Tips to Create Instagram Contests That Will Raise Brand Awareness

BY Chris mcGuire, vp, general manager, Slant marketing
Chris McGuire

As a PR pro your job is to garner attention for a client or brand. A well-executed Instagram contest can be a great tactic to achieve increased visibility.

Though they may garner fewer entries than other types of promotions like sweepstakes and instant-win games, contests are a smart way to raise awareness of a company, cause or event.

Here are six steps for creating and running a compelling Instagram contest:

1. An Engaging Call to Action. What will you have contestants do to enter the contest? What picture do they need to create, and what are the criteria for entry? Remember, contests are judged based on skill. Below are some ideas to keep in mind when creating your call to action:

Don’t overcomplicate it. If you would find it arduous to follow all of the criteria for entry, chances are your potential entrants will, too. This could include asking people to dress up in a specific outfit, like that of a mascot. The more effort a user has to put into entering, the fewer entries you will receive.

Avoid the mundane. Steer away from making the call to action overly prescriptive or mundane. For example, rather than having entrants take a picture of a product in their home, ask them to show how the product makes their lives better.

Allow for creativity. Instagram users want to be creative. An intriguing call to action allows for some interpretation, so that the entrant feels ownership over the creative process of entering the contest.

2. Make It ‘Brand’ Relevant. To further awareness, your contest should relate easily to your brand. This can apply to a product, event or a cause. Whatever the case, the contest should be an extension of the brand. For example, the holidays are full of conversations and worries about money. For that reason, financial institutions often will host contests where the prize is paying off credit card debt.

3. Determining the Prize(s). People are motivated to enter contests by the possibility of winning. Logically, better prizes will yield more participation. You’ll get more entries for a prize of $1,000,000 than that of $1,000. Different types of prizes, and their corresponding values, however, come with their own set of rules, regulations and considerations. Here are a couple:

Regulated industries. There may be restrictions on contests and prizes for brands that are in regulated industries. Those restrictions may vary by state. Examples of regulated industries include alcohol, tobacco, firearms, pharmaceuticals and, in some cases, dairy.

High-value prizes. If prizes are determined to be worth more than a certain amount of money, some government regulations will apply. High-value prizes require the winners to receive IRS Form 1099 for tax purposes.

4. Rules & Regulations. Where most people can get into legal trouble when running a contest is with the Official Rules, or lack thereof. Think of the Official Rules as your contract with entrants. You want to make sure that the contract protects you, your client and the customers you are trying to engage with during your marketing promotion. Here are things to think about when compiling rules and regulations for your Instagram contest:

Beware of Online Templates. Sometimes an amateur contest organizer will find a template of official rules online. While this is better than nothing, these templates generally will not incorporate promotion-specific variances like types of prizes. In addition, templates may lack specific language required for how your consumers are participating in the contest, such as entering via an online platform such as Instagram. Further considerations include any potential liability your company may incur based on the prize. For example, if you are giving away a trip and the winner is injured while traveling, or a car is the gift and the automobile is faulty, you want to make sure that the official rules protect you from that liability.

Seek Legal Counsel. Make sure an attorney with experience in promotion law reviews the official rules.

Consider a Third-Party Administrator. One way to be protected from potential legal liability is to engage with a third-party administrator to help run the promotion. These professionals will be well versed in the specifics of running a successful online promotion from the creative side to the compliance side. You’ll have the added protection of indemnification, meaning the third-party administrator will take on the risk.

5. Contest Management. There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into the perfect media pitch; the same holds true for running an Instagram contest:

Every Entry Must be Judged. The most important thing to remember when managing an Instagram contest is that every entry must be judged based on the criteria defined in the official rules. If someone were to question the fairness of your contest, you need to be able to demonstrate how you reviewed each of the entries based on the criteria. Consider using a judging tool that insures every entry is judged with a score for each criterion. It’s best to plan for a lot of entries to make sure you can handle them, rather than be caught by surprise. One way to successfully manage a lot of entries is to put the entries to a public vote first to narrow down the field of finalists. That way, your panel of judges needs to consider the top entries only.

Employ Necessary Technology. If you opt for a public vote, you’ll need to have a virtual gallery where people can cast their votes. This will require a certain level of technology.

Choose a Hashtag. Instagram photos are organized using hashtags. Use of the contest hashtag is how you will keep track of who is entering. Contests typically include two hashtags, one that is branded to the specific contest (like #HomeForTheHolidays) and another that acknowledges it is a contest entry (like #contest).

Moderate. Just as you monitor social media channels regularly, a moderation policy for your Instagram contest is a must. What’s the plan if someone decides to post unsavory things in the form of a contest entry?

6. Create Compelling Visuals. The human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than words. Promotions with poor creative design can decrease participation by more than 50%. So:

Use a Professional Designer. Designers are trained to communicate things visually. It’s worth budgeting money to work with a professional to come up with visuals for the contest. Ideally, this designer will have experience with Instagram and communicating a process (i.e. how to enter).

Focus on the Basics. Creative for your Instagram contest should have three priorities: be brand relevant, communicate the prizes and explain how to enter. You could have the most beautifully designed contest ever, but if it doesn’t accomplish these three crucial things, your participation rate will suffer. In fact, 60% of consumers don’t enter promotions because they don’t know how to participate.

Instagram offers nearly endless ways to creatively engage users. A well-executed contest creates a memorable experience for entrants, while providing measureable results. Just like other social media platforms, Instagram continually evolves, changes and improves. It pays to keep a constant eye out for new offerings and opportunities to use the platform to raise awareness of your great company, cause or event.

CONTACT: @chriscmcguire

How to Create a Catchy Hashtag

There is an art to creating a catchy hashtag. Here are some things to consider:

Length. Though length doesn’t matter on Instagram the same way it matters on Twitter, users should be able to easily read your hashtag. The longer the hashtag, the less readable it is.

Unique. It also must be unique, especially when it comes to a hashtag being used to track a contest. Make sure to do your research before deciding on a hashtag to make sure the one you want to use isn’t already in use for something else. It’s especially important to check and make sure the hashtag hasn’t been used for something that would be embarrassing if it were associated with your brand or contest, such as illegal activity.

Brand Relevance. Effective hashtags can be immediately associated with what they communicate. In the case of a contest, the hashtag should relate directly to the creative concept for the contest.

Memorability. Make the hashtag easy to remember. When possible, use whole words instead of acronyms and keep it as close to natural language patterns as possible.

This article originally appeared in the March 28, 2016 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.