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How to increase your Instagram followers by running a contest

Use this simple and helpful guide to help you curate the perfect contest and see massive growth as a result.

instagram business

Whether you’re new to Instagram or a long-term veteran, you’re well-aware of the value of more followers. It serves as a source of social proof and improves your overall image to the general Instagram universe.

There are many ways to grow your following. You can always buy Instagram followers cheap from the start, then work on organic growth methods from there. One of the simplest and most effective strategies is to run an Instagram contest.

Who doesn’t love a good contest? It’s almost guaranteed that your Instagram followers will. The opportunity to win free things with little effort is almost too good to be true for the average social media user.

It’s also a huge benefit for your business. A study from Tailwind showed that Instagram accounts that hold contests can increase the speed of their follower growth by an average of 70 percent when compared with accounts that don’t!

When it comes time to create your own contest, you might be feeling somewhat lost as to what to do next. Use this simple and helpful guide to help you curate the perfect contest and see massive growth as a result.

The Makings of a Great Contest

instagram feed on phone
Image: Unsplash

Before identifying the best strategies for an Instagram contest, it’s important to recognize the mechanics of any good contest. Your goal is to attract hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of entries to increase your brand’s exposure. Therefore, you’ll need to make the following three things to get ROI from your contest:

  1. The entrant must follow your account.
  2. The entrant must like the original contest post. Liking re-grammed images doesn’t count.
  3. The entrant must mention at least one other Instagram user. You might increase entries if they mention more.

The most successful contests use these three criteria for their participants, but you may use variations or add to it if you feel another strategy would be more effective.

Another highly successful contest idea involves the power of user-generated content, usually in the form of a photo contest. You might ask consumers to share a photo of them using your products or performing a specific action relevant to your brand. They should use your branded hashtag and tag you in their posts. At the end of the entry period, you’ll choose a winner.

These contests are highly effective because you’re getting consumers to give a personalized endorsement of your product or brand. If their followers like the photos, they’re likely to learn what inspired the person they follow to take such a photograph, drawing them to your Instagram bio.

Finally, your Instagram contest must have a prize worth winning. Too many new businesses offer a prize that’s frankly lackluster. It holds little value and doesn’t pique the followers’ interest. For example, a handful of swag items is not nearly as interesting as getting an expensive product for free.

You don’t have to $1000 on your prize, but don’t make it a $10 contest. Cheap prizes give consumers the impression that you can’t afford to give away more. It won’t entice them to participate, and it may give the impression that your brand is suffering.

But do hold contest often. According to the Tailwind study, 10 contests featuring a prize $100 in value are far more effective than holding one contest with a $1,000 prize if you’re after more followers.

Ideas for Follower-Boosting Contests

instagram shopping ig shopping
Image: Digital Trends

If your goal is to boost followers, there are a few types of contests that will work particularly well for you. Here are some tried and true contest ideas that the pros always use.

Use Your Target Audience Wisely

If your brand is very niche-specific, you can make huge headway by targeting a narrow audience. Those who are part of such a specific group tend to be very loyal to that group, and if you can genuinely relate with them, your participation will be off the charts.

A great example comes from @southbyseacollege. This online store sells custom-made clothing to sororities. They recently ran a contest that gained 54,000 comments, increasing their exposure by four times!

Marketing manager, Lindsey Clawson, told Tailwind: “We gave away about 120 of those pullovers to one sorority chapter. Sororities had to enter by tagging their sorority sisters in the comments for entries. It’s a very exclusive product and is seasonal so it was a huge hit. Probably got us about 1000 new followers.”

Partner with Other Instagrammers

Instagrammers who team up on contests can double their exposure, especially if they have a similar audience. While you don’t want to team up with a direct competitor, you can team up with complementary accounts that add value to your audience but who don’t give the same message.

For example, Tiffany Jenkins of Juggling the Jenkins and Meredith Masonry of That’s Inappropriate often team up for product endorsements and contests. Jenkins’ audience is mostly moms with a unique niche for those overcoming an addiction. Masonry’s audience is mostly moms, making the two accounts complementary, but not strictly competitive.

When Masonry and Jenkins team up to run giveaways, the number of comments and likes they receive is off the charts. They both have massive followings, but you can do the same with an Instagrammer who has an audience that’s a similar size to your own.

Hold Interactive Contests

Getting higher engagement rates is an excellent way to boost followers, so create contests that require consumer interaction. These get people more interested in your brand and what you sell, increasing the quality of responses and the ROI.

One idea for an interactive contest is asking consumers to caption a photo you’ve uploaded. It might be a funny image found on the internet or a photo taken at your office. You can then pick a winner using your own best judgement or ask followers to like the caption they like best. Just beware of individuals inflating their own comments and skewing the effectiveness of your contest.

Another idea is to post ask followers to vote on a favorite piece of user-generated content. You start by asking followers to upload a photo with your branded hashtag and Instagram handle. Then, you ask followers to search Instagram using the hashtag and vote for the photo they like best. The winner is the one with the most likes, but you’ll also feel like a winner because your following can blow up as a result of this contest.

Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Chris has been blogging since the early days of the internet. He primarily focuses on topics related to tech, business, marketing, and pretty much anything else that revolves around tech. When he's not writing, you can find him noodling around on a guitar or cooking up a mean storm for friends and family.

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