10 Tips for Running an Effective Instagram Contest

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Social media revolves around connections, and the most successful brands have learned to tap into this power.

One look at the current social media giants reveals that people, businesses and brands are communicating with their followers in many different ways. Social media contests are some of the most effective and popular methods of reaching out.

On Instagram in particular, more and more brands are using this strategy to connect with and expand their following. Here are 10 easy steps that you can follow to run your own Instagram contest effortlessly and efficiently.

1. Construct the contest.

First, your contest needs substance and marketability. Everything on social media should come with a name or an image that sets it apart from the crowd.

On Instagram, visuals are the primary mode of communication, so crafting a clever picture and title to go along with the contest announcement is a surefire way of attracting positive attention. In addition to coming up with a catchy title and picture, it can also be helpful to decide on a theme.

Successfully combining these three elements will ensure a promising start to your Instagram contest. For example, we’ve seen Tony Hawk hiding skateboards in random locations and posting pictures of landmarks to clue his followers in on the skateboard’s location and a potential prize.

The use of visuals is critical in creating a contest. In Sony’s #SonyX contest they invited users to post pictures of themselves wearing Sony headphones for a chance to win daily prizes. Brands that use visuals to promote their Instagram contests achieve more successful results.

2. Set clear objectives.

After defining the boundaries of your contest, it’s time to specify its goals. What is the ultimate objective of the Instagram contest? Is it to attract followers? Is it to introduce a new product? Is it to commemorate a special moment in the brand’s history?

Whatever the reason, there needs to be some overarching purpose to holding an Instagram contest, otherwise people won’t feel inclined to participate. Sure, clever promoting and interesting visuals will draw some people in, but a contest without a real reason for existing won’t have much impact on participants.

For the same reason, contests should be held sparingly. If brands hold contests every few weeks, then their power will be severely undermined. They’ll be too commonplace for your followers to care about them.

3. Specify the rules.

To ensure an orderly and successful contest, simple rules need to be laid out early and openly. Before allowing anyone to enter the contest, brands need to clearly communicate what the rules of the contest are, in order to keep the competition balanced and enjoyable for everyone.

Specific rules will differ from contest to contest, but in general, entry should be restricted to one per user, age barriers or parental permissions should be required and a fair contest atmosphere should be preserved. With these conditions defined, your contest should run smoothly.

4. Define the audience.

Another big consideration is the audience. Depending on the brand, businesses can have anything from a well-defined audience to a massive cluster of users spanning all age groups, races, beliefs and economic classes. Whatever the case, contests require a focused audience, even if a brand’s following is already fairly niche.

The reason for a tight focus is because it may not always be possible to capture the interests of a brand’s entire following. With a clearly defined audience, a contest will be more effective.

5. Limit the length. 

As well as holding contests sparingly, it is important to limit their length, in order to create a sense of urgency. Contests that run too long tend to lose their momentum because people simply forget about them after a certain period of time. What is more effective is to hold contests for a shorter period of time, with frequent updates and announcements about progress and changes to keep your followers’ attention.

The more the contest resembles a narrative, with progression and a final pay-off, the better. Also, limiting the length of contests prevents things from getting out of hand. Sure, more entrants is generally a good thing, but past a certain point it can become overwhelming for contest holders.

6. Easy entry. 

In order for the contest to get lots of positive traction, entry needs to be as simplified as possible. Easy contest entry will not only generate more discussion about the contest; it will also minimize frustrations and ensure that those discussions are positive.

Once an easy entry process is implemented, it’s important to complement that with ongoing updates about the contest. Basically, the simpler the process is for the audience, the more likely it is that the contest will have a successful participant turnout.

7. Advertise with Instagram tools.

Social media and advertising go hand in hand as different brands have experimented with features to craft highly successful ad campaigns. Instagram in particular boasts several features and options to promote products, ideas and contests.

Brands on Instagram should make liberal use of the platform’s many features in order to maximize the visibility of their contests. The features include posting pictures and videos, direct-messaging users and posting customized Stories. Using these promotional tools on a regular basis can sustain participation and discussion about the contest, which ultimately creates more success for the venture.

8. Promote elsewhere.

In addition to using Instagram’s extensive advertising tools, many brands have presences on other social platforms, like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. Although the contest may be taking place on Instagram, advertising does not need to be limited in the same way.

Brands should be promoting their contests from all platforms possible. Not only does this increase traction for the Instagram contest; it also increases traffic on all social platforms. The advantages of promoting elsewhere are increased visibility and marketability, and spreading influence in more than one social sphere.

9. Offer prizes that matter.

As noted above, contests are more enjoyable to follow if they resemble a narrative. Audiences want some form of progression over the duration of the contest, and that also means providing a substantial ending to it all. One of the best ways to do that is to clearly advertise the final prize of the contest, so people will know exactly what they can expect.

In addition, communicating the final prize (and making it exciting) ensures that people will actually be interested in entering the contest in the first place. Brands creating Instagram contests should recognize the importance of prizes to the audience; people need a better reason to enter a contest than merely having bragging rights or a piece of paper.

10. Showcase the winner. 

Although people may be satisfied with a substantial prize, there is one more prime consideration—the winner’s spotlight. People entering a contest want some kind of final payoff—they want to know there’s a prize and that someone won it. Brands can provide this conclusion to the narrative relatively easily by announcing the winner in a congratulatory post or announcement.

As an example, take Ben and Jerry’s #CaptureEuphoria contest, where the brand reached out to its followers to send pictures showing the happiness brought by their ice cream. Winners were given the spotlight, with their accounts getting direct recognition and their images being used in official Ben and Jerry’s ads. A little acknowledgement can go a long way in strengthening an already popular contest.

About the author

Deep Patel

Deep Patel is a serial entrepreneur, marketer and bestselling author of A Paperboy’s Fable: The 11 Principles of Success. The book was dubbed the #1 best business book in 2016 by Success Magazine and named the best book for entrepreneurs in 2016 by Entrepreneur Magazine.

Also recognized as a top 25 marketing influencer by Forbes, Patel has worked with VC-backed startups to Fortune 500 companies. He is also a contributor at Forbes, Entrepreneur, The Huffington Post and Success Magazine.

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