Turn Your Next Instagram Contest into a User Generated Content Machine


Social media contests come in all sorts of shapes and sizes: everything from the easy-to-enter “Tag you and your friends to win!” to the tried-and-true, “Share your email with us to enter to win!” Regardless of the mechanics, the goal of any social media contest has always been to build awareness of your brand on social media – and maybe sell a product or two while you’re doing it. Now a new type of contest is making its mark across the social media landscape. The user generated content (UGC) contest is designed to encourage a brand’s Superfans and customers to create branded content on their own and publish that content to their personal social feeds.

While any social media platform can be used to support a UGC contest, we’ve found that Instagram photo-submission contests tend to be more popular than other UGC contests. By taking a quick picture (based on your contest criteria), and #hashtagging it with the appropriate tag, your fans can be entered into your contest for a chance to win whatever amazing prize you’re incentivizing them with.


Why User Generated Content?

User Generated Content Is Powerful.

When it comes to UGC, fans are twice as likely to share user generated content with their social networks. UGC posts also have a 28% higher engagement rate. What it all means is that when your brand posts content created by your fans, those posts have a better chance of being both seen and engaged with than your standard brand posts.

More importantly, people trust UGC. In fact, 76% of individuals surveyed say that they’re more likely to trust content shared by “normal” people than content shared by brands. A shot of a fan wearing your brand’s apparel is more powerful than a shot of your mid-level marketing manager wearing a branded shirt (no offense to those mid-level marketers).

A Quick Note on Legality

Before you launch your contest, you’ll want to make sure you have your legal team review your crossed t’s and dotted I’s. In general, though, these types of promotions fall into two categories:

  • Sweepstakes: Open to anyone allowed by your rules. The winner is selected by a random drawing. One note, you can’t require a purchase as a means of entry. This turns your sweepstakes into a lottery (which the government frowns on).
  • Contests: If you’re selecting a UGC winner based on certain criteria, you have yourself a contest.


5 Best Practices for Generating Instagram UGC

1) Choose the Right Contest Management Tool

While it’s tempting to dive right in and start dropping prizes and contests on your IG audience, we recommend that you have a solid plan in place for how you’re going to manage your user generated content contest first. After all, if your contest gets thousands of entries, are you going to sit down and sift through them all on your mobile phone as you search out the winner?

When you’re selecting the right contest management tool, be sure you go with one that allows you to:

  • Curate and approve posts based on your specific criteria
  • See, at a glance, all the submitted content
  • Access and contact your entries after the contest is over (through an advocacy marketing campaign)

Pro Tip: Shameless plug, but skip the hours of platform research by going with SocialToaster. Our advocacy marketing management platform has all the tools you need to launch and manage an Instagram UGC contest.


2) Create a Contest That’s Simple to Understand (And Enter)

On a general note, if you make the requirements of a contest overly complicated, you’re going to get less user generated content. Not everyone is a highly-trained photographer. You need to ensure your entry requirements are something that the average person (not a hypothetical unicorn customer) can understand and easily act on.

No one is going to enter a contest that has the means of entry as, “Take a selfie from the top of Mt. Everest wearing your favorite swimsuit, hopping on one leg, while holding a can of Perri-Air.”

To help guide your entry requirements, first think through the type of UGC you want to walk away with. Do you want to showcase shots of your fans or shots of their lifestyle? Does your product need to be in every picture, or is it more about the environment that your product is consumed in that would appeal to your Instagram feed?

As a best practice, pick one or two must haves and focus your entry asks around those.

For example:

  • Product and Lifestyle – A beverage company might want to have their friends show off their setup for watching the Big Game (complete with their brand of course).
  • Product and People – A fashion company might be more interested in having UGC that shows real customers wearing their clothing.


3) Pick A Single Hashtag for The Contest

Choosing the right hashtag is a critical part of your Instagram contest. After all, it’s the hashtag that provides the mechanism for your brand to be able to curate entries.

When choosing a hashtag make sure:

  • It’s not already in use by another brand or by the social media population in general – no, you can’t use #TacoTuesday for your contest (nor do you want to)
  • It fits the brand without “being the brand” – don’t go with #BRANDNAME
  • It celebrates the customers of the brand – the more fun the contest, the more entries your brand will receive


4) Showcase Your Entries During the Entire Contest

Don’t wait until the end of the contest to show off a handful of winners. We’ve found that brands that show off their entries during the life of the campaign receive more overall entries! People get inspired by what others are doing. They also see that other people are joining in on the fun, which provides a bucket-load of psychological motivation including the big two:

  1. Social Proof – Others are doing this, so it must be a big deal
  2. Fear of Missing Out – If I don’t join this contest, I’ll miss out on the fun


5) Build Anticipation for Your Contest, Then Continue to Market

The first time your advocates and social media fans hear about the contest should not be on the day the contest goes live. Be sure to drop a few posts and send a couple emails to your audiences letting them know that a user generated content contest is on the way! If you have an advocacy marketing program, send out content a week or two before the contest launches to build anticipation.

The day of the program, launch with a bang! Send emails to your advocates and other marketing lists. Activate your audience on social media. Hire a skywriter. Your goal should be to get as many first-day entries as possible, as that momentum will help carry you through the contest.

For a multi-week contest, one message about the contest is not going to be enough. You need to be sure that you continue to promote the contest during its entire life-cycle.

Instagram is a powerful media for boosting your stockpile of user generated content. One solid contest can provide you with enough UGC for an entire year’s worth of #TBT.

Ready to learn how SocialToaster can help you execute your next Instagram contest? Sign up for a free demo, or just give us a call at 855.62.TOAST!

PS: You can learn more about transferring your contest participants over to an ongoing advocacy marketing program by checking out our blog post here!


Leave a Reply

Recent Posts
Leverage your Micro-Influencers and Everyday Fans
Download our newest white paper and learn the difference between working with a Micro-Influencer vs. Everyday Fans and how each can be leveraged to support your advocacy marketing and influencer marketing efforts.

Lets Get Started On Your Campaign

Would you like to connect with someone on our sales team to learn more about the SocialToaster platform and how it might add value to your business? Request a demo here or send us an email to sales@socialtoaster.com.