Instagram has become “the next big thing” on the social networking scene. It had been steadily gaining in popularity over the last year, but when Facebook acquired it earlier this year, it really gained prominence and became a serious social contender for online marketers. If your business is not already using Instagram for your marketing campaign, it should be.

One of the best ways to use Instagram for marketing your business is to host a contest on the network, helping to build buzz for your brand and drive traffic to your site. There are also new Instagram monitoring platforms to help assess success and metrics.

Here are a few tips for how you can host a successful Instagram contest to promote your brand:

Offer a Great Prize

The first step to success with any contest is to offer a great prize that will get people excited and generate a lot of buzz for your brand. Offer up the best prize that you can afford. Some great options are gift cards, electronic items and vouchers for travel. If you can’t afford to offer a great prize yourself, work together with advertisers to sponsor a prize.

Choose a Complementary Theme

A good Instagram contest is focused around a theme. For instance, you may ask users to submit their best photos of their road trip, or you may ask them to submit their best interpretations of their Pinterest creations. Try to choose a theme that is fun and interesting and that is related in some way to your brand.

Use Hashtags

Hashtags are the best way for you to keep track of submissions. Users can tag their photos, and you can click on the hashtag to see all of the entries together. Hashtags also help to create more exposure for your contest and your brand by creating a trending topic that will reach more users. Make sure you pick a very specific hashtag to track your contest, and use your brand in it somehow. Choose a hashtag like #YourCompanyPinterestWinContest instead of #contest or #PinterestContest.

Require Follows for Entry

Leverage your contest to get more followers by requiring people to follow you in order to enter. By building up more followers, you’ll generate a lot of new leads for your business and have opportunities to promote yourself to a whole new audience. You may also consider offering additional entries for actions like sharing the contest on their blogs or other social networks, which will also help you to create more awareness for your brand.

Instagram is a great way to promote your brand. As the network grows in prominence, it offers more and more opportunities for creating more exposure for your business or website. You can use these tips to run a successful contest on Instagram to help your business get more exposure and more traffic.

This post was contributed by Bridget Sandorford. Bridget is a freelance food and culinary writer, where recently she’s been researching baking and pastry schools. In her spare time, she enjoys biking, painting and working on her first cookbook.