Hunt for subscribers. How TV-3 created a game with an Instagram Direct chatbot and attracted 15,000 subscribers

6 min readSep 8, 2021

Not so long ago, Instagram launched an official opportunity to create chatbots. Russian channel TV-3 together with SMIT.Studio decided to try out a new opportunity to promote its premiere. In this article, we will tell you how we created the game mechanics for Instagram and what came out of it.

What have we done and why?

We are the SMIT.Studio — interactive marketing studio based in Moscow, Russia. The TV-3 channel is our long-time client. The guys really understand the importance of interactive activities for the media and are not afraid of trying new things. This time, the TV channel was tasked with promoting a high-profile premiere — the series “Ghost Hunter. Documentary”.

TV-3 has a great Instagram account with 128k subscribers. Therefore, after learning about the official possibility of creating a chatbot, the guys were eager to use this chance for creative activation.

“We are always looking for new mechanics and formats. A chatbot on Instagram is a completely new thing that we wanted to test on an interesting project”, — Avagyan Hayriko, Head of the SMM group of TV-3 Channel.

The goals were set as follows:

  • Testing new mechanics
  • Attracting attention to the premiere and retaining viewers
  • Building a subscriber base and audience engagement in a brand account.

What has been implemented?

It was decided to make a multi-stage game activation with prizes based on a chatbot platform integrated into the Direct. The user was asked to collect points in the fight for prizes.

To participate, the user was asked to send the starting word to the bot. The service added a person to the game and gave out a menu in the form of inline buttons.

The user was met with a choice of 3 sections. “Play”, “Code from the post” and “Balance”.

The “Play” button took the user to a section with mini-games. The “Code from the post “ section allowed him to enter unique codes that the TV channel hid in its Stories and in the episodes of the series on the air. The “Balance” section helped to track the number of points scored and assess the chances of winning.

What were the game mechanics like?

The first of the games built into the bot was called “Illusion or Mysticism”. The bot sent mysterious photos to the user. The player had to determine whether something mystical was captured in the photo or if it was an optical illusion.

“We came up with this idea together with SMIT.Studio. It perfectly correlates with the story at the heart of the series. The plot talks about a documentary filmmaker who decides to check the veracity of paranormal incidents”, — Avagyan Hayriko, head of the SMM group of TV-3 Channel.

After passing the test, the user received the result in the form of an image superimposed on the poster of the series. The result was offered to be shared in Stories. For sharing the user was offered a reward of 150 points.

The second game mechanic built into the chatbot was a test that determines which hero of the series you are. The user was asked to answer questions about his character. As a result, the test gave out the name of the character who was the most similar to the user. The character’s image was superimposed on the poster for the series. The result was also proposed to be shared in the Stories.

To stimulate the viewing of each episode and increase attention to the account, we have added a mechanic with secret codes. The user who discovered the code was asked to log in to the chatbot no later than midnight on the day of publication and enter it into the application. For such heroism, the player was awarded the highest number of points — as many as 200.

“This project allowed us to explore new platform capabilities. The process of creating a chatbot for Instagram is somewhat different from the familiar projects based on other platforms. For example, you have to take into account that the social network limits the number of inline buttons to only three. For this, we had to adjust the structure of the bot, striving for maximum simplification. It was very interesting to learn new things. Now we continue to delve into the subtleties and evaluate new opportunities in order to offer our clients more creative mechanics”, — Dmitry Merekin, Head Project Manager SMIT.Studio.

What is the result?

The results of the project exceeded our modest expectations. People were actively involved in the search for codes, flooding direct messages. The reach of posts, the average number of likes, and subscribers quickly increased.

10 people who were the first to receive the highest result received cool merch — an exclusive sweatshirt, a candle, cards, and a mirror.

“We’ve managed to involve over 160,000 people in the game. The results are very cool. People reacted with interest and enthusiasm. It’s amazing how much such simple-looking mechanics can stir up subscribers,” says Avagyan Airiko, head of the SMM group of TV-3 TV channel.

Results in numbers:

Activation Coverage: ~169,000

Unique users: 10,000+

Walkthroughs of “What Character You Are”: 7500+

Publications of the results of the game “What Character You Are” in Stories 2300+

“Illusion or Mysticism” walkthroughs: 6800+

Publications of stories with the result of passing “ Illusion or Mysticism?”: 1800+

Transitions to the “Balance” section of the bot (unique/non-unique): 6880/19300

The average number of points per user: 756.22

Number of code entries: 3000+

Subscriber growth during activation: +15,000

Increase in engagement: +291%

Increased coverage of posts: + 122%

Users with the highest score (2000 points): 340

“We are very proud of this project. We have a lot of experience in developing chatbots and it was very interesting for us to transfer our developments to a new platform. We think that chatbot projects on Instagram have a bright future.

In fact, we made our first Instabot back in 2018, implementing the mechanics of product recommendations for Sephora’s brand account. At that time, due to the closed API, this was a completely non-trivial task on which we spent a lot of effort. Now the implementation of chatbots on the platform is not so difficult, many new opportunities have opened up and this is a real delight”, says Stanislav Yagupov, the founder of SMIT.Studio.

And what do you think about this case? Feel free to share your opinion in comments.