Social Media Contests: 5 Steps to Running a Contest on Instagram Successfully

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I’m not going to deny that I am an avid Instagram user. To date, I’ve shared over 430 photos with my friends from all around the world and I log onto Instagram a number of times per day.

I’m not the only one who is hooked on to this network though; there are over 80 million users registered on Instagram as of this point of time and I believe that they are the network to watch this year (along with Google+).

80 million registered users is not exactly a lot when compared to other social media networks, with its big boss Facebook breaking the 1 billion active users late last year, but it is big enough to get brands and businesses to notice that there is potential to build their community there.  And like every other social media network, it is these brands and businesses that will drive Instagram this year.

I wrote an article on iStrategyConference on how businesses can build a following on Instagram and one of the recommended tips I mentioned was to organize a contest.

If you’re planning on running a contest on Instagram, here are a couple of tips on what you need to get started.

1. Goals 

Before you organize any social media contest, always start with a goal in mind. What are you trying to achieve? Increase followers? Increase sales? Increase awareness?

Having clear goals may be cliché, but it will help you make the most out of your contest.

2. Set up

The second step is the most important and it may take a while to set up. Step two is the set-up stage where you’ll need to plan your contest properly. Here are a couple of things you will need –

  • Hashtag

Like twitter, hashtags are extremely important in Instagram. It helps you to track contest entries, increase awareness about your contest and is technically the virtual space where your community will be based in.

Here is an example of an Instagram contest organized by Four Seasons.


  • Guidelines
    • Time frame
    • Who is eligible to enter
    • How to enter:
      • Must they follow you?
      • Share photo of a them
      • Must they tag you?
      • What hashtag to use.
    • How winners will be picked
    • How many times can they participate?
    • Are there any other conditions?
  • Theme

What will your theme of the photos be? Will it revolve around people using your product and taking a photo? A snapshot of only your product? A green theme? Scenery? Food?

  • Prizes

As we discussed previously in our post, prizes are an important criteria when it comes to planning a contest. Prizes are important to serve as an incentive for people to enter into your contest. Too small and it might not attract much entries but big, shiny prizes might attract the wrong crowd.

3. Promote

Now that your contest is planned, the next step is to promote your contest. There are a few ways of going around this.

  • Promote using existing social media networks such as your Facebook, Twitter, Blog, etc and use existing promotional functionalities like Facebook Promote and Facebook Adverts.
  • Remind those social media networks from time to time just in case people miss it.
  • Post on your Instagram. Prior to your contest, you should have built a small network of people to increase awareness.
  • Use other hashtags relevant to your contest
    • FourSeasons used the hashtag #Toronto for their UncoverToronto contest.
  • Include photo sharing in other social media networks as part of your contest entry requirements.
  • Email your email lists.
  • Put it up on your website.

4. Monitor

A shortcut to monitor all the posts that are being published is by using a tool called Statigram. It’s a pretty nifty tool that allows you to find out how many photos have your hashtag included and the number of likes and comments of each photos

5. Publish winners 

Once you set the criteria on how you will pick your winners and picking your winner using Statigram, don’t forget to publish the winner on all your social media networks.

Here is an example by Four Seasons.


Those are five important steps that you need to follow to organize a success Instagram contest. Remember to follow step two properly.

What do you think?

Aaron Lee
This monthly Social Media Contests column is contributed by Aaron Lee. Aaron is the social media manager at, a comprehensive social media promotion platform that allows businesses to build and manage digital promotions and contests. Aaron is also the founder and writer at +Aaron Lee
Aaron Lee


Grand Master of Customer Delight @PostPlanner. Trying to perfect the art of making cappuccino while running a business. Introvert with awesome hair.
@GabrielleNYC really? i hope they are. @jack - 23 hours ago
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