How To Get Started with IG Story Contests for Beginners

If you said the term “storytelling” a few years ago, you’d probably be met with a small scoff or a smile that veered on the line of empathic and embarrassed. What used to be known as “a bunch of fluffy, emotional BS” has now grown into a much sought-after technique — which is why Instagram Stories is such a powerful tool.

We’re giving you the download on all things Instagram Story contests for beginners. So, pull up a seat, grab a notebook, and buckle up.

What Are Instagram Stories?

If you are super green in the Instagram world, you should know that Instagram Stories is a different than your average Instagram posts. Instagram posts show up in your feed as you recklessly scroll for hours on end. Instagram Stories are the tiny little circles with sherbet-colored rings of purple, pink, and orange floating around people’s profile pictures.

How to Navigate IG Stories

Instagram Stories are located at the very top of the page when you first log in to Instagram. You will see your profile photo with “Your Story” and a blue plus symbol on the far left. This is followed by a string of stories from people you follow. Don’t want to scroll through to find your favorite company’s story? Search for the account and go to their profile. If they have an active story, there will be a purple ring around their profile photo.

Instagram Content

As for the content? Instagram Stories can feature anything you want really. You can post in-the-moment videos and pictures and add fun little features like text, GIFs, and stickers. While most people will tell you that your Instagram grid needs to be perfect, Instagram Stories are a bit more forgiving. People like to see the quirky behind-the-scenes, especially when it comes to companies or influencers.

Instagram Timeline

Like most things in life, there is an end time to your Instagram Stories.

Instagram Stories are available to view for 24 hours before they disappear. You can view a story as many times as you’d like, but once the expiration date hits, your story is gone. (Before you bid your adieus, stay tuned at the end of this article for ways to expand the life of your Instagram Stories.)

*Side Note: Before we go any further, we want to clarify that this article is not about specific contest ideas for Instagram Stories. Instead, this article will solely be about Instagram Stories, its features, and how to use these features to create more engaging contests. For specific Instagram Stories contest ideas, check out this article on  54 contests ideas for your spring holiday marketing strategy.

Instagram Story Contest Features

To get the most bang for your buck, so to speak, you need to know about the features that Instagram Stories has to offer. These will better help you announce, decorate, and encourage engagement in your Instagram Stories contests.


The basics when it comes to tagging:

  • Location: where your video or photo is located (similar to Places in Instagram—includes a map and tagged photos with that location)
  • @Mention: If you are conducting an Instagram Stories contest and want people to submit to their entries, using the @mention feature will be the most important rule you need to emphasize. When a user @mentions you in their story, you receive a notification telling you that someone included you in their story. By being @mentioned, you will easily be able to re-share that user’s story on your own story account.  
  • Hashtag: Hashtags can be important for an Instagram Stories contest if you created a custom hashtag or specific hashtag strategy in association with your contest. By including a hashtag, users can click on the hashtag mentioned in a story and see what else people have posted.


GIFs are, perhaps, one of the most fun ways to dress up an Instagram Story. GIFs are moving or animated images that contain words, characters, or are full-on memes. In most cases, GIFs will be used to enhance your stories, but there are certain cases where you can start an Instagram Stories contests using GIFs.


Countdowns can be useful for pre-announcement teasers or letting users know how much time they have until a contest ends.


No more trying to record videos of the road and blasting your favorite song in the background. You can add a music track to any photo or video you upload by using the music feature. The music feature allows you to browse through a range of song options based on searching or moods, and will also allow you to use your favorite part of the song in your Instagram Stories. Use the music feature to create a contest around a rainy day playlist in honor of your new book, Rainy Days and Hot Coffee. Ask people to send in what rainy day song they think you listened to while writing your book. First three people to guess the correct song receive an autographed copy of your book.


Polls allow you to propose a question and give your users the chance to choose or vote between two options. See if your followers think you should dye your CEO’s hair blue or pink if he loses a bet or have your followers choose between a $100 gift card to your restaurant or free appetizers for you and five friends as the prize for your upcoming contest.


Questions are similar to polls but instead of only letting people vote between two options, you give your followers more freedom to write their own responses to your proposed question. Ask your users who they think is next to be slain in Game of Thrones and award the first three winners (who happens to be right…only time will tell) a prize. Or if you have a new makeup line coming out in an assortment of fruit-named colors, hold a contest where you ask your users to write in a funny childhood memory they have about fruit.   

How to Make Your Instagram Stories Last Longer

While we mentioned earlier on that Instagram Stories are gone from viewing after 24 hours, Instagram has also gifted us the opportunity to create Highlights on our profiles. If a person or company has taken advantage of Highlights, when you go to their account, underneath their bio will be a series of circles. These are archived Instagram Stories that people can view indefinitely until the account holder decides to take it off. When it comes to Instagram Stories contests, you can compile all your stories about the contest and archive them to your page so people can look back at the rules and regulations until the contest ends. Label your Highlight as “May 2019 Contest” so people can easily identify the contest and where to find it on your page.

One more piece of advice? Keeping track of contest submissions can be invigorating to receive, but a pain to manage. If you find yourself overwhelmed with keeping track of entries and submissions, be sure to look at Woobox for all your contest sortin’ needs.