The Lowdown on Competitions for Facebook and Instagram

Running a contest or competition on your businesses social pages can be a great way to increase engagement and reach new customers. By offering an incentive lucrative enough to entice entries you can leverage your fans social sharing circle and gain valuable space in non-fan’s newsfeeds.

However, there are guidelines that must be taken into account when planning your campaign, and social networking platforms strictly enforce their rules and regulations surrounding competitions. We are going to focus on Facebook and Instagram as they are the most popular, but it is possible to run contests on other platforms such as Twitter.


There are two main types of competitions used by businesses:

  1. Game of Chance. This is essentially a lottery or sweepstakes where everyone has an equal chance of winning simply by correctly entering the draw. Examples of these include “Like To Win” and “Comment to Win” contests.
  2. Game of Skill. This is when the winner is selected by a judge or voted to be the best submission. For example, it could be a competition to submit a photo or supply the best caption to an image.


Before you start it is important to map out exactly what your objectives are in running the competition. Are you looking to generate leads, increase Likes and engagement, or reach a new audience? Low entry barrier competitions such as sweepstakes will tend to receive more entries but lower levels of engagement, whereas competitions where more effort is required to enter will typically receive less entries and have a higher level of engagement – if someone has created a video of why they should win they are more likely to share their work to their social networks and have more invested in the process.

Your goals and who you are trying to target will affect the type of contest you run, and it is essential to have a game plan in order to be able to measure results at the end. You know what they say about failing to plan…



Prior to August 2013 Facebook had very strict guidelines for running competitions or promotions, including the stipulation that they all had to be run via third party apps. While this is no longer the case, it is still important that their rules and regulations are met as infringements could mean your Facebook page is shut down. For example, one Facebook rule is that “personal timelines and friend connections must not be used to administer promotions”. This means that it is acceptable to ask fans to share the post, but it cannot be a requirement of entry to the competition. Facebook also does not allow “Tag a Friend to Win” contests.

While third party apps for Facebook competitions are no longer a necessity, the functionality that they offer mean that in some cases it is worth looking into. Rather than just a status update, apps create customisable tabs on your page with a link to all of the competition information. They are also able to streamline the entry process to make it easy for the person entering, and the business collecting the information. Another benefit is that it creates a URL which can be linked to from any platform or website, making it easy to promote the competition from other sources. Here’s an example of a Facebook competition using a third party app:

Facebook competition example



Instagram is much more relaxed when it comes to their competition guidelines, which means that there is opportunity to get creative with your posts and the kind of contest that you run. As a visual platform it is important that you create content that is eye-catching and visually appealing to attract the attention of your target audience. The standard Instagram competitions include:

Like to Win or Comment to Win

This is the most basic premise, and is likely to increase engagement levels on your post as it is very simple for people to enter. The benefit of this is that when you receive a high level of interaction on a post it is more likely to appear on the Discover newsfeed, where the content is displayed to people with similar interests.

Tag to Win

This is especially helpful in gaining new followers, as people tag their friends in posts and draw their attention to your business. Recommendations by friends hold a high level of social influence which is extremely valuable to brands.

Photo Challenge

Very common on Instagram due to the fact that it is a photo/ video sharing platform, a photo challenge is a contest where businesses ask followers to post a photo on their own account using the specific hashtag created. This is a fantastic way to create user-generated content and gain the attention of each person’s own followers.

Repost to Win

A brand may create an image designed to promote a contest or giveaway, and ask followers to repost the image onto their own page in order to be entered in the draw. A variation of the photo challenge, it gives brands more control over the imagery associated with them.

Shoutout Competition

Similar to the repost to win competitions, shoutouts leverage other similar pages to increase reach. Being featured on a successful page is motivation for many accounts to get involved, which then in turn spreads the reach of the original account. For example, vegan food blogger earthlytaste often hosts shoutout competitions in order to reach (or celebrate reaching) the next milestone of followers. In the below she has created the hashtag #honeyandfigs80k and is asking people to repost one of her images to their own pages with the hashtag. From there she will choose three accounts to be featured on her own page, which offers massive exposure to a specific target audience.

Shoutout Comp Screenshot

It is also common for brands to use a combination of the above in one promotion; for example, to enter the draw just like our page, tag a friend and repost of image with the hashtag.



When designing competition strategies and content it’s important to keep the following in mind;

  • Check all guidelines and be sure that all legal requirements have been met.
  • Ensure that the entry requirements are simply explained and easy to understand. Make it as easy as possible for people to participate.
  • Know your audience, and tailor the contest to suit them. There’s no point running a competition on Instagram if that’s not where your ideal customers are.
  • Promote the competition outside of the platform. This could include a blog post on your website, signage at the counter, and even telling people about it to drive entries.
  • Execution over concept. If you have the time and resources to push boundaries and manage the process closely  that’s great but in some cases it’s better to stick to the basics and do it well.
  • Take advantage of the opportunity to gather consumer insights that can be utilised in future promotions.


If you would like to discuss your social marketing strategy contact us here, or give us a call on (08) 9328 7000.