How to run a hashtag contest: Four ideas for your next challenge

Hashtag contest entries on a website
#NHMLEGO entries from a hashtag contest for kids and parents visiting the Natural History Museum in London.

Hashtag contests are popular for a couple of reasons.

First, hashtag competitions are easy to organise. Your customers might already use a branded hashtag, and with a bit of additional work, you can increase the volume and offer a prize for the best entries. Contests are one of the most cost-effective marketing tactics.

Second, hashtag contests get shared a lot. When people see their friends’ posts, they tend to like, comment, and re-post more often than not. One ordinary post can reach thousands of people – let alone if you get lucky and an influencer picks up the hashtag. Guaranteed: you’ll get loads of new customers for your services.

Third, you can embed a hashtag challenge content feed on any website and digital service. Hashtag feeds make websites social proof for e-commerce, travel and hospitality, charities, education, and many other industries. Social proof drives sales like no other marketing.

Has your company organised any user-generated content campaigns before?

This article will show you how to run a perfect hashtag contest and we’ll give you four ideas for your next challenge.

How to run a successful hashtag contest

UGC hashtag feed on a website

Hashtag contests are sometimes confused with giveaway campaigns which might ask you to mention a friend in comments or otherwise leave your details to participate in a raffle. If you want to organise something like that, pay close attention to Instagram’s promotion guidelines.

Here, we’ll focus on campaigns where companies engage their audience in creating content – text, images, and videos – and share that content in a public hashtag feed.

The key ingredients of a thriving hashtag contest are:

  • Create a memorable hashtag
  • Decide your primary goal
  • Set up a UGC platform to collect entries
  • Publish a campaign page and use display screens to show the UGC
  • Pick a hashtag winner

Create a memorable hashtag

Don’t underestimate the value of a well-thought hashtag. Usually, it makes sense to include your brand name, but not all names are suitable. Your brand name can, for example, be too long for Instagram hashtag competitions.

The best hashtags are easy to remember and something that your customers identify with. #WCDSBAwesome for Waterloo Catholic School is, without a doubt, one of those.

Hashtag feed for Waterloo Catholic School
Waterloo Catholic School engages teachers, students, and parents in sharing content on X (formerly Twitter) and Instagram.

Decide your primary goal

Just like any other marketing activity, hashtag contests need a plan and a clearly defined goal. Otherwise, it’s challenging to measure success.

A photo contest goal can be growing reach on social media without spending money on advertising. Or, you might raise funding for an important cause and aim for increasing engagement for your branded hashtag. Quite often, your target is to drive sales through positive reviews.

Worktop Express, a solid wood worktops brand, is one of the many webshops with the primary goal of increasing sales through reviews and social proof.


Set up a UGC platform to collect entries

Before starting a hashtag challenge, you’ll need to set up tools to gather entries. With the help of a UGC platform, you can store all entries in one place and make sure you can use them later on websites and other services.

Hashtag contests work best on X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, and TikTok – make sure your aggregation tool has access to those channels.

Select hashtag content source on the Flockler app
With Flockler’s UGC platform, you can gather hashtag feeds from multiple channels in one place.

Publish a campaign page and use display screens to show the UGC

Hashtag contest feed for digital signage

You should boost your contest by embedding social feeds on your website, showing entries on digital screens, and sharing the campaign on social media and all other marketing channels. A landing page and display screens with entries show your customers that you appreciate their content and encourages others to participate, too.

On the campaign landing page, you might want to place a call-to-action and mention the competition prize.

Hashtag campaign instructions on a website
GoPro Awards page has clear, three-step instructions just above the Instagram hashtag entries.

Pick a hashtag winner

How to pick a hashtag winner is one of the most common questions in our support chat.

It’s easy to pick a random winner for your hashtag contest – just export all entries in an Excel file from your UGC platform and choose a winner by asking your colleague to say a number between the Excel rows.

Or create a page with some of the most popular images and ask your customers to vote the best. Many companies nominate a jury to pick the hashtag winner, too.

Four ideas for your next hashtag challenge

Now that we’ve covered some of the key ingredients of a successful hashtag campaign, let’s have a look at four ideas for your next hashtag challenge:

  1. Tap into the customer community
  2. Kickstart a new social channel
  3. Work with influencers
  4. Ask for product reviews

1. Tap into the customer community

The best hashtag contests are something your existing customers love and passionately share on their networks.

Opus Art Supplies is one of the webshops tapping into the existing customer community. Their virtual art galleries show Instagram hashtag contests on various topics such as nature, national holidays, and hobbies. Throughout the year, they start new campaigns and invite their customer - or as they say – creative partners to join.

Opus Art Supplies Instagram UGC feed

2. Kickstart a new social channel

Sometimes companies are not quite sure how to get started with a new channel like TikTok. Hashtag contests give you a chance to try something different and allow your audience to lead you into the new channel.

That’s what Feros Care has brought to perfection with the 'Ask Gran Not Google' campaign. TikTok feeds, Instagram hashtag mentions, and Facebook posts join together on the campaign page. What a fantastic way of promoting intergenerational connections and entering the TikTok community simultaneously!

Feros Care UGC TikTok feed

3. Work with influencers

Do you happen to sponsor a local team, athletes, or cultural activities?

If you do, it’s only natural to start the hashtag challenge with them. After all, the influencers you already work with should share your values and speak directly to your target audience. They might be the best people to invite your customer and a broader audience to the competition.

GoPro Awards asks influencers and customers to share their rad images and videos. The best entries are rewarded with coupons, products, and cash. The campaign landing page shows the outdoor challenges and tricks – with GoPro gears recording every moment.

GoPro Awards Instagram feed

4. Ask for product reviews

A hashtag contest that simultaneously asks for product reviews is one of the most effective marketing activities.

First of all, your customers share their reviews with all their friends – people trust friend recommendations more than branded content. Secondly, you can gather those entries, tag them with your products, and display them on any webshop as social proof.

Sohome’s Instagram UGC gallery is a brilliant live example of this. On their webshop, the 'Shop the look' element shows the hashtag contest feed.

A shoppable Instagram hashtag feed on a website

When you click any contest photo, you’ll see the tagged product.

Instagram post with a tagged product

For more inspiration, learn how you can embed shoppable Instagram feeds on any e-commerce site.

With Flockler, you can gather and display social media feeds from your favourite channels. See the full list of supported content types and sources

Flockler helps marketers like you to create social media feeds and display user-generated content on any digital service. Keep your audience engaged and drive sales.

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