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How to Host an Instagram Photo Contest (11 Proven Tips)

Last Updated on September 11, 2020 by Stacey Corrin

Do you want to run an Instagram photo contest? The easiest way to run a photo contest on Instagram is with a giveaway tool like RafflePress that accepts image submissions. That way, you can collect user-generated content you can use to improve your trust and credibility.

Check out our top tips for running a photo contest for your Instagram account in this step-by-step guide.

Before Creating Your Instagram Photo Contest

Before you get started, you need to make sure you understand the rules for running photo contests on Instagram. As a marketer, you don’t want to put in all that time and effort to learn your giveaway violates Instagram’s promotion guidelines and is removed from your Instagram feed.

One of the first things you need to ensure is that you include rules, terms and conditions, and eligibility requirements for entering your contest. You also need to clearly state that your giveaway isn’t sponsored by or associated with Instagram.

Minor violations don’t get flagged that often. But to make sure your Instagram photo contest is a success, you’ll want to keep those rules in mind.

11 Tips for Hosting an Instagram Photo Contest

Now that you know all about the rules, let’s look at our top tips for running a successful photo contest on Instagram.

1. Create Branded Hashtags

The best Instagram photo contests make use of branded hashtags. A branded hashtag is a specific hashtag that represents your brand, for example, #yourbrandcontest.

Branded hashtags help you keep track of who’s entering and the conversations about your giveaway. Yet when you use general giveaway hashtags like #contest and #giveaway, they’re hard to track. That’s because there are thousands of Instagram accounts and influencers using that same hashtag.

Use a branded hashtag in your Instagram photo contest

So using a hashtag that’s unique to your brand makes it easier to pick conversations about your company out from the noise on social media.

That said, you should still use generic hashtags in your post captions and Instagram stories. They’ll make it easier for people to find your promotion when they search. But it’s a good idea to separate your branded hashtag from the others by adding a few line breaks to make it clearer for users.

Related: How to Run a Hashtag Contest (Step-by-Step)

2. Use Eye-Catching Graphics

Instagram is a highly visual platform, so you need to make sure your post stands out and attracts the attention it deserves from your target audience. If it looks like you’ve put no effort into your post, people won’t click to enter.

Create eye-catching graphics for your Instagram photo contest

Come up with a design that communicates your message. Graphic design tools like Canva have tons of templates you can use to create a professional image. Try to include a photo of your prize and brief instructions for entering, like tag a friend.

3. Offer a Relevant Prize

When running your photo contest on Instagram, you need to include a grand prize relevant to your brand and audience. Many companies mistake giving away a prize that has nothing to do with their brand because they believe it’ll get more entries.

Sure, offering amazon cards will probably net tons of entries. But those entrants will likely be low quality and won’t contribute to your contest’s end goal.

Generic and low-cost prizes will attract Instagram followers seeking freebies. Those people won’t be interested in your brand or products and want to get something for free.

Choose a relevant prize for your Instagram photo contest

Instead of offering common prizes, choose giveaway prize ideas relevant to your brand and industry. These could be free products or gift cards for your store. Those types of prizes raise brand awareness and give participants a chance to try your products or services.

4. Make it Easy to Enter

Every type of Instagram contest should be easy for users to enter. Having tons of different ways to participate makes things confusing and harder for you to track.

The most obvious way to enter a photo contest on Instagram is to ask people to send in a photo or selfie in return for an entry. Make sure you state this clearly in your post, along with instructions for where people should send their photos.

Make it easy to enter your photo contest on Instagram

You should also add the contest rules to your Instagram post’s caption and have a page on your website with all the information. This will cut down on the number of questions you get and keep your contest compliant.

5. Collect UGC for Entries

As mentioned, the most common way to enter a photo competition on Instagram is to submit a photo. This is called user-generated content (UGC), and it’s a great way to collect visual content related to your brand that you can use in your marketing messages on other social networks as social proof.

Collect user generated content

Most companies ask users to tag them in a photo to enter. But managing all those tagged photos can get confusing. To make things simpler and easier to track, use giveaway software to help you collect photo contest entries. Then all contestants will need to do is visit your contest widget, submit a photo, and they’re done!

We’ll go into using giveaway software to run your giveaway later in this article.

6. Offer Additional Ways to Enter

While having too many ways to enter your photo competition on Instagram can be confusing, it’s worth having extra ways to enter for people who can’t submit a photo. That way, you can make your giveaway accessible to everyone who wants to take part.

Ask people to share your Instagram photo contest

Asking people to share your giveaway is a great way to compliment submitting a photo. Instead of only gathering UGC, you’ll get to increase the reach of your competition and secure more entries.

What’s more, people who have entered with a photo submission can earn an extra entry by referring a friend.

7. Don’t Run Your Contest for Too Long

Figuring out how long to run your Instagram contest is pretty tricky. While most contests on Instagram last for around a week, you want to give people a reasonable time frame to discover your giveaway, snap the perfect photo, and enter. 

That said, you don’t want to run it for too long, either. A photo contest that goes on for longer than 30 days, for example, loses its’ sense of urgency. People will leave entering to the last minute, or even forget to enter altogether. 

Aim for somewhere in the middle, like 2 weeks, and make sure the start and end times are visible in your contest announcement post.

8. Let People Vote for Winners

There are many ways to pick a winner for your photo contest. Often people choose to draw a winner randomly. But with a bit of extra work, you can turn choosing a winner into an opportunity to drive more engagement for your giveaway.

Let people vote for a winner of your contest

If you let people vote for the winner, it helps your photo content spread organically. That’s because people will start sharing it with their friends to get people to vote for them.

9. Promote Your Instagram Photo Contest in Your Profile

The majority of users won’t scroll through your older posts to find your latest Instagram contest. If you’re posting more than one photo a day, your giveaway post will get buried quickly.

To avoid that, add a sentence or two about your photo contest in your Instagram bio. You can also add a link to your giveaway landing page so people can enter and find more information.

Adding your photo contest to your Instagram bio is good practice for brands that run several contests throughout the year. It makes it easier for users to find your current giveaway and prevents users from scrolling through loads of past content.

10. Make Your Giveaway Fun

It’s tempting to run a photo contest on Instagram just for the likes and follows. But if your giveaway doesn’t have a good plan, you won’t see the results you want. 

Part of that plan is to ensure taking part is fun for everyone. The best contests have fun and innovative themes.

A great example of that in action is this photo contest from the Asian Development Bank.

ADB instagram photo contest

To enter, people had to take a photo depicting people’s lives in the Greater Mekong Subregion. The giveaway aims to demonstrate how a focus on increased regional cooperation and integration can improve people’s lives.

Try to think creatively about your giveaway idea. ADB’s photo contest works because it gets the local community involved and highlights important issues.

11. Use the Right Giveaway Tools

Managing your photo contest on Instagram is difficult because there aren’t any built-in features for running giveaways. You’ll have to do everything manually, including tracking entries, finding votes, and keeping an eye on conversations.

That is unless you use a giveaway tool to make your life easier. There are several contesting tools available, but how do you choose the right one?

This comparison of the best giveaway tools, Rafflecopter vs. Gleam vs. RafflePress, is an excellent place to start.

After comparing the pros and cons of the available contest apps, it’s easy to see why RafflePress is the best choice for running a photo contest on Instagram.

Instead of having to track every aspect of your giveaway manually, RafflePress makes the process super easy. Everything from creating your contest and designing its look to generating rules and creating a giveaway landing page is taken care of with a few clicks.

All you’ll have to do after is create a post on Instagram to announce your giveaway.

How to Run an Instagram Photo Contest with RafflePress

Now that you’ve gathered the best tips for hosting a photo contest for Instagram, let’s look at how to create one using RafflePresss on your WordPress website.

Follow the steps below, and you’ll get up and running in no time!

Step 1: Install and Activate RafflePress

Your first step is to get your copy of the RafflePress WordPress plugin and upload it to your website. 

Get Started with RafflePress Today

Then, follow these instructions for installing a WordPress plugin if you need a little help. 

When you’ve installed and activated RafflePress, hover over the RafflePress icon in your WordPress dashboard and click Add New to create a new contest.

create a new contest

Step 2: Choose the Instagram Giveaway Template

After clicking Add New, you’ll see the giveaway template page. Here, you can give your contest a name and choose a template. RafflePress’s giveaway templates automatically add entry options to your contest related to your goal. 

grow your instagram following

The best place to start when creating a contest for Instagram is to choose the Grow Your Instagram Following Template. This will add the options for people to visit you on Instagram and view a post or video to enter for maximum engagement.

So hover over the Instagram template and click the Use This Template button.

choose the grow your instagram following template

After you see the RafflePress giveaway builder, this is where you can enter your contest details.

giveaway builder

Step 3: Enter Your Prize Details

Now you enter the prize details for your photo contest. Start by giving your contest a title by clicking the pencil icon under the Giveaway Prize Details heading. 

Enter your prize details

This opens the editor on the right-hand side of your screen. Clicking in any box in this section lets you change the title and description.

You can also enter the start and end date for your photo contest and your preferred time zone on the left-hand side.

Enter your contest start and end times

To add an image to your content, click the Select Image button in the contest builder. This lets you upload an image from your computer.

Choose an image for your Instagram photo contest

When you’re happy with your prize details, click the Done Editing button.

Step 4: Design Your Contest Widget

You can edit the design of your photo contest by clicking the Design tab on the left. Here you can change your widget’s layout, font styles, and button colors. 

Design your Instagram photo contest

Adding a background image for your contest’s landing page is just as easy too. Click the Select Image button under the Page Background heading and upload your chosen image.

Choose a background image for your photo contest

Remember to click the Save button periodically to preserve your settings.

Step 5: Add Easy Ways to Enter

The next step is to add ways for people to enter your contest. Since you’re using the Instagram giveaway template, there are already 2 entry methods added to your widget. 

Instagram entry actions

If you want to remove those actions, hover your mouse over the action on your widget and click the trash can icon.

Remove an entry action

To add an easy way for users to upload a photo, click the Actions tab on the left of your screen. Then scroll down to the Get More Traffic section and click the plus (+) icon next to the Submit an Image action.

Submit an image photo contest action

When you click the action in the contest builder, you can change the label title, choose how many entries the action is worth, and make the action mandatory.

Submit an image details

Below that, you can allow daily entries and enter a description of what people should do to submit their photos.

To get more people to refer your contest to their friends, add the Refer-a-Friend – Viral action to your contest widget. 

With this action, users can share your contest via

Refer a friend sharing options

You can also add a custom message to share on each platform, making it easier for people to click and refer.

Related: How to Go Viral on Instagram: 12 Tip & Tricks

Step 6: Generate Your Contest Rules

RafflePress makes it easy to create a set of rules for your photo contest. The built-in rules generator asks a series of questions related to your contest and uses that information to generate them automatically.

To set up your rules, navigate to the Settings tab, and click Giveaway Rules.

giveaway rules

Then click the + Generate Rules button. Now an overlay appears where you can answer some simple questions about your sponsor, contest eligibility, and so on.

generate rules

After entering your information, click Generate Rules. Now you’ll have a basic set of rules and terms for your photo contest.

generated contest rules

Step 7: Publish Your Contest in WordPress

There are 3 easy ways to publish your contest with RafflePress. Once you click the Publish tab at the top of the builder, you can see the options, which include:

  1. Publishing your photo contest on a post or page with the RafflePress WordPress block.
  2. Using a WordPress shortcode to embed your contest in the classic editor or within your WordPress theme or sidebar.
  3. Publishing your giveaway on a dedicated giveaway landing page to remove distractions.

The easiest way to publish your contest for Instagram is to use the Giveaway Landing Page option. Then you can direct participants to a distraction-free page to secure more entries.

So click the Giveaway Landing Page option first. Then select the “click here” link as shown below to set up your page’s permalink. This is the URL people will use to access your page.

giveaway landing page

Now enter the permalink in the box under the Page Permalink header. Then save your changes and click the View button to preview your photo contest.

landing page permalink

Here’s a preview of how our Instagram photo contest looks.

Instagram photo contest landing page

How to Post a Photo Contest on Instagram

When your contest starts, you can copy your giveaway landing page URL and post it in your Instagram bio. You can then invite users to enter your photo contest by writing an Instagram post asking users to click the link in your bio.

Just remember to include an eye-catching image and caption to motivate people to click. Then you can use these proven methods for promoting your contest.

After that, it’s simply a case of picking a giveaway winner and analyzing your results and metrics.

Remember to follow up with your new followers after the giveaway and thank them for taking part. By following up, you show that you value them and can even invite them to participate in future sweepstakes.

FAQ for Instagram Photo Contests

How do you organize photo submissions?

It’s easy to organize the photos that contestants submit with RafflePress. During your giveaway, head to RafflePress » Giveaways and click Image Entries on your current photo contest. This will show you all of the image submissions, who entered, when they entered, and how many entries they earned.

How long should you run an Instagram giveaway?

The ideal giveaway duration for Instagram giveaways is around 7 to 14 days. This allows plenty of time for users to enter and not too much time to forget about it.

There you have it!

We hope this article helped you learn how to host an Instagram photo contest. Now all you need is to get started. Then you can grow your followers, engage your existing Instagram audience, and grow your business with viral giveaways.

Get Started with RafflePress Today

You can also check out these other successful Instagram contest ideas for more inspiration.

And don’t forget to follow us on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook for more great tips to grow your business.

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