Proven Instagram Contest Ideas

Posted by Lisa Manfield

With a monthly active user base of 200 million and year-over-year growth of 66%, Instagram is now a channel of choice for marketers looking to run social promotions. And with 60 million photos being posted daily, it’s the perfect venue to harvest user-generated content and build brand loyalty with a photo or video contest.

While there are many ways to use Instagram in your promotions, building on popular Instagram themes is a great place to start. Instagrammers are already posting photos of their food, their pets, their home décor and their favourite products. Inspire them to post their best work in the name of your brand (and don’t forget the hashtag) and you’ve got a solid recipe for brand engagement.

Food Photo Contests

Food photos and Instagram go hand in hand, and food-related photo contests are a natural extension of the way people are already using the platform. Simply ask your customers to hashtag their food photos, or submit theme-related food pics, and you’re likely to be bombarded with entries from those who are looking for a chance to gain recognition and exposure for their work.

Instagram Contest Idea - Time Out New York's Food and Drink Awards

Time Out New York gave foodie Instagrammers a chance to have their photo featured on a magazine cover in conjunction with its Annual Food and Drink awards this year. Readers were invited to submit photos taken at the restaurants that made the readers’ choice nominees list, and post them with the hashtag #TimeOutFoodAwards. Editors of the magazine selected the best reader-submitted photo to be featured on the cover, affording the winner some serious foodie cred!

Instagram Contest Idea - Veganuary

Photos can also be useful when it comes to at-a-glance myth-busting, particularly when those myths involve food. U.K. vegans Jane and Matthew wanted to raise awareness of their adopted eating habits, and raise money for Viva!, a charity that campaigns for the rights of farm animals, while busting the myth that vegans eat like rabbits. Their Veganuary challenge and photo contest encouraged Instagrammers to go vegan for the month of January, take photos of their vegan meals, and hashtag them #morethancarrots. The four photos with the most likes went on to a voting round.

Animal Photo Contests

Pets and other cute animals are Instagrammed almost as often as food, and likewise make for excellent contest fodder.

Instagram Contest Idea - San Diego Zoo's Play Days Instagram Challenge

The San Diego Zoo played up this trend by inviting visitors to participate in its Play Days Instagram Challenge. To enter to win a San Diego Zoo Safari Park adventure for four, all participants had to do was post a photo taken at the zoo with the hashtag #sdzplaydays.

Instagram Contest Idea - Find Momo

Of course, if the dogs of Instagram are more your style, check out the fun photos of Momo the Border Collie, posted by his owner Andrew Knapp. The Instagrammed pics of Momo hiding Where’s Waldo-style across the U.S. have been such a hit that they were turned into a book, and Knapp and his publisher Quirk Books teamed up with Social Print Studio to give away framed Momo prints, a “pawtographed” book and Printstagram credits to participants who entered with a like.

Super Hero Photo Contests

Who doesn’t love a good super hero story? And better yet, who doesn’t want to be the super hero they always dreamed about as a kid, if only for an hour?

Instagram Contest Idea - Earth Hour Instagram Contest

For many years, Earth Hour, run by the World Wildlife Fund Singapore, has asked participants to commit to being an eco super hero by turning out the lights for an hour. But this year it’s teamed up with the director, producers and cast of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to bring real super heroes into the picture. Its Instagram contest for students in Singapore asked participants to post photos of how they would use their powers to save the planet, along with the hashtags #UseYourPower, #SpiderMan, #EarthHourHeroSG and #wwfsg. The winner of the best photo got the chance to meet the real Spider Man at the Earth Hour launch.

Instagram Contest Idea - Yogurty's Agent of Froyo Contest

Meanwhile, back in Canada, Captain America took yogurt lovers by storm through its partnership with Yogurty’s. To celebrate the new Captain America-inspired frozen yogurt flavours, Yogurty’s #AgentofFroyo photo contest encouraged customers to Instagram their super hero yogurt cup for a chance to win tickets to an advance screening of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Style Photo Contests

We all love to show off our style, whether it’s clothes, home décor or our favourite products. Especially when we can customize those products to truly make them our own.

Instagram Contest Idea - Nike's PhotoiD for Instagram

Nike’s PhotoiD for Instagram is a brilliant way the brand enables its customers to customize their favourite shoes and showcase them on the social channel. The site allows visitors to pick their own Instagram photo as a background, then choose their shoe and mash them both together. Its gallery features hundreds of Nike shoe mashups, all posted and tagged on Instagram.

Instagram Contest Idea - Better Homes and Gardens photo contest

Everyone has a favourite color, whether for clothes, or for their home decor. In celebration of the launch of its Color Palette of the Year, a collection of seven colours that reflect current trends, Better Homes and Gardens magazine ran a photo contest inviting readers to post their favourite colour palettes hashtagged #bhgcolor. Weekly winners and a grand prize winner all received cash prizes.

Tips for Success with Your Instagram Contest

  1. Promote it across online channels: Just because it’s happening on Instagram, doesn’t mean it has to stay on Instagram. You can spread the word, and even accept entries, on Facebook and Twitter as well.
  2. Promote it offline: If you’ve got a bricks and mortar presence, be sure to promote your Instagram contest there too – especially next to the products you’re asking customers to photograph.
  3. Build in sharing incentives: Incentivize the regram to get your participants sharing your contest details and their entries.
  4. Let your audience vote: Count likes as votes for finalists, then let judges decide on a grand prize winner.
  5. Feature the winners in your channels: Give exposure to the winning photos on Instagram and in your other channels. Every photographer – professional or otherwise – appreciates exposure and recognition for their work.

Ready to launch your Instagram promotion? We can help. Our Instagram Contest functionality makes it easy to engage your customers on Instagram and across social channels. Contact us for more info.

Main image: Flickr/Steve Rhodes