Do you want to do something different and exciting to bulldoze the restrictive Instagram algorithm? Are you looking for a method that will catalyze your impressions, likes, followers, and sales?
Then you must check out Instagram challenges. They’re a powerful technique to reach your Instagram goals quickly. But to get stellar results, you should create a plan and execute them properly. Here’s a complete guide to help you get started.
What is an Instagram challenge?
An Instagram challenge is a type of contest for thoroughly engaging your audience.
To take part, participants need to publish a photo on their account with a branded hashtag and tag one or a few friends in the caption, asking them to take part too. You can also ask participants to follow your account or sign up to your list if you’d like to.
You can choose the person who publishes the best or most engaging photo as the winner and award them a prize.
You’ll need to publicize this prize early on, along with details such as the photos they must share, hashtag they should use, and any other steps.
Challenges got popular after the phenomenal success of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It trended on networks like Facebook and Twitter and raised $220 million.
Source: ALS Association
Since then, businesses have adapted it to grow their followings, increase sales, brand impressions, and generate UGC (user-generated content).
They got even more popular during the coronavirus pandemic as people practicing social distancing were on the lookout for outlets to keep them occupied. And businesses created exciting challenges to draw them in.
Here’s an Instagram challenge example from Pink Lime.
To take part, participants had to share a selfie or picture of their latest hairstyle on Instagram along with a branded hashtag. They received extra points for following the Pink Lime account, writing a better caption, and tagging friends.
The prize was a $500 hairstyle, and makeup makeover as Pink Lime is a salon.
How to Create an Instagram Challenge?
Here’s a step-by-step process for creating and running an Instagram challenge.
Choose a goal
One of the keys to running a successful Instagram challenge is to set a primary goal and a couple of secondary goals. The primary goal should be something that matches your overall business goal (and the company’s bottom line), and the secondary goals should complement them.
Here are some popular goals…
If you want to grow your brand with the challenge, you can choose impressions as the goal. Impressions are the number of times people see a post on your account or a participant’s account promoting your brand. As participants will post something relevant and tag your account or a branded hashtag, you can get a ton of impressions.
If you want to generate direct sales from the contest, you can make it the goal and get people to take steps that will trigger sales.
Another indirect way to generate sales is by building your email list, as people who sign up to your email list will be more likely to buy from you. It’s way more effective than social media when you want sales.
To get subscribers, you can simply ask everyone to sign up for your email list before taking part. You can let them know that you’ll announce the winner via email too.
Gaining followers isn’t a good primary goal, but you can set it as a secondary goal for primary goals like impressions and sales. As followers won’t generate sales immediately, but they might in the future.
If you’re looking for more inspiration, here are some goal examples to help you get started.
After choosing goals, you can formulate the challenge to help you obtain them.
Brainstorm the challenge
The challenge has to be fun and relevant. Instagrammers need to perform an activity that is usually taking a photo of themselves or something they like and share it. If they can include your product, that’s a plus as it can drive sales.
Think about your goal, what your audience likes to do, how you can incorporate your brand and products, and what photos users love sharing. Then brainstorm a few ideas and assemble your challenge.
For some inspiration, check out this challenge from Love One Today, a niche site that’s all about avocados.
To take part, people had to post a photo of their avocado creation on their Instagram account, tag it with the hashtag #AvoFruitFull and ask their friends to vote by liking. As the post with the most likes won.
Love One Today wanted people to post a picture of their avocado creation as it knows that people who are enthusiastic about avocados are probably into cooking. And it asked people to get their friends to like the post as it’ll drive word of mouth, attract more participants, and boost brand image.
Here’s a post from @cierra.rd, one of the participants.
As you can see, she used the branded Instagram hashtag.
This is just one idea. You can come up with endless unique challenge ideas. I shared more later in the post.
Layout the participation requirements
Does posting a photo with the hashtag suffice?
Posting a photo and using a branded Instagram hashtag are the two of the three most essential things every challenge participant must take. The third one is to tag their friends and challenge them to take part. It will attract maximum participants.
You can also include other steps such as liking a post on your account (promoting the challenge), following your Instagram account and signing up to your list. The extra steps you include should depend on your overall goal. But be careful not to add too many additional steps as they can deter people from taking part.
The number of steps you include should depend on the prize. If it is an expensive and unique prize, you can ask people to take more steps.
You can even ask them to share photos that require extra effort. But if your prize is simple or if you have no prize, it’ll be better to ask participants to take only a few steps as @its_my_week does.
It runs a challenge based on a different theme each week.
All participants have to do is post a photo related to the theme of the week along with a hashtag. It’s so simple because there are no prizes.
Come up with a prize
As I mentioned, if you offer a better prize(s) to the winner(s), you can not only attract more participants but also ask them to make a stronger effort. When people realize this, they make the mistake of choosing prizes such as iPads and iPhones.
The problem with this is the challenge ends up attracting the wrong audience. If you want to get brand impressions from people that will buy from you, your targeting should be spot on. When you use a product like an iPad or iPhone, you end up attracting everyone, not just people who will buy from you.
This is a waste of your time and money. So, instead of this, pick a relevant prize your target audience will want.
The best prize is your product. It will not only cost you less, but it will also help attract people who want that product. Therefore, even if they don’t win, they might buy that product or another one later.
A good example is this one from Oris. It gave away its bag and fountain pen as the prize.
It also wanted to help raise funds through the challenge.
Formulate a hashtag
Every challenge requires a unique hashtag. It makes it easy to keep track of all the people who are posting your photos. You can simply use the challenge’s name without any spaces as the challenge’s hashtag if no one’s tagged it before. Otherwise, you can brainstorm a new one.
To check a hashtag’s uniqueness, you can just search for it on Instagram.
If it shows zero uses, you have yourself a new hashtag. Otherwise, brainstorm a new one! Everyone who is taking part in the challenge should use it in their caption.
You should also add it to all the posts you publish on your account that promote your challenge, even when you announce the winner.
Accompany this hashtag with several others relevant to your niche. Using more Instagram hashtags helps you reach more people. To find these hashtags, you can use a tool like Hashtagforlikes. You can either search hashtags by topic or analyze your competitors to see what hashtags they use.
Create promotional material
Attracting how many participants would make you happy? A hundred? A thousand? More?
It’s imperative to promote your challenge to attract more participants. Here are the different promotional materials that are essential for launching and promoting a contest.
A landing page should be your Instagram challenge headquarters. It’s the place you need to send all the people that want to take part. You’ve plenty of space here and can include step-by-step instructions on how to take part, terms and conditions, rules, and any other details. You can even add a signup form.
An example is this one from Marvel.
You can easily set up Instagram challenge landing pages with a tool like Vyper.
It’s even got a feature that encourages people to follow your account or share the landing page to get more entries. This can make your contest go viral.
Create a series of images and videos that briefly tell people how to take part in the contest. The image or caption should direct people to the landing page to learn more.
Create different types of posts. These should include Instagram feed posts, stories, reels, and IGTV. You might also want to do an Instagram live video.
Don’t post all at once. You can give a daily prompt with one post type.
Here’s an example from Marvel that lists the details briefly.
It asks people to visit the landing page to learn more.
Try to create more Instagram stories if you have more than 10,000 followers, as you can share links. If you have less than 10k followers, check out this Instagram story hack to share links.
Another thing you should do while using stories is adding the challenge sticker.
Also, run a few ads. The conversion rates of ads promoting challenges are a lot higher than those promoting a product as it is something free. They can play a significant role in helping your challenge go viral. For best results, send people to the landing page and get them to sign up.
Also, write a blog post that briefly informs people about the challenge. You can link to the landing page from it.
Social media posts:
Create some images and videos for your other social media channels too. You need to promote your challenge there as well.
If you have an email list, you must email them details about the challenge. You should also run some curated ads retargeting people on your list.
Launch and promote
After you create all the material, you can launch the challenge. Start by publishing the landing page. After that, share details about it in a blog post, on your social media channels, and through email. You can use ads after that.
You must also contact influencers and contest promotion sites and request them to promote your challenge.
4 Insta Challenge Ideas and Examples
Hashtag Challenge from @emilyquinton
A hashtag challenge is a simple Instagram challenge where participants just need to share a photo with a hashtag. They don’t need to follow you or tag someone or sign up. An example is this one from @emilyquinton.
People simply had to post a photo of some flowers on a Friday with the hashtag #floralfridaycompetition.
More people take part in these contests because of the simplicity. But to get the best out of it, you need to create a branded hashtag with your company or product name in it. Hashtag challenges are popular on TikTok too.
Complete Instagram photo challenge from @loveonetoday
In a complete Instagram photo challenge, participants not only have to publish a photo and hashtag but must also take a few other steps. These include following your account, signing up to your email list, and tagging a couple of people with a call to action, asking them to participate in the challenge.
An example is the aforementioned one from Love One Today.
These contests are more likely to go viral.
Caption challenge from @pardo_villa_acres
In a caption challenge, you share a picture or a meme or comic and ask participants to republish it on their account, but with funny captions. Some people also run these as quizzes where people need to republish a photo with answers.
An example is this one from @pardo_villa_acres.
It asked people to share the captions in the comments. This works, but for more impressions, you should request them to republish the photos on their accounts with the captions overlayed.
Live Instagram challenge
A live challenge is where people use Instagram live to compete with each other in real-time.
The number of participants for this is limited as people who know each other beforehand can only take part.
An example is this challenge from @playdigital.
To attract more participants you can ask Instagram users to run a live challenge with their own friends. You can later publish these photos and videos on your account.
Create viral challenges around topics trending on social media
To brainstorm unique challenge ideas, you should see what’s trending on Instagram and other social media. This could be because of a certain event, festival, or celebration.
You can piggyback your Instagram challenge over something trending and attract a lot of participants. Instead of spending time reaching out and educating your audience.
Are You Ready to Launch Your Instagram Challenge?
Instagram has become more competitive. A lot of businesses are creating unique content to attract and engage Instagram users. To beat them, just posting pics, videos, and witty captions won’t suffice. You need to try something out of the box like Instagram challenges.
They require far more effort, but the amount of engagement, impressions, followers, sales, and UGC you generate makes it worthwhile.
If you’re a small business owner, blogger, or influencer, you should try one out this week. You might also want to try out Instagram games. They have the same effect as challenges.
About Rachel Bowland
Rachel Bowland is the content manager at Social Marketing Writing. She likes to write about marketing and design.