Running a successful Instagram giveaway, sweepstakes, or contest is a great way to create brand awareness and increase your ecommerce store’s sales. In fact, a 2020 study by TailWind found that Instagram contests get 3.5 times more likes and 64 times more comments on average than regular Instagram posts.
Still, an effective giveaway requires more than a social media post and a product. Many store owners fail to execute their Instagram giveaway campaigns properly, leading to wasted effort and inventory.
We’ve seen hundreds of Shopify store owners run sweepstakes over the years, and many of them fall victim to the same common pitfalls. Here are 11 Instagram giveaway mistakes to watch out for, along with tips for increasing the success of your giveaway campaigns.
1. Make your entry instructions clear
Keep in mind that because you’re the one building your giveaway campaign, you’ll know how it works and how to enter. But just because you understand your Instagram promotion guidelines, that doesn’t mean your Instagram followers will too. If people don’t understand how to participate, you’ll see fewer entries, leading to poor results overall.
Here’s an example of a confusing giveaway post:
What’s wrong with this picture?
Now, let’s look at an Instagram giveaway post whose instructions are clear:
Notice that this poster dives into the Instagram giveaway rules right away, with no unnecessary text, all while maintaining a fun, cheerful brand voice. The steps to enter are numbered, and each is on its own line.
Finally, less important items like official rules and hashtags are provided down below, ensuring followers don’t get bogged down.
To avoid launching a confusing giveaway that repels potential customers, create a draft of your post with your planned images and text and show it to a few trusted friends or colleagues. If people have questions or concerns, you’ll know you need to make adjustments before the promotion goes live.
2. Make it simple to enter your giveaway
Instagram giveaways are simpler than multiplatform campaigns—after all, there are no external links, which means no long entry forms to fill out. But many brands still make their entry process overly difficult, resulting in a contest that fails to get any traction. If you’re running a sweepstakes giving away an inexpensive item, you may want to think twice before asking entrants to make a video.
Here’s a real-world example of giveaway that’s probably asking too much:
This brand is asking for a like, follows for two separate accounts, and two tagged friends—both of whom must also follow those accounts. That’s a lot to ask for a giveaway worth $50 or less. Instead, keep it simple: Ask for a like, a follow, and a comment tagging a friend who might be interested in your products.
If you still want more from your Instagram contest audience, consider adding optional actions that give them extra chances at the prize. You’ll add more value in the form of “bonus entries” and boost engagement in return.
3. Choose the right giveaway prize
Whether you’re offering one of your own products, a gift card, or a high-dollar offer like a trip, your prize can have a huge impact on your Instagram giveaway campaign’s performance. If the prize doesn’t align properly with your target audience, your promotion will underperform.
When you choose a prize, ask yourself if it has a strong value proposition for your ideal customer. The ideal Instagram giveaway prize is:
- Valuable. Note that valuable does not necessarily mean expensive! A prize is valuable if it’s something your target buyer wants or needs. With the right contest, even something as simple as a phone case or sticker pack can motivate your followers to act.
- Relevant. Your Instagram giveaway prize should always be closely related to your business and audience. There’s no point in running an Instagram giveaway campaign that brings in new followers who aren’t going to stick around long term.
- Exclusive. A great way to make your Instagram contest more exciting is to give away something followers won’t find anywhere else. If your prize is something your followers can’t pick up at the store, they’ll be more likely to jump through hoops in order to get it.
4. Focus on your target audience
One of the benefits of Instagram marketing is the ability to reach a huge audience of potential customers—but when it comes to a giveaway, that massive reach can also work against you. The last thing you want to do is build up a list of 1,000+ leads, only to find out that they’re all freebie seekers who don’t care about your business or products.
While you won’t be able to use the demographic targeting tools in Instagram’s ad platform, you can still market your Instagram giveaway to the right audience with a few simple tricks.
- Limit your eligibility. To filter out users who don’t have access to your store, establish your Instagram contest rules to only include entrants in the country or countries where you do business.
- Choose hashtags carefully. While it’s tempting to use broad Instagram hashtags like #contest or #giveaway to promote your post, you’ll likely be pulling in users who are more interested in free stuff than they are in your store. Instead, choose hashtags related to your products and industry, even if they have a smaller following.
- Use your entry criteria. To limit your giveaway to entrants who might be interested in your products, ask them to prove it as part of the entry process. For instance, if your store sells cooking tools, you could ask entrants to tag you in their cooking Instagram Stories or mention their favorite kitchen utensil in the comments section of your contest post.
- Partner with related brands or influencers. If you know any brands or influencers with audiences whose interests are similar to yours, consider teaming up on a joint giveaway. You’ll gain access to their followers and create a Venn diagram of targeted users.
5. Promote your giveaway
One post announcing your Instagram giveaway isn’t enough. Keep in mind that your target customers aren’t always browsing Instagram. In fact, the average user spends 28 minutes per day browsing their Instagram feed. Add to that the fact that over 1,100 photos are posted to Instagram every second, and you’ll see how important it is to give your audience more than one chance at your giveaway.
Instead, plan on promoting your giveaway with at the following posts:
- A coming soon post to tease the giveaway (see above for an example).
- An announcement post to officially launch.
- A reminder repost to nudge followers who haven’t taken action and bring in users who missed your earlier posts. (If your giveaway campaign is short, you might want to skip this one.)
- A last chance post to create urgency just before your Instagram contest closes.
- A winner announcement congratulating the lucky recipient of your prize.
In addition to Instagram, you should be leveraging other digital marketing channels to promote your giveaway. Post to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites in parallel to drive traffic. You can also send out a message or two to your email list, encouraging them to enter the Instagram contest and follow your Instagram account.
6. Time your giveaway properly
On Instagram, as in comedy, timing is everything. Your Instagram contest may have an irresistible prize and a well-crafted pitch, but it will still fall flat if your audience isn’t there to see it.
Before launching your Instagram giveaway, check the calendar. Does your promotion fall on any major events or holidays (e.g., Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, the Super Bowl) when people may be away from their computer or on vacation? If your product is seasonal, are you timing your giveaway so that your audience’s interest is at its peak?
Timing isn’t just about launch date, either: choosing the right start and end dates can have a major impact on your results. Run an Instagram contest too long and your audience could lose interest before a lucky winner is announced. On the other hand, a short contest means fewer people will get a chance to enter, minimizing your reach and exposure.
For Instagram, which tends to move quickly and prioritizes fresh content, the sweet spot for length is at least three days, but no more than a week. This is just enough time to have all of your marketing kick in, but not so long that it starts to drag on.
7. Set clear and realistic goals
Don’t run an Instagram contest because everyone else is doing it. Instead, set clear, measurable goals for your campaign, then form a marketing strategy for how to achieve those goals. Some tips for setting goals for your Instagram giveaway include:
- Make them specific. Be sure your objective is tied to a specific channel, product, or result. For instance, rather than “growing your audience,” make it your goal to grow your Instagram follower count or visits to a certain landing page. Instead of “more transactions,” concentrate on increasing sales of a new product or line in your store.
- Make them measurable. Instead of “more,” put a number or percentage on your goals. This way, you’ll know whether your giveaway underperformed or exceeded expectations. If sales are your goal, determine what an Instagram giveaway might cost you in time, energy, and product. Then, use that number as a benchmark for your desired results.
- Make them realistic. If you run a small business, assuming that a single Instagram sweepstakes can bring you 50,000 entries and 10,000 likes is probably a bad idea. While it never hurts to aim for the stars, it’s better to set realistic goals and surpass them than to set unrealistic goals and guarantee disappointment. You can always take the experience from your first giveaway and raise expectations the second time around.
8. Follow up with entrants
The value of a giveaway is not just in list generation: it’s in how you follow up with people and convert them. While your actual Instagram sweepstakes may have received entries, it can still fail in the long run if you don’t stay top of mind afterward.
The goal is not only to reach new audiences, but also to build lasting relationships that result in lifelong customers. That means keeping them engaged on Instagram, but also moving them off the platform and into your sales funnel.
- Announce your winner. When your Instagram contest ends, be sure to cap it off with a post announcing and congratulating the winner. Remind your audience of the prize, and that they can pick one up for themselves at your store (if applicable). You can also generate even more content by having your winner share or post a photo of them enjoying their prize in person.
- Offer a consolation prize. Just because the rest of your audience didn’t win, doesn’t mean they have to walk away empty handed. Consider following up your Instagram giveaway with a “consolation prize” in the form of a coupon or discount for all entrants.
- Point to a link in your bio. If your goal is to increase sales, you’ll need to help Instagram users make the jump to your ecommerce store—and bio links to your website are the best way to do that. Be sure that any follow-up post for your Instagram giveaway includes a call to action inviting users to click the link in your bio.
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Your Instagram giveaway is just the beginning
A successful Instagram giveaway is only the first step. Once your Instagram giveaway is in the books, use what you’ve learned as a stepping stone to an effective digital marketing strategy for growing your Shopify store.