding individual Instagram entries into your blog to show off entries is another way you can do this.

Bean Social Facebook Group

Contacting winners

Contacting winners on Instagram is easy enough, but it is open to some challenges due to the nature of the platform.

Tagging the winner on their entry to let them know they are the winner is the most straightforward way to do this, and provide an email address where they can privately contact you with their mailing details. I’d recommend a generic info@yoursite.com email address so that your private contact details aren’t all over the web.

One of the risks of posting in this manner is that the winner may not see this tag, and you don’t have another way of contacting them.

Tagging them a few days later on a more recent post may address this, but it’s worth having a note in your T+Cs about being able to reselect the winner if the primary winner doesn’t respond within seven days.

Get ready to run an Instagram Competition…

What do you need to be across?

  • Select a theme that entrants will take photos of – make it accessible.
  • Select a hashtag for entrants to use – ensure it isn’t being used already.
  • Promote it everywhere – but ensure your links to your T+Cs are visible.
  • Give full details of the competition on your site.
  • Collate entries as you go to make it easier to select a winner.
  • Tag the winner on their post and ask them to contact your generic email address.

Sounds pretty easy right? Sure is!

Don’t forget to download my guide for creating terms and conditions so you know you’ve got all the tricky things covered.

Can’t wait to see the competitions you create!


About Rachel Beaney

Rachel Beaney is an Australian freelance social media specialist with over a decade in digital media. She’s worked with global names like Microsoft, Samsung, News Corp and General Assembly, in addition to not-for-profits and government bodies. She loves helping clients solve their business needs with creative and data-driven solutions. Get in touch today to jump on a free consultation call to find out how Rachel can help you.