Promoting competitions on Instagram

By Bethanie Reid

Are you using Instagram to advertise your competitions? Here’s what you need to know before promoting your competitions on the platform…

As a highly visual platform, Instagram can help you build your brand image through photos and videos far more effectively than Facebook and other social media sites.

Recent statistics show that the platform has over 2 billion active users, and more than half of the user base is under 34 years old. With 500 million users interacting with Instagram Stories on a daily basis and 130 million users interacting with e-commerce posts each month, this platform offers plenty of opportunities for prize competition and raffle businesses to advertise.

With this in mind, Instagram have strict rules about the type of content which can be shared. These rules are designed to protect its users, as well as keep the platform free from illegal activity or spam.

In this blog post, we will cover the most important rules in relation to promoting competitions on the platform…


1 – Instagram’s Forbidden Content

Forbidden content is content which should not be included in posts, ads, images, videos or anywhere else on the platform. Examples include buying and selling alcohol (this includes promoting competitions where the prize is alcohol), hate speech or depicting violence, and sexual content.

Instagram considers online gambling as forbidden content. They will remove posts which they perceive as encouraging irresponsible gambling behaviour, presents gambling as an income opportunity, or uses currency symbols unrelated to a specific monetary amount.

Online gambling is  most likely the reason content promoting a competition has been flagged.

While Instagram gives account owners the opportunity to review their decision to remove a post, it can be time-consuming and fruitless. Other factors which can affect Instagram’s decision include:

  • The age of your Instagram account
  • The number of followers you have
  • Your account’s engagement
  • Your account’s activity

There is no easy or guaranteed way of avoiding the overlap between competitions with a paid entry route and online gambling. However, with some creative thinking (or the help of a creative marketing agency which specialises in competitions), you can reduce the risk of your content getting flagged. Here are some examples of how to move your content’s messaging away from sales, but still promote your competitions…

  • Show your audience where they can play by showcasing your website from a computer or a phone in different locations
  • Share your winners’ stories and positive reviews
  • Showcase numbers – people who win, what prizes you have given away and their value



2 – Instagram’s guidelines differ from other platforms

Before promoting competitions on Instagram, you should know that Instagram has its own set of guidelines. What might be accepted on one platform, may break a rule on another. For organic social media – that’s free content (posts, photos, video, Stories, reels, etc.) – the rules you will need to follow are Instagram’s Community Guidelines.

⚠️ If you are running ads on Instagram, the rules you need to follow are outlined within Facebook’s Ads Policy. If you would like to find out more about running ads on Instagram, please get in touch with our team. You may also be interested in our article RMG License: Getting pre-approved facebook ads for competitions.


3 – Don’t behave like a bot

Unlike content that gets flagged as online gambling, this violation is easier to avoid. Instagram favours real human posters, so behaving like a bot (even if you’re not using one) can result in post removals and account bans.

Bot-like behaviours include:

  • Following and unfollowing a large amount of people in a short space of time
  • Liking / commenting on a large number of posts in a short space of time
  • Posting the same comment on multiple posts
  • Repeatedly tagging accounts that shouldn’t be tagged in your posts
  • Sending sales messages to users that don’t follow you
  • Uploading copyrighted or poor quality images and videos

Instagram have daily limits, which limit the amount of actions (i.e. follow, like, comment) you can do in a day. Instagram has not revealed their official limits, but this article shows what these limits are estimated to be.

Only use a trusted third-party posting app when sharing content to Instagram. Unapproved automation tools are against Instagram rules. If a tool is offering likes and followers, it has not been approved by Instagram and any activity generated by these tool (e.g. likes, comments and shares) may be removed, and puts your account at risk of getting banned.


4 – Don’t fake engagement or fans

Alongside Instagram’s Community Guidelines, Instagram’s Platform Policy discourages businesses from incentivising follows, as well as artificially collecting likes, comments or shares.

When promoting competitions on Instagram, we recommend that you create content which encourage genuine interest and engagement from users. For example, with a holiday competition, you may want to ask users to share their dream destination and tag the person they’d like to visit with.

Looking to increase engagement for your Live Draws? Check out our blog post on how to run a successful Live Draw.

Buying fake likes and followers can get your account banned.

If you’re lucky, Instagram will only remove the fake followers from your account if you are caught. Bought followers and likes are considered fraudulent activity.

Savvy social media users will also be able to spot an account with fake followers. As competition businesses rely on consumer trust in order to sell tickets, growing your account with bought followers screams “scam account” and does more harm than good.



5 – Don’t break Instagram content rules

Whether you sharing content which promotes a competition on your website or running a free giveaway directly on social media in order to grow your following, you are fully responsible for the way the competition is run, as well as compliance with any regional rules and industry regulations.

You must acknowledge that the promotion is not sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Instagram (or any other social media used) throughout the competition.

In addition to making it clear that your competitions are not associated with Instagram, Instagram’s Promotion Guidelines also state that your content should also include…

  • The start and end date
    This includes when your competition starts, when entries close and when the winners will be drawn. Make it clear what time zone you are in!
  • Eligibility requirements
    Consider age restrictions and geographical restrictions of your competitions.
  • Clear instructions on how to enter
    Make it as easy as possible for entrants to understand how to enter and precisely outline the steps.

You should also make it clear how you will choose a winner. Players will want to know:

  1. Method you are going to use to select the winner for your competition
  2. When you will contact the winner after the competition has ended
  3. Where the winners of the competition can be found after the winner has been selected

Other things you will need when promoting competitions on Instagram are…

  • Stating all brands involved in hosting the contest or giveaway (i.e. yourself and any partnered brands / influencers)
  • Permission to announce the winner’s details on your account
  • A working and mobile-optimised landing page for your competition (you should not re-direct users to another page)

Giveaways vs. Contests

Be aware that Instagram treats “giveaways” and “contests” as different types of promotions as they have different laws governing them.

Giveaways  involve prizes being randomly given away to users who enter by completing designated actions that don’t require a purchase or other forms of consideration. For example, giveaways require you to simply just like a post or follow you on Instagram to be in with a chance of winning. 

Contests are a form of prize promotion where entries involve an element of skill. This would include Instagram photo contests, whereby users submit photos and tag your business to win a prize.

Tip: Using certain hashtags or describing content promoting paid entry competitions as “giveaways” or “sweepstakes” may lead to your post being flagged.



6 – Don’t use banned hashtags

Instagram has a list of banned hashtags that they don’t want people to be using on their platform. Banned hashtags are often associated with unwanted content which violate community guidelines. If you use a banned hashtag, Instagram will restrict that post and it won’t be shown in your followers’ feeds.

An easy way to see if a hashtag is banned is to search for it. If it doesn’t appear in the search results, it is likely a banned hashtag!


What happens if I break Instagram Community Guidelines?

Instagram will remove a post if the imagery or caption violates their guidelines. In some cases, they can ban and disable accounts.

There are three types of bans Instagram can impose on your account.

Action Ban

An action ban is used in cases where there is suspected bot activity. In order words, liking too many posts or following too many people too quickly. Action blocks are often temporary, and typically last from 24 hours and 30 days.

Shadow Ban

When your account gets shadow banned, your content gets limited reach and visibility. It is difficult to know whether or not your account has been “shadowbanned” as Instagram has not openly admitted to the practice, and therefore does not notify account holders. If you’ve noticed decreases in engagement and follower growth for your account, this could be a sign that Instagram is hiding your content from users.

Permanent Ban

This is where your account gets permanently deleted from Instagram and you no longer have access to it. When this happens, you won’t be able to use the same username, email address, or even the same IP address to access the platform. There is no guaranteed way to recover a banned account – the only option is to get in touch with customer service and hope for the best!


Final Thoughts.

If you’re posting to Instagram to promote your competitions, it’s worth knowing the key rules in order to understand why your account has been blocked or banned, as well as reduce the risk of it happening again.

Need help with your social media marketing? Team Zap specialises in prize competition businesses. Get in touch today.


Disclaimer: This blog post includes information on legal issues surrounding internet marketing, but legal information is not the same as legal advice. We’ve conducted research to better ensure that our information is accurate and useful, but we insist that you talk to a lawyer if you want professional assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is accurate.