The Ultimate Guide to Launching an Instagram Contest

Looking for a better way to get your follower base fired up? Instagram contests are a great way for brands to generate some instant buzz, brand visibility and increase customer engagement. When done right, these contests can give your brand an instant viral boost and also help you build some pretty decent user generated content. A compelling enough contest can get your followers juiced and get their own followers engaged too.

A strong word of caution though, running a contest with a crappy prize or not staying on top of entries can really back fire and cause your brand to look a little lame or disingenuous. So to make you a rockstar on your next campaign, we’ve put this little guide together to help you not suck at running Instagram contests. Here are the steps you need to take to create your first (home run) Instagram contest.

Plan Your instagram Contest

Every marketing campaign should start off with an end goal in mind and your contest is no exception. Having clear goals will help you define and make the most out of your contest. What do you want to achieve? What would make this project a success?

Some common goals:
• Customer / follower engagement
• Grow your follower count
• Gain brand awareness
• Generate more likes
• Generate more sales
• Help to create user generated content

Create a theme for your contest

Your contest should coincide with a specific theme, brand message or campaign. You can run a simple like to win campaign, or you can get your followers to participate more and create some unique user generated content in the process. For example you could ask followers to upload a photo that relates to the brand but in quirky, fun or humorous tone. A popular example would be photos of people using your product in unusual places. Another one could be about having followers take a photo with your product around some sort of theme or occasion. The important thing is to make sure participants are showcasing and talking about either your brand or product in some form or fashion.

Research your target audience and competitors

Having a well defined audience helps to pinpoint with laser precision which new customers or followers you want to go after and how best to target them. We won’t go into creating full blown customer persona’s today, but we’ll focus on what’s important for the campaign at hand. Start by asking the following questions about the people your looking to target:

What are their interests?
What sort of hashtags do they use often on Instagram?
What other brands do they follow?

A good source for finding potential customers is to look at your competitors or products that are in the same market as you. What sort of hashstags are they using? Who are their followers? Which of their photos get the most likes and most engagement? Iconosquare is a great tool to get key statistics about your instagram followers, hashtags, as well as look up your competitors.

Choose your #hashtags

In order to track your Instagram contest you’ll need to decide on a unique hashtag that people can add into the description of their photo. This will help you track the Instagram photo and will can also help for non-followers to discover your contest. Use the research you did in step 2 to help you decide on some hash tags that can generate the most buzz for your brand.

Try keeping your hashtags to a minimum of two or three and always include a hashtag of your brand name. It should be obvious, but the hash tags you include should be some way relatable to the theme of your campaign.

Here are some examples:
#abcwidgetsummer
#abcwidgetweekend
#iloveabcwidgets

Choose a contest prize

Every contest needs a prize; a bad ass prize if you ask me. Decide what will drive the most interaction to achieve your growth above. What would excite your target audience the most. Try to be creative here. Offerring t-shirts, stickers and free products are cool, but adding some unique swag alongside them can give your Instagram contest that extra boost. How about tickets to a ball game, or personal tour of your shop with a personalized product made out to the winner. In contrast, too little of a prize might not get you any attention. Think of your prize carefully and be generous. The cooler the prize, we’ve always seen, the better the engagement.

Create your contest guidelines

Every contest you launch should have some clear guidelines in place to help keep your followers focused to the task at hand. Decide what you want people to post and what not to post, contest rules and winning criteria. Some example criteria are:

How to enter contest – Clear instructions on what people should do to enter. IE. Like this picture? Repost this to your followers?

How winners will be picked – Give detailed information on our your winners will be picked.

Contest length – 24 hours, a week, a month?

Content eligibility rules – Make sure that they use your hashtag AND follow you in order to eligible. Why not kill two bird with one stone?

Number of times people can they participate – Can they repost as many pictures as they want, or are the limited to 1 photo? Generally, the more photos there are the better, as it means more awareness for your brand.

Create your contest artwork

Now we get to the fun part of your contest. With all the cool, easy to use tools on the market there should be no excuse why you can’t create some killer graphics for your contest. Your photo should include the bare necessities about your contest and it’s guidelines. It should be clean, clear and as uncluttered as possible.

If you don’t have an in-house designer, don’t worry! Luckily today there are so many tools and apps that help you create high quality artwork easily. If you’re creating your graphics on your iphone, check out Over and Word Swag. For some cool motion graphics you can also use Legend and GIFshare. If you prefer to use your PC, check out Canva. Whatever your preference, with these tools you’ll be able to whip up some decent graphic in minutes.

Promote your contest

Now that you have all the details of your contest ironed out, it’s time to publish and promote the heck out of it. Share your contest on Instagram, facebook, twitter, via email, on your website, your blog, everywhere.

Connect with influencers
Influencers are people that have a strong influence or following among your target audience. Find a few influencers and ask them if they’d promote your contest to their followers. Be prepared though, most influencers with high followings expect some sort compensation, so don’t be shocked if they ask for some loot.

Promote it to your email list
This is an easy one for you to push through you email channels. Don’t have an email list? You should start one. Yesterday.

Create a microsite
This is a bit more complex if you choose to do it yourself, or if you use a service to build these for you such as VotigoGleam or Tint. The benefit, is that you have a central place that followers can learn about your contest and it’s easier to promote and share.

Put a widget on your site
There are a few free online services and tools that will allow you to do this and I would definitely recommend taking advantage of them. Check out Instansive, Snapgram or Websta.

Monitoring your contest

Sure you could probably just throw it up on your account and wait for the mentions and likes to start rolling in, but you should also think about how to monitor the responses you get. Doing this from within Instagram itself can be a little tedious and time consuming. Here are a few tools below that can help you launch and track your Instagram photo contest:

Iconosquare  – Probably the single most popular (free) tool that is solely dedicated to monitoring Instagram. They also have some interesting contest monitoring and engagement tools, but be aware these features have a cost.

SumAll  – A all around social monitoring and metrics tool with a very cool interface. Not specialized for Instagram contests, but still useful in monitoring your hastags.

Simply Measured – They boast to be “The world’s best social analytics, hands down.”. While I can’t comment on wether they truly are or not, their tools are top notch.

 Selecting your winners

Once the contest has ended, make sure to immediately select a winner. Your audience has been waiting patiently to find out who wins, so be timely. Once you’ve selected your winner, make sure to showcase them on all your social channels and your website. It’s a good way to give your winner (and products) some shine. You could also showcase the runners up or be extra awesome and give them a small consolation prize.

Here’s another tip: Ask the winner to share a pic of the prize after they receive it to their own followers. This will give you another little brand boost for free.

Rinse and repeat

After you’ve run your first contest, i’m sure you’ll learn a lot. Take what work and what didn’t work and use that knowledge to craft your next contest. Make sure to run contests frequently. Your audience will love you for it.

Now over to you.

What has worked / hasn’t worked for your contests? Any tips? Share them below in the comments.

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