Build your authority and network with an Instagram Challenge

Melanie Bruce

Dr Melanie Bruce is a marketing professor, entrepreneur, and business coach. 

She is the founder of The Leveraged PhD, a hub for PhDs wanting to use their degree to its full potential. Melanie believes that as the world produces an increasing number of PhDs it is becoming increasingly important to develop a competitive advantage and stand out from the crowd. She has an online course to help PhDs develop their personal brand so that they can build a name for themselves that can lead to guest speaking, consulting, book sales, full-time employment, online course creation, coaching and/or freelancing. Follow TheLeveragedPhD on Instagram: @TheLeveragedPhD, Twitter: @TheLeveragedPhD and Facebook: @TheLeveragedPhD

Melanie is also a business and marketing coach for ecopreneurs. Using her marketing knowledge and experience she helps sustainably focused businesses launch and scale. 

Melanie’s personal website is and you can connect with her on Instagram: @DrMelanieBruce, Twitter: @DrMelanieBruce, and Facebook: @DrMelanieBruce  

What is an Instagram Challenge?

An Instagram Challenge is when a group of people commit to daily posts on Instagram for a specific period of time (usually 1 month). You receive a daily prompt to inspire you to create a post for your Instagram feed. The prompts are open to interpretation adding fun and diversity to the challenge. 

Why participate in an Instagram Challenge?

Poster with someone putting up their hand, that says "Challenge Accepted. Ready or not, here I come".
‘ Every fall in western mass comes the royal frog ballet’
by danjo paluska, on Flickr.

An Instagram Challenge is a creative way to build your presence and expand your network. You will also build the habit of posting daily which will increase your followers and engagement rates.

If you want to get started or increase your presence on Instagram but you aren’t sure what to post or what type of content is best, participating in an Instagram Challenge allows you to create a whole load of content and see what works and doesn’t for you. 

Participants in my last challenge stated that the number one benefit of participating in the challenge was the connections they built. Other common benefits were motivation and consistency. So, if you are wanting to build your network and/or your authority on Instagram then I recommend you participate in an Instagram Challenge.

How to get the most value out of a challenge?

You need to engage with the challenge. To engage, you must first share your own content for each prompt. Second, you need to interact with others in the challenge. It is easy to find other participants’ posts by searching the challenge’s unique hashtag. Follow, like, and comment to expand your network! 

Set aside some time before the challenge starts to plan out your posts during the challenge. I recommend scheduling your posts and then allocate some time to interact daily. If you want to go with the flow at least jot down some ideas on what you could post. That way you won’t stress and get overwhelmed about having to find something to post about every day. Participating in an Instagram Challenge should make your content creation less stressful, not more. Have fun and don’t worry if you get off schedule – just jump right back in on the day you miss, or post a couple on one day to catch up.

Use the challenge as a time to learn from what others are doing. By interacting with others you will see things that you like, and learn little tips and tricks. Also, learn by seeking out resources and tips.

How to find a challenge to participate in

Join those in your network

Be on the lookout for people within your network who are hosting a challenge. Challenges range in theme, length, and number of participants. 

If you see others on Instagram participating in a challenge then jump on board, starting a few days late is not a problem as the challenges usually build for the first several days.

Do a Google Search

Search and you will find. There are many challenges with different themes so do a search online and find one that resonates with you

Join my next challenge

I host a few challenges throughout the year. #TheLeveagedPhD Instagram Challenge is open to all people associated with academia. Associated is a loose word because most of the people who participate are pursuing alt-careers. Previous participants include professors, scientists, bloggers, speakers, writers, and students. Anyone with or pursuing a PhD will fit right in so come join my next challenge at The Leveraged PhD/ Instagram Challenge

How to host your own challenge? 

If you can’t find a challenge that is exactly what you are looking for then create your own! They are easy to set up – just follow this guide.

1. Decide on a loose theme 

You want to create a theme that others will feel like they belong to. You don’t want to get too specific otherwise you’ll restrict people’s participation. One of the main benefits of a challenge is to connect with like-minded people so your theme is important to attracting the right type of participants who will be inspired by each other and create long term relationships. 

2. Choose a hashtag

This should be something that is unique and descriptive as it is what participants (and you) will use to find and interact with others in your challenge. I use #TheLeveagedPhD for my challenges as it is descriptive of the people I want to attract to my challenge, those with a PhD trying to use their degree to its full potential. It was also never used before my first challenge so it is easy to track and for participants to find each other during the challenges. Try to find a hashtag that hasn’t been used more than a few times in the last 6 months. If you are struggling then you can always add a month or year to the hashtag to make it unique.

3. Decide on the length of the challenge 

Most challenges are between 1 week and 1 month in length. I opt for 1 month as it gives people time to build the habit of posting on Instagram and see real results from their efforts. Anything over a month is too long to maintain momentum, and less than a week is too short to build a community.

4. Create your prompts 

Create a prompt for each day of the challenge. Try to find a balance between being too specific and too vague. Keeping your prompts open-ended will allow participants the freedom to be creative. You want to inspire people without restricting them. 

5. Promote 

Get the word out about your challenge a few weeks before. Share on social media and email your contacts. You’ll want to have at least 10 people posting throughout the challenge.  So aim to get around 50 sign-ups because many who sign up will not participate. Don’t take it personally, it’s normal for people to forget or get caught up in other projects.

6. Send out your prompts 

Send out your prompts a week to a week and a half before the start of the challenge so that participants can start to think about what they will post. Many people like to batch and schedule their Instagram content, especially when doing a challenge. 

7. Draft your posts

It is a lot of work to keep up with the challenge when you are the host. Draft your posts before your challenge kicks off so that you can make sure you don’t miss a prompt. I like to have an idea for every prompt and batch and schedule about half of them ahead of time. As the challenge progresses I edit some and change my ideas but the planning definitely  reduces my stress during this time. It doesn’t look good if the host is missing prompts!

8. Set up tracking 

I use Iconosquare to track my challenge hashtag, followers, and engagement during my challenges. It is a paid service but I like to have the detail that it gives me. If you want a free option you can search for your hashtag daily and get some basic information such as total posts. You can use a pen and paper or excel to manual track your participants, engagement, followers etc. 

9. Remind participants of the start

Email participants the day before the challenge starts to remind them. Announce the start in your Instagram Story and feed.

10. Engage with posts 

Get the conversation started by writing meaningful responses and ask open-ended questions to your participants’ posts. Set aside 15 minutes twice a day to interact with those completing the challenge. 

11. Send a halfway/additional emails

People will lose steam as the challenge progresses so send an email when participation starts to wane and encourage them to re-engage with the challenge. You can also send out additional emails that add value to your challenge participants. 

12. End of challenge summary email/Instagram posts

Share some stats on the challenge with everyone who participated and thank them for being a part of the challenge. 

What do you think? Will you participate or host an Instagram challenge? 

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