How to Use Instagram Giveaways to Grow Your Following

People love free stuff.

It’s not just people who are into “extreme couponing,” either. Almost everybody loves the chance to snag some free swag, whether it’s a buy-one-get-one offer on coffee at the local supermarket or the chance to win a year’s supply of free oil changes.

 

Marketers don’t tend to like using words such as “manipulate” to describe what they do, but when it comes to pushing your audience’s buttons, manipulating – sorry, leveraging – people’s desire to get something for nothing is one of the most powerful techniques at your disposal.

Today, we’ll be taking a look at you how can use giveaways and similar promotions on Instagram to build your fanbase and reach new potential customers. We’ll go over the fundamentals you’ll need to consider when launching a giveaway, real-world examples of how this strategy can impact your growth, as well as some cautionary guidelines on pitfalls to avoid.

What Are Instagram Giveaways?

Instagram giveaways are limited-time promotions in which brands promise to give away a product or service to one (or more) lucky entrants according to a specified set of criteria.

An example of an Instagram giveaway post

If you spend any amount of time on Instagram, you’ve probably seen a giveaway in action firsthand. Household-name brands and small businesses alike use Instagram giveaways to create buzz about new product lines, reach new fans, and grow their social followings.

Sometimes the prizes are incredible, while others may be… a little lackluster. Regardless of what you’re giving away (or trying to win), Instagram giveaways can be a great way to create some buzz and attract some potential new fans.

Why Should I Consider Running an Instagram Giveaway?

Although you can run an Instagram giveaway for just about any reason you can think of, the two primary reasons you may want to consider this kind of promotion are:

  1. To encourage social sharing of a specific Instagram post
  2. To grow your Instagram following

 

Ideally, a good Instagram giveaway should accomplish both of these goals. A highly shareable post will drive social shares by itself, which leads to greater exposure and impression share, while the giveaway entry criteria should accomplish the secondary goal of growing your Instagram audience.

The more people participate, the farther your post will be shared, which means more entries, which means more followers, which means more shares… you get the idea.

Why Would I Give Something Away for Free in an Instagram Giveaway?

If you’ve never used this kind of promotion before, you might be wondering if running an Instagram giveaway is a little counterintuitive. This is a fair point, but it’s one that’s worth looking at in a little more depth.

 

Original art/animation by Snowbacon

You’ve probably heard the expression, “You’ve got to spend money to make money.” This is true of the largest corporations and the scrappiest mom-and-pop shops alike. There are very few truly free ways to promote your business (though there are some), and whichever way you look at it, you’re going to spend something to grow your audience. This includes investments of your time (which you’d need if you were to focus on growing your Instagram following organically), budget for paid social campaigns if you’re advertising on Instagram, or inventory if you’re planning on running a giveaway.

Only you can decide on the value of a giveaway. Viewing the experience as an investment, rather than a loss, however, may make it easier to reconcile.

How to Run an Instagram Giveaway

Okay, so you’ve decided to take the plunge and run your first Instagram giveaway! So now what? Well, now you have to actually set up and run your giveaway.

Step 1: Choose the Prize for Your Instagram Giveaway

Before you get started actually running your Instagram giveaway, you need to decide on a suitable prize for the lucky entrant(s) to win.

My wife Nicky recently ran her first Instagram giveaway to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the opening of her design studio and enamel pin company, CATPARTY (yes, all caps, and no, I won’t apologize for such a shameless plug).

Before she did anything else, she decided that she would offer a bundle of products known as the Party Pack as the prize for her giveaway. The Party Pack includes a limited-edition one-inch enamel pin, a one-inch button, and a vinyl sticker featuring CATPARTY’s lovable brand ambassador, Party Cat.

 

Party Cat – he’s here to party.

The total value of the individual items in the Party Pack is around $14, while the pack itself sells for just over $12. To Nicky, this was the ideal product for an Instagram giveaway; enough to entice people to enter the giveaway (more on this momentarily), yet not so expensive that it would be detrimental to sales revenues.

Choosing a suitable prize is a balancing act. You need to make sure people have enough incentive to enter your giveaway by offering something sufficiently attractive, but without taking a serious loss on the product you choose to give away.

Step 2: Decide the Entry Criteria for Your Instagram Giveaway

For her Instagram giveaway, Nicky decided that entrants had to do two things to enter:

  1. Follow CATPARTY on Instagram
  2. Tag two people when sharing the original post

Every person who completed both of these criteria was entered into the giveaway. However, as a little extra incentive, Nicky also decided that for every additional person an entrant tagged when sharing the post, the entrant would receive an additional entry.

 

The main objective of Nicky’s giveaway wasn’t to boost sales, but to gain exposure and grow her Instagram following. That’s why following CATPARTY was the primary entry criteria. She had hoped that by combining this with the two-person tag criteria, she would increase her following considerably. Every additional person tagged by an entrant was another potential follower.

Similarly to choosing a suitable prize to give away, deciding on the entry criteria for your Instagram giveaway is about balance. You need to ensure that whatever you ask of potential entrants will help you achieve your primary goal, but you also can’t ask too much of people or you risk limiting the size of your entry pool.

 

This is just like optimizing a web form; include too many fields and you’ll probably turn off a sizable number of people who would have otherwise entered the contest (or clicked through from your landing page, to continue the web form analogy). Include too few fields and you risk failing to achieve your goal of growing your following (or capturing too little data about your prospects).

Step 3: Decide How Long Your Instagram Giveaway Will Last

The next decision you need to make is how much time you’ll give your audience to enter your Instagram giveaway.

Nicky opted to run her Instagram giveaway for seven days. She had originally planned to launch the contest on a Monday – which meant it would have ended on the Sunday night – but due to an unforeseen last-minute complication, she had to push the contest back by a couple of days. In the end, she ran the giveaway from Tuesday morning to Wednesday evening, giving entrants a full seven days to enter.

The length of your Instagram giveaway might depend on several factors.

For one, there’s the size of your existing following. It may make more sense, for example, to run a shorter giveaway if you have thousands of followers. For Nicky, who has a much more modest following, a full week seemed the right amount of time. It’s also worth considering that your giveaway may run out of steam or hit the wall of diminishing returns the longer it runs, so think carefully about this before making any public announcements.

Also, think about time zones and international audiences. Not all of your entrants are likely to be in the same time zone, so be sure it’s crystal clear precisely when your contest ends. You could also post reminders to help people remember that the contest is coming to a close – which is another way to encourage last-minute entries!

 

Nicky had to consider whether international entries would be accepted at all due to additional shipping costs compared to the overall value of the prize. In the end, she decided that she would accept international entries, but she had to include a short disclaimer about shipping costs to avoid nasty surprises if someone in, say, Australia won the contest.

Step 4: Create the Perfect Instagram Giveaway Post

So, you’ve done all the prep work, and now you’re ready to actually launch your Instagram giveaway. Before you can do this, you’ll need an actual Instagram post to use.

The “perfect” Instagram giveaway post will vary widely from one account to another. However, there are a couple of elements that every Instagram giveaway post should include. These are:

  1. A strong, color image to serve as the basis for the post
  2. Efficient use of text announcing the giveaway

For her Instagram giveaway, Nicky used the following image:

 

As you can see, the main image of the post features a bold, colorful visual as well as text announcing the contest. Although she could have used more text in the image itself, Nicky wisely chose to keep the inclusion of text in the image to the bare minimum, instead using the caption section of the post to let people know how to enter.

While there are no hard-and-fast rules about how to create Instagram posts for giveaways, it’s worthwhile considering your post from the audience’s perspective. If you’re giving away a specific product, it makes sense to include an image of that product in your announcement post; it would be misleading to include an image of a Maserati sports car in an Instagram giveaway for a weekend yoga retreat, for example.

Once you’re happy with your post, publish it and start the clock!

Step 5: Create ‘Reminder’ Posts to Share Throughout Your Instagram Giveaway

Although Instagram posts may not be quite as “disposable” as tweets, the sheer volume of posts you can see at any given time on an Instagram timeline is considerable, especially if you follow a lot of people.

As such, Instagram giveaways aren’t quite “set it and forget it,” and you should be prepared to provide regular updates on how much time is left to enter your giveaway to ensure a steady stream of entrants continues throughout the duration of the competition.

 

Only you can decide how often to publish “reminder” posts. Nicky opted to publish a single reminder post on Day Three of the contest. She decided early on that, based on her research, multiple updates per day was way too much, and since her giveaway lasted for seven days, the single mid-week reminder worked well.

The reminder posts themselves should be primarily visually striking so that they catch people’s eye as they browse their timeline. The captions should reiterate the rules of the giveaway, but it might be worth experimenting with the length of your captions depending on the frequency of your reminder posts. In Nicky’s case, a simple variant of the original post with a shortened caption was enough, but you may want to create more elaborate posts depending on your needs.

Step 6: Tally the Results of Your Instagram Giveaway

So it’s been a week (or however long your giveaway ran for), and you’ve amassed a list of Instagram followers who entered your contest. Now all that remains is to pick the lucky winner! 

Tallying up the entrants of your Instagram giveaway can be a piece of cake, or it can be a logistical nightmare – it all depends on your entry criteria and the volume of entrants.

After her giveaway had concluded, Nicky went through her Instagram feed and entered all the names of entrants who had abided by the rules into a spreadsheet. Each entrant’s name was entered onto a different row. Individuals who only entered once – by following CATPARTY and tagging two other people – were entered on a single row, while other entrants who tagged more people were entered into multiple rows to reflect the number of entries.

 

The lucky winner and their swag

To find the winner of her Instagram giveaway, Nicky used a simple online name-picking tool to select a winner from the list of entrants. Unfortunately, none of the software tools we came across supported CSV upload functionality, meaning that each name had to be entered manually, with entrants who submitted multiple entries being entered the relevant number of times. (If you know of a tool that supports uploads, let me know in the comments!)

No matter which way you slice it, actually determining the winner of your Instagram giveaway is likely to be at least a little work, so choose a system that allows you to select a winner as efficiently – and fairly – as possible.

Step 7: Spread the News About the Winner of Your Instagram Giveaway

Well, that’s it. You’ve ran your first Instagram giveaway and selected a lucky winner from the horde of entrants. All that’s left to do now is notify the lucky winner!

Sure, you could just send the winner a direct message, but that would be a missed opportunity. Why not make the announcement of the winner as much of a spectacle as the rest of the contest?

 

ALL ABOARD THE HYPE TRAIN

Letting the lucky winner know they’ve won your Instagram giveaway is yet another opportunity for exposure and growing your following. It lets the winner know they’ve won in a fun and exciting way, and also gives you the chance to thank the unlucky entrants as well as let your audience know about relevant forthcoming sales or future competitions.

Using Your Instagram Giveaway Data in Future Campaigns

Instagram giveaways aren’t just a great way to boost your following and create buzz about your store – they’re a veritable treasure-trove of data just waiting to be explored.

You probably already know that you can access analytics data for your Instagram feed if your account is a Business account. If you’ve never checked out this data, immediately after an Instagram giveaway is the perfect time to start.

Once Nicky’s Instagram giveaway had concluded, she delved into her analytics data to learn more about her audience.

 

Nicky learned all sorts of interesting information after her contest. For instance, she learned that she had a loyal (and growing) following in London, despite being based on the East Coast of the United States. This is largely because the enamel pin community is very tight-knit, and is generally pretty trendy in the British capital. Nicky has also made multiple sales to customers in London, which could also help account for this trend.

Next up, Nicky looked at some more audience demographic data. She learned that the majority of her audience is female, and between the ages of 25-34 – a very lucrative and desirable demographic.

 

Unlike some analytics data, demographic information may not be impacted as significantly by Instagram giveaways. Unless you’re offering a significantly imbalanced (or unfair) advantage to one demographic over another – say, giving women twice as many chances to win as men – you can probably be quite confident in the integrity of your demographic data before or after you run your contest.

It’s important to note that while Instagram analytics data can be immensely useful, you should approach this data carefully if you’re examining it after a giveaway. For example, you can see in the screenshot above that many of Nicky’s followers started following CATPARTY’s Instagram feed on Thursday afternoons. However, given that her Instagram giveaway ran from a Tuesday morning to a Wednesday night, this follower data could have easily been skewed by the contest.

That said, this data could also indicate strong interest in entries on Day Two of the competition – potentially valuable insight for future giveaways.

How Did CATPARTY’s Instagram Giveaway Go?

By now, you might be wondering how successful CATPARTY’s inaugural Instagram giveaway was.

I mentioned earlier in the post that the primary goal of CATPARTY’s giveaway was to increase the number of followers CATPARTY has on Instagram – any sales would be gravy, but boosting sales wasn’t the main objective.

Before the giveaway, CATPARTY had approximately 200 Instagram followers. Afterwards, it had 340 followers – an increase of 70%!

If we use traditional marketing metrics as a barometer of success, we can calculate the cost-per-acquisition of each new Instagram follower. We can do this by dividing the value of the prize Nicky featured in her Instagram giveaway (around $12) by the number of followers she gained during the contest.

 

CATPARTY attracted roughly 140 new followers during the competition, so we can calculate that each new follower cost just eight cents to acquire – not too shabby at all, especially when you consider that each of these followers is genuine and authentic (unlike followers Instagram profiles can pay to acquire), and has the potential to become a paying customer further down the road. In terms of ROI, this is pretty awesome, even if the figures themselves are rather modest.

Using Third-Party Instagram Analytics Tools

Out of sheer curiosity, I wanted to delve a little deeper into Nicky’s Instagram analytics data to see other aspects of CATPARTY’s Instagram presence had been impacted by the giveaway.

Although Instagram offers some decent tools of its own, it’s still a little lacking. I used a free online tool called Gabstats to evaluate other performance metrics during the week of Nicky’s Instagram giveaway.

During the week of the contest, CATPARTY made 10 posts to Instagram. In this time period, CATPARTY’s Instagram posts received:

  • 536 total Likes
  • 54 Likes per post on average
  • 111 total comments
  • 12 comments per post on average

We can take a look at each of Gabstat’s performance metrics individually. Below is a graph of Likes made on CATPARTY’s Instagram posts throughout the duration of the giveaway:

 

As you can see, Likes of CATPARTY’s posts during the contest rose dramatically between March 5 and March 6 – the day that Nicky published her reminder post.

We can also see which posts were the most popular during our custom date range:

 

Interestingly, in terms of Likes, each of the top three strongest posts performed similarly. As you can see, however, comments were very strong for the announcement post, yet there was only a single comment on the reminder post six days later. (The second-strongest post was part of a month-long “Meet the Maker” series in which CATPARTY was participating.)

 

In the figure above, we can see which of the hashtags Nicky used throughout her Instagram giveaway that correlated with the most Likes. The hashtags #pinstagram and #pingiveaway were tied for second place (#pinstagram is a very common and popular hashtag among the enamel pin community, as is the third hashtag, #pingame). This provides you with further data to optimize your posts.

Rather frustratingly, Gabstats doesn’t offer graphed or tabular data for follower counts, so we’ll have to rely on other data for this information. Still, it’s not bad for a free tool. If you have recommendations for similar Instagram analytics tools, let me know in the comments.

Give It Away, Give It Away, Give It Away Now

No matter what kind of business you’re in, Instagram giveaways are an excellent way of reaching new prospective fans with your products or services, growing your social following, and engaging with your fans. Obviously some kinds of businesses will be better suited to Instagram giveaways and promotions more than others, but hopefully, this post has given you some ideas for things to try during your next – or first – Instagram giveaway.

Have you used this kind of contest in your own social media campaigns? Get at me in the comments with ideas, suggestions, and tips of your own for running an Instagram giveaway.

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