Instagram Challenges: What They Are and How To Run Your Own

Instagram photo challenges are just that: a challenge to post photos on Instagram that fit within a certain theme. Some common hashtags, like #tbt or #ThrowbackThursday, are Instagram challenges of their own, although they don’t have much of a point other than to share old pictures on a specific weekday.

An Instagram challenge can be free of rules and just for fun, while others are often run by brands for the purpose of engagement and brand exposure.

What is an Instagram Photo Challenge?

An Instagram photo challenge is any project that encourages Instagram users to post specific content within a certain time frame. Most Instagram challenges are organized by a hashtag created specifically for that challenge, so that all of the participants can see others’ posts in one place.

Some Instagram challenges are just for fun, like a 30 day photo challenge where you post a selfie every day. Other challenges are created by brands and can come with prizes, whether the prize is simply being reposted by your favorite brand or an actual giveaway of some sort.

Running a branded Instagram challenge can help you gain followers, improve engagement with your online following, and help those followers feel more connected with your brand.

Why You Should Create an Instagram Challenge

If you run a brand or business profile on Instagram, an Instagram challenge can improve your online presence. It’s essentially free publicity that encourages your followers to spread brand awareness for you, should they choose to participate.

Running an Instagram challenge generally means creating a hashtag, which can include your brand name, that followers will then tag in their photos. This can help you reach new followers and potential customers for your business.

These challenges also show that you are engaged with and interested in your followers. You can also use an Instagram photo challenge to find user generated content to repost on your own account.

How to Run Your Own Instagram Photo Challenge

To run your own Instagram photo challenge, you’ll have to take a few steps to prepare. Plan your challenge ahead of time, and announce it well before the start date. Try to get your followers interested before the challenge starts so that more participate.

One way to do this is to promise to feature the top posts on your account, or offer a giveaway of some sort where participants could win a prize. This will get people interested and get more of your followers involved in the challenge.

Make these preparations before starting your own Instagram photo challenge.

Use a Unique Hashtag

Most Instagram challenges are organized via hashtags. By creating a unique hashtag for your Instagram challenge, you can easily find all the posts related to the challenge; this also allows others to see what other people that are involved are sharing.

Your hashtag has to be unique, or the explore page for that hashtag will be crowded with unrelated posts. Before you settle on a hashtag, search for it on Instagram to ensure that no one else is using the hashtag for another purpose.

If the point of running your own Instagram challenge is to improve brand awareness, it’s probably best to include your brand in the hashtag somehow. For example, if we ran an Instagram challenge, we wouldn’t just use the hashtag #PhotoChallenge – that one’s probably already taken anyway. We’d include our brand somehow, possibly with the hashtag #SocialBuddyChallenge. This way, anyone who sees a friend using the hashtag can see our brand name and click through to see what Social Buddy is all about.

Set a Time Frame

Some challenges run indefinitely. Others have a set time frame. If you have a huge following with engaged followers already, you may be able to simply create a branded hashtag and encourage your followers to share photos year-round.

One example of this is Yeti, an outdoors brand with a branded hashtag #BuiltForTheWild. They encourage customers and followers to share their outdoors photos or them using Yeti products with the hashtag for a chance to be reposted.

Most Instagram challenges have a more set time frame, however. If you’re offering a giveaway, making a different theme for each day, or just trying to run a fun Instagram project short-term, we recommend creating a set time frame. Very often, Instagram challenges run for 30 days, although it may be easier to run a shorter one.

You can also set parameters about how often to post. Some Instagram challenges involve posting daily, usually with a different theme or focus each day. Others could be weekly, giving users more time to get involved in each theme as it changes by the week. Figure out a timeline that works for your brand and your followers, and set a clear time frame before it begins.

Set Instagram Challenge Rules

Just like you should set a clear timeline, there should also be rules for your Instagram photo challenge. Obvious rules include sharing only appropriate, inoffensive content, although those rules are already included in Instagram’s community guidelines.

The guidelines of your Instagram challenge really depend on your brand and what kind of content it would make sense to share. If you run a clothing brand, you could encourage participants to share photos of them modeling your clothes. A lifestyle blogger might take on a different angle, with each post sharing a form of self-care or an act of kindness.

Usually, different days or weeks represent different types of posts for an Instagram challenge. In more basic, non-branded challenges, it’s common to see something like:

      • Day 1: A selfie
      • Day 2: A picture of the sky
      • Day 3: Something green
      • Day 4: What you wore today


These are all fine examples, as long as you stay true to your brand. Try to get more specific than these to tailor your Instagram challenge to your account and your followers. This example below was made for authors. 


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Lirio (@lirio_writes) on

You should also set rules in terms of how to get reposted or how to win prizes. Usually, these rules include using the challenge hashtag and tagging your account to enter.

Engage With Followers

The point of an Instagram challenge is partly to spread brand awareness, but also to encourage brand loyalty and engage more with the followers you already have. Like and comment on their posts to make them feel involved. Repost the best entries – user generated content is an easy way to add to your own page and further promote the challenge you’re running.

Consider Instagram Story Challenges

If you’re worried that your followers won’t post as frequently as you want or fully commit to the challenge, consider running an Instagram story challenge instead. Instagram stories are more casual, so many users may feel more inclined to post a story rather than a post that is permanently on their profile.

Instagram stories are even easier to repost and share, and you may find better engagement and participation by opting for a story challenge. Stories have become a huge part of Instagram’s platform, so you’ll still reach a larger audience and grow more followers this way.

The Best Instagram Challenges

There are plenty of popular Instagram challenges out there already. These Instagram challenges are some of the most well-known on the platform, and range in theme and time frame.

Year Long Instagram Challenges

The most popular year long Instagram is probably the #365Project, but there are variations of the same name with the same idea. The purpose of this kind of year long challenge is to post one photo every day for a full year. That way, when you look back on the year, you can see a moment from each day.

365 project instagram challenge

This kind of year long Instagram challenge is usually self-reflective and not run by any brand or offering any kind of prize. A similar alternative is #365grateful, where you post one thing that you are grateful for each day.

30 Day Instagram Challenges

A thirty day Instagram challenge is more common, and there are many month-long Instagram challenges run by brands or just for fun. The hashtag #30DayChallenge has over 1 million posts, which is why you should come up with a more unique hashtag when running your own photo challenge.

Most 30 day Instagram challenges involve posting one photo a day for 30 days, often with a different theme each day. These can range from specific, branded challenges with rules, to the more basic selfies and sunset pictures we discussed before.

Instagram’s Weekend Hashtag Project

Right up until May 2019, Instagram ran a weekly Instagram challenge called the Weekend Hashtag Project (#WHP). Each week, they would announce the theme for that weekend, and share one winner’s post to their social media and often blog. The hashtag would change weekly, always with the beginning WHP, but different themes like #WHPlandscapes.

This was arguably the most successful Instagram challenge on the platform – millions participated for the chance to be reposted by Instagram since the account has is one of the most followed accounts on Instagram.

Grow Your Followers Through an Instagram Challenge

Instagram photo challenges are a great way to reach a larger audience and find new followers. Looking for an easier way to get more followers? Sign up with Social Buddy. Social Buddy finds real, targeted followers for organic growth. Learn more here.

Written by Erin

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