Learn How To Run A Successful UGC Hashtag Contest

Last Updated: May 10, 2022

Are you looking for an easy way to build a bigger following on social media?. One of the best ways to do this is to collect UGC (user-generated content) as a way to up your marketing game. User-generated content hashtag contests are incredibly important at the moment. And for good reason. They’re simple to run and have this awesome way of getting shared A LOT. It’s also a lot easier to manage than some other kinds of promotions.

Since UGC contests are so easy to prepare, they can help you build brand awareness and increase engagement without too much effort on your part. It’s also worth noting that UGC hashtag contests are VERY different from the spammy “tag a friend” and “like” contests. Here’s what you need to know to get a hashtag contest up and running. We’ll even talk about what you can do with the UGC that you collect.

What is a UGC hashtag contest?

A UGC hashtag contest is a giveaway where brands ask its followers to post a piece of content on social networks that are accompanied by a specific hashtag. The user’s content can be a photo, review, video, or even some text (depending on the platform). Each time someone posts anything that contains the unique hashtag, they have a chance to win a prize. A winner is either chosen at random or by criteria the brand decides on; such as the number of votes or by a panel of judges.

If you’re hosting a hashtag contest where people enter by using your designated branded hashtag – you automatically have the users’ implied permission to use what they post. However, it’s still a good idea to ask for their explicit permission whenever you want to use it.

Where can you run a hashtag contest?

Even though people use hashtags on Pinterest, YouTube, and Facebook they’re more of a fundamental part of Instagram and Twitter. So it’s a much better idea to use them on those two platforms. Especially when it comes to UGC contests, you’re better focusing your efforts on these platforms.


When Twitter began, the company’s first users started using hashtags as a way to organize conversations. They were also great at making certain topics easier to find. For example, let’s say you were in London and looking for a great Indian restaurant and you want to find out what London Indian food lovers were recommending. With hashtags, you could simply type both #London and #indianfood into the search bar. You would then get ONLY posts that included both hashtags. Thankfully this is still how hashtags work today.

TWITTER: In order to run a promotion on Twitter, you’d take the same approach: require people to use your hashtags in their posts in order for them to win whatever prize you’re giving away.

INSTAGRAM: For Instagram, all you need to do is create a unique hashtag (more on that later) and ask your participants to use your hashtag in the caption. Since Instagram is photo-based, these posts will naturally accompany an image or video.

How to Run a Successful UGC Hashtag Contest

While hashtag contests might be easy to set up, you’re more likely to meet your goals if you think about what it is that you want to accomplish. Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to running a successful UGC contest.

1. Don’t Violate Trademarks

It might seem obvious, but you can’t use another company’s name in your hashtag. However, it’s not the only thing to consider. Recently, companies have begun trademarking hashtags that don’t include their brand name, like Mucinex’s #blamemucus. Why anyone besides Mucinex would want to use that hashtag, maybe a punk band – who knows, but you get the point. You HAVE to do your research to make sure that you aren’t using another company’s trademarked material.

2. Make Your Contest Hashtags Easy To Remember

The goal is to create hashtags that aren’t too long or hard to remember. You also want to watch out for hashtags that are difficult to spell. While there are plenty of generic hashtags out there that can bring attention to your contest, you should also have one or two that will set your brand apart. To keep things really simple, you could just use #yourbrandcontest.

3. ALWAYS Include A Branded Hashtag

Some brands have unique hashtags that their followers instantly attracted to. These can be used for contests AND general posts. PetSmart, for example, uses #petsmartcart in many of its own posts, and PetSmart customers have also adopted the hashtag.

For a contest, you might have your short-term contest hashtag (#yourbrandhashtagcontest) and then also include your branded hashtag that’s on every post (#yourbrandhashtag). No matter what you do, the main thing is to think about whether the hashtag will appeal to your customers.

4. Don’t Go Overboard

Hashtags can be hard to resist, but DON’T go overboard. Yes, Instagram allows you to post up to 30, but that doesn’t mean that you should. Instagram posts that use nine hashtags generate 2.5 times more engagement. Especially in the form of likes and comments than posts with just one tag.

5. Write and Post the Rules

Whenever you post your contest rules it puts everyone on the same page. Anyone who enters will understand the guidelines and limitations that you’ve set.  For example, you might want to limit how many times someone can enter. Whatever your rules, make sure you post them on a landing page, rather than as a comment or caption. That way your post will look a lot cleaner. Plus you’ll be able to add all the details you want.

But before you write your rules, it’s a good idea to know the difference between contests and sweepstakes.

  • A contest is a promotion in which effort, skill, or merit is required to enter to win a prize. For example, you may require people to upload a photo or video in order to enter. BUT the winner is determined by a vote. The element of chance must not exist in a contest.
  • Sweepstakes is a promotion in which people can win a prize based on chance since the winner is picked at random.

6. Add Extra Chances To Win

Hashtag contests are popular because they’re incredibly easy to enter. But if you’re also interested in collecting email addresses for future marketing, you might want to add a form to your contest. This works great if you have some customers who don’t use Instagram or Twitter.

This way people can still enter by uploading an image using a specific hashtag. You can even create a simple landing page where people can do the same thing! Whenever you add a form, you’ll have a chance to get even more information.

7. Decide How You’ll Choose A Winner

This is definitely something that you need to decide on ahead of time. And when it comes time to choose a winner, you actually have a few options.

Software platforms like ShortStack can pull all your hashtag entries into a feed from. After which you can use a random entry picker tool to choose a winner. Or you can let votes determine the winner. You could even choose the one you like the best. However your choice needs to be based on the criteria you specified in your rules (like most creative, funniest, etc.)


Once your hashtag promotion is over, you should have collected a good amount of user-generated content. This is great because now you can use this content in your marketing efforts. Since sharing UGC is a great way to increase engagement and build trust – it will inevitably drive sales too. Your next step is to create and share stores around the material you collected.

Here are three things you can do with the UGC you collect:

  • increase brand awareness
  • develop brand advocates
  • build an engaged community

User-generated content really does have a way of influencing buyers of all ages, especially millennials.

A UGC hashtag contest is a great way to boost your brand’s marketing efforts. Thankfully it’s easy too! We hope this has been helpful in your ventures to create a UGC contest. Have you run a UGC contest before? Have you participated in it? Have you looked into brand-specific hashtags before? Let us know in the comments below so we can discuss!

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