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How to hold a contest in the Instagram

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Business accounts on Instagram regularly hold various contests. This is the way to increase the number of your followers and to stimulate the activities of your audience.

However, it’s not that easy to hold a contest on Instagram. If you do it wrong – your followers will be disappointed. Inaccurate rules and blurred photos will lower the response.

Let me tell you about the three most popular tools and comment on each of them. These are: Giveaway, Best in Hashtag and Gift for Action.

How Instagram reacts to contests

Instagram published its rules on contests. Social network allows using any promotional tools, but at the same time, it highlights that the organizers are solely responsible for all the contests and their results.

You are more than welcome to hold any contests, but you must follow the social network rules.


What is it about? The organizer will give prizes and presents for subscription and photo reposting.

Who is the user? Small companies aiming at increasing the number of their followers.

How to do it?

  1. The main object of this contest is a photo. As a rule, this photo will show the prize or will display something like: ‘Repost this photo and win the prize!’. Description to such photo will give the rules of the contest, for instance:

  2. We are doing Giveaway – take your chance to win wonderful prizes. Subscribe and publish this photo on your Instagram with a hashtag #hashtag. Reposts till March 01, 2017. In a week after that, we will randomly choose the winner among all the participants and will present the prize.

  3. As a rule, prizes are the things that one would love to buy but is constantly postponing this purchase: Fuji instant-camera, leather accessories, photobooks, chargers or IPhone cases.

  4. Hashtag for the contest must be unique – this is the criteria for choosing the winner.

  5. On the last day of the contest all the accounts with the corresponding hashtag are uploaded in an Excel file and each such account gets its own index number. The winner is picked randomly (via , for example).

  6. As soon as the winner is chosen – he/she should be contacted via personal message on Instagram. If you cannot send him/her personal message – it means, that the participant has not observed all the contest rules and has not subscribed to the account of the organizers. Should it be the case – you need to pick a different winner.

  7. As soon as the contest is over – you need to publish its results: photo of the prize and some congratulations.


This is a good example. The photo shows everything you need to know: the date, the hashtag and the prize.

This is a bad example: the prizes are ordinary – your subscribers are not likely to repost this in order to win a roll of duct tape.

This is a really bad example: too many prizes, you can’t really figure out what you may get. Moreover, the photo is blurry.

Bottom line: Giveaway is a cloying contest and many users take it as spam.

You may use is it a couple of times just to attract your first subscribers. But you need to keep in mind that those users initially subscribe to the account cause they want to win the prize, not because they are interested in your brand or would like to become your customers. It might be not that easy to sell any services and products to them.

Best in Hashtag

What is it about? The subscribers of the account post photos with a brand hashtag and then the account publishes these photos on its feed.

Who is the user? Large accounts with thousands of subscribers aiming at expanding their audience and ready to invest on a long-term basis in the advertising by means of their subscribers.

How to do it?

  1. Give all the conditions in your profile: for instance, once a week we choose the best photo with the hashtag and post it on our feed indicating its author. The author of such photo will get a small prize from us.

  2. It’s a good idea to give some corporate or branded things as prizes: stickers, keychains, t-shirts with your logo.

  3. Choose the best photos with your hashtag, but don’t forget to ask the author’s permission for publishing them. Onlypult allows you to choose several photos and to save them for later publication.


A surfing school asked its followers to post their photos with a corresponding hashtag. Once a week the school publishes the best photos on their Instagram feed and gives discounts on trainings or surfing boards rent fees.

Bottom line: If you are promoting art, music or active sports this type of contest is a great thing to do. Cool action shots are a must-have for Best in Hashtag contest.

Gift for Action

What is it about? Your followers are supposed to act in some defined way: to make a rhyme and to post it on comments, to take a photo of a specific object, to tag a friend. For these actions your subscribers are getting small gifts or, alternatively, you can give one bigger gift.

Who is the user? Brands and companies with thousands of subscribers aiming at promoting their followers’ engagement.

How to do it?

  1. Post a photo with all the contest rules. Make those rules simple:

  2. Tag your best friend.

  3. Tell us how you met your soulmate.

  4. Tell us what you got for your b-day!

  5. It’s an excellent idea to connect the nature of the gift to the rules. For instance, if the gift is the tickets to the show – ask your followers to tell you about their impressions on the last show they saw.

  6. It is also a good idea to give small gifts just for the participation in a contest, something like a discount for the next purchase. To get the discount all the follower has to do is to show his/her smartphone with the contest at the cashier’s desk at the store or to put his/her nickname on the comments to the online purchase.

  7. Coffee shops and restaurants will often give free dessert for the post with their geotag and hashtag. A little bit of math here: a sweet doughnut costs you $0.2 and you, as a brand or company, are buying your subscribers for $0.2 per one.

You may also give larger gifts to the participants of the contest: various stuff, tickets to the concert, dinner certificates. The principle of this contest is similar to the Giveaway contest, but here the participant doesn’t need to repost your photo.


This is an example of a sweetshop giving tickets to its subscribers. All you need to get the tickets is to make a rhyme and put it on comments to the post.

Bottom line: Gift for Action is one of the best contest on Instagram. The subscribers will not spam their friends with any posts and they will get a guaranteed prize. If you do this contest on a regular basis – you’ll get not just an Instagram audience, but a community! But sure enough, this kind of promotion needs money to buy gifts.