How to Host Your Own Instagram Challenge

Want to higher your Instagram engagement? Here's an easy step-by-step guide on hosting your own Instagram challenge for creative bloggers and business owners from Kayla Hollatz!

I had always wanted to host my own Instagram challenge. 

I didn’t know much about it at the time but it seemed like a great way to grow my community and I’m always down for an experiment. I hosted the #30daysofcreating challenge leading up to the launch of last May. 

I learned a lot about what worked (and consequently, what didn’t) so I wanted to share my experience with you today along with a few tips for hosting your own. This is the resource I wish I would’ve had when I started!

Determine your purpose, goals, timeline, and objectives

Before you dive straight into the actual prep work of an Instagram challenge, let’s make sure it has a strong foundation. First, you must know why you actually want to host your own challenge. Here are a few common reasons:

  • You’re launching a new product or service and want to create a conversation around it
  • You’re interested in featuring more UGC in your brand (short for user generated content which basically means relevant content that you use and reference for your brand that’s created by someone else)
  • You’ve been wanting to tackle your own personal challenge and think taking it public will help keep you accountable 

Whether it’s one of these reasons or something entirely different, be sure to write the purpose of your Instagram challenge down so you can refer back to it as needed. 

Your purpose will lead into setting your goals and objectives. We have to know what a successful Instagram challenge looks like in your eyes before we can get started. Here are a few common metrics:

  • X number of participant posts
  • X number of participants
  • X number of likes and comments (aka engagement)
  • X number of client inquiries or sales (aka conversions)
  • X number of pageviews (please note that Instagram is better with generating in-platform actions than driving traffic but if this is still a goal, go for it)

Lastly, let’s cover the timeline. What is the best length for your Instagram challenge? The most common lengths are 5-7 days, 2 weeks, or a month long. If you are launching a new product or service, it should probably be for the same length. 

One thing I did learn about hosting a month long challenge is that it is a bit more difficult to sustain the excitement and buzz over time. For that reason, I think shorter Instagram challenges perform better, but do what is right for your schedule. You can also survey your audience if you want to see what they’d prefer too. 

Create a name and hashtag for the challenge

Now comes the fun part! When you’re naming your Instagram challenge, it’s important to check to see if (1) it’s already being used by a competitor, (2) it’s a well-established hashtag with lots of activity, or (3) it’s been used for completely irrelevant content. 

If you still want to use the name, you can add a word like “challenge” to the end of it or the number of days the challenge goes for. Instagram doesn’t care about character count like Twitter does for hashtags so this is a relatively simple way to keep your name. 

If there’s one thing to keep in mind when naming your Instagram challenge, or anything for that matter, it is this:

Clear > Clever

Start brainstorming quick prompts for what people will share

An Instagram challenge is only as good as its prompts. Give yourself some space in your timeline to create really engaging prompts. Keep a small notebook around you or use the Notepad app in your phone to jot down spur-of-the-moment ideas. Sitting down to have a one-time brainstorming session can help too. Here’s a few more brainstorming techniques if you want to try something out-of-the-box. 

Take your photos ahead of time

Nothing will stress you out quite like not having all of your photos captured before hosting your Instagram challenge. Trust me, just put in the work beforehand. When I hosted mine, I had all of the challenge graphics made for the #createlounge account but only had about half of my personal account entries done. It was not a great move on my part as I got overwhelmed toward the end of the challenge.

This goes for editing too. If you use a specific filter or mix of settings, edit all of your photos in one sitting ahead of time. It will save you a lot of time down the road and help you feel better when launching. 

Write the prompt captions for each photo

Just like with taking the photos, write these captions ahead of time. Your captions should be clear and concise so participants can quickly interpret the challenge prompts and share their own photos and visuals. If you need some more tips on writing captions, I’ve got your back. 

Another thing on the list of “What Kayla Did Wrong” was that I didn’t share the full list of Instagram challenge prompts before I launched the challenge. I did this intentionally because I wanted to really inspire everyone participating to create something totally new everyday rather than reaching into their archive of photos but I got some negative feedback about it early on. 

The truth is many people like to plan out their feed days or even weeks ahead of time so publishing the prompts will help them add your challenge into their content calendar. It’s a best practice now for hosting Instagram challenges and your homegirl had to learn the hard way, but that’s okay! I’ve learned for next time. 

Schedule the photos and captions

Now that you’ve got all of the photos with their matching captions, it can save a lot of time up front to schedule them before you launch. I like using the Later app which allows you to schedule photos and captions on your desktop (which I totally love!) or app and sends you reminders to make sure you post it at your desired time. 

Without this app, my overwhelm would have been through the roof! It’s easily the best “time hack” in my whole Instagram challenge planning process. 

(Note: I am not affiliated with this app but I really love their team and what they do!) 

Announce the challenge

Phew! Now that the prep work is done, it’s time to let people know about it. Here’s a few great ways to announce that you’ll be hosting an Instagram challenge:

  • Create a landing page for the challenge with an opt-in form to get updates
  • Write a blog post that explains the details of your challenge and gives some sneak peeks as to what people can expect
  • Send a newsletter to your subscribers to let them know and give them an exclusive look at the prompts first
  • Email your closest business and blogging besties to ask if they’d be willing to participate
  • Host a Twitter chat and announce the challenge while everyone is gathered 

Engage with participants during the challenge

Once you kick off your challenge, you’ll want to make sure you are regularly interacting with participants. You don’t want to go silent just because you’ve already scheduled your photos and captions. The success in your challenge is ALL in the conversations. Be active in the hashtag feed and briefly check in at least 2-3 times a day.

Who’s excited to host an Instagram challenge now?

If you want more information on increasing your Instagram engagement through challenges, Q&A’s, and more, you’ll find it in The Power of We, a 10 episode audio series on community building for creative bloggers and business owners.