In this original study compiled by Tailwind for Instagram we analyzed over 60,000 Instagram posts and discovered all kinds of new statistics that will help you to hold successful Instagram contests that get more likes and comments than your regular posts and get you additional followers.
What we discovered may shock you. It turns out that Instagram contests might be the most powerful, and least used, tool in the Instagram marketing toolkit.
In this post you’ll learn:
- Just how good Instagram contests are at driving engagement and attracting followers. (Spoiler – really good!)
- You’ll learn how to hold Instagram contests on your own account.
- We’ll provide you with a bunch of data-backed Instagram contest ideas and tips to make your contests more successful
- You’ll get to meet accounts that are having incredible success with their contests, and see how they’re doing it.
We did the math, and collectively the Instagram contest ideas in this blog post have the power to increase the effectiveness of your contests by 420%!The Instagram contest ideas in this blog have the power to increase the effectiveness of your contests by 420%.
How Important Are Instagram Contests?
In our study we found that accounts that hold Instagram contests grow their followers 70% faster over three months, on average, than accounts that don’t. That’s huge.
Why are Instagram contests so good at driving follower growth?
Well-run Instagram contests can attract hundreds or thousands of entries. You only have to look at the requirements for many Instagram contests to see why they’d be so effective at acquiring new followers.
Common Instagram contest mechanics:
- To enter an Instagram contest you usually have to follow the account posting the contest.
- Entrants are usually required to like the contest post
- Entrants are usually required to @ mention another Instagram user in the comments. Often each @ mention counts as an additional contest entry
The vast majority of Instagram contests in our study used variations on these common contest mechanics. However there’s nothing from stopping you getting creative, as long as you abide by Instagram’s Promotion Guidelines. These include a requirement to include “Acknowledgement that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Instagram.”
Other types of Instagram contests include:
- Like to enter (double-tap to win)
- Photo contests (post your entrance with this branded hashtag)
- In-store contests (take a photo inside our store and post it with this branded hashtag)
- Successive contests (12 days of giveaway, with a new prize each day and a grand prize on the last day)
Learn everything you need to know about Instagram marketing in under an hour. We condensed 12 months of research into a free Instagram Marketing 101 Webinar
The algorithm loves contests
As you’ll see in the next statistic, contests get crazy-high engagement. The Instagram algorithm takes notice and shows them to more of your followers and potentially as a top post in the hashtags you used. Here’s how to find great hashtags with quick Instagram hashtag research. The more people who see the contest and enter, the more people they invite to view it and enter in the comments, the more your followers grow.
The mechanics of Instagram contests are perfectly engineered to promote virality and follower growth. If you’re not holding Instagram contests, you need to be.The mechanics of Instagram contest are perfectly engineered to promote virality and follower growth.
Juice the Instagram algorithm by posting at the best time
One way to increase the reach of Instagram contests and all of your other Instagram posts, is to post them at the best time for engagement. The more people who like and comment on your posts in the first few minutes after they’re published, the better your reach will be.
That’s why we built Tailwind for Instagram to automatically generate a calendar for you with optimum posting times. Just schedule your posts to Tailwind (an official Instagram partner), and we’ll make sure you post them at the best times and reach more people.
Start a Free Trial of Tailwind for Instagram!
How Much More Engagement Do Instagram Contests Get?
The answer to that question is quite simply – Instagram contests get waaaaay more engagement than regular posts. It’s not even close. Our data shows that Instagram contests get 3.5 times as many likes and 64 times more comments on average than regular posts.
There are definitely some outliers, some hugely successful contests, that push these numbers up, but the message is clear – well run contests do really well on Instagram.
Nothing Attracts Comments Like a Contest
The fact that 91% of all of the posts in our study that received 1,000 or more comments were Instagram contests is proof that contests are far-and-away the most effective way to get a significant volume of comments on your posts.
We recently held an Instagram contest on the Tailwind Instagram account, and it received 137 comments, more than 10 times the amount of comments we’d get on a usual day. The contest also drove 158 additional Instagram followers, double the follower growth we’d seen on the previous day and triple the following day.
If Instagram Contests Are So Great Why Isn’t Everyone Doing Them?
It seems like everybody on Instagram would want to grow their following, yet amazingly our study found that only 2% of Instagram marketers actually run regular contests on Instagram! What’s more, the accounts that do run contests do so intermittently. In our study we discovered that just 0.56% of all Instagram posts are contests.
That means there’s a HUGE opportunity here for marketers to capitalize on. Instagram users love contests, they respond to them, the Instagram algorithm shines on them, and yet hardly anyone is doing them! There’s your golden ticket.Instagram users love contests, the algorithm shines on them, and yet only 2% of marketers use them.
The psychological hurdles to holding Instagram contests are great
One reason that marketers often give for not holding Instagram contests is that they take time to organize, you have to find a suitable prize, and then administer the contest. None of these are insurmountable hurdles. My advice is do it once and you’ll have overcome the greatest hurdle – the psychological one.
Instagram contests do take time to organize, but the time taken to administer individual contests can be greatly reduced by holding regular contests that use the same mechanics and post template. You can save additional time by scheduling your posts weeks out with an Instagram scheduler like Tailwind for Instagram, and by using Tailwind’s Hashtag Finder to quickly find the hashtags for your contest that will get the most additional reach.
- The best prizes are simply the ones that your followers and potential followers will get the most excited about. The value can be nominal, or massive, as long as people want your prize they’ll enter your contest.
- Choosing a winner can be as easy as closing your eyes, scrolling through your comments feed of entrants, and tapping the screen at random.
- You’ll need to send the prize. Digital coupons are obviously more convenient than physical product unless you are an e-commerce store with those shipping mechanisms already in place.
- Update your post to close the contest, tag and announce the winner, and that’s it!
How Valuable Should My Contest Prize Be?
Our study suggests that the more valuable your prize, the more engagement you will get on your contest. However, there were plenty of outliers in this data set. There were, for instance, lots of contests with prizes that cost less than $99 that achieved engagement rates over 5.8.
Don’t let not having a high value prize stop you from holding an Instagram contest. In our study, the highest engagement rate for Instagram contests with prizes valued less than $99 was for a simple $25 of store credit.In Tailwind's study, the highest engagement rate for Instagram contests with prizes valued less than $99.
It’s interesting to note that while the engagement rate goes up with the value of the prize, it doesn’t go up proportionally to the cost. Our study suggests that it would be more beneficial to hold 10 $100 contests than one $1,000 contest. Of course that will depend on your brand, the size of your business, the size of your following, and the cost of your products.
Is It A Good Idea to Partner With Other Brands On Contests?
Our study suggests that it is absolutely a good idea for complementary brands to work together to pool their prizes. The contest then likely has a higher value (which we’ve already established increases engagement rate), and appears on two or more accounts at the same time, getting brands exposure to each other’s audiences of followers.
Instagram Contest Ideas from 3 Successful Contests
By now you should be convinced. You get the idea – Instagram contests are an excellent mechanism for follower growth. Perhaps you’re itching to hold your own Instagram contest, and you’re full of great ideas.
But before you start planning, I took the liberty of pulling some of the most successful Instagram contests from the past three months from Tailwind members so that you could see these viral contests in action, in real life, and learn from them.
Instagram Contest Idea 1: Know your audience, tap into their network
@southbyseacollege is an online store that sells customized clothes to sororities. They are incredibly successful on Instagram, and their contests consistently kill it. This one got 54,000 comments. More than 4 times as many comments as the account has followers!
They know their audience, post seasonally-appropriate contests, and use the established ties of sororities to tap into incredible virality by offering prizes to “an entire chapter.” The prize is then fairly high value as well.
I spoke to Lindsey Clawson, Marketing Manager at South by Sea College, and she said, “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. Its a very exclusive product and is seasonal so it was a huge hit. Probably got us about 1000 new followers. The challenge is retention once the contest ends.”
Instagram Contest Idea 2: Partner selectively with your prizes, keep your feed clean
@beckiowens is an interior designer and an influencer with nearly half-a-million followers on Instagram. Her Instagram feed is full of beautiful modern home interiors and it is exceptionally well planned. Her grid rocks.
Her Instagram contests fit seamlessly into her feed. In each contest we see the product she’s giving away in context of an aspirational house with a simple text overlay announcing the prize.
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We are so grateful for all of your support this year. In the spirit of giving, we are kicking off the first of four weekly giveaways leading up to Christmas!! Today we are excited to GIVEAWAY vintage handmade rugs from @kayakilims to 4 LUCKY WINNNERS! The 4 winners can select ANY rug ANY price, seriously any rug any price from her site!! 🙌🏻🙌🏻 Rules: 1. Like this picture 2. Follow @kayakilims and @beckiowens (if you aren't already ☺️) 3. Tag a friend below in comments. (Tag as many as you want for more chances to win) That's it!!! Giveaway ends Wednesday night at midnight PST. Thank you @nezkayakilims for finding the most amazing rugs! Good Luck. ❤️
Instagram Contest Idea 3: Secure interest in a specific prize to increase sales
@albionfit are a swim and fitness wear company that run regular contests that get excellent engagement. In this example they ask entrants to choose one of these four swimsuits as their prize, and tag a friend who then also has to follow the account (and presumably choose their favorite swimsuit).
Encouraging thousands of people to pick a swimsuit they like from your catalog is an excellent idea. What a great way to get them all very close to point of purchase.
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GIVEAWAY CLOSED! @sarahsarahjones you are our winner! Send us a DM with your info and we will be in touch! CONGRATS! Win a suit for you and your bestie! TO ENTER: 1️⃣ Like this post and tell us which suit you MUST HAVE (weekender stripe, Waikiki pink, Santiago black floral or the cove– solid black!). 2️⃣ Tag a friend 3️⃣ Make sure you BOTH FOLLOW US! Good luck! Winner announced here Sunday!
Other Useful Instagram Contest Ideas
Our Facebook Live on this topic (see below) received 128 comments. A lot of them were great tips from Tailwind members and social media influencers. Here are some of the best ideas they suggested.
- Hold an Instagram giveaway where someone has to tag a friend and then that friend has to enter for the duo to be in with a chance of winning the prize. (Michelle Grey)
- The cheapest tool to use is a spreadsheet or a random number generator to pick your winner. (Kim Vij)
- Use Instagram Stories for giveaways. The more people who message you from your story, the more likely it is that your story will appear as the first story on your followers feed. (Samantha Josephine Lee)
- Adding the word “giveaway” or “contest” into your image may help aid recognition that it is a contest. (Michelle Grey) Although our data has examples of successful contests that do, and do not, do this with their images.
- Make sure you research appropriate Instagram hashtags to use for your contest (Peg Fitzpatrick)
- Shortstack, Rafflecopter, and Gleam.io are some of the contest apps I’ve used in the past. (Jeff Sieh)
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- Schedule photos and videos directly to your Instagram feed with Auto Post.
- Optimize every post for more engagement with SmartSchedule and Hashtag Finder.
- Automatically hide your post’s hashtags in the first comment to keep your caption clean & clutter-free.
- Make your posts more discoverable with user tagging & location tagging.
- Analyze what's working across every post and profile with smart analytics.
Watch Us Discuss These Instagram Stats on Facebook Live
If you’ve enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it with others who you think might find value in it. We also encourage you to use the statistics from this study in your own blog posts, articles and talks. Just be sure to cite and link back to this post as the original source.
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David is Tailwind’s Director of Marketing and Growth. He is a former journalist who wrote for The Times and The Financial Times, a marketing agency co-founder, founder of Confluence digital marketing conference, father of two, and early morning writer. He grew up on The Isle of Wight in England and lives in Oklahoma City.