The skills we teach deliver real ROI.

7 Things I Learned from My Last Instagram Competition


Photo competitions are nothing new in the social media world, and as we continue to shift toward content marketing, I’m sure they’ll be around for a while. By asking followers to submit photos, you get both increased engagement and free content. It’s a win/win. Plus, if you require that the winner of the competition get the most likes/shares/retweets/etc, you’ll get a huge payoff in publicity.

Last month, I managed a photo competition for one of my clients. It was a pretty standard setup, in which I asked followers to tag my client in their post and use a special hashtag. I tweeted about the competition a few times, but the majority of the competition took place on Instagram. I didn’t post to Facebook at all.

It wasn’t my first time, but it was unique in that we decided to host the competition on Instagram … only a few weeks after we launched an Instagram. My client had an established presence on Twitter and Facebook, but as any social media manager knows, there’s not a 100 percent audience carry-over between platforms. The lack of visibility on Instagram made this photo competition unique, but I learned a few tips along the way.

Set a clearly-defined goal.

Granted, this wasn’t new to me, but it was nice to be reminded that goals matter. A lot. There is no way to create a strategy or measure success without an initial target. My client and I decided that because we had virtually no presence on Instagram, our only goal would be to increase our follower count. After the two-week competition, we went from about 55 followers to 110. A hundred followers is nothing to brag about, but for two weeks, I’ll take it. So did my client.

Post about it several times.

I was surprised just how often I had to post about the competition to get any feedback. At first, I feared this would just annoy people, but every time I posted about the competition, I got more likes than before. It wasn’t until the fourth or fifth post that anyone submitted a photo. The takeaway is to post far more often than you think is necessary. Unless your likes drop off, people aren’t getting annoyed.

Thought leaders can help spread the word.

My client is a nutritional company, and they sponsor several professional athletes, each of whom had large Instagram followings. When I emailed them about the competition, they were more than happy to help spread the word (one even offered to force her friends to share the photos). Each time an athlete posted about my client, the follower count increased.

 social media cloud

Don’t limit it to one platform.

While I couldn’t measure the effects specifically, I’m sure that posting about the contest to Twitter helped drive some traffic to my client’s Instagram page. The winner of the contest actually contacted us on Twitter to claim his prize. However, if I could redo the competition, I would also utilize Facebook, which is the largest of my client’s three audiences. To reiterate “Post about it several times”: the more times people hear about the contest, the better.

It takes time.

Despite that fact that I thought our prize was worth the time it would take to submit a photo, and despite the fact that I got plenty of interaction each time I posted about the competition, we only received two submissions at the end of the competition. This was a little frustrating, but I took heart in seeing that each photo (posted by me or a sponsored athlete) increased my client’s follower count. We were still meeting our goals, and I now know what to expect the next time my client wants to host a competition.

Use tons of hashtags.

It can be annoying to use more than a few hashtags on Facebook. On Twitter, you’re prevented from doing so by the 140-character limit. Instagram is different, and I can guarantee from first-hand experience that people search for Instagram content based on hashtags (One time, I used the hashtag #imtoosexy, and a bunch of shirtless profile pictures starting following us!). Nevertheless, when posting about a photo competition, #deal, #giveaway, #photocompetition #photocontest, and #free are helpful additions. Along with about 10 other hashtags related to your client’s industry.


Photo competitions do work.

At the end of the day, even with two actual submissions, each photo got at least 20 likes (which for 100 total followers is pretty good!), and my client’s follower count doubled over two weeks. The winner still tweets about my client’s product, and I can confidently say we’ve turned him into a solid brand ambassador.



Leave a reply