September 16, 2015

There are a lot of reasons why I love Instagram. You know that. But one of the reasons I love it so much for businesses is because of the utter ease and freedom Instagram users have in running campaigns. Whether you want to run an Instagram contest, giveaway, promotion, or other form of campaign, Instagram doesn’t restrict you to a bunch of rules and hoops to jump through like other sites do.

But, there are still some things you need to know in order to execute an effective campaign!

So, if you’ve decided that you are ready to host an Instagram contest or other promotion on your account, keep reading to make sure you understand what you need to do to plan and set up the campaign, how to execute the campaign, how to analyze the campaign for success and performance, and how to protect yourself legally.

Rules for Hosting an Instagram Contest

First and foremost, Instagram requires that you include specific verbiage releasing them of any participation in the campaign. This is a very simple statement that you need to include in your campaign promotion post(s).

Per Instagram rules, this promotion is in no way sponsored, administered, or associated with Instagram, Inc. By entering, entrants confirm that they are 13+ years of age, release Instagram of responsibility, and agree to Instagram’s terms of use.

You can copy and paste this statement to reuse in your campaigns.

Include this statement at the end of your campaign post caption to keep yourself in agreement with Instagram’s terms.

Another criteria that Instagram imposes on your campaigns is that you cannot not require any participants to inaccurately tag content or users. For example, you can’t ask users to tag themselves or others in a post in which they are not actually included.

If you have any additional rules that are specific to your contest (certain age restrictions, geographical restrictions, etc.) include these in your post caption as well.

I also recommend you take some time to review your federal and local (state, provincial, etc.) laws regarding contests and online promotions. You’ll want to know what your legal rights are to promote under these circumstances. And you know the disclaimer “void where prohibited by law”? You should include this in your post caption as well, protecting you in those cases where federal or state laws prohibit participation.

If you are running a contest where entry requirements involve a user posting content and/or using a hashtag on their post, you are required by the FTC (for US users) to tell participants to include a disclosure. Essentially, if you are asking someone to promote your product or service, they are obligated to state that they are doing so in conjunction with your company. This is to differentiate from when someone personally posts or promotes something of their own volition. This is something that nearly all companies neglect to include in their contest rules but is something that can get you in legal trouble if you neglect to do it. You can read more about this requirement and the legal aspects of it here.

I also recommend you read this article from Mark Schaefer’s blog on the legal issues of running contests. There is some valuable information including what you call your campaign: contest vs. sweepstakes.

Setting Up Your Campaign

The most work you will do around hosting an Instagram contest will be the process of setting up the campaign. There are a number of steps you need to consider and complete before you can actually host your contest.

I’m going to list each of those steps here to help ensure you have everything covered.

  1. Define the end state.
    • Are you trying to get more engagement on your posts?
    • Are you looking for more Instagram followers?
    • Are you attempting to get more people to sign up for your email list?
    • Are you interested in sourcing user generated content?
  2. Choose a “prize” or incentive to participate.
    • This should be something related to your business or brand. Do not give away an ipad just to get traffic. This won’t bring in quality participants that will actually benefit your business.
    • It should be of significant enough value to warrant the level of participation. The more valuable the reward, the more participation and participants you will get.
  3. Determine how participants will “enter” or participate in the campaign.
    • Do they need to follow your account, like the post, @mention one or more other users, post something with a hashtag, go to your website, etc.?
    • Entry requirements can be one or any combination of these criteria.
    • Entry requirements should be easy to do and complete.
    • Limit the number of steps to 3 or 4.
  4. Define any contest rules or conditions.
    • Going beyond the information listed in the previous section, do participants have to be a certain age or are there certain restrictions (like US residents only)?
  5. Determine how long the campaign will run.
    • Will the campaign be a one day, multiple day, one week, two week, etc. campaign? Numerous studies have shown that for large scale campaigns, one to two weeks is the optimal length of time.
    • Determine your start date and end date.
    • Will you wait until you reach a certain number of followers? This will affect when the campaign will start.
    • Is it seasonal or based around a specific theme? This will affect your run time.
    • If the requirements to enter involve the participants sharing an image or other more time consuming action, you may need your campaign to run longer.
  6. Determine how many times and at what times you will promote the campaign.
    • This will depend on how long the campaign runs.
    • Will you post multiple times a day or once daily?
    • Based on your analytics, determine the best times of the day to post (it may differ for different days of the week).
  7. Choose a campaign hashtag.
    • This is paramount in promoting your contest and sourcing content shared as entry in the contest as well as tracking your success and analytics.
    • The hashtag should be related to the campaign, the theme, the product or service, and/or your business.
    • The hashtag should be exclusive to each individual campaign. Make sure it isn’t being used by someone else.
    • Hashtags for campaigns can be longer than usual but should be easy to recognize and spell.
  8. Design your campaign image(s).
    • You should include that it is a contest or giveaway with actual text in the image or graphic – this way it won’t be missed as just another photo when people are scrolling through Instagram.
    • If using an image (rather than a graphic), it should be related to the theme/content of the campaign.
  9. Craft your post content captions for each promotional post.
    • Include all the details of the campaign, hashtag, and other relevant information.
  10. Decide how winners will be chosen and how you will notify them.
    • Will you use a random generator tool (free online tools are available) or will entries be judged?
    • Will you email the winners or DM them on Instagram? Or will you use another method?
    • Once the winners have been notified, you can publicly announce them on Instagram via a campaign post. I always recommend informing winners privately before publicly displaying them on Instagram.
  11. Determine who will respond to and engage with customers and participants on the campaign posts.
    • If there are multiple people managing your account or if you manage the campaign for a client, it’s important to establish who is responsible for engagement and answering questions related to the campaign.

Administering the Campaign

Now that you have everything in place to run the campaign smoothly, it’s time to actually execute the campaign on Instagram. Here are the things you need to do to start and execute the campaign over its duration.

  1. Post your first image to launch the campaign.
  2. Cross-promote the campaign to your email list and other social media sites if this will benefit your campaign.
  3. Monitor engagement and respond to comments and questions.
  4. Post subsequent campaign posts based on the schedule outlined for the campaign.
  5. Track your results and levels of participation
  6. Adjust your posting schedule if required to better serve your campaign.
  7. Continue to monitor comments, engagement, and levels of participation

Closing and Reviewing the Campaign

Once the campaign has reached the end date and time, you need to close out the campaign, announce the winners, and review the whole campaign. Here are the steps to complete the process.

  1. I recommend going back to any posts shared as part of the campaign, editing the caption, and adding “Contest Closed” (or other similar phrase) to the top of the caption.
    • This way, anyone coming to your account or posts after the fact will recognize that the contest is no longer running.
    • Add symbols or emojis to make this statement stand out in the caption.
  2. Pick your winner(s) based on the criteria you established before launching the campaign.
  3. Announce your winner(s) in whatever manner you established before launching the campaign.
  4. Review your campaign analytics to determine the success level of this campaign
    • How many new followers did you gain over the period of the campaign?
    • How much engagement did you have on the campaign posts?
    • How much traffic did you send to your website?
    • How many new opt-ins or sales did you generate?
  5. Once you’ve done more than one campaign, compare the results and campaign analysis to each previous campaign to determine additional data.
    • Do certain prizes generate better results?
    • Do certain themes, times, or lengths of campaigns generate better results?

Seems like a lot of work, doesn’t it? Well, do an Instagram contest or campaign well, it will take some significant time and preparation. But once you’ve done one, the next one will be easier, and you’ll get more comfortable with each additional campaign.

And nothing says you have to start out with a complicated and long-running campaign the first time. You can host your first contest on a smaller scale, with easy entry requirements, and a short time frame. This will allow you to get the hang of it and then you can expand on your next campaign.

Use the steps outlined above to prepare and execute a contest or campaign of any size and you’ll easily ensure you have a smoothly run campaign every time!

Did you find this helpful? Please share:
  1. This is an excellent post Jenn with great/easy steps. The steps in Campaign Setup are really useful (and quite important) to consider for any campaign. Definitely going to share this on our profiles. Instagram tip: I just learned you can showcase instagram photos on your responsive website using this tool: this might help web visitors learn about your campaign and get involved.

  2. This is wonderful Jenn! Great information! I must admit I’ve hesitated implementing a contest on instagram as I simply was unsure of what the legal obligations were on my part. You have done a great job at laying it out for us. Thank you so much!

    1. I’m so glad you found this helpful, Sara! And I hope you’ll feel more confident running a contest now.

  3. Hi, Jenn! Thanks for this. I didn’t know before that the contest participants need to put a disclosure on their posts as well. Also, this is an excellent step-by-step guide and a checklist when we’re ready to execute an Instagram contest. Really helpful!

    1. Thank you Mariel! I’m so glad you found this helpful for when you’re ready to run a contest 🙂

  4. Thanks for the thoughtful advises:) Contests are so powerful, these past couple months i’ve been witnessing my friends’ parents flower business falling apart because their competitors were active on Instagram with their giveaways and ads and stuff… It was a good idea to use to steal – well, copy – their followers. Many interested in flowers people followed new account and started participating in their contest, so now things are going pretty well. Competitiveness on Instagram is record-high as everybody fight for the users attention, so don’t miss an opportunity to tilt the game a little bit to your side.

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