500 million active users monthly and nearly 100 million posts per day. With such results, Instagram ranks high on social media platforms tailored for brands that want to increase their reach and engagement. The best way to increase interactions on Instagram is a contest. It activates user generated content and it requires your fanbase engagement.

How to start preparation for a contest? In order to prepare the strategy of the contest go through 10 steps to help to plan it. From setting the target to monitoring the submissions.

  1.       Plan the contest’s goals

Before proceeding with implementation of the Instagram contest, it is important to plan everything first. The key to success is to clearly state the purpose of the project and the contest’s goals as well as always keeping in mind the target group. The aim may be to develop the brand’s presence on Instagram or to increase the number of followers, gather opinions about the new products and more accurate trends on purchasing preferences of potential customers. Contest without the goals is useless. You would not know if it was a success and if it is worth to repeat it in the future.

Do not try to answer to all the questions. Focus on selected aspects. Think about the people you want to engage. What kind of pictures gets the most likes? Which one are left with the highest number of comments? It can help you to define your target group. You can even go one step further. Why not checking the posts of your the most active followers? What they post? What is funny for them? How they curate their Instagram account? If you plan to build a greater community around the brand’s profile, you have to focus on content. It has to engage the audience enough to make them share the content with their friends.

At the very beginning, in addition to the goals, you have to set the time frames and the budget. It will help to plan all the logistic strategies and help you organize effective contest.

  1.       Design the method of taking part in the contest

No doubt, the most effective way to engage users are contests, however, choosing the method of taking part in it is not that clear. There are many ways the brand can organise the contest on Instagram. Sky is the limit. However, keep in mind that just after setting the goals, you have to focus on refining and clearing out the rules under which the user can take part in the contest.

Here are some ideas:

  • Involve users to post a photo or video with particular hashtag and on given topic
  • The contest may consist of several stages and for each the brand can post instructions regarding the content so users can show off with their creativity
  • Make sure the user will tag your brand in the post
  • Collect likes or comments

Analyse whether your contest rules are easy to read and the level of difficulty of the task will not discourage potential contestants. After all, you care about the traffic on social media channels. In the very beginning you have to decide whether it’s just one hashtag or the brand name. It must be clearly defined.

  1.       Find the perfect hashtag

Good hashtag is the key to engaging and involving contest. Without it there is no relationship between the contest and generated content. Hashtag helps create brand recognition through the mechanism of sharing and generating the participation.

Coming up with the ideal hashtag can be a challenge! You certainly do not want to have a hashtag which is very popular, because it will appear even after the contest. How to find a unique and catchy hashtag?

  • Short – easy to remember, read and rewrite. The shorter and simpler the better.
  • Accurate – make sure the hashtags are important and appropriate. It means that they are clearly associates with the brand and refer to the brand, product or service.
  • Easy to remember – easily associated with the contest, action or brand. The hashtag may occur earlier as a sneak peak of the upcoming contest, building tension and interest. So make sure the hashtag is catchy, ease to search and above all: easy to write! Avoid difficult spelling or misleading words.
  • Universal – think about the target group. Do they speak the same language? If you try to reach people from all over the world, be careful with idioms or slang – it may confuse or discourage your followers.
  • Rare – are they any people who use the same hashtags for completely different purposes? If so, this is the reason to start searching again!
  1.       Clearly define the topic

Since most of the contests are focused on user-generated content, it is very important to clearly define the topic, type of photos or videos to be posted by the users.

The subject of the contest can circulate around the specifics of the brand, type of the industry, products or services. It can also refer to the events e.g. holidays, seasons or bank holidays.

  1.       Decide how the winner will be selected

Part of a well-planned strategy if the Instagram contest is to inform the participants at the very beginning how the winner will be selected. Most of the competitions on the platform takes place on one of two rules: vote or jury decide about the award.


It the great way to spread the contest online. Participants are encourage to get as many likes as possible. If the award is extremely valuable or attractive, users will do everything (or almost everything) to share the post with their friends on different platforms.

This strategy allows you to increase the range of users. But on the other hand, you may face up some problems such as ‘like bots’ – the artificial likes. They have nothing in common with the real engagement.


A group of experts decides on the winners, not relying on a system of votes.

Of course there are pros and cons of both method of voting, but no matter which one you choose, make sure that the voting rules are clear and legible and each user will immediately know what they are they signing for and how. You can also experiment and try the mixed method. At the first stage, the jury decides and then the voting system of counting likes can be activated.

  1.       Select a prize

Choosing the prize in the contest you have to consider the audience, budget and goals. Keep in mind, that when you invite users to take part in the contest you basically asking them to be involved. Bearing in mind the need to balance the effort inserted by the users and costs (time, energy and attention), you need to reward them depending on the level of involvement. Winning a shirt is nice, but you will definitely get more engagement by sponsoring a dinner or a trip.

It’s not only the price that matters. It should also be the object of desire for your audience. What your target group would love to have? And adjust it to your budget. The most important is to have the value for the followers. It could be gift cards, free services, coupons, gifts or goody-bags.

  1.       Create terms & conditions

Do not forget that when you are creating the strategy for Instagram contest, you need to follow legal guidelines. The law depends on the country you are based in. Rules cannot be ignored.

Here are some information, you cannot forget:

  •         Brand name and contact details
  •         Date of the contest
  •         Who can participate (e.g. age restrictions)
  •         Step by step how you can take part in the contest
  •         How the winner is chosen
  •         Dates and the way how the winner will be announced
  •         Date and way how the winner will be informed
  •         Time when the winner has to get in touch with the organisers
  •         Details of the prize (How many? Description and other specifications)
  •         Way how the prize will be delivered to the winner
  1.       Promotion

Once you have planned the contest and its implementation, it is time for the promotion of the contest. Where to start?

  • Blog – write a longer post about the contest and use it as a teaser to grab attention of the target group
  • Social media – the best place to start the competition in social media is social media! Redirect your followers from different channels for the competition using the short links in the bio and various posts generating traffic.
  • Email – invite your subscribers to participate in the competition. Send them a quick, short and nice message!
  1.       Monitor submission

Monitoring takes place on two levels: promotional efforts and level of participation. With this information you will be able to tell whether the goals have been achieved. Make sure what kind of date do you want to collect and analyse:

  • Number of submissions – the total number of posts
  • Number of likes under one submission – allow you to follow the potential winner
  • Number of participants – if they can post more than one post, how many unique participants do you have?
  • Top participants – who shared the most of the content during the contest? Monitoring those users will help you choose the content in the future and tailored it to your target group
  • Number of likes in total
  • Total reach – Captures the number of followers of your participants at the time of submission. Meant to show you the potential reach of your campaign
  • The increase in the number of followers during the competition

You can choose to manually monitor the contest. Assign someone from the company to track submissions each day. At the end of the contest someone will have to review each application. If you decide to monitor the contest manually, you can use application such as Tagboard or Google Alerts to track hashtags, monitor and analyse submissions. If you are expecting a lot of submissions, then manual monitoring might not work out. Then you can use e.g. Iconosquare for this.

  1.   Stick to the plan

Once the contest finishes, it does not mean that the activities around it are over. Make sure everyone proceed with terms and conditions. First of all, make sure to notify the winners and to organize the prize delivery. After selecting the winner, you have to share it with everyone who took part in the contest – the best idea is to announce it on the social media.

Now you know everything about running  a successful contest and engaging users. Bring it to the next level and take action! Not only engage users, increase the number of followers but also create relevant content.


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