The Best Instagram Challenges for Boosting Engagement

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Instagram challenges have exploded in popularity, providing an interactive way for accounts across the platform to engage their audience. By tapping into creative expression and community collaboration, challenges can capture attention and drive viral participation unmatched by static posts.

The Rising Relevance of Instagram Challenges

Over 64% of Instagram‘s one billion monthly active users follow business profiles. And influencer marketing is projected to grow into a $16 billion dollar industry by 2022. This massive reach and impact makes Instagram challenges a relevant engagement strategy.

Challenges prompt participation by issuing creative calls-to-action tied to hashtags. By inviting audiences to respond with their own interpretations, they facilitate connections through shared experiences.

Hurrdat social media analytics found over 5 million public Instagram posts tied to hashtag challenges in 2020 alone. Tracking site Hashatit analyzed 500 top challenges, determining over 75% drove 10k+ contributions and 25% over 100k.

Psychology Behind What Makes Challenges Go Viral

Viral challenges tend to share common psychological hooks that capture public intrigue. Social sciences reveal meme spread ties to qualities like humor, warmth, and skill demonstration.

Stanford psychologists studied word-of-mouth sharing, finding positive content that triggers excitement or awe spreads fastest and furthest. Viral challenges must first elicit an emotional reaction worth capturing.

But they also need built-in sharing mechanisms. Sociologists note viral behaviors feature cues promoting transmission from peer to peer. Hashtag integrations, tagging nominations, and broader cultural relevance facilitate continued challenge circulation.

Finally, viral challenges permit self-expression and status signalling. Participation becomes a vehicle for projecting identity and skill mastery from cooking to dance. As more respond, FOMO drives further contribution.

Top Challenge Examples Driving 2020 Engagement

Several challenges took Instagram by storm in 2020, leveraging psychological drivers to inspire record participation.

The #PillowChallenge

This lighthearted challenge offered escapism from pandemic doldrums by getting creative turning pillows into fashion. Over 4 million posts helped launch modeling careers and new brands. Fashion sites saw search spikes for belt bags to complete the improvised dresses.

The #WipeItDown Challenge

This TikTok transition trend prompted users to wipe down mirrors and change outfits with clever reveals and editing tricks. It drove over 8 million Instagram posts from everyday users and celebrities like Jennifer Lopez.

Brands found creative integrations, like the Indiana Pacers mopping their court to transition basketball seasons. The skill showcase and editing reveals provided fresh entertainment.


As COVID-19 kept people homebound, this Korean honeycomb coffee hack offered a photogenic distraction. The sweet cream foam topping made a perfect Instagram post. Starbucks saw the pretty drinks boost iced coffee sales 25% despite store closures.


This viral photo pair challenge produced comedic then-and-now comparisons, prompting reflections on personal growth. Over 3 million shared aging timelapses drove deep engagement as commentaries debated changes.

The #10YearChallenge not only entertained individuals but provided humor relief to broader culture. And it offered brands relevant creative content, like NASA sharing a decade of cosmic discoveries.

Best Practices for Brands & Influencers

For marketers and creators, participating in select viral hashtag challenges can provide visibility and engagement lifts. But inorganic interjections risk compromising authenticity.

When considering branded challenge integration, first assess topic relevancy. Fashion labels might organically blend with style challenges but avoid disjointed connections lacking context.

Evaluate potential reach and resonance. Wrap-up analysis from past challenge cycles can determine engagement likelihood. However, predicting virality remains an inexact science.

Encourage creative freedom over hard selling. Campaigns overly centered on models holding products often flop. Enable community storytelling and interpretation.

Monitor use of trademarked assets like slogans and mascots. While owning challenge names proves difficult, legal teams still advise tracking third-party employment.

The Importance of Ethical Participation

Marketers must also carefully weigh ethical obligations around challenge engagement. Impressionable groups like youth can interpret high participation as peer pressure, risking personal or legal harm mimicking dangerous viral stunts. Brands should stick to lighthearted prompts avoiding dangerous acts.

Experts also warn hashtag hijacking from unrelated brands risks consumer distrust or backlash when seen as exploitative. If debating piggybacking on larger cultural moments, ensure sufficient relevance.

Key Takeaways

When used deliberately, Instagram challenges can uniquely drive reach, resonance, and interaction for both individuals and organizations. But blind bandwagon jumping without clear creative alignment or added value limits results.

Define indicator metrics for success upfront, tracking engagements, content generation, lead acquisition or sales lift against costs. Monitor both hard commercial and emotional experiential impact on community relationships.

With proper strategy embracing both data insights and ethical guidelines, Instagram challenges offer immense collaborative storytelling potential.

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