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7 Incredible Instagram Contest Ideas to Grow Brand Awareness

7 Instagram Contest Ideas to Grow Brand Awareness

Instagram accounts that hold contests can achieve up to 70% faster follower growth than accounts that don’t hold contests.

If you want a popular Instagram account, coming up with and executing some Instagram contest ideas is a great start.

In this post, we’ll explore how you can use Instagram contests to raise brand awareness for your business.

We’ll also dive into some of the best practices to keep in mind when running your contests.

By the end, you’ll know how to run a successful Instagram contest that will bring your business the attention it deserves.

Why Instagram Contests Are a Good Idea

There are other ways to get more Instagram followers, of course, but few other methods can increase your follower numbers so quickly, and with such minimal effort.

Not only that: Instagram contests can also help you achieve more engagement.

Posts that are related to Instagram contests tend to earn roughly 64x more comments and 3.5x more likes when compared to ‘normal’ content.

instagram contest ideas - driving more engagement

On top of that, 91% of the posts that have achieved 1,000+ comments are contests.

Instagram content ideas - posts with most comments are contests

All of these stats show that running Instagram contests is one of the best ways to improve brand awareness.

If you’re worried about being stuck in a cycle of constantly churning out contests, all in the name of boosting brand awareness, don’t worry; you don’t need to continuously run contests to reap the benefits that good Instagram contest ideas can offer.

That’s because you’ll notice a trickle-down effect on the rest of your normal content as a result of running contests. People will feel a greater affinity toward your brand due to the goodwill you’ve generated with your contests.

As a result, they’ll be more likely to share and engage with your normal content.

Plus, because contests generate more followers, there will naturally be more people exposed to your content. This increases the likelihood that share and engagement levels will be higher than ‘pre-contest levels.

Best Practices for Running Contests on Instagram

Before you run your first contest, you need to be aware of some important best practices. Failure to follow some of these best practices could mean that you’re going against the rules of Instagram.

It could also lead to your contest producing lackluster results, which can amount to a lot of wasted effort.

What are these best practices?

The first is to make sure that you write a clear and detailed description for your contest.

When writing the description for your contest, be sure to cover:

  • What the rules are
  • What people need to do to be eligible
  • Any restrictions on who can enter
  • The prize
  • The deadline
  • When you will announce the winner

Doing things this way makes it easy for you to stay on the right side of the promotion guidelines provided by Instagram.

Instagram contest ideas - promotion guidelines

It is important that you don’t stray from the guidelines, as doing so could put your account at risk.

Here’s a great example of a contest description.

instagram contest ideas - description example (meraki notebook)

They’ve done a good job of making this detailed, so it’s difficult to fit into one image.

Here’s the first part, which helps establish a reason for the competition while also describing what’s on offer.

instagram contest ideas - continuation of description

This second part does a good job of letting people know what they need to do to be eligible to win.

instagram contest ideas - gain an extra entry example

The next bit tells people how they can gain an extra entry. The terms of the contest are clearly shown, while also indicating how the winners of the contest will be announced.

instagram contest idea - terms of the contest

By studying how others are writing their contest descriptions, you’ll learn a lot about what separates a bad description from a good one.

You also need to ensure you’re giving away relevant prizes that your target audience will feel compelled to have.

If you focus on giving away prizes that are relevant to your target audience, your contest will generate better results.

If the products you’re giving away aren’t specific to your target audience, you run the risk of attracting followers that don’t care about your business or the products or services it provides.

In the long term, this arguably does more harm than good.

Such individuals may unfollow your account after a contest, or simply not engage with your profile in the future.

By picking the right prizes, you can reliably attract the right kinds of followers and generate brand awareness among the best demographic for your business.

All of which helps increase the odds of you earning a return-on-investment from your efforts.

As you might have guessed, giving away items of high value tends to produce higher levels of engagement.

The chart below shows that prizes worth $1,000 or more generally achieve 5.8 engagements per 100 followers.

Instagram contest ideas - valuable prizes get more engagement

This figure is quite high when compared to the 1.7 engagements that brands enjoy when they give away prizes worth $99 or less.

If you want to give away a high-value prize, but you don’t have the funds to invest in one, consider arranging a partnership deal with another brand. Provided that you have a large enough follower count, there will be brands that are willing to provide a prize for your contest in exchange for some promotion.

The way you promote the brand that provides the prize should be low-key. In the description of the contest, simply mention that the contest is sponsored by a particular company.

This Instagram post shows how you can pull this off.

instagram contest ideas - sponsored contests

You also need to put some thought into how you’re going to announce the contest.

It’s a good idea to use a custom image within the post that announces the contest.

Here’s an example of how you can do that.

instagram contest ideas - custom image for giveaway posts

As shown above, there’s also the option of adding the terms of the competition to the image, too.

With all of that out of the way, let’s check out some of the contest ideas you can use.

Instagram Contest Idea #1: Tag to Win

The tag-to-win contest idea is nice and straightforward.

All you’re doing is asking people to tag a friend in the comments section so that they can enter the contest, as well, and become eligible to win the prize.

This contest format does a great job of improving your profile’s organic reach.

That’s because once people are tagged by someone, they’ll likely receive a notification.

These people will then check out your profile and potentially become a follower.

They may also tag others. This will create a viral feedback loop, bringing more people into the competition.

To increase the impact of this feedback loop, you can also ask people to follow your account in addition to tagging someone.

Here is an example of a brand that uses this strategy.

instagram contest idea - to enter, tag a friend

If you want to be brave, you can ask people to tag two people. This, again, increases the potential reach of your contest.

The contest below shows how this can be done.

instagram contest ideas - tag two people

Here’s another example.

instagram contest idea - example 2 of tagging 2 friends

Once the competition is over, pick someone at random from the comments section. You can use an automated system to do this so that the contest remains objective.

If one of the entry conditions is to follow your profile, cross-reference the winner’s account with your follower list to make sure that everything is in order.

An alternative take on this format, the ‘nominate a friend to win’ contest, can work equally well.

Instead of asking people to randomly tag someone, you can instead suggest that they tag someone they believe deserves to win.

With this kind of format, the winner of the contest will be the person who has been tagged, and not the person who left the initial comment.

Instagram Contest Idea # 2: Like to Win

With this Instagram contest, you ask people to like your content if they want to enter the contest and have a chance of winning.

You can even use the phrase ‘double-tap to win’ since, on the Instagram app, double-tapping a photo automatically likes it.

There’s also the option of asking people to like your brand on Facebook, making it easy to increase the visibility and, therefore, the impact of your contest.

If you want to boost your follower count, mention that people also need to follow your profile if they want to be eligible to win.

Here’s an example of how that can be done.

instagram contest ideas - example of "like to win"

This profile has used the combination of asking people to follow and like, thereby increasing the potential engagement this contest can produce.

Instagram Contest Idea #3: Selfie Contest

Instagram is arguably the home of selfies, so this kind of contest is a great match for the platform.

It’s a type of contest that works particularly well with products.

With a selfie contest, you ask people to post a picture of themselves while they’re using your product, or with the product somewhere in the background.

This contest format is especially useful for a business because it helps show potential customers how a product can be used. It’s an excellent form of user-generated content.

When writing the description for a selfie contest, create a unique hashtag and then ask people to use this hashtag whenever they post their photos.

You can find the pictures people have uploaded for this contest by searching for the hashtag on Instagram.

At the end of the contest, pick the picture that you think is best.

Make sure that, when you create the rules for a selfie contest, you add that you might use the content at a later date.

User-generated content can provide an excellent source of social proof. Long after the contest is over, you can repost the content that the contest generated.

Here’s an example of how you can do a selfie contest.

instagram contest idea - selfie contest

Similar to the ‘like-to-win’ example from earlier, you can combine the format of the selfie contest with the other contest formats we’ve already covered.

You could mention that people need to like the post that announces the contest as well as posting a selfie.

Instagram Contest Idea #4: Photo Contest

The photo contest is closely related to the selfie contest we just covered.

The difference, however, is that you’re not asking people to take a selfie. Instead, they can take any type of photo they wish.

Like before, you ask people to submit photos using a relevant hashtag that you create.

You then search Instagram using this hashtag so that you can find a winning photo.

With this kind of contest, you don’t always have to offer a physical prize for the winner.

You can just let people know that the prize is that you’ll feature their content on your profile.

Here’s an example of a photo contest of which relates to a Boston News channel.

instagram contest idea - photo contest

Here’s another one from the Empire State Building Instagram account.

instagram contest ideas - example 2 of a photo contest

It may be that you have a product or niche that is perfectly suited to photo contests. GoPro is an example of such a product.

instagram contest ideas - example 3 of photo contest idea

If so, you should place a special focus on running photo contests.

That’s because this format will be especially easy to pull off while also providing you with an abundance of user-generated content that you can feature on your Instagram account.

Instagram Contest Idea # 5: Voting Contest

A voting contest revolves around the following steps:

  1. You ask people to upload a piece of content alongside a designated hashtag. You also ask people to tag your profile in the description.
  2. Your followers then search Instagram using this hashtag and vote for the one that they think is best. The easiest way to collate votes is to ask people to like the photo that they think should be the winner.
  3. The person with the most likes is deemed the winner of the contest.

Here’s an example.

instagram contest idea - voting contest example

This contest format is great at generating engagement because you’re asking people to take a lot of social actions. Plus, the people who enter the contest will promote their own entries through their social channels.

However, you could argue that such a format is potentially asking too much from people.

Because of this, you may want to use this contest format only when you have a highly-engaged audience that cares about your profile and its content.

With that being said, another way you can run this contest is by having people submit photos first, and then only you find them using the assigned hashtag.

Based on what you find, you pick 3-5 finalist images and host them on your own profile.

You then ask your followers to like the one that they think is best, and the photo with the most likes wins.

This approach can help you achieve great results with a voting contest without asking too much of your followers.

Here’s an example of a profile that is doing something similar, but instead asking people to submit the photos to the host’s account directly.

instagram contest idea - voting contest example 2

Here’s a bit more context.

instagram contest ideas - voting contest example rules

Here’s an example of how someone might post their own content in the hopes of obtaining a vote.

instagram contest ideas - voting contest, example 3

When running this kind of competition, you can also ask people to post their contest content to Facebook, as well.

Then you can count the likes that people have gathered on that platform and combine them with what they’ve achieved on Instagram.

Doing things this way can help expand the reach of your contest, improving your ability to generate brand awareness.

Instagram Contest Idea # 6: Caption Contest

A caption contest is a contest in which you ask people to caption a photo that you’ve uploaded.

From that point, you can either:

  1. Pick the best caption using your own judgment, or
  2. Tell others to like the best caption.

The caption with the most likes is the winner.

While the second option can be a good way to engage your audience, the first option can help prevent people from artificially inflating their likes.

Here’s an example of a caption contest:

instagram contest ideas - example caption contest

You may want to edit the image you use to announce the contest so that it highlights the fact that you’re in need of a caption.

instagram contest ideas - caption context example 2

The speech bubbles in the above post are a good example of how this can be done.

Instagram Contest Idea # 7: Challenge Contest

If you’re in a position where you need to put together a contest in a short amount of time, a challenge contest can work wonders.

With this contest format, you just need to come up with a simple challenge for people to meet, and the person who solves the challenge wins.

The challenge doesn’t need to be complex. In fact, simpler contests generally draw more social engagement and participation.

The post below shows how this can be done.

Instagram contest ideas - challenge contest

All that’s being asked of in this contest is that people guess which number the account owner is thinking of.

It’s simple and fun. The spontaneous feel helps to increase the authenticity of the profile, too, which helps boost long-term engagement.

Here’s another example, this time using a ‘guess the marbles’ challenge.

instagram contest ideas - challenge context example 2

This contest format is simple and low-effort, making it a good choice for anyone who is new to running contests on Instagram.


You should now understand how to use Instagram contests to grow brand awareness.

As soon as you run your first contest, you’ll find that the whole process is a lot of fun. It’s also probably much easier than you expected.

Decide on a contest theme, create the rules, and establish a dedicated hashtag. Increase user engagement by cross-posting the contest on Facebook.

If you’re feeling nervous about setting up your first Instagram contest, get in touch and we can help you strategize (and assist you with your other digital marketing efforts).

If you can encourage people to invite their friends to participate in the contest, do so. The more people who see your contest and content, the better.

Do you have any tips related to running Instagram contests?

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