How to do an Instagram giveaway: Here’s how I gained 2000 Instagram followers in one week

How to run an Instagram giveaway

I recently decided to hold my first Instagram giveaway to promote my shop launch, and it was a big success. I’d been growing my Instagram account for several months, and I had about 500 followers. Over the course of my one-week giveaway I gained nearly 2000 more followers. If you’re considering an Instagram giveaway, I’m going to share everything that I learned. So grab a cup of coffee and settle in, because this is a long one!

Decide on your goal

What do you want to gain by holding this giveaway? Maybe you want to boost engagement, gain followers, promote awareness of a product, gather user-generated content, or learn about your audience. Decide on some measurable markers of success, and then create a contest that will target them. I wanted create brand awareness and expand my reach by gaining followers. I offered options for people to tag friends in comments, share in their stories and repost to their feed in order to reach as many people as possible. If you want to learn more about your audience, you could ask them to answer a question. If you want user-generated content for your brand, ask them to post a picture with a product and then ask them if you can use that image. Once you know your goal, you can decide on the best strategy.

Choose your prize carefully

This was the most crucial part of the success of my giveaway. There are different philosophies out there. One strategy is to offer frequent, small giveaways that will get users accustomed to expecting giveaways from you. I settled on a “go big or go home” strategy. I wanted to offer a huge prize that would have a far reach and give people a real incentive to enter. 

First, make your prize specific to your niche. If you choose a random product to give away just because it’s cool, you’ll get random followers who are less interested in your brand. You want to gain followers who will actually enjoy following your account in the future. I’m a letterer, so I chose lettering supplies. I started by polling my audience in my stories. I asked for feedback about what supplies they’d like to get in a giveaway. Most people replied that they’d like either Ecoline brush pens or Tombow brush pens. Once I narrowed it down to those two options, I asked people to choose between the two in a poll, and the Ecolines won.

I decided that I’d offer one winner a set of every single Ecoline brush pen color available (60 pens). Ecolines are a high-end product, and this isn’t something that a ton of people would have. I knew that it would appeal to both beginners and more experienced letterers. The pens also aren’t widely available internationally, and I planned to open this up to international users. I considered creating a bundle of several art supplies and including a smaller pack of Ecoline pens, but there’s something about the psychology of offering every single color that appealed to me. I spent a good amount of money on the prize, but I chose to look at it as my Instagram ad budget for my shop launch. If you divide the cost by the number of followers that I gained, I ended up paying about 9 cents per new follower. Not bad! (If your following is big enough, you can also consider partnering up with a brand to do a sponsored giveaway.)

Finally, make the prize worth the time it takes for people to enter. So if you’re offering a smaller prize, don’t require a lot from people to enter the contest. Tagging a couple of people in the comments is easier than requiring people to repost your contest image. Don’t make it too complicated to enter the contest, or you’ll reduce your reach.

Decide on the rules

This is the trickiest part. Plan the rules out ahead of time so that you can clearly lay them out in your giveaway post. Once these are posted, they can’t be changed (see the legal section below). Here are some things to consider:

  • Instagram terms and conditions: Instagram has a set of requirements for people who are creating giveaways. Make sure that you include the required language and follow their guidelines here. If you’re considering a Facebook giveaway, the Facebook terms are different.
  • International participation: Will this be open to your country only, or internationally? If it’s open internationally, will the winner have to pay for shipping costs or will you cover that? If you plan to cover shipping, be prepared for a big potential bill. If you expect the winner to cover the cost, figure out ahead of time how you’ll have them pay. I’d include that in your rules.
  • The length of the contest: If you have a smaller following, consider making the contest run longer so that it can reach more people. A week is very common. If you have a larger following or it’s a smaller prize, maybe you want to make it a 24-hour contest. You’ll also have people applying from different time zones, so include the exact time that the contest ends.
  • Announcing the winner: I recommend contacting the winner privately before publicly announcing. This gives you time to figure out any issues that might arise. I said that I would announce the winner within 48 hours of the contest closing. That gave me time to reach out and confirm that the winner was over 18, which was a requirement in my contest.
  • Age of participants: This was the most contentious part of my giveaway, which surprised me. I required people to be 18 or older, because I didn’t want to worry about giveaway laws regarding minors. But throughout the contest, I got a lot of direct messages from followers who were dismayed to see that they couldn’t participate. It’s not something that I was expecting.
  • Private profiles: Decide if you’ll accept people with private profiles, or if you want to go with public profiles only. Figure out how you’ll let them participate. If they post to their stories, could they screenshot it and send you that screenshot?
  • I also got questions from people asking if it mattered if they made each tag a separate comment, or if they needed to tag every friend in one single comment. It didn’t matter to me since I was entering all the data by hand, but it’s good to specify that up front.
  • If you’re asking people to repost to their feed, decide how you’ll keep track of that. I would create a specific hashtag that’s distinct to your giveaway. You’ll get a lot of notifications during the giveaway, so you don’t want to rely on someone just tagging you in a caption. Take another look at those Instagram terms—you can’t require someone to tag you in a photo that you’re not actually in.
  • Decide how you’ll contact the winner. Will you email them? Direct message? Include this in your rules so that they know where to look.
  • Do you want to track the package or verify the delivery? I sent mine via certified mail, but since it required a signature, that caused some complications. Think about what you’d like to do on the front end.
The legal stuff

Before we get into this section, you should know that I’m not a lawyer and can’t give out legal advice. If you’re concerned about specific legal aspects of your giveaway, get in touch with a lawyer. But here are some general suggestions. When you’re running a giveaway, you have to take giveaway laws into consideration. The requirements will vary depending on whether you’re doing a random draw or a competition where someone has to do something of merit. If you’re doing a random giveaway, it has to be completely impartial and you can’t require purchase, payment, or consideration. “Consideration” is a tricky term. Some say that personal information like emails or requiring someone to follow you is a “consideration.” Here’s an article that breaks it down.

Once your rules are published, they can’t be changed, or you violate FTC regulations. You could even consider adding a “giveaways” section to your website terms and conditions. If you’re gathering personal data for the contest like an email address, familiarize yourself with data protection rules. Be careful to check the policies of any apps that you use to help you randomly pick a winner to see how they process the data. If you’re giving away something expensive, you’ll need to report it in your taxes. There are also regulations regarding minors, and different countries have different laws on all of this. This isn’t a comprehensive list, so I recommend doing some research ahead of time and carefully considering your giveaway rules.

Be prepared to go viral

What would you do if you had 1,000 entrants in your contest? How about 10,000 or 100,000? There are horror stories out there about small companies that had hundreds of thousands of contest entries overnight and then struggled to fulfill all the orders, and then ran afoul of FTC regulations by changing the terms and conditions in the middle of the contest. You can prevent this by thinking through how you would handle it if you go viral. If you’re offering multiple prizes, put a cap on the number of products that you’re offering. 

While I only had one prize to offer, my biggest mistake is that I wasn’t prepared for the sheer number of entries that I got. For my contest, each person could get a maximum of 15 entries if they commented, posted to their stories and posted to their feed. At the end of the contest, I had 12,470 entries. I hadn’t planned for an automated way to calculate all that, which meant that I ended up typing in each name into an excel spreadsheet. My giveaway required about 30 hours of work on my end, and that’s the biggest thing that I would have changed (see more in the “lessons learned” section). 

Post it!

So you’ve made it through the preparations, and now it’s time to make your giveaway public. Take the time to make your post beautiful, because it may become your most popular post ever. Include the giveaway rules in your caption. Create additional posts that you can use to advertise your giveaway. Maybe ask friends to post about it, put it on your Facebook account, and consider a paid ad. Also create a post that will give people a 24-hour reminder when the giveaway is about to close. Be wary of scammers. I had someone say he’d pay me in order to win the contest—as long as I gave him my bank account info.

Offer up value

Once the giveaway is going, you have the opportunity to get in front of tons more eyeballs. So use this time to serve your audience. Make them see why they should continue following you after the contest is over. Run the giveaway during a week when you can really devote yourself to this. Go through your most popular posts and analyze why they did well. Create amazing content ahead of time that you can post during the contest to showcase yourself and your work. Write awesome captions that tell stories. Answer ALL direct messages. Introduce yourself so that people get to know the person behind the account. I challenged myself to put my face in my stories every single day while the giveaway was running. I also did a live Q&A where I answered frequently asked questions about the giveaway. You’ll reach different audiences in your stories and in live videos, and the Instagram algorithm will reward you. Do it all, even if you’re nervous. You could also create additional content like blog posts to release during the contest and add even more value. Even better, offer a freebie in those blog posts that will get people onto your email list. The possibilities are endless!

Picking a winner

After the giveaway period closes, it’s time to choose the winner. Make sure that you have a truly random way to pick. I did this by using a random number generator online. The person on the excel sheet associated with the chosen number was the winner. Consider filming the process so that you can post it to your stories after you’ve announced. It’s a good way to let people in behind the scenes, and to prove that you picked fairly. Reach out to the winner. Once you hear back, announce it on your feed and thank people for entering. You’ll get comments and DMs from disappointed people. Console them, and if you’re already planning another giveaway, let them know when the next one is coming up. Update your giveaway caption to say that it’s closed and name the winner. If the winner is comfortable with sharing, ask them to post a picture with the prize, or something that they made with the prize. You can repost that to your stories, which is another fun way to follow up. You should also be prepared to lose followers. I lost about 200 people. Not everyone is going to stick around after it’s over, but if you offered value to people, hopefully you won’t lose too many.

Lessons learned

Overall, the giveaway was a fun experience that I’ll definitely do again. I’ll probably make it some sort of contest in the comments rather than a random giveaway, which eliminates the need to enter all those names into an excel sheet. I’ll also get rid of the option for people to post to their stories or their feed, which expanded my reach but added complications. I’ve read that there are random Instagram comment pickers out there, although I haven’t done a ton of research into them (if you go this route, see the legal section and be careful to check the terms and conditions). I really enjoyed having the opportunity to serve my audience in a new way. I hope you all gained a lot from this, and I can’t wait to see your future giveaways!


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