Are you looking for a low-risk way to run a competition online?

Instagram is a convenient and cheap way to get started with online competitions and giveaways. Being familiar territory for many, it’s a less intimidating place to start, but there are still rules and risks involved that need to be managed.

The use of hashtags makes it easy to spread the word about your offer and reach new audiences. It’s also primarily an image sharing platform, making it a great way to display the prize on offer.

Running a competition takes time, effort, and money. Doing the groundwork before you begin will help you avoid mistakes that can hinder or completely derail your results.

So, before you throw your competition out to the world, make sure you tick all the boxes in this article and avoid the common mistakes made by new competition hosts.

Set goals

The first thing you need to decide is what you are trying to achieve. Why are you running this competition? Without knowing the answer to this, you will never know if your competition was a success (for anyone except the winner).

Some common goals for Instagram giveaways are:

  • Driving traffic to your website
  • Building your email list
  • Creating brand awareness
  • Building your Instagram following

The other great thing about goals is that you can use them to determine everything you need to know to set up and manage your competition. Once you’re clear on exactly what you want to achieve, think about how this will affect the following things:

  • How long does your competition need to run for?
  • What percentage of people who see the competition do you expect to enter?
  • Who is your target audience, and how can you reach them? (more on this later)

Determine which metrics to track

Now that you have it clear in your mind what you want to achieve, you need to think about how you will measure success. This is done by choosing the right metrics to track.

For example, if your goals are based on gaining brand exposure, you should track your post reach. If you want new followers, you can track the number of new followers you gain during the campaign.

For business accounts, Instagram has a useful analytics tool that gives you insights into how your posts perform. If you want people to go to your website, you can set up your site with Google Analytics to track your traffic from Instagram.

Choose an entry condition that matches your goals

How people enter should be directly linked to your goals. But how do you know what entry conditions will help you achieve your goals? Here’s a breakdown.

To increase brand awareness

If you want to increase brand awareness, a good entry condition is to get users to tag their friends in a comment on the competition post. Doing this will drive new people to your post and boost it in Instagram’s algorithms.

A photo contest is another great way to engage followers and get your brand in front of new people. The idea is that users have to share a photo to their profile that matches the theme you’ve chosen, tag your business, and use a hashtag specific to your giveaway.

The bonus of this type of contest is that your followers create content for you. Not only is this free content for you, but it gives you a unique insight into your followers and the type of content they like. This is what we call user-generated content.

Here are some theme ideas that are fun and engaging for users to create.

Creative selfies

Ask users to take a photo of themselves using your products with the prize going to the most creative selfie. Make sure you ask them to tag your business page in the post so that you can track entrants and lead people back to your page.

Hashtag competitions

Create a unique hashtag and ask users to post a photo that matches the chosen theme using that hashtag. Make sure that you do some hashtag research first so that you don’t hijack somebody else’s hashtag or a tag that’s already trending.

When you search up a hashtag on Instagram, you can see how many times it has been used already and check out the sorts of posts using it. Your hashtag should be short, relevant to your brand, and not used more than three times already.

To drive traffic to your website

You can use Instagram to drive traffic to your website by asking users to follow your bio’s link to complete a task. This could be to fill out a form or sign up for your email newsletter.

eep in mind that the more steps people have to take, the less likely they are to enter. This is why matching your goals to your entry condition is so important. One email subscriber might be more valuable to you than 100 Instagram followers, so quality over quantity might make this a worthwhile channel for you.

Let’s say you want to get 500 new email subscribers. You can work backward from this goal to determine how you should run your competition.

If one post reaches 300 people and 20 of those 300 become subscribers to your email list, you will need to run your competition for an average of 25 days to reach your goal.

Remember to make it clear to email subscribers that they have gone in the draw of the competition in case you get subscribers that found you via other channels. You can do this by sending out a courtesy email informing people that they are in the draw or include a field on the subscription form, asking if they would like to go in the draw.

It is possible to use Instagram to build your email list, but because entering will drive users away from Instagram, it’s not likely to grow your Instagram presence.

To build your Instagram following

If your goal is to get more followers, you can make this your entry condition. This is probably one of the most effective ways to use an Instagram competition because it leverages the benefits of Instagram’s audience reach, keeps everything on the one platform, and gives you a way to stay in touch long-term with the new followers.

It’s also easy to track as you can scroll through your followers’ list on your Instagram profile.

Know your target audience

Every successful marketing campaign (and yes, this counts as a marketing campaign) is based on matching your offer with the right people. These people are what we call your target audience.

There are a lot of people in the world, and it’s impossible to reach them all, even with the power of social media in our hands. You need to narrow down the audience that is interested in your products, has the budget for them, needs them, and is ready to take action.

Again, we are back to thinking about our original goals.

Your goals will help you narrow down your audience to the people who are most likely to want to engage with your competition and your brand long-term.

For example, the audience you target to create brand awareness will likely be much broader than an audience you will ask to subscribe to your email database. This is because there is a lot more incentive required to get people to click through to your profile, then your website, and then fill out a form (and a lot less people who will do it).

To avoid wasting your efforts, narrow down your target audience to the people who are really interested in your brand.

Choose the right prize

Your prize should be relevant to your business and appealing to the audience you would like to attract to your brand. A prize is a great way to draw people interested in a particular topic together.

Consider this. If you sell gear for extreme sports and give away a free car, you’re not going to attract people interested in your products long term. Something like a free snowboard or skiing holiday is only interesting to the type of audience you want to build a relationship with.

Your prize is really the bate you use to draw in the right crowd.

The value of your prize will also reflect your goals. If you want to get 1 million followers, you’re going to need a prize that sends people into a bit of a frenzy. But you might not need to go that big. Another way to think about it is this, how much money is your goal worth to your business? That’s the value your prize should have.

Whatever prize you choose, make sure it is relevant to your brand and valuable enough to inspire action.

A few important things to check before you start

There are a few small things to mention that will help you cover yourself.

Don’t offer an unlimited amount of prizes, thinking that not that many people will enter and win. This has caught out highly successful companies in the past and creates a PR nightmare

Make sure your competition complies with Instagram’s terms and conditions, which are pretty straight forward, but still worth checking

Don’t forget to mention the details

It’s easy to get excited about the competition, create a beautiful image, and then forget to include the essentials in your post like:

  • The closing date of the competition
  • The conditions of entry
  • The hashtags to share
  • Details of the prize
  • The date the winner will be announced

Maximizing the results of your competition

Here are a couple of things that will drastically impact the results of your competition.

It’s all about the visuals

Instagram is primarily an image sharing platform. You’ll notice quickly that high-quality images are the key to getting attention. Don’t skimp on the quality of the photos you use. If you’re not confident with your own photos, hire a photographer. People need to be able to see what they can win to decide if it’s something they want enough to enter a competition for.

It’s also a good idea to include some text in the image like win, free, get, enter to win, and a brief, catchy description of the contest.

Tracking your analytics

Instagram has a built-in analytics tool that you can access via the Insights tab at the top of your profile. You need to have a business page to access data like:

  • How many accounts you have reached in the past week
  • How many actions have been taken on your posts
  • How many people have visited your profile
  • The age, location, and gender of your followers
  • The days and times they are most often using Instagram

You can also track your content by the type and volume of actions they received. These are things like website clicks, followers, and comments.

The handy thing about tracking your analytics is being able to A/B test your posts. Try creating a few different images promoting your competition, post them to your page, and then continue to use the one that gets the best results.

Tracking entrants

You will need to keep track of who enters your competition. This is where running competitions on Instagram can become time-consuming and messy. There are a few ways to track entrants, depending on how people enter.

  • Check your notifications for page follows, post shares, and tags
  • Search up your hashtag to track user-generated content
  • Track the visitors that came to your website via Instagram and subscribed to your newsletter
  • Refer to the list of followers on your profile (remember to take note of how many you had before the competition started)

As you can imagine, manually tracking entrants will become complicated if you have a massive amount of people entering each day.

Another option is to host your competition via a third-party website (like Doorluck) and then use Instagram to drive traffic to it. The benefit of this is tracking entrants easily and using your giveaway to achieve goals outside of Instagram, like filling out a form or subscribing to your YouTube channel.

Pay to promote your competition

Instagram has an advertising platform that allows you to target your specific audience. You can also pay as much or as little as you need to get started, depending on the results you’re after.

If you don’t have a big following, paid advertising might give your campaign the nudge it needs to get in front of people and gain traction.

Draw attention to your competition with stories

Instagram stories are like a separate news feed that happens at the top of the home feed. Users can scroll through these short, engaging posts and swipe up if they want to learn more.

This is one way to use Instagram to drive traffic to your site if that’s where users need to go to enter your competition as Instagram doesn’t allow link sharing in regular posts. Instagram stories have an impressive swipe through rate between 15 and 25 percent.

The other advantage of stories is that they appear in isolation to the rest of the busy Instagram feed. Stories will run until they have all appeared, so your post won’t get missed. Also, because they take up the whole screen, there’s no distracting content that might cause people to scroll past.

Post regularly

Posts get buried quickly on Instagram. People also need to see things a few times before they start to take notice. So, don’t be afraid to posts about your competition every day. Keep it fresh on your page so that anyone who comes looking for it can find it easily.

Use all 30 hashtags

Instagram currently lets users add a max of 30 hashtags to posts. To get the most reach, don’t just use the hashtag you’ve created for the giveaway; use as many other popular tags as possible (as long as they are relevant to your giveaway). It’s not bad practice to max out the hashtag limit on Instagram like it is on Twitter and Linkedin.

How to select the winner of your Instagram Competition

After you’ve done all the hard work to get your competition off the ground, you might find yourself wondering who the winner should be?

You could review each entry and select the one that you like the most, but you can let your followers make this choice for themselves by choosing the picture that got the most likes or comments. Again, this will involve quite a bit of digging through Instagram to find all of the shared content and keep track of the posts with the most engagement.

Announce the winner on Instagram

It might sound obvious, but make sure that you announce the winner on Instagram and tag them in the post. It’s also nice to share the content they created if this was a condition of entry.

Ready to run your online competition?

The benefits of using Instagram to run an online competition are that it’s free (unless you pay to advertise) and easy to set up. It’s a platform that allows businesses to reach huge audiences and target their content by interests with hashtags.

If you’re looking for a way to create, host, and promote an online giveaway, Doorluck is the only online platform that allows you to create and run your giveaway in one place.

Check out the rest of our blog for loads of information on setting up and running giveaways, competitions, and sweepstakes.