How I run a regular photo challenge on Instagram

Here's how I've set up a regular Instagram Photo Challenge.

There are many other ways to do something like this of course. I wanted to use Instagram as a means for encouraging awareness of the wider Happening London project, so while the participation for these challenges is on Instagram the potential impact for the project is hopefully wider.


Each "Photo Challenge" has three parts:
  1. Launch. The initial challenge announcement. 
  2. Open. An open period where people take part. 
  3. Close. The result and payoff for the best entrants, where the best photos and accounts are promoted outside of Instagram. Before the following challenge starts. 

Getting people to do things on social is hard. Having a large following makes everything much easier, but it's not impossible to run a regular challenge with a small engaged following.

  • You will need a payoff for users who enter. 
  • To keep the barrier of entry as low as you can. 

I go into details about how I've set challenges up for Happening London below. It may seem complicated: but keep in mind users "enter" by simply sharing an image with the current challenge hashtag.

The Launch Phase

Each challenge is launched with an Instagram post, announcing the challenge topic and hashtag. The hashtag is used clearly in both the post text and the image used in the challenge announcement post.


Each challenge hashtag is made up of a branding element: HL (for Happening London) plus the topic or THEME for that particular challenge. A consistent nomenclature will I hope help HappeningLondon followers remember past challenges, as well as see and understand challenge announcements. Using HL+theme also makes each challenge topic hashtag unique: giving each challenge a relatively clean sheet of paper on Instagram.


A unique challenge tag also lets people to follow along if they wish.

The Open Phase

The open phase can be challenging. If you have a small following you might only get a few initial entries. Don't give up during the open phase!

There is no pin-post option on Instagram currently, so you announcement post will be bumped down your profile as any new (possibly unrelated) posts are made.


You'll need to find ways to bump the challenge in the minds of your followers to encourage people to enter after the initial announcement is no longer your most recent post.

Previously I've made use of Instagram stories and story highlights. If you have a verified Instagram profile you will be able to use the link feature in stories to tie into your challenges and encourage user participation.

Reward people who actually bother to take part! Do this across your other social media channels such as Twitter.



I also changed the Happening London bio link to link to a specific category in the London Photographers Community, where current and past challenges are clearly laid out together.


That helps highlight the ongoing nature of the challenges and using the London Photographers Community could be of interest to people sharing London photos.

The Closing Phase

As I'm writing this the #HLtube challenge remains open. So I'll use the previous challenge (HL + From Above) to illustrate how the challenge is wrapped up. Top entries are published on the Happening London website and promoted across social channels.

Challenge results shared on Twitter.

Challenge results shared on Facebook and shared on GooglePlus.

Keeping it going ...

Keeping users engaged is key, so I'm also trying to encourage users to get involved in suggesting themes for future challenges.

As well as building an index for accessing pas challenges.


Hopefully you have found this walkthrough interesting. As mentioned there are plenty of other ways to activate your audience using Instagram: I'd be interested in hearing your feedback in the comments. Thanks!

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