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Step by Step Hashtag Contest Guide

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Hashtag contests are highly-engaging marketing campaigns that can be easily entered by your followers on Twitter and Instagram - all it takes is a post.

On Twitter, people enter your contest by posting using your selected hashtag, while on Instagram they enter by posting using your selected hashtag and @handle. You can limit entries to one per person, allow people to enter as many times as they’d like, or anything in between. Display the entries on a landing page for viewing, voting and sharing. Then, once your contest is over, pick a random winner from all the entries or use voting to determine a winner instead

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Before You Start

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There are a few questions that you’ll want to consider before getting started with your contest:

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What goals do you want to achieve with your contest?
Hashtag contests are perfect for promoting engagement on Twitter and Instagram because they are so simple to run and enter. They’re also a great – and easy – way to collect user-generated content (UGC). Plus, they increase brand awareness by driving traffic to your social channels.

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What data do you expect to collect?
Hashtag contests collect the Twitter or Instagram username on the account used to enter, and the content of the tweet or post; including the image (if included) or video (Instagram only).

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What entry requirements should you include?
On Twitter, you can request that folks simply use your required hashtag(s) in a tweet. If you’re looking to collect an image, you’ll also ask them to attach an image to their tweet.

On Instagram, you would require that posts are made from public profiles and include both the @handle of the Instagram business account you used to set up the contest and the contest hashtag(s) in the original caption.

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Do you want to have an alternate entry method?
If you want to provide a method of entry for people who do not have social media accounts (or have private accounts), you can have them enter via a form on a ShortStack landing page.

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Do you have your Instagram account configured correctly?
To run a hashtag contest using Instagram, you must have an Instagram business profile. For more information on getting that configured, check out our How to Set Up an Instagram Business Profile post.

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In this guide, we’ll walk you through running a hashtag contest from beginning to end.

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STEP 1

Set Up a Feed in ShortStack

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When running a hashtag contest, ShortStack's Voting Widget is used to display and manage the entries. The Voting Widget is connected to a list where the posts from the hashtag feed are collected as entries and stored.

  1. Log into your ShortStack account.
  2. From your Dashboard, click Feeds at the top.
  3. Click the blue New Feed button.
  4. You'll be given the option of what type of feed you want to set up. Select Twitter or Instagram.
  5. Twitter: If it hasn’t displayed already, you should see a popup appear when you click Twitter. This popup opens Twitter and allows you to authorize ShortStack to use your Twitter account for this tool. Log in (if needed), then click the Authorize App button to continue.

    Instagram: If you don't already have a Facebook account linked to ShortStack, a popup will appear when you click Instagram asking you to log in. When it does, log into the account that has admin access to the Facebook Page to which your Instagram account is connected.

    Once that's done, you'll be presented with a list of Pages and their corresponding Instagram account; click the one you want to use.
  6. Use the fields provided to name your new feed. Also, select a Company Profile. If you want the entries to be added to a new list, select Automatically create new list. Otherwise, select an existing list from the dropdown.

    NOTE: If you want to collect multiple feeds into the same list, be sure to connect each of those feeds to the same list in this step.
  7. Twitter: Select the type of Twitter feed you want to create - Hashtags or Retweet. In this case, you’ll select Hashtags.
  8. In the field provided, enter the hashtag you want to use to pull in entries. If you want to use multiple hashtags, separate each one with a comma. An example post will display on the right with what a post should include to be pulled into the feed.

    IMPORTANT: If you use multiple hashtags, the feed will only pull in entries that include all of the hashtags you list.

    You can also click on all entries to change the types of entries you want the feed to pull in, or click on Manually to switch between approval modes for your entries.

    Once you're done, click the blue Continue button.
  9. From there, add the start and stop dates and times; also, select a timezone.
  10. If you want to add Twitter or Instagram usernames to a ban list or set a maximum number of entries per user, click on Show Advanced Settings and make your changes. When you're done, click Save & Exit.

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Now your feed is ready to start collecting entries.
Be sure to communicate with your entrants that entries must come from public accounts. On Twitter, the tweet must include the hashtag. On Instagram, the post must include the hashtag and @handle of your account in the original caption, these elements can’t be edited later or added in a comment.

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Note: For more in-depth information about setting up feeds, you can reference our help doc: Creating and Managing an Instagram/Twitter Hashtag Feed or our video walkthrough: How to Set Up a Hashtag Feed.

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STEP 2

Build a Landing Page (Optional)

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Building a landing page for your hashtag contest has a few benefits. First off, it’s an easy way to display all your entries in one place. Also, if you enable voting, you can add an additional layer of participation by encouraging entrants to request votes when they share their entry with their audience. Furthermore, a landing page is a great place to list all the information about your contest and display your contest rules. Finally, if you want to provide an alternate method to enter for folks without social media accounts, you can add an entry form to your landing page to do just that.

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Quickly set up a landing page using ShortStack’s Hashtag Vote Contest template:

  1. Log into your ShortStack account.
  2. Click on the blue Campaign button at the top of the Dashboard to start a new campaign.
  3. The Template Gallery will open. In the search bar in the top right corner, type hashtag vote.
  4. Hover over the single result and click the blue Use This Template button. (A direct link to the template can be found here.)
  5. Add a name and any tags for your campaign in the fields provided.
  6. Your campaign will now open in the Builder. Find your Voting Widget in the Edit Widgets Panel on the left. Click on it to highlight it, then click the pencil icon in the top right corner to open the Widget Settings.
  7. In the Select a List dropdown at the top, click and select the list that you’ve connected to your feed.
  8. If you’d like to add entry sharing, click Sharing on the left side, then use the dropdown to select a Share Widget to link to your Voting Widget.
  9. Click Save & Exit.
  10. To add a form, click the Form Widget icon in the Add Widgets Panel in the top left corner.
  11. In the Select a List dropdown at the top, again click and select the list that you have connected to your feed.
  12. Click Visibility on the left and set the visibility so that the form stops showing on the same date and time that your feed stops collecting entries.
  13. Click Save & Exit.
  14. To add fields to your form, you’ll need to access the Form Designer. Click on your new Form Widget, highlighting it, then click the Design Form icon in the top left corner.
  15. Make any needed changes to your form, then click Save & Exit. For more information on setting up your form, check out our Form Designer help doc.
  16. From there, you’ll use the Builder to change the text and design of your landing page. When you’re ready to publish, click Publish Campaign at the top. A video walkthrough of our publishing process can be found on our YouTube channel.

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STEP 3

Promote Your Contest

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Now you can sit back and let the entries roll in - just kidding! You need to promote your campaign. When it comes to promotion, there are many ways to shine some light on your contest. Get creative and have fun with it! Here are a few examples of how you can get the word out:

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Instagram Stories
Show off a fun photo or video in Stories to highlight the hashtag or drive people to your landing page. Stories are super popular and they are a quick way for you to get more eyes on your content. You can even link to a post that contains your contest details and rules so people can get up to speed quickly.

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Your Website
Leverage your website traffic to drive visitors to your contest. You can even embed your contest in your website so that everything is in one place.

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Other Social Media Channels
Social media marketing to the rescue! Share the link to your landing page on your other social media channels. If someone follows you elsewhere, there’s a good chance they’ll follow you on Twitter or Instagram (and it’s very likely they’ll want to participate).

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STEP 4

End the Contest and Pick a Winner

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At the designated time that you’ve determined, make an announcement that the contest has ended. (This is an optional step, but it never hurts to be abundantly clear in your communication.) You’ll likely want to unpublish your landing page (if you’re using one) at this time. To do so:

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End your contest

  1. Log into your ShortStack account.
  2. Open your contest in the Builder.
  3. Click on the blue banner icon in the top right corner to open the Publication Panel.
  4. Click the trash can icon to the right of the publication name to unpublish the campaign.

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Select your winner(s)
If you’ve decided to pick a winner at random, you can use the Entry Picker to select a random entry from your list. Here’s how:

  1. Log into your ShortStack account.
  2. Click on Lists at the top of your Dashboard.
  3. Find your list (it should have the name you gave it when importing the entries), then click on the number of entries just to the right of the list name.
  4. This will open up the Entries Manager for your list. Click on the Choose Winner(s) button in the top-right to open the Advanced Entry Picker.
  5. Enter the number of entries you’d like to select in the field provided.
  6. Select a unique label and add that in the associated field, hitting Enter/Return after each tag. If you don’t supply your own, a default of “picked [current date]” will be added instead. This label will be used to easily find your winning entry, so be sure to note what you’ve selected.
  7. Click the blue Submit & Close button.

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You’ll receive a notification when the system is done selecting your winner.
To see your winner(s), simply type the label you selected for your winners into the Label field in the top-left of the Entries Manager.

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Note: For a handy video that walks through the winner selection process, check out: How to Choose a Winner at Random.

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STEP 5

Announce Your Winner

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If you’d like, you can publish a new tweet or Instagram post letting people know that a winner has been chosen and/or announce the winner in the original post.

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Then, reach out to your winner using a direct message on Twitter or Instagram or by email (if the winner came from a form) to get more information from them so you can distribute your prize.

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And just like that, you’ve run your very first hashtag contest! Not only have you fostered some engagement with your existing audience, but you’ve more than likely pulled in a few new fans along the way.

We hope this guide was helpful to you! Our blog post, The Ultimate Guide to Hashtag Contests shows how effective hashtag contests can be.

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Additional Resources

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