How to run Instagram giveaways [the only guide you’ll need]

By Marie Fincher read
26 Aug, 2023
How to run Instagram giveaways [the only guide you'll need]

Instagram is a crowded place. And gaining traction for your business can be more than just a struggle – it can be failing.

Dumping your Instagram account is not the answer. Finding better ways to attract and keep followers is.

One of those ways would be to run giveaways (because everyone loves free stuff, right?). If it is done well, an Instagram giveaway can substantially increase likes, shares, and follows and put your brand afloat in a sea of content.

How Instagram Giveaways Work

Really, you are running a contest, because you are going to pick one or more winners (some like to have multiple winners because people will be more motivated to “enter”).

If you decide to do this, you must first think a bit about your target audience and what they will respond to, both in the task(s) you will ask them to complete and the prize that will be worthwhile.

Typical and most common “asks” of people include the following:

  • A “like” = an entry. This is simple – just ask people to follow you and like a post.
  • “Tag” someone – ask people to leave a comment and then tag a friend in the post
  • Post a Picture – ask your followers to post a picture of themselves using or wearing your product, adding a hashtag that is contest-specific.
  • Share the Post – Again, a really simple “ask” – they have to share it with your contest hashtag.

You can also combine any of the above. But if you decide to ask followers to do a few things, make sure that the prize is worthwhile enough for them to take more than one step to enter.

UpWork, a platform for freelancers and potential clients to find their matches (and work, of course) wanted to promote its brand through the success stories of freelancers who find work through them. It sponsored a contest that required freelancers to post their success stories, encouraging photos/videos to accompany them.

This was not a simple “ask.” But the $1,000 prize was certainly a motivator. And UpWork got lots of success stories that it could use in the future, perhaps by giving the contributor a small incentive for permission. The other thing you can do here is to put in your “rules” the fact that all submissions become your property to use as you wish. Then, you have a pool of stories you can use periodically.


Doing It Right

Before you jump in by using one or more of the common tactics above, take a step back and go through a decision-making process that will get you on-target. This guide will take you through that process so that when you launch your giveaway, you have the best chance for success.

Step-By-Step Guide

1. Know your goal

What is it you want to accomplish through your Instagram giveaway? Most want to grow their following so as to spread brand awareness and achieve more conversions (i.e., purchases). But you may have more specific goals in mind for each contest you run:

  • Perhaps you are looking to just increase your following. Here is a typical giveaway from Drinkwel, a company that produced vitamin-infused drinks for people who tend to party and drink. Following Drinkwel on Instagram was the only entry requirement.
  • You may be launching a new product or service, and you want exposure and excitement about it.
  • You may want to add to your email list. If the giveaway is valuable, you can make subscribing the entry requirement.
  • You may want more user-generated content – a photo becomes the entry ticket.

Whatever your goal, the way to it is to first get more people to your account page, and a contest or basic giveaway will do that.

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2. Review the Instagram Giveaway Rules

While it is rather easy to run a contest giveaway on Instagram, there are still rules to follow. Here are a couple of the most important ones:

  • You must be in compliance with any federal, state, or local laws that apply to you.
  • You must include your contest rules and how people become eligible to participate
  • You must include an Instagram Giveaway Disclaimer. It goes like this: “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.

Beyond this, your best bet is to visit the Instagram Help Center and read all of the detailed rules for contests/giveaways.

Planning Your Contest/Giveaway

Now that you have your goal(s) and you know the rules, you are ready to make a plan. There are a lot of details to work out, so don’t skip over these steps – that can lead to disaster.

3. Decide on the Tasks Your Participants Must Complete

There are several listed above. The tasks must be directly related to your goals (e.g. like and share, post a photo, sign up for your emails, etc.). The more complicated the “ask” is, the more valuable the prize must be. People are busy and will not take the time to participate unless there is something in it for them – something they see as valuable.

4. Decide on the “Prize” or Giveaway

Re-read the section above. If you ask anyone to do more than a click or two, be prepared to offer something of value.

Here are a couple of things to think about:

  • Your prize should be something related to your brand or business. If you give away a tablet because you just want more traffic, you’ll get that. But chances are, many will not be your target customers.
  • The more valuable the prize, the more participation you will have.
  • If you want to get some giveaway prize ideas, check out your competition or related niches, and see who is running contests, the prizes being offered, and the level of participation they are getting.
  • Don’t think that you cannot find a prize from within your storehouse. Even if you sell digital products, you can bundle up a package as a prize.

Here is a recent example from ModCloth. They are asking for a photo, have posted the rules, and given the dates of the contest. The prize is certainly worth taking the time to complete the “asks.”

5. Identify the Specific Asks

You have your options. Select from among them. Here is a bit of a tip, though. If you have decided on a more valuable prize, then you know you are going to have more complex “asks,” and that might include some form of user-generated content – most commonly a photo or video. Then, you have that piece permanently.

You can then ask participants whose visuals you especially like if you can re-gram them at a later time. Most will say yes, even if they did not win the prize. And being featured on an Instagram post may mean that they re-post or share.

Some research suggests that the more you engage your potential contestants, the more the right ones will participate (if the prize is right, that is.)

Epic Travel has a healthy budget for giveaways. And its prizes are pretty amazing – free trips. Its overriding goal is to get more exposure, so it’s “asks” are not that tough. And it teams up with other brands that can also promote the contest. Here is an example of a trip giveaway, with lesser prizes offered to runners up.

Note that contestants can have multiple entries if they post multiple comments and tag a friend in each of them. Those friends may enter as well, and this increases Epic’s following on all of its accounts.

One of the things you want to be mindful of is having highly engaging titles or headlines, as well as the contest description content. If you struggle with this, contact the writing service Trust My Paper. They have a great group of creative copywriters who can help you out.

6. Write Up the Rules and Conditions

You may want additional conditions beyond those of Instagram. If you want your contestants to be 18 years old, then say so. Do you want to restrict the contest geographically?

And if you look at the ModCloth text above, you will see that the dates, and even times of day, for the beginning and end of their contest are clearly stated. You must be specific here. Some studies suggest that the best amount of run-time is 1 – 2 weeks. Again, the run-time may be determined by your asks. If you want user-generated content, you may want to run it a little longer.

You may also want to state when the winner will be announced so that participants can access the post and know the contest was for real. (And be certain that you feature that winner too).

7. Post Your Contest/Giveaway Announcement Several Times a Day

When Nathan Chan began his marketing campaign for Foundr Magazine, he narrowed that campaign to Instagram. He posted many times every single day, using a theme of inspirational quotes against a background of beautiful photos. While he did not run contests, he did offer giveaways of a free magazine or even a free subscription, if followers shared, tagged friends, etc. This strategy was extremely effective, growing his following to 10,000 within just a few months.

8. Choose a Hashtag for Your Campaign

Each contest/giveaway you run should have a specific main hashtag – one that is related to the campaign, product, and/or your brand. The primary hashtag is really important, so spend some time thinking this through very carefully.

Dunkin’ Donuts does a great job of this. Here’s an example of a campaign they ran around their participants’ love stories. The hashtag they used was #DDLoveContest, asking contestants to submit their love stories and photos f how that relationship or love “runs on dunkin’.” The prize was well worth it – a free trip.

n this example from @dunkindonuts, they're using the #DDLoveContest hashtag and encouraging followers to post content using that hashtag and around the theme of their love story.

9. How Will You Choose a Winner and How to Notify?

You actually have a couple of options. You and your team can manually judge the entries and pick a winner, or you can use a random generation tool. Here are some important guidelines, so that you do not cause anger or criticism:

  • If you have established criteria for the contest/giveaway, then you will have to manually judge who best met that criteria. Obviously, your choice will be somewhat subjective and based upon your own taste. If you have given very specific criteria, though, you will have an easier time justifying your pick.
  • Sometimes, there are quantitative criteria. For example, the winning entry may be based upon the number of tags a user accomplished.
  • If a giveaway is based upon simple instructions such as tag a friend or like and share, or use a specific hashtag, then no one entry can be better than the others. In these instances, you can use a random selection tool – actually, that’s fair. And you should use a tool because the selection will be completely random.

In terms of notifying your winner (and all of the other participants, too). All entrants deserve to be thanked for their participation and, as well, be provided with the name of the winner. This is just common courtesy.

Here’s how Disney does it. It commonly runs contests asking people to dress in their favorite character (usually themed) and submit a photo. This contest revolved around famous Disney villains. After the winners were selected, this is the post with the announcement.

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

When you do announce the winner, be sure to tell all who participated that there will be another contest soon.

And one final idea: Ask your winner for a picture, perhaps with the prize s/he has won.

10. Consider Using Influencers

Influencers have large followings, and, if you can corral them to promote a contest or giveaway of yours, you will reach a far wider audience. And that audience will come to trust a contest that is backed by someone they also trust.

Carefully vet influencers who are either closely related to your niche or have the same values as you do.

Laura Koerver publishes cookbooks. Her recipes feature natural, organic ingredients. Esprit, a clothing manufacturer, also values sustainability and “gong green.” It often features companies that share its values. In this instance, Koerver was able to get a far larger audience for her brand through a “Kiss the Cook” giveaway run by Instagram. And Instagram increased its following because that was one of the entry requirements.

Marketers who use influencer strategies do believe that their use of them is effective. In fact, 90% of them say so.

11. Launch Your Campaign

You may want to consider announcing your contest on the photo, graphic, etc. you are using on your post. Some announce with a video. Whatever you do, you do not want viewers to dismiss the post as just another photo, as they are scrolling through their feeds.

Be sure to choose an image that is somehow related to the giveaway. The terms and conditions (and disclaimers) should appear in your caption.

Determine how often to post. This decision should be based upon the Instagram analytics that you have already run that have shown you the best times of day and days of the week to post. If you have not ever used Instagram Analytics, you must begin right now.

Also, be sure to cross-promote your giveaway to your Instagram Stories, and on any other social media platforms on which you have a presence.

Do not expect your first contest to be a runaway hit. It takes time for people to realize that you have begun to run these, but if you do so regularly, they will begin to come and look for them.

12. Analyze Your Results

You have to measure the amount of participation, if the giveaway resulted in more followers, clicks to your website, subscriptions to your email, etc. – whatever your campaign objectives were. Analyzing the results will give you the following information:

  • Were the prizes valuable enough? Which types of prizes gained the most participation?
  • Are there certain times of the year that bring greater participation?
  • Are some ways of promoting a giveaway more effective than others?
  • Which “asks” got more play than others?

After The Wrap-Up

Once your contest is over, it will be a good idea to post “Contest Over” across the photo or graphics. In this way, no one will be misled if they come across it.

Contests and giveaways are still a strong motivator in 2020. But for them to get the results you want, they must be carefully planned and implemented. This guide should help you do it right.