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How to Create an Instagram Challenge For Your Brand

From Jacquemus to Shrimps, brands have been engaging their followers with fun, viral Instagram challenges throughout 2020.

© Helena Ramos via Shrimps


This year, sponsored posts and carousel ads have been replaced with live tutorials, styling challenges and interviews in a bid to create tight-knit online communities. Connecting with consumers through conversation on digital platforms is currently at the forefront of social media and marketing strategies, as brands seek to create a feeling of loyalty amongst their followers and forge long-term relationships.


Directly pushing products isn't necessarily a priority for luxury and heritage brands at this time; instead, they're focusing on audiences buying into their core values, with the aim of facilitating long-standing relationships that will last long after the pandemic. One of the biggest benefits of this new approach is the ability to tap into existing audiences (who may have been previously overlooked) and start a dialogue with them, gleaning invaluable insights and a library of user-generated content in the process.


One of the main reasons that games and challenges have been so popular with brands is their capacity to go 'viral'. Challenges contain a direct call to action which organically encourages users to share and promote branded content or hashtags across their channels - a level of exposure that is invaluable to brands.


Typically a brand will share a brief and ask people to create and share photos alongside a particular hashtag. Some challenges are open-ended; however, it's common for some to have shorter lifespans than others. Challenges are typically an opportunity for people to have fun, think creatively, and connect with others, but some competition-style challenges may reward prizes in order to encourage participation and thank users for their submissions. Shrimps ran a photo challenge on Instagram and encouraged its followers to share their best #StayAtHomeShrimps images and illustrations. The winning entrant was able to select a Shrimps bag of their choice.


We've outlined how to strategically create an Instagram challenge below:


Create a Fun Brief


The concept of the challenge should be lighthearted and fun. Encourage followers to take part by keeping the brief simple but don't be afraid to think outside of the box; after all, you want your participants to be creative. Replicating iconic designs or products is one way to make a statement. Alexander McQueen challenged followers to submit their interpretations of the Rose dress that closed its AW19 show alongside the hashtag #McQueenCreators.


Tap into Events & Trends


Tap into the momentum of trending topics and viral pop culture moments to maximise the reach of your challenge. Back in May, Instagram users took to the platform to recreate their favourite Met Gala looks using objects found around their homes as part of the #MetGalaChallenge.


Choose the Right Hashtag


Picking the right hashtag is one of the most important parts of creating an Instagram challenge. Make sure the hashtag includes either a brand or product name and is easy to remember. It should also briefly summarise what the challenge is about. Ganni encouraged its Instagram community to take part in its #GanniWFH challenge and showcase their best 'work-from-home' outfits. The hashtag is short, sweet and spotlights the brand name and challenge brief perfectly.


Incentivise Followers


Brands don't have to give away big money prizes to entice followers to take part in challenges. The incentive could be something as simple as website or tagged Instagram Stories coverage. British Vogue asked followers to showcase their favourite photographs of the natural world to tie in with the publication's 'Reset' theme for the August issue. Editor-in-Chief Edward Enninful took to Instagram to announce that he would choose and share his favourites - a huge draw for entrants.


Launch & Promote


A launch post should include all the relevant information needed to successfully take part in a challenge. Any instructions should be easy to follow and action, along with a strong visual reference and challenge hashtag. If a prize is being offered, brands should also include all relevant deadlines and link to terms and conditions. Partnering with a group of micro-influencers may also prove a valuable awareness-building exercise and help to promote the challenge in an authentic way.

Words by Dan Flay

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