The Psychology of Free Stuff: Why Instagram Giveaways Explode Your Engagement

Man jumping in air and celebrating after getting notified of Instagram giveaway win

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Written by Kevin McGrew

Kevin is our chief strategist and brand guru who helps our clients navigate the fast moving world of digital marketing. Ideation and monetization king. Loves God, Family and Country. Life long learner who’s powered by coffee, bourbon, and cigars.

March 7, 2024

Unleash the Power of Giveaways to Win Followers & Customers

In the world of social media marketing, Instagram giveaways have become an extremely popular tactic used by businesses of all sizes to engage their target audience. Instagram generates over 43 billion US dollars in revenue annually and boasts of over 2 billion users. That makes Instagram and giveaways a powerful medium to be leveraged by businesses around the globe. But what’s the psychology behind why Instagram giveaways are so effective? In this blog post, we’ll break down the reasons why followers love giveaways and how launching Instagram contests and sweepstakes can be a smart marketing move for your business. 

Channelizing the Psychology Behind Instagram Giveaways

There is a reason why Instagram giveaways are so popular. The powerful psychology behind the giveaways propels it to the top of the marketing strategy list. Let’s delve into the concept of channeling this psychology.

The Draw of Prizes and Free Stuff

One of the main reasons Instagram giveaways are so popular is because people love the chance to win free stuff. The feeling of getting something for nothing lights up the reward centers in our brains. When a giveaway offers a prize that aligns with your brand and appeals to your target demographic, it captures attention and generates excitement. Legitimately picking a winner through the Instagram giveaway picker tool also adds to the excitement. Even if the odds of winning are low, it’s human nature to feel hopeful about the possibility of getting something for free. As a marketing tool, giveaways allow you to leverage people’s attraction to prizes to drive engagement.

The Social Incentive 

Giveaways on Instagram also encourage social sharing. Many giveaways require users to follow or tag friends to enter or gain more entries. The chance to win provides a compelling incentive for users to tap into their social circles. By requiring social actions to enter, businesses can expand their follower base and exposure at the same time. Giveaways gain visibility as users share the promotion within their own networks and via story tags. This viral effect helps companies reach new audiences. 

Playing on FOMO

The fear of missing out (FOMO) also comes into play with Instagram giveaways. When users see prizes flashing by in their feeds and friends entering to win, the feeling of potential regret if they don’t participate kicks in. The limited-time nature of giveaways creates a fear of not being included or missing out on a valuable chance. This time pressure motivates users to take action. Creative prizes and visible hype surrounding a giveaway campaign further fuel the feelings of FOMO. Companies can use this social phenomenon to drive entries during a campaign.

A Sense of Exclusivity 

Giveaways also make followers feel like they belong to an exclusive club. By entering and participating in a brand’s contest, followers become part of a select group with the inside track to win coveted prizes. This establishes a feeling of exclusivity that engages users with the brand. Companies can then leverage this connection and heightened affinity to convert giveaway participants into loyal customers.

Instant Gratification

Unlike some other marketing tactics, giveaways deliver a fast and gratifying experience. Entering by following, liking, or tagging requires minimal effort. Participants can take a simple action and then eagerly await the selection of the winners. This instant gratification makes giveaways particularly well-suited to platforms like Instagram where users expect easy engagement. The platform’s interactive features allow brands to create rewarding experiences for followers.

Viral User-Generated Content 

In addition to driving awareness, Instagram giveaways spur user-generated content that spreads organically. Requiring participants to post photos with a unique hashtag or share contest information often generates branded posts and stories. This user content shows up in the feeds of the followers’ networks, winning new awareness for the brand. The steady stream of user-generated content during a giveaway or contest creates buzz and social proof. Brands can then repurpose this content to extend their marketing reach. 

Using Giveaways Strategically for Your Brand

Now that we’ve explored the psychology behind why Instagram giveaways work, how can you use contests and sweepstakes effectively as part of your social media marketing mix? Here are some best practices to follow:

Match Prizes to Your Target Audience and Promote Far

Think through what your ideal customers really want but may not splurge on themselves. Offer prizes that resonate with their needs and wants. Give them a reason to get excited. Leverage paid ads and your other marketing channels to promote your giveaway. Share links, rules, and reminders across Facebook, Instagram, email, and websites. 

Make Entry Requirements Strategic

Ask for social follows, shares, tags, and UGC that will help amplify your message and growth. Make it easy for people to enter and gain more chances to win. Repost and share user-generated photos and videos from your contest to showcase fans and products. This extends the impression left by the giveaway.

Analyze and Optimize

Track giveaway entries, social activity, sales, and site traffic. Review insights to improve your next contests and sweepstakes continually. You need to tap into the customer’s mind with strategic marketing and improvise on the mistakes committed for better future results.


Launching giveaways on Instagram that align with your brand is a compelling way to engage your target audience and expand your reach. By understanding the psychology behind giveaways, you can tap into people’s attraction to prizes, social incentives, exclusivity, and instant gratification. Use these motivations strategically by offering relevant prizes, encouraging social sharing, generating buzz, and optimizing each campaign. When executed effectively, Instagram giveaways become a valuable marketing tool for your business. Paying attention to the psychology behind giveaways allows you to craft contests and sweepstakes that attract new followers, delight existing customers, and boost your brand awareness.

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