With 150 million users, Instagram is a quickly growing, fun and easy way to get in touch with your customers. We all know a picture is worth a thousand words, and it’s especially true in the field of search engine optimization. And there are few ways to get more pictures, more recognition, and more attention than by having your customers advertise for you. How? By holding Instagram contests!


win with instagram contests

Instagram contests are a win-win situation: Your customers have fun (and maybe get prizes), and you get publicity and attention, and therefore improved ranking.


There are a few different ways to have a contest on Instagram, and each accomplishes different things.


  • Branded Travel-grams: In these contests, your customers take pictures at landscapes or while doing something exciting, relaxing, or otherwise visually appealing while holding your product or your logo. For example, in their recent Instagram contest, Macallan Whiskey asked their fans to “take a photo of themselves with the Macallan, or a shot that represents their love for the brand.”
  • Brandless Travel-grams: Similar to the above contest, these are contests for fans and customers to take pictures of different places that they find inspiring, or that hold with the theme of the contest. However, the brand or your product doesn’t need to appear in the photo, although they have to mention you or the contest in the description. Otherwise, it can be hard to enter. National Geographic’s recent contest, Untamed Americas, asked nature and photography fans to display images of the wild in their yards. This contest won “Best Contest” in the 2013 Social Media Icon awards, and their followers increased by 55%.
  • Brand-grams: Take out the location, keep something from your brand, and have an image contest with your product or logo. At Halloween, Dunkin’ Donuts asked customers to dress up their coffee cups and post pictures for their DresseDD contest. They received pictures of cup hula dancers, cup monsters, cup Sponge Bobs, and more.
  • Themed Photos: Similar to the travel-grams, these ask for images that portray a certain theme, which is usually the theme of the contest. Swarovski’s contest wanted pictures that captured light in a sparkling light reflection for their InstaSparkle contest.
  • Online Scavenger Hunts: Hide clues in your images that lead to the prize. These can be as simple or complex as you like. For a more involved one, look at the Heineken contest for tickets to the U.S. Open. Their clue is hidden in a mosaic of images, and the participants need to spot the clue and comment on the photo.
  • Offline Scavenger Hunts: Taking pictures and leaving clues out in the real world, some companies post the results in the virtual world that lead to rewards if clever users can follow them. Tony Hawk, for example, hides signed skateboards somewhere noticeable. The first to decipher the image and get there gets to keep a signed skateboard.


Obviously, different methods work better for different companies, and they can be as personalized as you want. It gives you a chance to advertise in a way that customers feel they can show off their creativity and talents, as well as possibly earning something fun. This is also a good thing to advertise on other social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, and it’s likely to be shared and noticed. Is there a good return on whatever you invest for your prize? Considering some of the prizes by bigger companies – like Lipton’s all-expenses-paid trip to Kenya – there are definitely plenty of people who think so!