Instagram Contests for businesses are a great way to increase engagement and grow your following and reach! I’m going show you how to run a contest on Instagram, a few tips & tricks, share some ideas for contests your business can run, and the one thing that every Instagram contest MUST include to be legal.
What is the goal for your Instagram contest?
Just like with any marketing idea, you should start out with a goal in mind.
Do you want to get more followers? Get more engagement? Get people to produce content you can use? Drive traffic somewhere other than Instagram (like your website)?
You can have more than one goal, but if you try and do everything, every time, you’ll just make it confusing and won’t get your desired results.
What is the prize for your Instagram contest?
What are you going to give away?
Give away something that appeals to your ideal customer. If you give away something that appeals to everyone, like an iPad or Target gift card, you’ll get a bunch of people entering who will never buy from you. Those are worthless followers.
If you’re a product based business, give away your product! If your product is too expensive to give away, give away something related to your product. I met a guy last week who builds custom bicycles. He’s not going to give away a whole bike, but he might give away a bike accessory. He might even be able to find a bike accessory company that will provide the prize for free for the exposure.
Gift Cards for your business make great prizes.
If you’re in a service industry, you could give away a free service. Just make sure it appeals to your ideal customer. My primary customers are business owners, so I might give away something that appealed to entrepreneurs like a couple of hours of tax consulting.
If you run a business that almost everyone needs eventually, like a real estate agent, then you can give away something more mass appeal like an iPad or restaurant gift card.
Finally, the more you ask of your followers, the better your prize needs to be. If you’re asking them to comment, tag a friend, follow 17 other accounts, post a photo with your hashtag, and sign up on your website, your prize better be AMAZING.
How will users enter your Instagram contest?
Asking people to Like the post, our double-tap, is the easiest, but you won’t get much for it in Instagram’s algorithm. Asking people to leave a comment will help much more.
Having people to tag a friend in the comments is a great way to bring more people to your account (and is legal on Instagram even though it isn’t on Facebook).
If you go this route, ask people to tag a specific friend so you get people who will be interested in your company. If you’re a clothing company and you’re giving away a blue shirt, ask them to tag a friend who loves blue. You can ask people to tag 2-3 friends if it makes sense, but don’t annoy people by asking them to tag 8-10 friends.
Tag a friend contests work especially well if you can give away 2 prizes. You reward the winner, and the person they tagged. “Tag a friend who loves to wear blue too – if you win, we’ll send you both one of our awesome new blue shirts!”
User generated contests on Instagram
Wouldn’t it be great if your audience created content for you? This is a great way to reach people beyond your followers. Ask your audience to post a photo of themselves using your product and require them to either tag you in the photo or use a specific hashtag for your brand.
Remember, even if they use your hashtag, you still need to ask permission to use their photo for yourself.
You are asking people to do more for these contests, so make sure your prize is valuable enough for it to be worth it their time.
Contests that take them off Instagram
If you want to drive people to your website, you’ll ask them to click the link on your profile to enter your contest. That won’t help much in the Instagram algorithm, so consider asking them to leave a comment and enter on your website.
Other tips for Instagram contests for businesses
Decide when the contest will begin and end, and include that in your post. It’s also nice to edit the post when the contest is over so the first thing in the caption is “Contest Has Ended.” This avoids people entering after the deadline, then being frustrated with your business when they realize the contest is already over.
You may need to post about your contest more than once, especially if it’s running for a long time or if your followers aren’t used to doing contests or your audience is small.
Make sure you check in on your contest frequently. Don’t just put it up and forget about it. First, you’ll want to make sure that if someone points out something isn’t working, that you get it fixed right away. Can you imagine planning a great contest, then having the launch ruined by a full day of “link doesn’t work” and “your contest sucks because I can’t enter” comments? Also, the more you engage with people, the better your post will perform in the algorithm.
Legal requirements for Instagram contests
Obviously you must follow all federal, state and local laws. For example most places you can’t require a purchase to enter a contest. Depending on your brand or your prize, you may need to list an age restriction.
You can’t tag anyone in the contest post that’s not actually part of it, and you can’t ask users to tag themselves in a photo that they’re not in. This is deceiving to consumers, and forbidden by Instagram.
Make sure to include all other rules. Do they have to live in a certain area? Is there a deadline? How will you contact the winner? Do they have a limited amount of time to claim their prize?
When it comes to Instagram contests, the most important rule is to include Instagram’s statement of release. The statement below (or a similar one) MUST be included on all contest posts shared to Instagram:
You can bury it at the end of your contest caption, but don’t leave it out.
For the latest info, visit the terms for Instagram contests help center. Always seek legal advice from a qualified professional (I am not a lawyer).
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Jerry Potter is the Creative Director and CMO for Mastodon Media, as well as the founder of Five Minute Social Media, a YouTube channel that teaches small business owners to maximize their social media marketing. Living in Seattle, he spends his time with his wife and two Tiny Humans, and is on a quest to prove Diet Coke is actually good for him.