The TRUTH About Instagram Giveaways

If you’ve been on Instagram any time in the past month or so, it’s pretty much inevitable that you’ve seen at least one person telling you to enter their Instagram Giveaway.

Here’s the basic premise: an Instagram “friend” tells you to go to XYZ Giveaways page and follow everyone that page is following for a chance to win a gift card.

Usually the gift card is pretty substantial – I’ve seen anywhere from $200 to $4,000. The tradeoff is you have to go and follow anywhere from 15 to 30 random accounts in order to be eligible to win.

But who’s running these things anyways? Are they even legit? I wondered myself. So, I decided to join one and see what they’re like “from the inside”…

The Logistics of Instagram Giveaways

So if we want to get technical, I was invited to participate in the giveaway by my much more fashionable, Tallahassee blogger and real-life friend, Victoria Shelton. I believe she was invited by Aimee, the insta-famous personality behind the planesandprettythings IG account (she has 12.2k followers and counting).

Aimee was the organizer. She set up the giveaway page and collected the money. There were 20 total participants. The buy-in was $25, which we sent via Paypal to Aimee. However, there were approximately 2 ghost participants, who paid $35.

Ghost participants are accounts that are included in the people you must follow in order to win, but they don’t promote the giveaway on their page (we’ll get to why that’s relevant later).

The total amount of money put in the pot, so to speak, was $520. The gift card was $400 (in this case), so the organizer made about $120 to run the promotion.

The Real TRUTH About Instagram Giveaways
The REAL TRUTH About Instagram Giveaways

Why Participate in an Instagram Giveaway

Remember when Facebook was all about engaging with your friends? You didn’t get political articles, or click-bait stories or random memes popping up in your feed. Well, thanks to capitalism (really, THANK YOU! I’m a fan), Facebook realized brands would pay big bucks to get in front of all these regular people and our feeds started filling up with advertisements.

All the old people stuck around Facebook because they love political rants and pictures of other people’s dogs, but the millennials were like “ewww” and moved over to Instagram, where the space was free from the clutter.

Well, thanks to capitalism again (really, THANKS! I love money!), Facebook bought Instagram and started doubling down on the ads there too.

Ok, ok, but what does this have to do with participating in an Instagram Giveaway?

What this meant is, just like Facebook, it became nearly impossible to get organic growth on your Instagram page. The only way to “grow” your following, was to pay, and all the followers went to the businesses with the deepest pockets.

So, the mid-level (and low-level, considering they let me in) Instagrammers got together to come up with a new, innovative way to reach new people – Instagram Giveaways.

The thought process is: if you like following me, you’ll probably like following other accounts similar to me. So by doing a giveaway with a group of similar instagrammers, we can all grow our following and our followers can discover new accounts with content they like.

Do Instagram Giveaways Work?

This is a tricky question…

If you mean “do you gain followers by doing an Instagram giveaway?” then the answer is yes (for now). I started out with 687 followers. The day after the giveaway, I had 903 followers. Today, I’m holding steady at around 860 followers.

However, these “new followers” could be a bunch of random people who just follow every single contest account out there. If they never like any of my non-contest related posts, they’ll only end up hurting my engagement in the long run, which Instagram also penalizes you for. Only time will tell.

Wait, What About The Ghost Followers?

That’s right! Glad you reminded me…

I’ve been following one girl who has gone from essentially no followers to just over 7,000 followers in about 6 months by doing giveaways every couple of weeks. Not going to call her out. If that’s her thing, that’s her thing. But my point is, it gets old posting about a new giveaway and telling all your followers to like/comment/share/follow/give-your-first-born-to-the-cause etc.

So, what a lot of people do who are trying to build a large following quickly, without looking like they’re just jumping on every giveaway that comes their way, is to pay more to participate in the giveaway without having to promote it on their page.

Basically, everyone who wants to enter to win still has to follow them, but they don’t have a post on their page about the giveaway, so their growth looks more “organic”.

Are Instagram Giveaways Legit?

I’m going to be honest, I only looked it up after I had signed up and participated in the giveway (I only had 687 followers, so if I was booted off Insta for breaking the rules, I wan’t really losing big).

But as far as I can tell, yes, giveaways are legitimate. There are certain rules you have to follow, which Dana Kilroy does an excellent job of outlining in her article on shortstack.

However, the legitimacy of a givewaway also depends largely on the organizer. It takes a lot of work to go through all the comments and follows to determine who actually followed all the rules. And then you have to take it a step further and use a random name picker if you really want to be fair about it.

And then there’s the whole issue about announcing the winner. If you post the winner’s name all over social media, the people who followed just to win will quickly unfollow and the whole purpose of the giveway (aka to gain followers) was all for naught.

What I Learned from Participating in an Instagram Giveaway

  1. I want to be the organizer. As I have realized with most things in my life, I prefer to be in charge, so if I were to do another giveway, I’d want to be the organizer.
  2. They’re kind of annoying. Personally, I wouldn’t want to participate in one of these giveaways. It’s annoying that I see 1 or 2 giveaway-related posts in my feed every day, but if I had to follow all those people hosting the contest, I think my feed would pretty much just be all posts about giveaways, which isn’t that interesting.
  3. Stay on brand. I joined a fashion giveaway (and by joined, I mean i was invited by my fashionable friend). While I do some fashion posts here or there, lately I post way more about home decor and (foster) parenting, so it probably would have made more sense to join a mom instagram giveaway group.

So, did I answer all your burning questions about Instagram giveaways?! Is there anything I didn’t cover? If so, ask me in the comments! Or be a pal, and follow me on IG 😉

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