How Instagram Challenges can help your small business and how to host your own

If you’ve ever joined in with a Challenge on Instagram you’ll know that they have their benefits. In this blog post we’ll talk through all the advantages, how to get the best out of any challenges you join and look at how to host an Instagram Challenge of your own.

What are Instagram Challenges?

The posting challenges we’re talking about are not to be confused with fun challenges that you can be nominated to complete, such as the #IceBucketChallenge or the #MannequinChallenge.

Posting Challenges are run over a specific period of time which can range from a few days to a whole year and are hosted by one or more Instagram accounts. There will usually be a theme and the host asks participants to share on the platform based on a particular prompt each day.

A popular challenge for creative small businesses is #MarchMeetTheMaker hosted by Joanne Hawker which has been running since 2016. Joanne started the challenge as she was struggling with what to post to her own Instagram account and she invited a few of her small business friends to take part. Six years later and there are over 760k posts on the hashtag and thousands of businesses take part each March.

Back in February 2018 we decided to host our own Instagram Challenge at Social Mums and #SocialMumsJune which starts on 1st June 2021 will be our 10th Instagram Challenge.

What are the benefits to joining an Instagram Challenge?

One of the most popular reasons small business owners join in with the Instagram Challenges we host is so they don’t have to think about what to post each day. The daily prompts are designed to inspire you so coming up with your content should be much easier while also giving you the opportunity to tell your brand story and allow your followers to get to know you better.

Another advantage is the fact that taking part in a challenge will encourage you to post consistently on Instagram for the duration of challenge. If you join a month long challenge you will get into the habit of posting daily on the platform and hopefully that is something you can continue even after the challenge has ended.

And then probably one of the biggest benefits is the connections you can make. When we’re hosting the Social Mums Challenges we encourage participants to click on the hashtag and engage with the other accounts taking part. This is such an important part of any Instagram Challenge and we’ve discovered some amazing businesses over the years and seen some incredible collaborations from others that have connected too.

What are the advantages of hosting your own Instagram Challenge?

While joining in with an Instagram Challenge hosted by others has it’s advantages, so does hosting your own.

When we hosted our first Challenge back in 2018 we only had 1,500 followers on Instagram, so you don’t need a huge audience to create one. Over the month of that first challenge we went on to gain over 1,000 new followers and while we know it’s not all about the follower numbers, most of them were small business owners who are our target audience.

Since then we have successfully run eight more challenges and each time we get around 3 times as many new followers than we do during an average month. So it’s safe to say that hosting an Instagram Challenge is great for your account growth and they have helped us get the Social Mums brand to where it is today.

But it’s not just about followers we also see huge increases in reach, profile visits and website clicks during the Challenge months too and our engagement goes through the roof.

Plus it’s amazing for brand awareness too. Our Instagram Challenge posts are one of our most shared pieces of content on Instagram.

We also think that hosting an Instagram Challenge helps to build trust in your brand. After the shared experience of taking part in a month long challenge together, people will feel a connection to your business.

How to host an Instagram Challenge

So now you know the benefits, how do you go about hosting an Instagram Challenge of your own? We’re going to share all the steps you need to take and everything we’ve learnt over the years too.

First of all we just want to say that hosting an Instagram Challenge isn’t easy, it does involve quite a lot of work. For this reason you may want to think about teaming up with other accounts and hosting the challenge together. This way you’re sharing the workload plus there are more of you to help spread the word too.

1. Pick a theme for your Challenge

It needs to be something that appeals to your target audience or will help you and your peers to showcase your products or services. So for us the idea of the Social Mums Challenges is encourage small businesses to showcase what they do.

Joanne who runs #MarchMeetTheMaker is a designer and illustrator herself and the idea of her challenge is to highlight other creative, handmade businesses.

2. Choose a hashtag

This is important as it’s what people will need to use to take part in the challenge. You need to make sure the hashtag is unique, so you can’t pick a hashtag that is already being used. It also needs to be easy to remember and not too long.

Plus ideally you want to include your business name so people connect it to your brand and remember who is hosting the challenge.

3. Decide on the duration of your Challenge

At Social Mums we’ve always hosted month long challenges but we’ve also seen some incredible challenges that only last a week. It might be a good idea if you’re new to hosting challenges to start with a shorter one and see how you get on. Plus you may find you can get more accounts to commit to taking part if it’s for a shorter amount of time.

4. Come up with the prompts

Try to keep your prompts simple, you don’t want to make them too difficult as it may put people off taking part. You also want to allow people to get creative with the prompts too. Things like ‘something pink’ or ‘my favourite thing’ allow people to interpret them how they wish.

5. Set some rules

Traditionally Instagram challenges encourage you to share feed posts but for the Social Mums Challenges we allow people to post on either the feed, Stories, IGTV or Reels. When creating your own challenge you’ll want to be specific about where you want people to share.

We also ask people to tag us in their posts too so we can keep up with everyone taking part.

6. Design a post that lists all the prompts

The best way to share the prompts and rules with people is to create a feed post that people can save and share. As we mentioned our Challenge posts are one of our most widely saved and shared posts on Instagram, so try to make sure yours look good so people are happy to add it to their own feeds or Stories. Also don’t forget to include your logo or business name to help with that brand awareness.

You may also want to create a downloable planner that participants can use to plan their post. We’ve done this for our #SocialMumsJune challenge and you can get yours here.

7. Promote your Challenge

In the run up to your challenge you want to spread the word as much as you can. You may want to pay to promote the post on Instagram to your target audience to help get it seen by more people.

Make sure you share it across all your social media platforms and email your mailing list if you have one.

You may also want to personally invite some accounts to take part, we don’t encourage spamming everyone but you could think about writing a personalised email or direct message to a few key accounts inviting them to join in.

Some challenges also encourage people to share the post with the prompts on the first day of the challenge as this is obviously a great way to spread the word. If you don’t want to do that just encourage people to share the post in the run up to the challenge and invite their friends to take part.

You could also incentivise people to take part by offering a prize to the best posts. This could be a daily prize or maybe one at the end of the challenge.

8. Engage with participants

When your Instagram Challenge is underway all the hard work begins. As the host you need to be engaging with as many of the accounts taking part as you can and it’s something you will need to put time aside each day to do.

By engaging with the participants it helps build a sense of community as well as that connection to your business too.

At Social Mums we also encourage everyone taking part in our challenges to engage with each other too, so it helps with everyone’s engagement and making those all important connections.

As the host you can also share some of the posts each day to your our account, either to your feed or Stories.

Hosting an Instagram Challenge isn’t easy and you need to make sure you can dedicate the time to make it a success but hopefully you can see the benefits it can bring your business too.

Let us know in the comments below if this has inspired you to host your own Instagram Challenge or to join in with one of ours.

Gemma Lloyd

Gemma is the founder of Social Mums.

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