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A beginner’s guide to running the perfect hashtag competition on Instagram

Instagram is the easiest social media platform to run a competition on. Constructing a post is simple, all posts are shown in the newsfeed, and a hashtag friendly community makes increasing post reach a possibility.

This guide will take you through each step of running a simple hashtag competition on Instagram. There are several ways to run a competition on Instagram but this method makes  monitoring entries and selecting a winner hassle free.

The rules

A hashtag competition requires entrants to post a picture and use an established hashtag (that you have decided) in the caption.

It’s also a good idea to ask users to follow your account as a condition of entry. This is standard practice for an Instagram competition and will broaden your audience for future Instagram marketing.


Before you start

Before you publish the competition it is imperative that you have planned every aspect of it. If the contest doesn’t run smoothly, you risk losing favour with entrants- which defeats the entire object of running the contest.

Determine what you want to gain from the competition

An Instagram competition can; increase brand awareness, help you gain more followers, promote a product, celebrate a company anniversary, achievement or milestone, celebrate an occasion. Decide which of these things you want your competition to do.

(Of course, you may have a different reason- but these are the most common).

How to decide what the prize should be

*The prize should reflect what you are looking to gain from the competition.*

If you want to increase brand awareness, or promote a particular item- it makes sense to give away an item from your store. If you simply want to attract as many followers as possible, a prize that appeals to a wider audience will work better. Similarly, if you are celebrating an occasion, make the prize appropriate for the holiday.

How long should the competition last?

Although it may be tempting to run the competition for a long time, a lengthy competition can be annoying for customers; especially if the prize isn’t of high monetary value. Ideally an Instagram competition should last no longer than a week. A shorter time period will push entrants to take action immediately.

The Instagram Post

The picture

Choose a picture to post. The picture should be; a picture of the prize, or a piece of artwork that displays the competition rules/ hashtag etc.

(This will depend on what resources you have).


The hashtag

Think of a hashtag that is appropriate to your business. For example, a hashtag for an ekmPowershop Christmas competition could be #ekmChristmas. If you plan to make competitions a regular feature of your account, a hashtag that could be used for all competitions would be work well, such as #ekmComp.


Captioning the picture

The caption should clearly detail the conditions of entry, the prize and the closure date. See these examples, below.



Things to remember

Always stick to the terms and conditions. Ensure that the winner has completed all entry conditions, end the competition exactly when stated and announce the winner promptly.

How to choose a winner

Depending on the nature of the hashtag you may want to choose a winning picture personally, or select a winner at random.

Search your hashtag to see the number of people who have used it, and choose the picture that you want to win. Ensure that the person is following you- if following your account is part of the entry conditions.

To select a winner at random, enter the names into an online randomiser like this one.

*If you have a lot of entrants, Iconsquare is a great place to copy and paste the entrants from.

How to announce the winner

Announce the winner on all social media that you have promoted the competition on. If appropriate, post the winning picture. See an example from ekmPowershop, here.


Marketing the competition

If you are running the competition for a week, post the competition each day on one of your business social media channels. Stagger the times each day to reach as many people as possible. If you have a larger following on particular channel, target those users with the competition. Depending on the size of your budget, you could boost the post on Facebook.

After the competition

Now you’ve built up a rapport with your followers, use the opportunity to target them with regular posts to your Instagram. Once a month is a good frequency to run a competition at.

What are you waiting for?

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