How Instagram Contests Can Increase Your Instagram Engagement by 157%


A study published by the marketing automation company Hubspot found that 34 percent of fans and followers acquired by brands came aboard as a result of social media contests. Though you may have thought that social media contests were a thing of the past, they are still being used by savvy social media marketers to acquire new followers and engage existing ones.

Instagram contests are so effective that some brands have increased follower engagement by nearly 160 percent. Consider this article your social media marketing wake-up call. We’ll look at a number of ways in which Instagram contests can increase engagement dramatically.

Gamification is an effective way to motivate followers

Gamification works. It’s why platforms like Facebook and Pokémon Go were able to become popular in short order. Digital incentivizing is so powerful, in fact, that one study found over 60 percent of business leaders take daily “game breaks” at work.

If you remain unconvinced, consider the fact that a simple gamified app was able to help scientists solve complex puzzles related to DNA and disease that had vexed some of the world’s best researchers for over a decade.

Small incentives work for large brands and challenging scientific puzzles. They will also work to increase engagement on Instagram. Offering an incentive that is aligned with the interests of your target audience is all it takes to earn meaningful attention from Instagram users.

Social media users appreciate brands that add value

Consumers have higher expectations of brands today than they did in years past. Today, most social media users expect brands to add value online. Should brands fail to add value, nearly 50 percent of consumers are willing to call brands out on social media platforms.

Creating an Instagram giveaway is a great way to live up to the expectations of social media users. By providing a chance to win a free or discounted product or service, brands add value while asking little in return.

Some of the best brands use giveaways to increase reach

Instagram contests and giveaways aren’t just for startups and small brands; they are used by some of the most popular accounts on Instagram to engage existing followers and acquire new ones.

Take KitchenAid’s recent contest as just one example. In order to raise money and awareness during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, KitchenAid asked followers to bake pink cupcakes and share a picture of the cupcake on Instagram.

For each share, KitchenAid promised followers that it would donate to the Susan G. Komen foundation. As a result, nearly 5,000 pictures of pink cupcakes were shared on Instagram, and KitchenAid donated $10,000.

Take a recent contest run by as another example of a successful Instagram contest. The company asked Instagram followers to vote for their favorite fitness influencer to become a spokesperson.

The company selected 10 finalists based on votes from social media users, then asked their followers to vote for a male and female spokesperson. recently announced the winners in a post that received great engagement (see above).

Instagram users are already more predisposed to engage with brands than other social media users

The research is clear: Instagram users are more likely to engage with branded social media content than users on other social media platforms. In fact, Forrester Research found that users are 10 times more likely to engage with brands on Instagram compared to Facebook, and were 84 times more likely to engage with brands compared to Twitter.

A recent survey of micro-influencers turned up similar results. Over 60 percent of influencers surveyed said that Instagram was the best social media platform with regard to engaging users.

Since social media contests require user engagement to be successful, Instagram is the ideal medium through which to promote a social media contest. That’s why contests have fallen out of favor on platforms like Twitter and Facebook, though they remain popular on Instagram.

Content with high engagement gets organic promotion via Instagram’s sorting algorithm

Instagram contests are particularly effective because they work well in conjunction with Instagram’s sorting algorithm.

Instagram uses an algorithm to determine where content should be placed in each user’s feed. The algorithm takes into account a variety of factors, including post engagement and content timeliness, to order content based on how likely a user is to engage with it.

The content with the highest probability of engagement will be placed at the top of the feed, while content that the platform thinks will be ignored is placed at the bottom of the feed (or isn’t displayed at all). A similar algorithm works to identify content displayed in the Explore tab.

Since Instagram contests usually attract a lot of engagement, it is likely that Instagram will naturally amplify this content by placing it prominently in users’ feeds, or by featuring it in the Explore tab. As a result, well-executed Instagram contests can go viral thanks to organic amplification.

Savvy Instagram marketers should consider making post engagement part of the requirement to win a contest or giveaway. Asking contestants to “like” the announcement post is a good way to encourage Instagram’s algorithm to amplify the post further.


Social media marketing contests may not be right for every social media network. As has already been discussed, users need to be predisposed to engaging with brands online in order for a contest to work well.

Fortunately for Instagram marketers, users are generally willing to engage with brands on the platform. In fact, some of Instagram’s biggest brands have recently organized successful contests and giveaways. If you execute it correctly, you too can use a contest to create insane follower engagement in short order.

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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