Instagram works really well as a platform for competitions and prize draws. There are around 800 million people actively using it every month and asking people to upload photos or short videos to win is straightforward. However, the key to a successful Instagram prize promotion is choosing the right hashtags – and it’s not as easy as you might think.
Instagram hashtags make your content discoverable. If you use a keyword without a hashtag, it won’t show up in an Instagram search, which will severely limit the potential number of entries to your prize draw, as well as your ability to increase your followers and engage with Instagrammers.
There are two main types of Instagram hashtags – community hashtags and branded hashtags. Community hashtags are generic and you can utilise them to get the word out about your competition or prize draw. #Picoftheday and #Instalove are just a couple of very popular tags, and there are community hashtags for food, fashion, travel, music and so on.
If your promotion is linked to a public event, say Christmas, it makes sense to choose a related tag. For instance, you could pick #Christmas2017, but if a search on #Christmas2017 pulls up 783, 534 posts, most of them pictures of wonky, badly decorated trees, you might decide that your post could get lost and the context isn’t quite right for you.
It’s all about doing your research, thinking laterally about relevant tags that might be more suitable – in this case, #ChristmasCompetition or #ChristmasPrizeDraw are alternatives – and making a judgement.
Around 70% of Instagram hashtags are branded and contain a company name or a reference to a specific product or campaign. Branded hashtags are useful, because you can monitor mentions of your brand or the success of a particular promotion, and they’re crucial when you’re running a competition or prize draw on Instagram.
Why? Because you need to be able filter out your entries easily, rather than having to sift through thousands of irrelevant posts (I’ve done this and it doesn’t bring joy). Just to be on the safe side – and this is an important promotions tip – I always advise asking people to add @YourBrandName to their entry as well as a branded hashtag.
So you need a unique hashtag for your promotion, but when you create a new hashtag be very careful you don’t inadvertently create a tag with an alternative meaning. For example, singer Susan Boyle’s album was promoted with the tag #Susanalbumparty. This was read as something else, which Susan’s PR company clearly couldn’t see. When this tag started to trend, it was swiftly changed to #SusanBoylesAlbumParty, but the damage had been done.
This was a Twitter hashtag and in fact most notorious hashtag fails have happened on Twitter, but the principle is exactly the same on Instagram. Ideally, what you want is something short, simple, snappy, creative and clever, as well as memorable and easy to spell. Easy then!
Finding a unique hashtag might seem as hard as actually listening to a Susan Boyle album, but actually there are various strategies you can use. When you type a hashtag into the search box, see what else comes up in the list as this will give you some ideas. Have a look at the most popular posts that appear and identify which tags commonly appear and which ones you can use, too. It’s also worth looking at which hashtags your competitors or the influencers that hold sway in your sector are utilising.
There are also websites which help you come up with hashtags – try Instagram Hashtags or All Hashtag – and tools such as Hashtagify, which enable you to analyse hashtag trends. To get you started, have a think about these five hashtags: #competition, #win, #prizedraw, #giveaway and #contest. They work in their own right, but you can also add your brand name in front of them.
Instagram allows you to add up to 30 hashtags per post. Do you have use all 30? No, you don’t. Should you? Opinions vary, but to create reach and engagement for a competition or prize draw, I often apply the following formula: three big community tags, three niche community tags, four branded tags and one unique tag.
Sarah Burns is Prizeology’s Chief Prizeologist, an IPM Board Director, and a SCAMbassador for National Trading Standards Scams Team.