I hear over and over that people have no idea how to reach new follower or just make new like minded friend in a genuine way. Either you want to grow your Instagram following or just connect with people which have something in common, find new inspiration and push yourself creatively, hashtag challenges are a great way how to do that in an easy, authentic way. I join a couple quite regularly and except finding new amazing folks, I also was featured by Instagram and gained 6k followers over night or won a year supply of delicious coffee. Do I have your attention now? So if you are curious what are those challenges about, how to join, how to make it work for you and which ones I love and recommend, keep reading.
What is a hashtag challenge?
First let me explain for all of you, what are those hashtag challenges about. If you know, just jump to the next section to get the juicy stuff! And for you who has never joined any Instagram challenge, let me tell you all about it. There are different challenges with different “benefits” coming out of it. Beauty of it is that there is something for everyone. In general, the rules of the game are very simple: there is usually a theme or a topic and a deadline and in order to be eligible to win you need to use particular hashtag or tag the company/profile. That is it. Easy?
There are plenty of hashtags other which have their own Instagram profile so once you use the hashtag you might be chosen and shared over on their profile. These are usually up and running and don’t have any deadline to them, but might have seasonal themes. Other hashtags which are more of a real challenge are those which are time limited and again, you can win a feature on their profile or even lovely prizes. What I love about all I often join, they never care about your followers count, they are choosing the photos based on how well they fit to the theme, so everyone has a chance!
Community hashtags mostly connect you with a same minded people, gives you an opportunity to be featured by their creators, are not time limited and often easy to use among your regular hashtags.
Hashtag challenges can bring new people to your feed and help you grow, give you an opportunity to be featured or/and win a prize, are usually time limited with often very narrow specific theme.
How can it help with your growth, engagement and real connections?
As I am sure you already know, the key to make Instagram friends and maybe find a new followers is to be a nice human and give before you ask for something. And I hear from you over and over how icky it sometimes feel to just comment or message someone you “don’t really know”. Joining the hashtag challenge or a community hashtag puts you together with people you usually don’t know, don’t follow and would not come across otherwise but you have something in common, something to chat about and naturally support each other.
Instagram has hundreds of millions user but still it is sometimes hard to get out of our inner circle and find new people and inspiration, don’t you think? The beauty of the Instagram photography challenges is that people are often very curious and competitive but also supportive and really want to know what others came up with for the theme. It is kind of a general courtesy to have a look what others created and leave a comment or like.
It enriches socially you as you find new lovely folks and can start having a chat or follow each other. But it also helps you develop your creativity as it never stops blowing my mind how we all have a same theme to work with and people come up with so many different ideas and angles of vies you would never figure out yourself. It helps you expand your own ideas and learn from others as well. Win win.
How to make them work for your grid?
The theme challenges can be tricky if you want to keep your grid looking on point and all nicely coordinated. Different challenges require different outlook but in general, originality and uniqueness and some sort of simplicity often works the best. In general, I wouldn’t recommend you to join any challenges with speaks to your heart or don’t feel like a right fit. It is never worth it to mess up your aesthetics or put off your recent followers for some crazy shenanigans.
There are several reasons the main being as far as it is amazing to grow over night, you still need to take care of your old good friends first. Because where would be a point to gain new people and loose the old ones because you are not truth to yourself or just post things which doesn’t align with your values. it is never worth it to disappoint your good loyal followers to gain a couple of new fiddly ones.
The other reason is that once being featured by Instagram, having your feed looking on point with clear aesthetics gives you a higher chance to grow more followers. As Dominique mentions in her Instagram feature article, the number of followers you gain with mentioned Instagram feature can be from basically nothing to thousands. And that all depends on your feed kind of making sense all together. If you for example submit a photo of cute dog for a challenge and you get featured, people come to your profile and expect more cute dogs or animals. So if they find flowers and cups of coffee, they might just leave and not follow as they expected something else.
You should try to be original, different, unique, surprising but still stay within your style and range of topics. So for example if you post ONLY about food and the topic is “Into the wild”, open up your mind! It doesn’t have to mean going into the forest, it might just mean eating wild herbs, sprinkling your dish with foraged flowers and so on. What I have observes so far with all the challenges, the photos which win are often quite simple yet very special or surprising. If you want more tips how to go around photos for challenges like these, I recommend you to read an article of my friend Kika which has been featured by Instagram already 3 times so she knows what she is talking about.
Which hashtags challenges I join and love
Instagram #WHP project
Instagrams own @Instagram profile announces new topics for a WHP (Weekend Hashtag Project) every Friday night/Saturday morning and you have the weekend to act on it and share your photograph. The themes are very very different every week, sometimes very specific (like “unicorn”) sometimes very broad and opened for interpretation (like this weekends challenge #WHPgetlost).
Why join: exposure. If you are chosen by Instagram as their 5 favourite, they feature you on their profile with over 200 million followers which naturally will bring you influx of new people over to your profile.
What is important: I highly recommend to not get too crazy and out of your style for this challenge, stay true to yourself but think a bit outside a box. The reason for that is that once you are featured and gain new followers this way, you want them to be people interested in what you do so they come and actually stick with you. If you always share florals and win this challenge with nude portrait, well, you gain wrong followers for wrong reasons and they might leave you soon.
Downside: Huge competition as there are often from 3k to 8k people joining. You might also grow drastically over night and you often don’t realise what it means and how that can change what you do. You will also most likely loose a couple of followers following weeks as they often go with the flow and don’t even know why they followed you 🙂 For more about this have a look at Brontes article about Highs and Lows of being featured.
Whalar is a new influencer platfrom which connects Instagrammers, shares a lot of knowledge and now came with a great hashtag challenge for all the creative people out there. For now there has already been two and third one is coming any time soon. Follow @Whalar on Instagram to not miss out. You always have a week to participate and themes are rather wide so anyone can easily join and win great prices or features. I joined both so far and was among top 10 for #ObjectProject_coffee which got me a year long coffee subscription! Still so happy about that. Also, every challenge has a mentor which shares tips and ideas how to go around it.
Why join: exposure, prizes plus getting into a Whaler community which might bring you potential influencer work in a future (as they work with many brands). Because honestly, winning a year subscription of delicious coffee is an amazing prize, innit? Also, with all the honesty, it is not
What is important: Have fun and try to experiment. So far both of the challenges won people who were really thinking outside the box and challenged themselves a little bit. The first one was about surprising florals, second one was encouraging using stop motion, fun!
Downside: Whalar community is not so huge on Instagram yet so the exposure is not anyhow dramatic BUT you get connected with other creatives and can make so many lovely friends, which is often so much more.
They announce their new theme every Monday on their Instagram profile @creativelysquared and you have a week to join. The themes are more “visual” giving you some sort of limitation for what can you use, which can be good to direct your creativity but bad if you have very specific aesthetics. For example this week was “White and Wood” which is fairly easy to join and interpret your own original way.
Why join: exposure, community plus prizes. There is lovely community of makers and creatives around the Creatively squares so you can really get into every hashtag and support people joining and make new connections. Also, every challenges gives you feature but there is always prizes as well, which you will know from the beginning.
What is important: many people always use flatlays to capture the topic and when you look at the page first, you will get a feeling that it is all about them. It is not! I won twice I think, once with portrait and once with hands holding something. And I think that using different technique then flatly give you better chance to stand out too!
Downside: In all honesty and as much as I love the challenges and the community, I often don’t join because I don’t want the prize. I don’t want to cumulate stuff at home so I am very selective about what I like and could accept. Also, to be able to join you always need to use the hashtag, of course, but also handle of Creatively Square and the company giving the price. You can pop it on the bottom as I do, so it is not an issue, but someone can find it too messy in their capture.
Great content and being kind always wins anyway
Being always opened with you, everything yo do on Instagram including these challenges should be and are fun. Don’t look at them as a machine for growth, it doesn’t work that way. There are a lots of factors which plays it role and even the Instagram feature doesn’t guarantee you enormous growth. It is all kind of a poker game really so as always, focusing on making real connection and producing fabulous, authentic unique content will always be a winner. But joining in the challenges can help you make new connections, get a bit out there and also build your confidence because no matter how big or small your success will be, being shared by someone else and being seen by strangers is always rewarding.
Have you ever joined any Hashtag Challenge? Do you enjoy them? Tell me all about it!
Love your article Barb.. so detailed and well written…!❤️
Already participating in all these hashtag challenges.. for me it’s just an easy way of learning the art to incorporate my own taste with a given challenge.. it’s quite fun actually. No body is going to fail us. . Few will win others will learn.. !!
Oh, wow! Thanks for such a great advice! Doesn’t know about such challenges.