All you need to know about Instagram competitions

If you’re looking for a way to boost your reach and attract a whole slew of new – and super-engaged – followers, an Instagram competition might be a good way to go.

That said, without a little pre-planning, this thing could go either way: either netting you loads of new followers who are only there for the prize (and therefore almost useless to you in the long-run) or attracting only a couple of entries, of which one is clearly your mum. Awkward!

What you do want to do is engage your current followers and use your comp as a brand awareness exercise. And to do this effectively, you need to know the rules.

The boring bit

Insta competition rules

Yes it’s dull, but it’s your responsibility to make sure any promo you do meets the guidelines –otherwise it could get taken down. You can find the full Promotion Guidelines in the Help Centre, but to me the most important ones to watch are:

  • Be clear on the terms and eligibility requirements
  • Don’t ask people to tag themselves in photos if they do not actually appear in the image
  • Acknowledge that the promotion is no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or associated with, Instagram

This is the checklist I always use to create copy that I’m sure is covering all bases in terms of T&Cs, but also to make the ins and outs of my competitions clear to entrants

  1. Include the name of the company
  2. Include the dates the competition will run (add time zone)
  3. Include eligibility requirements (location and age restrictions etc)
  4. Guidelines on how to enter
  5. Outline how the winner will be chosen
  6. How/when the winner will be announced
  7. How will the prize be delivered, with relevant shipping info
  8. Include the line: ‘This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Instagram’.


The fun part

Now comes the time to nail the strategy. What kind of competition are you going to run and how are you going to collect entries for it? How are you going to make it appealing? Who’s entering and are you giving away an appropriate prize?


Before you get all excited and start spamming the life out of the ‘gram, are you sure your comp has legs? Are you giving away something your followers are genuinely interested in? If you aren’t giving away one of your products or access to your services, make sure it’s something aligned with your values and relevant to your brand or industry. Anything too generic might just attract people who enter lots of comps, with no interest in what you do. If you are part of a loop giveaway, check that you are all brands with similar-ish audiences – parents of young kids, or gardening enthusiasts, for example – rather than a diverse and mismatched group.


A branded hashtag is the way to go if you want to make it easy on yourself when it comes to keeping track of entries. Not only is #giveaway pretty uninspiring, at the time of writing there were 25.4m posts attached to it. Good luck on finding all your entrants in there! I mean, you do need to include #competition #giveaway #contest #win etc so that you’ll come up in a search, but asking people to use a hashtag that’s meaningful and exclusive to your contest means you can do some social listening and see who’s entering and talking about your competition. If that’s no one, you know you need to do some more work!

Make it easy to enter

Not only do you want to stick to one simple method to enter,  you also want to make it appealing to your audience and in proportion to the prize. Giving away £10 discount cards?  A simple emoji to enter would probably do. If it’s a higher value item or a substantial discount, you could ask for a follow, a like and for people to tag friends in the comments. I’m not a huge fan of asking people to tag but it’s pretty common. Or to keep people coming back you could get them to comment on the initial competition post and the next two.

Loop giveaways (these seem to be really popular with baby brands) involve a huge bundle of prizes and although it’s quite a lot of work to follow all the accounts involved and like the competition posts, the prizes usually mean people are happy to do this.

If it’s a holiday or some other uber-brilliant prize that your audience will love, then User Generated Content could be the way to go. UGC is great for your brand in the long run as it gives you a whole new content bank to draw from. People do need to be really engaged in order to make the effort in taking pics of themselves, so sometimes it’s not always the prize that wins them over, it could be the emotional draw of what you’re asking. I’m thinking of #whenibecameamother (the Mother’s Day comp from @dontbuyherflowers). People love sharing their experiences, and the outpouring of joy and heartbreak this competition elicits always makes for really lovely reading.

Instagram Competition Rules


Other top tips…

You could add even more value to your promo by creating a landing page to enter – that way you’ll gain email addresses to nurture rather than just new followers. Or offer another chance – or 5 extra chances – to win if they provide their email address as well.

Don’t let your comp go on too long. Short and sharp (ie about a week) is a good length.

Make your competition post really eye-catching. You want to be noticed so make sure this has impact and that it can be found when people are checking your feed for it (and to help you easily find your entrants). Design it with some kind of branding so that you can share it across social platforms and be consistent. As always, I like Canva for this kind of thing.

Don’t forget you could turn your competition post into an ad. That is where I can definitely help and make sure your competition gets the widest reach in a short timescale. Book in a FREE strategy call with me here to see how I can help.