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How Instagram Challenges Can Help Grow Your Following and Engagement

September 28, 2023
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Instagram is now the fourth most popular social media channel, boasting over 2 billion active monthly users. It’s also the fourth most visited website worldwide — meaning Instagram has incredible power to reach your audience, grow your following, and boost engagement with your brand. 

Moreover, when users spend time on Instagram, they spend a lot of time. Adults in the US spend about 30 minutes a day browsing their Instagram feeds. For business owners, this represents a significant window of time to connect with your target audience. 

One way to do that is through an Instagram challenge. Instagram challenges are fun and interactive ways to increase your visibility and ultimately grow your following. 

In this guide, we’ll break down some of the key benefits of hosting Instagram challenges, how to create challenges that get noticed by influencers and other users, and some strategies to help you make the most of your next campaign. 

Benefits of Participating in Instagram Challenges

Instagram challenges are a great way to shake up your social media content. Running a challenge as part of your Instagram marketing can turbocharge growth on that channel, leading to some impactful business results. Here are a few things that a successful Instagram challenge can achieve: 

  • Increased brand awareness with existing and new audiences
  • More traffic to your website
  • Generate an email list for marketing purposes
  • Higher engagement with your Instagram account
  • Higher follower count on Instagram
  • Increased sales among new and existing customers
  • Increased engagement around a new product launch
  • User-generated content, including photos, videos, and testimonials

Not only that — but Instagram challenges offer a multitude of benefits that extend far beyond the realm of mere fun and entertainment. These challenges provide a unique opportunity for participants to get creative, connect with like-minded people, and foster a sense of belonging within the vibrant Instagram community.

Instagram challenges are a win-win for those who participate and the business that hosts the photo challenge. Users who engage with Instagram challenges get the opportunity to share their passion, support a cause they believe in, and get inspired to try new things.

Best case scenario? The daily prompt you pick for your Instagram challenge goes viral! Challenges that do catch on often result in a surge of user-generated content and invaluable word-of-mouth marketing.

If you’re looking for inspiration, there are some common Instagram challenges that you can experiment with to get started. 

10 Instagram Challenges to Try

Instagram challenge ideas are creative and engaging activities or themes that encourage users on the platform to participate, share content, and connect with others. These challenges often involve posting photos, videos, or stories using specific hashtags to unite the participants under a common theme. 

Often, Instagram challenges revolve around a wide range of topics, from fitness and fashion to food and art. For example, fitness enthusiasts might participate in a “30-day fitness challenge,” where they post daily workout routines and progress updates using a designated hashtag. 

Hashtags are a fundamental aspect of Instagram challenges. Hashtags make it easy for Instagram users to discover and follow the challenge-related content, engage with one another in the comments, and stay connected throughout the challenge’s duration.

These challenges provide an opportunity to strengthen the sense of community among followers. Participants often support and motivate each other, creating a positive space that fosters a deeper connection between the brand and its audience. 

There are a few trending Instagram hashtags that are a reliable way to participate in challenges with many Instagram followers. Here are a few specific options to consider adding to your marketing strategy. 


Participants use #ThrowbackThursday or #TBT to share pics from the past, specifically on Thursdays. The nostalgia is real! It’s a fun way for participants to reminisce, laugh about awkward photos, and connect with others. Here’s an example of a popular #ThrowbackThursday post from basketball player Scottie Pippen.

throwback thursday instagram challenge


Mondays are rough for many people heading back to class or to the office. #MotivationMonday was born from this feeling as a way to get inspired to kickstart the week. #MotivationMonday Instagram posts are often meant to uplift followers and help tackle the challenges that Mondays often bring. Here’s an example from the Instagram account @StudyStream_

monday motivation instagram challenge


This photo challenge is for food enthusiasts to share their favorite dishes, “food porn” content, and dining experience, specifically on Fridays. It’s a feast for the eyes and a great way to discover new recipes and restaurants. Here’s an example of an Instagram Reel that uses this hashtag from the user @wildchild_eatery. Note that Instagram captions aren’t the only place to share a challenge hashtag: this account added #FoodieFriday in the comments!

foodie friday instagram challenge


During the weekend, challenge users to post their travel stories and pics from their current, recent, or favorite vacation. This challenge inspires others to go on an adventure — with the added benefit of raising engagement on your channel during the weekend. Saturdays and Sundays tend to be slower days for engagement on social media, so consider hosting an Instagram challenge to tackle that lull. Here’s an example from the account @​​goingglobaltv

wanderlust weekend instagram challenge


Another option is to ask users to participate in #SelfieSunday, meaning that participants post  selfies on Sunday! This is a fun way to encourage self-expression and a lighthearted way to celebrate individuality. Encourage users to make it relevant to your brand by posting with a product or a location in your community. 


#FitnessChallenge posts are extremely popular at the start of the New Year and the start of autumn, two times when many people are naturally starting to reset and refresh their routines. A #FitnessChallenge generally promotes fitness, wellness habits, healthy recipes, or a workout program run by a blogger or influencer. Participants share videos of them completing a workout routine, going on a run, or lifting. Here’s an example from fitness influencer @alexia_clarke

fitness instagram challenge


A challenge that often leads to memes, the #PetsofInstagram challenge asks participants to share adorable pictures or videos of their furry and feathered friends. Here’s an example from @dogsofusa.ig

pets of instagram challenge


Challenge your followers to share their latest DIY project with the hashtag, #DIYDay. Sharing these types of projects encourages your community to connect over design questions, how-to videos, and specific hacks that you can then use to create thought leadership content and UGC. Here’s an example of a DIY day Instagram Reel from

dit instagram challenge


Bookworms come together to share book recommendations, literary reviews, and news from the publishing word around the hashtag #Bookstagram. You could use this challenge to create a summer reading list for your followers or to encourage people to share their favorite books related to your industry. Here’s a #Bookstagram post from user @mybookstanook

bookstagram challenge


This hashtag likely evolved from #ThrowbackThursday — but with a twist. Participants post old fashion trends, celebrity looks from the past, or their own throwback outfits from when they were growing up. It’s a fun way to see how fashion has evolved over the years. Here’s an example from Instagram user @biggerthanyu

tbt fashion instagram challenge

Now that you have a sense of the types of pics, Instagram captions, and hashtags that make for a good Instagram challenge, let’s talk about how to set up and host your own version of this popular marketing strategy. 

Tips For Hosting Your Own Instagram Challenge

Instagram challenges are a fantastic way to inspire creativity, boost user participation, and increase your brand’s visibility. However, they don’t come together without careful consideration and a well-thought-out strategy.

The first step in hosting a successful Instagram challenge is to decide on a compelling theme that aligns with your brand and resonates with your target audience. The best Instagram challenge theme is one that feels relevant: It could be related to your industry, a holiday, a cause, or a specific interest shared by your followers.

For instance, a restaurant probably won’t get much traction with a #TBTFashion post, but it could see lots of engagement with a #FoodieFriday challenge. 

Regardless of the theme, make it easy for people to participate! Your Insta challenge should be easy to remember, clear and concise. People are more likely to participate if your challenge feels effortless. Try to pick something that people are already posting and sharing about and putting your own twist on it. 

Promote your Instagram challenge across social networks. Any viral challenge is likely to be discussed among your users on Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter, too. Make it accessible no matter what platform people prefer. 

And, finally, participate in your own challenge! Like and comment on participants’ posts, share some of your favorites, and create your own content to keep the fun going. Turn on notifications so you can respond to people’s ideas in real time. 

[Read more: 19 Do’s and Don’ts for Social Media Event Promotions]  

Strategies to Maximize Engagement During Instagram Challenges

One of the most effective ways to maximize engagement during Instagram challenges is to inspire authenticity and creativity among participants. People are more likely to participate in challenges that are relevant to their interests and that they see other people participating in. 

Perhaps the most classic example of this is the ALS ice bucket challenge. It was a simple, silly way to raise money for a good cause. The challenge name explained it all: dump a bucket of ice on your head to raise money for the ALS Association. Nevertheless, participants got creative in who they challenged next, how they reacted to the icy water, and even how they filmed the video. 

Ultimately, you want to create a challenge that encourages users to think outside the box (or bucket) and create unique content that reflects their individuality and personal style. 

It’s also important to actively manage your challenge. Like and comment on participants’ posts, and ask participants questions to encourage them to interact with your brand and each other. Monitor your comments section for any content that makes participants feel like they can’t be original. 

When participants feel empowered to express themselves genuinely, they are more likely to connect with other like-minded individuals, thereby enhancing the sense of community and driving higher engagement levels.

Measure and Analyze the Success of Your Instagram Challenges

Measuring and analyzing the success of your Instagram challenges is not just an afterthought; it’s a crucial step in understanding the impact of your campaign and improving your next one. 

If there’s a set duration to your challenge, make sure you’re monitoring continuously using Instagram Insights and other analytics tools. Pay attention to what’s working and what’s not, and make adjustments as needed for better engagement. There may be things you can do while the challenge is ongoing to encourage more participation — such as working with influencers or posting daily prompts. 

In addition, keep track of the number of participants throughout the challenge period, as this will give you a clear indication of its popularity and appeal. You can do this by following the Instagram hashtags that you use for the specific challenge. 

As the challenge goes on, pay attention to deeper-level metrics: engagement, follower growth, reach and sentiment. Data points such as likes, comments, and shares can also help you assess how strong the community engagement around your challenge has grown. 

This data helps you gauge the level of enthusiasm and interaction your challenges generate within your audience. If you’re not getting clear insights, you may need to run a few challenges or extend the campaign indefinitely to get enough information and feedback. 

Final Thoughts

Instagram challenges are fun, easy ways to boost engagement and solicit user-generated content. There are plenty of popular hashtags you can use to create your own spin on a challenge; or, come up with your own branded hashtag that your users can include in their Instagram Stories, Reels, and Posts. 

Some business owners choose to reward participants during an Instagram challenge. The winner could be chosen based on the most creative or engaging post, or you could have a random drawing. If you decide to pick a winner, ViralSweep can help. Learn how to get started in our guide, Understanding Instagram Giveaway Rules for Business Success.