What’s a Hashtag Contest? And How to Run a Successful One

You must have used a hashtag when you post on social platforms like Instagram or Twitter.

Hashtag contest

But have you ever thought that this is possible to convert your hashtag to a contest to boost your marketing campaigns, especially on Instagram?

Have you ever heard about the beneficial aspects of a contest for your digital marketing campaigns?

In this post, I’ll let you know what a hashtag contest is and how you can leverage it to increase your ROI on networking sites/apps like Instagram.

What is a hashtag?

Hashtags were first used on Twitter, but they are now central to every social ‎network’s explore page, especially Instagram. In fact, search engines of social platforms find every post in which the specific hashtag ‎you’ve entered has been mentioned.‎

So almost all individuals and businesses try to use a hashtag relevant to their niche to increase the ‎chance of their posts being found by users.‎

Hashtags are now an important part of national and global movements and let people unanimously ‎convert an issue into a trend. ‎

Also, a hashtag enables online marketers to track mentions of their brands and conversations ‎among people.‎

Generally, people use hashtags for these major reasons: ‎

  • Events, such as #Olympic
  • Disasters, such as #COVID
  • Celebrations, such as #Charismas
  • Popular movies, sports, etc., such as #GOT
  • Asking to join a campaign or do something, such as #Stay_at_Home
  • Generally popular hashtags, such as #tbt

Finding the right hashtag for your posts is the key to reaching out to as many audiences as ‎possible. This is so important that digital marketing companies have developed tools for ‎creating the best set of hashtags.‎

What is a hashtag contest?

Hashtag contests are promotional activities in which you want participants to use a certain ‎hashtag in their posts is a specific period of time.‎

When users put the specific hashtag in their posts, they will automatically enter the hashtag contest. They will have the chance to be found by the contest creator and be chosen as the winner.

Using this method, brands can kill two birds with a single stone. First, getting higher engagement rates because many users want to participate. Second, reaching out to the list of followers of participants without any extra effort.

Also, this is a good method to increase user-generated content for your accounts and save time and money. Many users try to provide you with user-generated content to win a prize, and this is good news for you.

Of course, many users will not easily participate in every contest, but you have to encourage them by offering some prizes.

For instance, if you own a fast food or a restaurant, you can try a contest for #MondayFood on your Instagram account and encourage users to send user-generated content to you.

You can use their content on different features of your Instagram like feeds, IGTV, Live, Story, and Reels. Then you can offer the winner of the week a free dish on Monday and prove it by posting it on Instagram.

In summary, a hashtag contest is meant to increase your engagement rates and enable you to run more interactive digital marketing campaigns. 

6 Tips on how to run a successful hashtag contest

Now that you know what exactly hashtag contests are, it’s time to learn how to use them effectively.

Here are 6 tips to let you know how to run a successful hashtag contest in a certain niche on a social network like Instagram:

1. Choose the right social networks for hashtag contests

Hashtag contests are used across all social networks, but Instagram and Twitter are really different. Instagram hashtag contests are especially hot, and you can’t ignore them at all.

Almost any trendy hashtag in the world comes up on these two platforms. Users of these networks are also utilizing hashtags in their content more than users of any other platforms.

So it’s recommended to include one of these two into your hashtag strategy. You can simply ask your followers on these platforms to generate content relevant to your hashtag and encourage them to win the prize.

2. Create and use a branded hashtag

You can’t copy other businesses’ mottos, names, and previously used hashtags. You need to generate viral hashtags for your business and use them according to the content.

Apart from the core hashtag in a hashtag contest, you need to generate a considerable amount of hashtags to support your cause.

For example, you are allowed to use up to 30 Instagram hashtags in a feed post and 10 hashtags in a story. However, you don’t need to use all 30 allowed opportunities in a single post because it would be a bit of an eyesore.

You can also add your hashtag to your bio on your Instagram account to put it in the eye of your visitors or even ask users to share it.

Another important matter is to make your hashtags memorable. You should avoid creating too long hashtags that are hard to remember.

Of course, it’s sometimes difficult to create such a hashtag, and you need a tremendous amount of time and creativity to reach an optimum hashtag.

3. Get feedback through online polls

If you want to make sure whether you’re utilizing the right hashtag for your contest, you can ask your followers directly.

Almost all social networks have poll features by which you can ask your followers’ opinions about anything.

You can use these features to know which hashtag is of more interest to your audience before starting a contest.

Social networks provide you with different poll features. For example, you can use polls in your stories when running a hashtag contest on your Instagram account.

4. Run A/B testing to find a suitable hashtag

Another beneficial way to find a viral hashtag for your hashtag contest is by using online A/B tests.

In this method, you have to change an item in your post (in this case, a hashtag) and track the difference in engagement rates.

In fact, you will be able to see the actual interaction of your followers to every single hashtag to choose the best one. 

Perhaps, using this method, along with online polls, can help you to optimize your hashtag contest.

5. Try to build a niche community and avoid being too promotional

When running a hashtag contest, try to think about your relationship with your niche community, not to sales.

Bear in mind that many people don’t like collaborating with sellers. You need to appear like a human and a member of your community, not a selling machine.

It’s good to appear like a niche thought leader instead of a brand owner when interacting with your audience. If you want to drive a whopping amount of organic followers to your social media account, you have to think about building a niche community.

Mentioning the most recent trends in your niche and raising new topics in your contests can help you in this regard. Of course, you can creatively include your brand’s name in your content and encourage your followers to try your products and services.

6. Collaborate with niche influencers

Influencer marketing is also another useful strategy to boost your contest on social media.

Influencers have high engagement rates and bring you a great reach if they’re involved with your contest.

Before embarking on influencer marketing campaigns, you need to determine your budget to know what type of influencers can help you. Of course, Mega-influencers can’t be your choice if you own a small/medium-sized company.

Then, you need to find suitable influencers in your niche and establish a long-lasting partnership with them.

Remember to check whether or not they’re really engaged with their followers. This can significantly affect the amount of user-generated content you’ll receive through their circle of followers.

You can work with them in two different ways. First, they generate content, including a hashtag for you. Second, you generate content and they share it with their circle of followers.

Successful examples of hashtag contests on social media

Nothing can teach you how to run a contest, like looking at some successful examples. Here are several good contests on different platforms that can greatly help you get ideas for your marketing campaigns:

1. High Society Freeride

High Society Freeride is an Outdoor Equipment Store. They ran an Instagram contest for #onelifemakeitcount and reached good results.

The terms of their Instagram hashtag contest for a $100 gift were as the following:

  • Follow @HighSocietyFreeride on Instagram
  • Share a new photo or REGRAM an old post showing us what you love to do. This can be anything from skiing, snowboarding, hiking, cliff jumping, music, art, etc. Photos that were posted before the contest start date will not be eligible to win.
  • Use the Instagram hashtag #onelifemakeitcount
  • Tag @HighSocietyFreeride in the photo

As you can see, this is a really encouraging contest from which you can get ideas for your brand.

2. Mindzai Creative

This art company ran a creative and relatively difficult hash contest as follows:

  • Design 2 t-shirts for the hashtag contest
  • Follow @mindzaicreative on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter
  • Upload your designs to Instagram and tag @mindzaicreative
  • Include the Instagram hashtag #minzaicontest in your post

The two winners received $500 each, and their t-shirt designs got featured on their site.

As you can see, $500 is really enticing, although you need to be a designer to be able to win the prize in the contest.

You have to adapt the amount of price with your budget. Remember that you have to stick to your word or you’ll face a significant drop in your Instagram following.

3. Valdo

In this contest, Valdo offered a trip to Italy for two persons if they could share a picture of their favorite cocktail made with Valdo Prosecco with Instagram users.

They asked users to use #whatsinyourvaldo for the contest.

Users had to post the snap, the recipe, use #whatsinyourvaldo, and follow the Valdo account on Instagram to enter the contest. 

This is also one of the exciting Instagram contests offered by this company, as travel lovers are countless on Instagram. Of course, you have to choose your prize depending on your niche and ‎your target customers.‎


A hashtag contest is a smart way to promote your business online. You can try all top platforms to find the options for your brand, but an Instagram hashtag contest is really different. Make sure you’re using a unique and creative set of terms for your contest to encourage as many audiences as possible. Your prize plays a significant role in the success of your contests, so try to choose it wisely and avoid being stingy!

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