How to run prize giveaways on Instagram

Instagram prize giveaways are a popular growth hack adopted by both small businesses and large brands. They are a great method of promoting products and services, encouraging consumer engagement, as well as attracting new followers (Influencer, Molly Mae gained a whopping 308,237 new followers as a result of her Louis Vuitton giveaway). As prize promotion experts, we’re obviously all the way here for it, but it appears that a lot of  businesses adopting this tactic are unaware of the regulations surrounding promotional marketing. If you’re reading this and thinking “erm…what regulations?”, you’re in the right place – we’re here to educate you on the ins and outs of prize giveaways on Instagram and what you can do to ensure that yours encourages growth instead of hindering it.

The CAP code and the ASA

Promotional marketing, which include giveaways, prize draws and competitions, is regulated in the UK by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), who endorse and enforce the CAP code (a rule book for Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotions and Direct Marketing). There are a load of rules listed in the CAP code which need to be followed and if we sat and went through all of them now, we’d be here all day.

Luckily for you, we’ve identified the most common Instagram giveaway mistakes and highlighted how these can be in breach of the CAP code. Those found to be in breach of the CAP code may find themselves subject to an ASA ruling, which is featured on a dedicated section of the ASA’s website and is designed to appear in search engine results when someone searches for said company on the internet. Obviously, this can result in bad press and the public does not respond well to businesses ignoring rules that are designed to protect consumers. ASA rulings are also frequently featured in national newspapers, such as The Sun and the Daily Mail, both of which are read by millions of people every day. This is an important consideration for small businesses that do not have the financial means to recover from bad publicity – ensuring that your giveaways are honest and transparent is vital to reap in the benefits.

To avoid public humiliation on the Daily Mail website, behold my top 5 tips to bear in mind before launching an Instagram giveaway…

  1. Anyone directly associated with the business cannot choose the winner of a giveaway.

Prize draw winners must be selected at random (rule 8.24 of the CAP Code) and all entrants must be given a fair and equal chance of winning. Ensuring a winner is chosen at random can be done by using a computer process that produces verifiably random results. If a computer process cannot be used, an independent person/party (someone who is not affiliated with the brand in question and has no vested interest in the outcome of the promotion) should select the winner. Even if you believe you have a valid random process to draw your winner, this does not prevent any foul play on the promoter’s (that’s you!) end. Promoters can still manipulate data to align with the entries selected so we always recommend using an independent third-party to do this for you. It prevents any bias and ensures that prizes are awarded in accordance with the laws of chance. Winner selection is just one of the many services we offer here at Prizeology – you can read more about this here.

  1. Scraping entries through sharing posts via Instagram stories is impossible.

Although we understand that asking people to share posts via Instagram stories works fantastically well in terms of free promo, it is not quite practical in terms of using it as an entry mechanic for giveaways. Currently, there are no methods available to scrape entries from Instagram story shares. As well as this, stories uploaded by users with a private account can be viewed by their followers only and this therefore is not an inclusive, fair entry method. Some businesses have started asking private users for proof of their story share via Instagram direct message (DM), however this will require a lot of additional work to ensure that all DMs are acknowledged and verified in order to be marked as a valid entry.

  1. Prizes actually have to be awarded (yes –really!)

We’re not here to publicly shame anyone, but we have spotted a few smaller businesses who have featured prize giveaways on Instagram (presumably for additional profile traction and followers) but have not awarded the advertised prizes.  Lying to and misleading consumers is not only completely unethical but may also result in your business being reported to the ASA and featured in its weekly rulings. Word of mouth travels quickly and all it takes is one tweet from one unhappy non-recipient prize winner for a business to be put on blast. Although we understand that giveaways are an amazing marketing method that can produce fantastic results – they must be administered properly, and this very much (and quite obviously) includes awarding the prizes that were promised. If for any reason the prize in question cannot be awarded, a prize of the same of greater value must be awarded to the winner.

  1. Terms and conditions can increase trust and tackle any legal potentialities that may arise.

I’m sure we’ve all seen prize giveaways on Instagram with those famous last words written at the end of the picture caption…”Ts and Cs apply”. The question is, what terms and conditions are these businesses referring to? Terms and conditions are a set of regulations which not only protect you as a promoter, but the consumer too. Opening and closing date, full details on the prizes up for grabs, details on how to enter and winner notification details are just some of the information which should be detailed and provide the basis of an agreement between you and your customers. You can read the full list of what needs to be included in your Ts and Cs here or, even better – we can write them for you.

It may seem boring and – for straightforward entry mechanics such as simply liking a post and following an account – may seem pointless but believe us, they are  completely necessary.

  1. Follow trains can put users off entering giveaways.

Prize giveaways on Instagram that require following a series of different accounts can deter people from entering. Although this method is a good idea in terms of gaining followers, we hate to be the ones to tell you, but the public is generally quite lazy and prize promotions that require a lot of effort to enter are often unsuccessful. We always recommend that entry mechanics are as simple as possible to encourage good engagement. Some Instagram users are also selective with the accounts that they follow, meaning that if one or some of the businesses involved in the giveaway are not of interest – it can hinder your entry rates.

Encouraging these follow trains also increases the amount of manual labour required to verify entrants by you, the Promoter. Checking that a user follows all the brands/businesses involved in the giveaway can be time consuming and creates a lot of extra work which will need to be factored in.

Out of curiosity, I asked my Instagram followers (all 635 of them – yes I may be considered a micro celeb) the following question…

If 10 different businesses combined to offer a prize giveaway on Instagram (eg 1x free make-up treatment, 1x box of personalised cupcakes, 1x free hair treatment etc.) and the entry mechanic required you to follow all 10 accounts, would this put you off entering the giveaway?

A whopping 83% voted said yes – which further demonstrates the public’s lack of willingness, (or at least my followers lack of commitment) to follow accounts that they do not know, or simply show no interest in.

In the eyes of the law and industry regulations, follow trains are perfectly acceptable and we’re not telling you to completely avoid them. But, if you do want to maintain the interest of your audience and create genuine engagement, this isn’t for you.

If you have any more questions about how to run a prize promotion on Instagram, or in fact on any other platform, you can contact us by email or call us on +44 (0)20 7856 0402.

Poppy Smith is Prizeology’s Project Assistant and self-appointed Instagram micro influencer. 

© Prizeology and The Prizeologist Blog, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.




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