10 tips for running Instagram giveaways
Are you running prize draws on Instagram? Are you choosing your winner fairly and at random from all valid entries?
Many prize draws hosted on Instagram don’t comply with the UK CAP Code, and if yours isn’t compliant, it’s easy for someone to complain to the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority). This can result in negative publicity for your brand – you may have seen influencer Molly Mae in the news recently. The ASA reprimanded her because ‘she had been unable to provide evidence the winners had been randomly and fairly picked’. Pretty Little Thing, Get the Gloss and Hughes Direct have also received ASA rulings against them in 2021 because their Instagram prize draws weren’t administered fairly.
Your prize draw should have clear terms and conditions, and most importantly you should choose your giveaway winner fairly and at random:
8.24: Promoters of prize draws must ensure that prizes are awarded in accordance with the laws of chance and, unless winners are selected by a computer process that produces verifiably random results, by an independent person, or under the supervision of an independent person.ASA website
This post has guidance on how to ensure your giveaway is fairly run, and CAP Code compliant. I’ve focused on FREE tools to ensure compliance, but if you can afford it, I recommend a Woobox subscription, which can track hashtagged comments across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Or pay for an upgraded subscription to ExportComments.com, although their free tools will be enough for your giveaways if you keep them simple! And if your brand has a bigger budget then consider using PromoVeritas to help conduct your promotions properly.
Keep it simple!
My recommendation for an Instagram prize draw is to ask your entrants to only do three simple tasks, all of which can be completed by entrants with private or public Instagram accounts.
- Like the competition post
- Follow the account
- Leave a comment tagging a maximum of three friends.
If you want to be able to choose a random winner fairly from all valid entries, do not ask people to share to their story, save a post or leave comments on other posts – unless you want to dedicate hours of your time to tracking these entries properly. Read on to find out why this is important.
1. Follow Instagram rules
Did you know Instagram has promotion rules? Read them here. You should include terms and eligibility requirements (eg. age and residency restrictions) in your giveaway post, plus the text: ‘This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Instagram.’
2. Remember to include terms & conditions
In the UK, all prize promotions must have a full set of terms and conditions. These should be included in the main caption of your Instagram post – or you should include a link to read them. This link won’t be clickable in the caption, but you can include ‘for full T&Cs see link in bio’. Ideally, use a tool like Linktree to add multiple links to your bio, then you can include a specific link to the giveaway T&Cs – create a public Google Doc if you don’t have a website to host them on.
The ASA state that any significant T&Cs must be included in the Instagram post caption – these include entry instructions, the closing date (a closing time is recommended too), entry restrictions (age, country of residence etc.), and details of the prize. If you don’t state your giveaway is UK only, you could pick a winner who’s abroad, and end up with an an expensive postage bill – plus your winner could be lumbered with import tax, leaving both of you disappointed. It’s important to let people know if the prize has to be collected, or if it can only be delivered locally too – don’t assume people know this.
As Instagram scammers are everywhere, I would also suggest you include information about how the winner will be contacted (this should be by Direct Message – see Tip 8).
Read more in my blog post Essential terms and conditions for a competition.
3. Don’t encourage spamming
I cringe when I read ‘Tag a friend in the comments – each comment is another entry, so go wild!’, ‘Enter as many times as you like, more entries = more chance of winning!‘ or ‘Tag your friends – the more the merrier!’. These promoters are asking people to leave spam comments – is this really an acceptable way to encourage engagement? For a start, it puts followers at a risk of an Instagram ban for posting spam. Secondly, some of the entrants are cheating by tagging fake accounts, celebrities and even their other Instagram accounts (unbelievably, some people have up to ten different Insta accounts and enter giveaways from all of them!) – with all those bonus entries, the chance of you picking a cheat as a winner is pretty high!
Of course, it makes sense to ask people to tag a friend – but limit those tags. ‘Tag three friends in one comment’ is fine, or “Tag up to 5 friends, each separate comment is an entry in the draw”, but don’t allow unlimited entries – you wouldn’t like notifications of all those spammy comments on Twitter or Facebook, so why is it OK to encourage them on Instagram? It’s so much nicer to ask your entrants a question and actually get some real engagement! If you do ask for entrants to tag 3 friends, you should make it clear if you want 3 tags in one comment, or 3 tags in 3 separate comments, as this could result in you discounting valid entries when you choose the winner.
Avoid the irritating ‘Tag a friend – you and your friend must both follow our account in order to win’ request – this is incredibly spammy, and the friend will be liking your page because they will feel guilty if they don’t, rather than because they want to actually want to see your content. It’s also not fair on entrants who have completed every other task, but may be let down if their friend missed the tag or forgot to like the page.
See my blog post Is Instagram tagging out of control?
4. Don’t bother with bonus entries
To select a winner fairly and at random, choose from Instagram post comments – using a free tool like Getcombot it’s easy to do this fairly – assign one entry per comment, or one entry per user. As soon as you introduce optional ‘bonus’ entries like story shares or leaving a comment on your last three posts, everything gets more complicated. In order to choose a winner fairly, you will need to create a spreadsheet to track these bonus entries, and combine it with a list of all post comments when the giveaway has ended.
5. Avoid asking for story shares
Ideally, you shouldn’t ask people to share to their story as an entry unless you’re prepared to manually track every public share on a spreadsheet. Because of the 24 hour story lifespan and privacy settings, it’s impossible to access all story shares at the end of the promotion to choose a winner – you need to be checking at least every 24 hours during the promotion to ensure you see every share.
If you do ask for shares, always ask people to tag you in their story – many entrants don’t realise that if they don’t tag the promoter, you’re not notified and don’t get an inbox message. Did you know you can access all current public reshares of your giveaway post by tapping the three dots at the top of the post? In order to record these entries in your prize draw, you would have to scroll through your DMs or reshares list, making a note of every username – which is time consuming. In addition, some entrants will have private Instagram accounts – if they tag you in their story you won’t know about it unless you follow them back, so you’ll need to ask those entrants to DM you a screenshot of their private story – even more admin to do!
Mandatory story shares are acceptable as long as a comment is also mandatory, and as long as you specify the entrants must tag you in the story. In this case, you should choose your winner from comments using a tool like GetComBot, then search for their username in your inbox to check they mentioned you in a story during the promotional period (you won’t be able to view the story itself unless it was shared in the last 24 hours, of course).
The simplest option is to suggest an entrant can share, without making it a requirement of entry (lots of brands already do this on Facebook). Add a note to your caption encouraging people to share: ‘We’d love it if you shared this post to your story too!’ – lots of entrants will still do this.
6. Don’t ask entrants to do anything that you can’t keep track of
When you’re deciding on your entry tasks, take into account what you’re actually prepared to keep track of. If someone reports you to the ASA for running an Instagram prize draw that’s not compliant with the CAP Code, you’ll need to show evidence that you tracked all entries and chose your winner fairly and at random. Consider that when you’re drafting your rules!
Never ask the entrants to save your post – saves are private, and you can’t see who saved a post so if challenged by the ASA to show your list of giveaway entries, you would be in trouble. Add a note at the end of your giveaway text ‘…and don’t forget to Save this post so you can check back to see if you won!’ works well as encouragement, without it being a requirement of entry.
You might want to host an entry form or email sign up form on your website, then create an Instagram post directing people to it, either via a link on a paid ad, or via link in bio. If you do this, just stick to entries in the form. Don’t ask people to also tag friends, share to story etc. on Instagram – you will need to keep track of these, to combine them with the email addresses. There’s also no way to match up email addresses with Instagram usernames, so to draw fairly, you would have to either email or DM your winner, ask them for their Instagram username or email address, and then check they did the tasks required. It’s just creating more admin for you!
7. Make it clear if your giveaway is running on multiple platforms
If your giveaway is simultaneously running across Instagram, Twitter and Facebook you must make entrants aware of this – it’s a significant part of the terms and conditions. You also need to let them know if it’s just one prize overall, or one prize per platform.
8. Choose a winner fairly
If challenged by the ASA, you must be able to show that a prize draw winner was chosen at random from all valid entries. You could provide a video, screenshot or spreadsheet to show how you tracked the entries, and how you selected your winner(s) at random. Many of the tools available are from non-English speaking countries, but don’t let the poor grammar on the websites put you off – they will do a decent job in choosing your winner.
Choosing a random winner based on their comment, profile photo or username is not fair or CAP Code compliant – and neither is scrolling through a list of comments with your eyes closed, then clicking on a name! If your prize is a beauty bundle, and out of 6,000 comments your winner happens to be a beauty blogger, be prepared to prove to the ASA that it really was a random draw!
If you’re choosing your winner at random from comments on a single Instagram post, use a free tool such as GetComBot. Paste in the URL for your Instagram post, and choose whether to only allow one entry per person, or to allow one entry per comment – make sure your choice reflects what was in the giveaway rules! You can also specify they must follow you. You may need to send a verification email, and GetComBot can take up to an hour to return your results. You can generate a random winner on the website – or download the data if you want to create your own entry spreadsheet. If you have an Instagram Business account linked to Facebook, I recommend using the CommentPicker website to choose your winner – which also gives you the option to include additional bonus entries such as tracked story shares. The Simpliers website offers a countdown and animation that you can stream live on Instagram, and is free if you have less than 300 comments.
If you’re choosing your winner from Instagram comments across multiple posts (ie. a collaborative giveaway), you should download the comment data for each post, then combine the CSV files into one spreadsheet (I use Google Sheets to do this) then choose a winning line in the spreadsheet using random.org. If the giveaway involved following multiple accounts as a mandatory task, go to that user’s profile, tap Following and search for all the accounts to validate their win.
If your Instagram giveaway is also running on Facebook and/or Twitter with one prize per platform it’s straightforward as you don’t have to combine entries. Use CommentPicker to select your Facebook comment winner, and GetComBot to choose your Instagram winner (if you have an Instagram Business account you can use Comment Picker for both). Tweetdraw will select a random retweeter – you’ll have to check they commented too, if that was a requirement – do a Twitter search for their username plus your username to find their reply.
If your giveaway is running on multiple platforms with just one prize, it’s not fair to choose a platform, then choose a winner from that platform. Why? Well as an example – say there’s 1 entrant on Instagram, and 20 on Facebook. Your Instagram entrant has a 1 in 2 chance of winning, but the Facebook entrants have a 1 in 40 chance of winning (a 1 in 2 chance of you choosing a Facebook entry, and then a 1 in 20 chance of it being them). In a fair draw every entrant should have the same chance of winning – and every entrant should be included in that draw, so they should all be combined in a spreadsheet. I’ve not yet found a FREE way to export more than a hundred Twitter replies, but you can pay $11 for ExportComments to export unlimited replies to a tweet – use the Filter Duplicate Users option when you do this to ensure only one tweet per person is counted. Combine these tweets with Facebook and Instagram comment exports in your spreadsheet and use random.org to select your winning line.
If your giveaway is only running on Instagram and Facebook (not Twitter), choose a random winner from comments using commentpicker.com (you must have a Facebook Business page linked to your Instagram account).
If you’re judging entries for a creative competition, make sure you involve at least one independent judge. You should also include judging criteria in your T&Cs too – funniest, most original, most creative, etc.
If you want to choose a random follower, sign up for a free 14 day trial of the Phantombuster tool, which will extract a CSV of account followers.
When you’ve picked the winner, check the winner Liked the post, by tapping to see all the post likes then searching for their username in the list. To check they’re a follower, search your followers list.
9. Contact the winner privately, before you announce their name
Announcing the winner publicly is a breach of GDPR – winners can refuse permission for their name to be shared (although in reality, most winners are delighted to be announced!) so don’t risk it. Instead, send your winner a Direct Message, ideally with a link to your giveaway post, and ask them to confirm their age and postal address if necessary, to ensure they have complied with your T&Cs.
To assure the winner it’s a genuine winning message, you could ask them to email their details to your company or blog email address rather than to respond on Instagram – then they can see the email is going to a genuine brand/blog/agency. You should also give them a deadline to claim the prize by responding – this should ideally be 28 days.
If you hear nothing back from your winner, you must try a second time to contact them. The ASA say it’s not adequate to only make one attempt to contact a winner. If there’s no response to your message, try responding to their Instagram comment and tell them to check their inbox!
When they’ve responded and you’re certain they’re a valid winner, ask them if it’s OK to announce them as a winner. It’s good practice to announce their username in the caption, or as a comment tagging them on the original post as entrants will be checking back expecting to see this. It’s also nice to share a story tagging the winner. Seeing a genuine winner helps your followers trust you – you’d be amazed how many promoters never announce winners!
10. Be vigilant and watch out for scammers
In 2021 there’s a big problem with scammers cloning Instagram profiles – they pretend to be the promoter and set up an account with one letter different, or an additional underscore, in the username. They go through the comments on the giveaway post, Follow the entrants, then message them with a ‘Congratulations!‘ message. This message usually asks the ‘winner’ to complete personal details on a website form, or for payment of shipping fees for their prize. Unfortunately, many people are falling for this scam and making payments.
In addition, some scammers clone a winner’s profile and message promoters to claim a prize that’s not theirs. If you contact winners privately rather than announce them publicly, this shouldn’t happen.
Consider adding a warning message to the end of your giveaway posts along the lines of:
“We will contact our winner using this account by DM after the closing date. We will not ask you to click a link or pay a fee to claim a prize – please report any accounts that may be impersonating us. ”
Read more about the Facebook and Instagram profile cloning scam
Hopefully this has helped you to understand a few ways you can improve your Instagram prize draw, make it CAP Code compliant and fair to your participants.
When your giveaway is live, don’t forget to add it to my Instagram Comps linky lists!
You might also enjoy these blog posts:
- Ten FREE ways to choose a random winner
- Where to promote a competition (UK)
- 13 mistakes promoters make when running competitions
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