Everyone and everything has an Instagram now. Even pets… yes, I follow a chinchilla named Pugs, and he has more followers than I do. Sad, but true story!

The reason we follow accounts is because we get something valuable out of what they post. I get to see ridiculously cute pictures of that little fluff ball every day. As crazy as it sounds, he has become part of my daily routine. Wake up, check instagram: “oh look how cute Pugs is!”, sit in traffic on the way to work, check instagram: “haha that quote’s hilarious”, lunch break, check instagram: “oh, there’s a sale at Arnhem Clothing this week!”… and the cycle continues…

It’s a little thing I like to call the insta-wake and insta-break syndrome.

Don’t act like you don’t have it. We all do.

You can try to fight it, or you can embrace this gloriously trendy app and use it’s addictive and shareable qualities to your business’s advantage with a little thing called a contest.

Theory Behind Instagram for Business Marketing

When done right, Instagram contests will:

  • engage your community
  • grow that community
  • build influencer relationships
  • turn followers into customers

If you already have an Instagram account for your business but aren’t enjoying any of the above four perks, I’m going to break it down for you. You are doing it wrong. If you don’t have a following yet, running contests is pointless. And if you are posting a contest the wrong way, then your following will never grow.

Too harsh? Sorry, you had to hear it. But now that you know, you can fix your strategy to start bringing in those relationships and sales. And we’ll show you exactly how.

The main thing to remember about Instagram is that gives even the most focused person ADD. What I mean is, it’s designed for quick flicks of the thumb and short attention spans. Users only spend about two seconds on each photo, unless they take the extra second to “like” it, only really stopping on the posts that really grab their attention.

So what do you do?

With Instagram getting just about 60 times more engagement than the former reigning champ, Facebook, 100 million active monthly users and more and more brands (even Fortune 500 companies) jumping on board, marketing right on Instagram is kind of a big deal…

You have two seconds to grab attention long enough for followers to read the information connecting them to your business or product. The secret is clear, direct, and engaging posts. And if your contests are clear, direct, and engaging, they will grab attention and direct it towards what’s really important… your product.

Serious Marketing Power Thanks to Instagram Contests

There are two ways you can run a contest on Instagram.

  1. Contest using your own audience
  2. Contest using an influencer’s audience

The first is good for growing using the audience you already have, and the latter is great for seriously extending your reach by turning someone else’s audience into your own. But no matter the size of your audience right now, you will need to run both kinds of contests.

Contest #1: Using your own audience

  • Decide what you are going to give the winner
      • Example: If you sell guy’s apparel, offer a t-shirt with your logo as well as a $100 gift card. If your brand isn’t in the ranks with Urban Outfitters or Quicksilver, then a free t-shirt with a not-so-well-known (yet) label won’t be enough. Really make them want what you have to offer, by really giving a lot! (Another idea: bundle products together… fill a backpack with a tshirt and other merchandise from your brand.)
  • Take a product photo
  • Write copy with the contest guidelines which should include:
  • Post image and guidelines on your account
  • Post a follow-up photo with slightly different content a couple days later: If the contest is running for a week and your original post went out on Monday, post a reminder “Don’t forget to enter for your chance to win….” on Thursday to keep people engaged and aware of the contest.
  • Choose a winner from those who respond, and post it!

Your posts should look a little something like this:

Original Post With:

  • Cool product photo
  • Informational text overlay
  • Clear contest guidelines

iZZi double tap follow up 1














Follow up Post With:

  • Different product photo
  • Repetition of the offer
  • Direction to original post

izzi double tap intro














Winner Announcement Post With:

  • Winner’s name
  • Information on how to collect prize

izzi double tap winner













Contest #2: Using an influencer’s audience

When done right, these contests build a relationship with your influencer, gives you access to their audience, and benefits your influencer’s followers too.  It’s really a win win situation.

The steps are pretty much the same for this contest, except you are partnering with another brand/company/person which will seriously boost your reach because all of their followers will be exposed to your content as well. If you don’t already have relationships with influencers you will need to:

  1. Find influencers
    • Google it up and research influencers that are related to your industry. Keep in mind that not all of them will get back to you or some will want to get paid so the more you ask, the better your chances.
    • Find their email or message them straight from their social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter, YoutTube, or even their blog if they have one. Then let them know you want to collab:
      • Example email: Hi Trin, I checked out your Instagram and love the work you are doing. Your handmade earrings are gorgeous! From one jewelry designer to another, I’d love to work with you. What would you say to some Instagram collab to benefit both of us? Talk soon, Rachel.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

      • Example direct message: Hi, I follow your work and would love to collab! How about an Instagram campaign partnership? Thanks! name@email.com
      • Example comment: From one designer to another, this blog post was super helpful! I’d love to collab, say with an Instagram contest? Let me know what you think. name@email.com

Once you’ve found someone who wants to work with you and you both agree on the guidelines of the contest, start posting!

  • Post pictures as your influencers (like guest posting) with guidelines which should include:
    • Contestants must like the photo (because their followers can see this)
    • Comment on it by tagging a friend (to spread your content to others who don’t already see it) OR posting their own photo using your designated hashtag.
    • Follow your account AS WELL AS your influencer’s (so they keep viewing your content and your influencer’s. This is what makes it a win-win)
  • Post a follow-up photo with slightly different content a couple days later : If the contest is running for a week and your original post went out on Monday, post a reminder “Don’t forget to enter for your chance to win….” on Thursday to keep people engaged and aware of the contest.
  • Choose a winner from those who respond and post it!

This kind of contest should look a little something like this:

Original Post With:

  • Influencer photo
  • Influencer info
  • Clear contest guidelines

insta contest














Follow-up Post With:

  • Influencer photo
  • Reminder of contest (in this case, in form of an interactive question. bonus points for engagement!)















Winner Announcement Post With:

  • Influencer photo
  • Personalized message from influencer
  • Winner info

contest winner













And there you have it. Two simple-to-run instagram contests designed to expand your following and engage with one of the largest social media communities out there. Just remember:

  • Find influencers to collab with
  • Offer something of serious value!
  • Post first photo to start contest (with cool photo)
  • Write all guidelines clearly in copy
    • make sure to have contestants follow, like, and tag a friend (or post a photo with your hashtag)
  • Post follow-up photos as reminders
  • Choose and post winner in your feed

Save time managing and posting your content on Hootsuite. Then once you’ve posted, track which posts get the most engagement and find out the best times for posting on Iconosquare.

Now all that’s left is to get out there and introduce yourself to Instagram the right way. The entire Instagram world is waiting!

Rachel Daley
Rachel is the resident Content Fairy at MadeFreshly, the ecommerce platform that makes your passion pay off. Click here to get her actionable tips and inspiration for entrepreneurs every week!