How to Run an Instagram Contest

Running an Instagram contest? Learn everything you need to know with this helpful guide.

Welcome! Are you using Gleam or thinking about running an Instagram Contest but unsure exactly how to best leverage the platform? Then this is the guide for you. Join us as we reveal some of the best tactics we've seen our customers use to achieve the best results.

Before we dive into best ways and tips to execute your campaign, it's important to first understand how Contests work on Instagram.

Particularly since you can either use an App (like Gleam) or run the campaign on Instagram itself - or a combination of both.

There's a number of key advantages to using an Instagram Contest App to administer your promotion:

  • You can capture Name/Email or other datapoints from entrants
  • You can run the contest on your own Domain/Page/URL
  • You can ask users to complete non-Instagram related actions
  • If the campaign spans multiple social networks you have a consistent entry point
  • You control the signup flow and the messaging
  • You can use your own promotion channels to promote the campaign
  • Picking a winner is fair due to the streamlined collection of data
  • More granular reporting and breakdown of campaign results

These a just a few of the advantages, but there's also disadvantages:

  • It's more complex to setup than a simple Instagram Post
  • There's associated costs with maintaining a subscription
  • Instagram has rules that apply specifically to App developers (more on that below)

Since Instagram was acquired by Facebook the rules on what app developers are allowed to do have changed quite a bit. From June 2016 any app that uses the API is no longer allowed to incentivise actions that exist on Instagram.

This means that we can't offer actions that directly ask users to:

  • Follow a Profile
  • Like a Photo
  • Comment on a Photo
  • Tag Another User
  • Repost a Photo

Instead we offer a range of actions that can ask users to:

There's a few ways around these restrictions which we'll talk about later, but for now make note of the above.

If you don't use an app you can also run the campaign directly on Instagram. The only thing you really need to consider here is the Promotion Guidelines.

The main point is that you must not inaccurately tag content or encourage users to inaccurately tag content (e.g. donโ€™t encourage people to tag themselves in photos if they arenโ€™t in the photo).

Aside from that, anything goes. This means that inside an Instagram post you can ask users to:

  • Follow Your Profile
  • Like the Post
  • Comment on the Post
  • Tag Friends in Comments
  • Repost a Photo

The big issue that you have with this methodology is that it's incredibly hard to track all this data and fairly pick a winner.

That's why we recommend to combine the usage of a Gleam based contest, whilst asking users to do the above inside an Instagram Post as optional steps (which don't award entries).

More on this later, for now let's dive into our tips!

So without further ado, let's dive into our favourite tips to help you become an Instagram Contest master.'s giveaway campaign embedded on their website

Take control of your campaign and data by embedding the campaign directly into your own store or website.

This has a huge number of benefits over running the campaign on a social network:

  • Users are much more likely to browse your store or site after entering
  • You capture and verify all the necessary data to draw winners properly
  • You can get users to complete more actions
  • You can control the flow of how users enter and what tasks you want them to perform

When you run a contest on Instagram, the first thing you might notice is that you can't put clickable links inside posts. This means that there's no way to get users to your contest link.

That's where the bio link comes in.

The bio link is the only clickable link on your Instagram profile. So when you run a contest you should be asking users to visit this link to enter.

Here's an example of a great bio for a contest:

Instagram bio with link to a Gleam giveaway

You can take things one step further by adding tracking to your Instagram Bio links.

This allows you to see how many users are clicking the links and also help you track conversions with platforms like Google Analytics:

Giveaway link on an Instagram bio, with tracking parameters appended

The above link is pretty messy and long, you can go one step further and hide these tracking links by using a URL shortener (notice the smart usage of Emojis too ๐Ÿ•บ):

Instagram bio with shortened link to a Gleam giveaway

You might be running a campaign that you only want users that have an Instagram account to enter. Gleam offers a number of ways to Gate the campaign or require users to login with Instagram.

Ask users to login with Instagram on the Gleam widget

You can do this by turning on User Details > Require Login, then setting Instagram as the only login type.

Automatic Entry allows you to award an entry when the user logs into the campaign, you will get access to the users @instagram profile after they complete at least 1 Instagram action in the campaign.

Visit actions are designed to take users to an external page (away from the contest). When you're running an Instagram contest it can be often quite tempting to use this as the first action in your campaign.

If you do this, then you're sending users away before they even get a chance to register their details and signup for the contest.

Try to ensure you have some sort of action or mechanic to log the user in before you send them to your Instagram profile:

  • Use Require Login + Automatic Action
  • Use a mandatory Subscribe action to sync users with your email provider
  • Use an Instagram Entry action first but name it something like "Login With Instagram to Begin"

The Instagram Entry Action allows you to award an entry when a user connects their Instagram account to the campaign.

This has the added advantage of providing you with a link to the users Instagram profile (handy for checking entries or contacting users).

The Subscribe action allows you to sync your campaign with up to 30+ supported email providers.

This is a very powerful action, especially for E-commerce stores as it allows you to sync users in real-time and provide them with direct special offers via email (and also the ability to contact them directly whenever you wish).

For Business customers, Gleam offers a handy notification email that you can send every time you launch a new campaign (provided users have opted-in).

Remember all those Instagram users that entered last time? Well, now you're in their inbox with just 1 click of a button.

The Viral Share action is without a doubt one of our most popular and also most potent actions for getting more eyeballs on your campaigns.

It's not possible to share directly onto Instagram, however we support a huge range of sharing options to help you spread the word about your campaign:

  • Email
  • Facebook
  • Messenger
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • LinkedIn
  • SMS
  • WhatsApp

If you're running a campaign that sends users from Instagram to a landing page quite often you may want to redirect users back to Instagram once they've completed everything.

You can use the Post Entry > Redirect option to automatically redirect users back to your Instagram URL of choice.

Enable 'post-entry redirect' to send users back to your Instagram page

Even though Gleam has to follow certain rules and regulations when it comes to the API, it is still possible for you to construct your own Custom Actions that asks users to manually complete certain tasks on the Instagram.

Custom action for commenting on an Instagram post

The View Post action is a great way to draw a users attention to a specific Instagram post whilst using the Gleam widget.

This means they don't need to leave the widget to view your message, but can decide to interact with it if they find your post valuable.

Chances are that Instagram isn't the only social network that you use to promote your business. So don't just limit yourself to running the campaign on Instagram.

You have quite a few options on how you approach this:

A huge benefit of the Gleam widget is that you can ask users to complete actions that sit outside Instagram. This could be something simple like visiting your store, joining your email list or even Tweeting about your latest offer.

The Promote Action offers a number of benefits for these types of contests.

It can be used to:

  • Cross promote your other campaigns or chain them together
  • If your partners also use Gleam you can promote their campaigns
  • And likewise they can use a Promote Action to promote your campaigns

Running a campaign that has a daily winner component can be a fantastic way to get your user engaged. Gleam has a number of ways to help you do this:

  • You can setup daily entries, which allows users to get more entries for engaging with the campaign daily
  • Set a high number of total winners and use our draw winner function daily to reward them.

UGC or User Generated Content campaigns are a way for your business to collect content from users as a form of entry into a contest.

One of the simplest ways to get users to provide your campaign with content is via a #hashtag. Check out this campaign below from Oreo that encourages entrants to use the #OreoDunkSweepstakes.


If you use a non-unique #hashtag then your data will have a lot of noise that is unrelated to the contest, thus making it hard to filter valid entries.

Gleam offers the ability to import #hashtags, @mentions and comments into your campaigns using our Import Actions. This is a great way to collect entries without users ever having to leave Instagram.

Select actions offer a seamless way of allowing users to upload and give you access to media as part of a campaign.

You can allow users to upload media using the Media Submit action.

The Instagram Select action

Select actions can be restricted to only allow media that has a specific #hashtag assigned. A great way to allow users to filter their entries, select the best one and submit it directly into your campaign.

Need some extra help to get your campaign noticed on Instagram? Here's our top tips to help you craft the perfect post for your contest.

Instagram Stories are a really powerful way to get more engagement from your Followers. There's a number of reasons why you should be considering using Stories right now:

  • Not many others are, so you get more exposure
  • They are pinned to the top of users feeds, so they don't need to scroll to see your content
  • You can theme them around a specific topic and actually tell a story
  • The final screen of the story offers users to swipe up which can take them to an external URL. This is perfect for contests.
Collage of Instagram stories featuring women's shoes

At the beginning of this guide we discussed the various techniques for running Instagram contests. One of the techniques businesses use is to run a number of incentives inside an Instagram Post, then send users to the link in their bio.

This allows you to take advantages of the direct engagement on Instagram along with the benefits that come from using an app.

Things you can ask users to do inside the Instagram Post:

  • Comment on the Post
  • Spot the x (find something in the post), then leave a comment
  • Tag a friend in the comments
  • Double tap to Like
  • Follow your Instagram profile

Check the example below from Halo Sleep that combines some tasks on Instagram then asks users to click the link in their bio:

The user below is running their campaign exclusively inside an Instagram post, you can see the various ways she's asking users to engage:

Instagram now allows you to upload multiple images to one post in a carousel format. This is another feature that helps you rock contests, as it allows you to really tell a story about your prizes.

Check out this example from fellow Aussie store Skinny Me Tea below:

If you've setup your bio link to send users to your campaign, then make sure you're asking them to click it in every post.

Give users regular updates along the way, tell them how long is left and really try to build hype amongst your followers.

Partnering is an often overlooked piece of the marketing puzzle. But, it really is basic mathematics:

If you have 10k followers and you partner with someone who has 20k followers, then the total reach of the campaign is ~30k followers. That's a 200% increase in potential campaign exposure for you, and a 50% increase for the partner.

And that's just if you partner with 1 person. Technically you can increase that to 5 or 10 other Instagrammers.

Partnering also has other added benefits:

  • You share Followers across channels and get exposed to new audiences
  • You can increase the prize pool and make the contest more enticing by adding in more prizes

Fans are your lifeblood. It doesn't matter if you post on Instagram or YouTube, they will often love consuming your content and crave for more.

That's why giving away items that have a personal attachment to your channel are much more effective than generic prizes (like iPhones etc).

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Ahron Burstin

Ahron is a Growth Marketer at Gleam. Shoot him a Tweet if you got something out of this post โ˜บ