Need tips on running a contest on Instagram? Start with these four best practices.

1. Don’t move your successful Facebook Contest model to Instagram.

You know how you can make really nice contest tabs on Facebook where you can capture all sorts of info? Can’t do that on Instagram. Heck, Instagram doesn’t even allow you to put tappable URLs in your posts.

So being that Instagram isn’t Facebook and all, consider a whole new strategy when it comes to Instagram contests. Or at least shift your thinking to what might be a more Instagram-friendly way of achieving some of your marketing objectives.

Thus, a successful Instagram contest should both benefit your company and fit the visual, mobile-first nature of Instagram.

Photo contests tend to work well on Instagram. Businesses benefit from the images that entrants submit. These images (called “user-generated content” by some) can provide great market research, give fantastic social proof that can be shared with Instagram followers, and offer ideas for future blog posts and promotions.

And photo contests work well on Instagram because people are on that platform to share photos!

Califia Farms runs a weekly Roll Call contest whereby Instagram users post photos of their Califia products in the wild (or in their fridge) for a chance to win a free beverage coupon.

califia farms instagram

When Instagram users take photos with #CalifiaRollCall, the beverage company learns about the other items in a customer’s fridge (great ideas for recipe posts) or where customers take Califia. By getting permission from entrants, the company can also use these photos as real-world evidence that folks love their products.

Could photos like these benefit your company?

Related Post: Instagram 101

2.  Consider your prize.  Then consider it again.

Like Facebook contests, you want the prize of your Instagram contest to attract the right type of entrant. Giving away something like an iPad will attract people who like iPads, but necessarily people who care about your business. Instead, think of a prize that would raise the heart rate of your target market.

You also want the prize to be commensurate with the effort that the entrant is required to put into the contest. That means don’t expect a ton of top-notch entries if you’re going to cheap out with your prize.

This recent ShopBAZAAR contest offers a Mansur Gavriel handbag to three entrants who post a photo of his or her fiercest look.


This premium prize has certainly lured its fashion-forward followers to submit photos. To date, it has received over 230 entries.

(For weekly contests like the one we saw with Califia Farms, you can most likely get away with a smaller prize.)

If you are a U.S. based country, consider that 65% of the Instagram community is international. Is your prize something you’ll be willing to send overseas?


3.  Publicize your contest far and wide.

Post to Instagram about your contest at least twice. First, post to unveil the contest. Once the contest is underway, post again to attract some of your newer followers (or to entice other followers who simply missed your earlier post).

Tell followers of your other social channels about your Instagram contest. Here, the Outer Banks in North Carolina used a Pinned Tweet to give its #OXBcontest extra prominence on Twitter.

Outer Banks Instagram Contest Crosspromotion on Twitter

And don’t forget to reach out to your email subscribers! Earlier this year, Stonyfield ran a drip-email campaign for its #CheatOnGreek Instagram contest.

Stonyfield Instagram Contest Email

By reaching out to its email base, Stonyfield not only received additional entries, but also gained Instagram followers (who’ve already shown allegiance to the brand by signing up for its newsletter.)

4.  Rules are meant to be made. So make them.

You need rules for your contest — not only to put parameters on the promotion but to potentially cover your rear end. These guidelines are especially important when it comes to user-generated photo contests.

In your rules, you should specify how you might use an entrant’s photo and that by entering the contest, the entrant has given you permission to use the photo in such a manner.

Again, taking into consideration the worldwide adoption of Instagram, you should also state which countries are eligible to participate in your contest.

Once you’ve drafted these rules (and any other important ones that will protect your company), figure out a place to house them. Again, you don’t have any “Instagram tab” to put paste your contest rules!

Then put a link to the rules page in your Instagram bio — the only place where you have a chance to insert a tappable URL.

Sally Hansen is in the midst of its #InstaDriContest and has used the URL slot in its bio to drive traffic to the rules.


Its contest posts also mention that more details are available by tapping on the URL link in its bio.




Have you tried running a contest on Instagram? What other best practices do you suggest for those about to launch their first Instagram contest?