Best Practices for Photo and Essay Contests
Senior Programmer Eric Grimm weighs in on what you should consider when planning your next photo or essay contest.
The reasons for running an online contest are many and varied – engage your fans, promote your brand, gather inspiring ideas, build a contact list. There are many different types of contests, but today we will focus on two types: the Essay contest and the Photo contest.
Why would you choose one over the other? And when would you use both? Well, as in most aspects of life, it depends. If you want the maximum number of entries, then a short essay contest will do the trick. If you’re hoping for more creative and inspiring ideas from your audience and increased brand engagement, run a photo contest – but understand that this can be a higher barrier-to-entry and will most likely result in less total entries. If you want a combination of these results, then allow both a photo and/or an essay, with only one being required.
What next? Make sure you consider the following factors.
Streamline the Entry Process
Either way, all user generated content (UGC) contests can involve a lot of thought and time for the user. A couple of things to consider to make the process less painful (and a wee bit of advice) are:
- Allow document uploads.
- Allow the user to save their entry and come back later to finalize it.
- By all means, save their essay (or photo) when they submit their entry form, and re-display it in case of errors. Few things are more frustrating that crafting the perfect CTA (call-to-action) response, only to lose it entirely when you discover that you failed to enter your ZIP code properly.
Moderation of Content for Appropriateness
Another concern with UGC is that content may be damaging to your brand, such as offensive imagery, copyright infringement, or a rant by someone who had a less-than-ideal experience. If this content could appear in a gallery — either of featured entries or for public voting — then it is crucial that you enact some sort of moderation on the content first. It may be as simple as approving, rejecting or deleting content, or it may go so far as to need reasoning for your decision-making processes.
Keep Private Info Private
And if you’re going to have judging, a gallery of entries, or allow public voting, make sure that PII (personally identifiable information) is hidden, obfuscated or kept to a minimum – no more than first name and last initial. Particularly with judging, you don’t want identifying information on the entrant to be able to sway a judge’s decision (“Hey, this guy is from my home town! I’m going to score him really high, cause ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK!”).
Make Sure the Prize Is Worth the Effort
Finally, make sure the prize on offer fits with the theme of your contest, and reflects the greater amount of work required to submit an essay and/or photo. “Send us photos of your foreign travels with an essay describing your fondest moment for a chance to win a water bottle!” isn’t going to draw much of a response, but “Tell us about your greatest rock-n-roll experience for a chance to have a personal performance by Rock Group Du Jour!” might just be enough to melt your servers.
Don’t Forget to Promote It!
Whichever form of contest you choose – essay, photo or both, or something else entirely – make sure it’s well-promoted. Post it on your Facebook page and engage your fans in the comments, tweet about it repeatedly, send emails to your brand’s contact list. The more entries, the better. At Marden-Kane Digital Promotions, we’ve seen everything from contests with so many entries we have trouble keeping up with the moderation, to those that had fewer entries than the prizes on offer – all due to either a lack of promotion or really tapping into the target audience’s fondness for the brand and desire to bring voice to their thoughts and opinions.
Need help with your next contest in one or more of these areas? Contact us for a custom contest solution.
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