How to Host an Instagram Social Media Contest

Submission contests are a great way to grow and engage your Instagram community and also help to expand your content reach.

Each week, we promote a different Instagram hashtag contest that encourages our community to submit content for a chance to be featured on the Latergramme Instagram account.

By observing the feedback and engagement from our community week-to-week, we’ve adjusted our posting schedule and submission themes to better engage our audience.

In this article, we’ll share our key learnings from hosting submission contests that will help you create your own successful submission-based Instagram campaign.

How to Host An Instagram Social Media Contest

Photo by @teagran

What is an Instagram Submission Contest?

A submission contest asks your followers to create content and submit a photo or video based on the hashtag you’ve created for the contest.

Submission contests are a great way to collect user-generated content that you can repurpose at a later date and also help to develop an engaged Instagram community.

How to Create a Submission Hashtag

  • Make sure it’s branded: Include some reference to your business or overall branding. 
  • Keep it relatively short: Longer hashtags are more difficult to remember and to type.
  • Give tips: We provide a new tip each week with our submission promotion photo. Encouraging a dialogue and educating your community is a great way to foster engagement.

What to Include in Your Promotion Post

When you promote your submission contest it’s really important to include the rules for your submission, the timeframe to post, and what you want your community to do. You can also include insightful tips or examples to help your followers create their content.

In each promotional post you should include:

  • The hashtag to use in the post
  • The timeframe to post content for the contest
  • When the winner of the contest will be announced
  • The type of content eligible to win (original content vs. reposted content)
  • Tips on how to take the photo or engaging insights on how to create the content

    How to Host an Instagram Social Media Contest

    Photo by @theartof_social

What we learned hosting our own submission contests

#1: Sunday is Not a Good Day to Post Your Promotion Photos

For the first three months when we started submission contests, we had been posting the promotion photo on Sunday. We tried different times of the day to see when our community was online and engaged in the content we were sharing and we tested posting on Sundays at 9am, 3pm, 4pm, 5pm, 7pm, and 10pm.

Our promotion photos earned between 300-400 likes and under 5 comments per photo, except for the photo that was shared at 5pm on Sunday for #LTGRxLeaves.

By Wednesday, three days after our initial promotion post, we had very few submissions for the contest. Because 300+ people saw our promotion post this led us to believe that we needed to share the promotion photo in a timeframe that supported room for our community to create content.

The Results:

We’ve moved our submission contest promotion photo to Monday morning and allow submissions until the following Sunday at midnight to see if sharing on a weekday will get more engagement and if sharing at the beginning of the week will help our community take advantage of the two days to create over the weekend.

How to Host An Instagram Social Media Contest

Photo by @saritamann

#2: Text Over the Promotion Photo Generates More Submissions

The promotion photo for your submission contests is the most important as it shares the submission topic. We previously shared the submission photo with the submission hashtag and contest rules in the caption. The photo to promote the submissions received a lot of likes and comments but not many submissions, which led us to believe that:

  • The caption text was too long and the hashtag was getting lost.
  • Our community was not reading the caption.

The Results:

We decided to put the submission hashtag in the photo as well as in the caption to see if making the caption more visible would generate more submissions. We still promote one or two more photos with the hashtag in the caption throughout the week, but the promotion post now has the hashtag over the photo.

How to Host An Instagram Social Media Contest

Photo by @newfound

#3: Abstract Terms are Better Than Concrete Terms

When we created our submission contest themes, we previously selected topics that were more concrete or topical based on a season or event. The topics included themes such as Halloweenleaves, pumpkin, plaid, fashion, and reads.

These topics didn’t generate very many submissions. We tested posting at various times of day, with and without text over the photo, posting multiple photos to promote the contest per week, and posting to other social channels such as Twitter and Facebook.

We think the reason for the lack of engagement is because the topics were too specific for our community to create content or take a photograph, so we elected to use more general topics that almost anyone could create content around.

The Results:

We’ve started selecting more abstract ideas and themes for the submission contests that our community can contribute to. Some of our most popular submission topics include shadows, blue, twilight, perspective, and skyline.

Our most popular submission contest to date was the #LTGRxClouds submission contest that gathered over 70 pieces of content from creators all over the world.

How to Host An Instagram Social Media Contest


Final Thoughts

We think Instagram is about connecting and collaborating with your community. Submission contests really help build the framework for growing your community and fostering a dialogue, and we love when we get feedback or comments from the submission winners or participants in the week’s contest.

To create your community and start the conversation, you need to figure out when your audience is online and how they want to be a part of the contest you’re creating. So figure out what works best for them and create topics and guidelines once you have some data points to pull from.

Your first submission might not generate many contributions, but with a little patience and a lot of attention to the results from your community, you’ll gradually see your community engagement grow.

Sign up for Later today! 

Written By


Stephanie is the Community Manager at Later. You can follow her on Instagram or Twitter @byStephie.