Using Contests To Build A Following on Instagram

December 16, 2014

Instagram is one of the best social media platforms for indulging creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. While Facebook has rules for – or prohibitions against – just about everything, Instagram allows you to try almost anything you’d like when posting images. One extremely effective method to get huge amounts of exposure while skyrocketing the number of people following you is to hold a contest. Here are some tips.

The Reward

What does any contest need to be a success? It needs a quality prize. If you sell makeup online and want to hold a contest, you can offer a makeover or a deluxe makeup kit and do just fine. If you clean out septic tanks for a living, a contest offering a free septic tank cleaning as a prize probably isn’t going to get much action. In that case, a good fallback is to offer a gift card to iTunes or Amazon. Anyone can use them, so plenty of folks will take a few minutes to enter your contest.

The Task

What will the task be? Because you’re on Instagram, the obvious answer is to have entrants submit a photo. The easiest approach is to ask for a creative picture which relates to the product or service you sell. If that’s not feasible, a good idea is to base the contest on an upcoming holiday. If Cinco de Mayo is coming up, for example, offer an Amazon gift card to entrants who send in the best photo of a donkey.

To take things a step further, let followers vote to select the winning photo. You may run the risk of some people artificially voting up a particular image, but that really doesn’t matter. The whole purpose is to generate followers, and this will still do the trick.

Take It Easy

Always use the rule of KISS when holding a contest. KISS, of course, stands for “keep it simple, stupid.” (Please don’t take that personally.) Make it easy for people to enter the contest. Don’t demand their email address, or require that they mail in some sort of form (yes, some people really do require that). The goal is to generate engagement and followers on Instagram, so eliminate any rules or requirements that get in the way.

Also, make sure the task isn’t too difficult. Don’t hold a St. Patrick’s Day contest with a prize being awarded to the person who provides the best image of a pub in Ireland – unless, of course, you’re a Dublin-based business. Anyone outside of Ireland will just ignore the contest and move on.

Promote It

A contest without participants is a very sad contest. The best way to turn yours viral is to promote it. Social media platforms such as Facebook are quite cranky when it comes to giveways, but Instagram has no problem with you announcing your contest before it even begins. Let your social followers know what they can easily win while having a little fun at the same time. Be sure to also post a banner on your site alerting visitors to the contest, and kick out a few press releases to add to the excitement.

Instagram contests are a sure-fire way to generate engagement and build up followers. And don’t just run one. Put together a calendar of events throughout the year, and see how quickly contests can turn you into a major force in your Instagram niche.


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