The $400 Hack We Used to Gain Our First 30K Instagram Followers

Two million businesses spend a total of $20 billion trying to get attention through Instagram ads. That’s one heck of a competitive sandbox, especially for a new company trying to get a foothold.

We work with hundreds of companies—some huge, many tiny—and we’ve watched them battle for attention on the ’gram. But we’ve also felt the struggle firsthand, having dived headfirst into Instagram in 2017.

Our experience taught us several strategies and “cheat codes” to grow an Instagram following on a tight budget. One, in particular, was something we think every business should know. The TL;DR is: you can build a large Instagram audience with just a few hundred dollars and without ever buying an IG ad.

It’s the strategy we used to grow from 0 to 30K followers on Instagram (not to mention driving 100K website visitors and generating $25K in revenue). We’re sharing that story here, along with a guide you can use to repeat our success.

Our simple strategy for growth on Instagram? An enamel pin giveaway

Instead of investing in ads to grow our following on Instagram, we held 40 enamel pin giveaways over 18 months. The results blew us away.

Growing a following on Instagram was important to WizardPin’s growth. For one thing, our products are visual, and IG is the best place to show that off. More importantly, there are 200 million people active on Instagram, and many (84%, according to this poll) are loyal to the brands they follow on social media. Huge, loyal audience? That’s exactly what we needed.

You can’t just wave a wand and have followers, though. Without a full-time marketer or big ad budget (read basically no ad budget), our only play was to grow using organic posts. That’s a tough road without a strategy.

We decided to offer up a soft enamel unicorn pin in a giveaway to see if that would generate some likes and follows. Soft enamel pins are a favorite for intricate designs, and unicorns are just freakin’ magical.

Unicorn shaped soft enamel pin

To enter, we asked people to

  • follow us, which grew our Instagram audience;
  • like the photo, which told us which giveaways were the most popular; and
  • tag a friend, which also grew our audience while generating engagement on our posts.
That first contest helped us grow from nearly zero to several hundred followers. We were off and running.

Over the next 18 months, we launched about 40 giveaways. We chose a different pin for each event to keep it fresh. We also continued to mix in other organic posts, so our Instagram page wasn’t just a wall of contests. Urgency motivates action, so we gave people 24 to 48 hours to enter before each drawing.

The contests brought an incredible return on our investment. We grew to 30K visitors in 18 months. But that wasn’t all; we were also getting hundreds of likes and dozens of comments on our giveaway posts—about 2x to 10x our other organic posts.

We saw a couple of exciting secondary effects from our Instagram giveaways, too. During that 18 month span, we brought 104K visitors to our website from Instagram, and those visitors bought $25K worth of product. It’s difficult to determine which Instagram customers came to us specifically because of contests. But since that was our main growth activity, we can safely attribute much of the growth to these giveaways.

Each pin we gave away had a retail cost of around $10. That’s $400 total for all 40 giveaways. Of course, organic posts are free. Using the $25K revenue figure, that’s an ROI of $62 for every $1 invested. There aren't many marketing campaigns that can come close to that.

Why Instagram pin giveaways will work for you

Sure, it’s not exactly a surprise that an enamel pin manufacturer chose to give away enamel pins on Instagram. But this strategy is for anyone who is trying to grow their following and generate awareness or revenue on Instagram. It’s an absolute game changer if you don’t have a huge ad budget.

Check out this giveaway from @nachocorgidog.

Enamel pin giveaways like this one work for organizations of all sizes because:

They require no marketing expertise.
If you can create an Instagram post, you can launch a giveaway.

You can launch them on a small budget.
Enamel pins cost around $10 to $15 retail. Much less if you’re already buying in bulk for other purposes.

You generate Instagram likes and comments.
The likes and comments on our giveaway posts made us feel good, but they served a bigger purpose, too. All that engagement told Instagram’s algorithm that our account was popular. That means all of our posts began appearing on people’s feeds more often.

Winners become ambassadors by wearing your branded pins.
Enamel pins are conversation starters and a great way to promote your brand or nonprofit. If you’re giving away branded pins, your winners become evangelists for your mission and message.

Three enamel pins mounted on a rainbow colored backer card

These branded pins from the nonprofit Creamos help the company spread their message of inclusivity. Every pin they give away is like “hiring” an ambassador for the price of an enamel pin.

Enamel pins are versatile for any topic/company/message/audience.
No matter what your audience likes, you can create an enamel pin that will make them want to sign up for your giveaway.

It takes minutes to launch a giveaway.
As you’ll see in our DIY guide, you can launch a giveaway on Instagram in the time it takes to make a pour-over coffee.

A DIY guide to launch your own enamel pin giveaways on Instagram

We’ve learned a lot from running 40 giveaways on Instagram. We’ve boiled down the process into these five steps. Follow them and you’ll have your first giveaway launched in no time.

Choose your goal

We used our giveaways to gain a lot of new followers, but there are other goals you can set:
  • Generate engagement by just asking for likes and comments.
  • Get user-generated content by asking people to tag you in pictures with your product.
  • Grow your email list by asking people to subscribe.
Pro tip: you’ll have more success with your giveaway if you keep your goal in mind while making any decisions.

Pick your pin

We chose pins that were timely and relevant to the audience we were targeting. This Halloween-themed pin giveaway performed really well.

Here are a few other ideas for your pin themes:

  • Current events, like pop culture or politics (although that’s scarier than our Halloween pin)
  • Branded pins with your logo or something specific to your organization
  • Social causes, like this example from @carolinesarrettedesigns

Don’t forget to make sure your pin matches your target audience. You may love ’80s rock, but if you’re looking for likes from Gen Z, a Def Leppard retro pin will likely miss the mark.

Set the contest rules

When we first started out, the Instagram rules around giveaways had us like . . .

Meme of Homer Simpsion

The rules and laws of contests haven’t gotten much clearer. This post has some great information about sweepstakes laws and Instagram’s promotion rules.

In a nutshell, just be really clear on the rules for entry, eligibility, and contest end date. Here’s how @skyeandoliver did it (and look at that amazing boba tea pin).


Create your post

Your image will draw attention, but it’s your caption that does the real heavy lifting. Make it simple and to the point, with all the necessary information.

Lead off with a clear statement that this is a giveaway. Then, list the steps to enter, include your rules, and, finally, place relevant hashtags in a comment so they don’t muddy up your exciting message.

It’s time to go live and launch your giveaway post. There’s some data that suggests lunchtimes and evenings (7 p.m.-9 p.m.) are the best times to post on Instagram. We never got that technical, but it can’t hurt to test different hours/days for your contests.

Promote your giveaway

Instagram Stories has become a really popular feature. The short-term nature of stories—they exist for only 24 hours— makes them perfect for promoting a sense of urgency for your contests.

We reminded our visitors of contests through other organic posts.

And finally, congratulate the winner

Naming the winner publicly ads credibility to your giveaway. It also reminds your audience to look out for future giveaways because they could be the next winner. Plus, when you tag your winner in a post, you get access to their audience as well.

Launch an enamel pin giveaway, and start growing on Instagram

WizardPins has grown significantly since our scrappy early days. We regularly use ads on Instagram and Facebook to generate awareness and revenue now. We even have a real marketing team (hi!). But we still do get a lot of new followers from giveaways. We’re proof that enamel pin giveaways will help you grow a large, engaged following on Instagram without paid ads. Follow the steps, check your results, rinse, repeat and you’ll see results, too.

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