Putting together a photo competition can be a great way to spread awareness of your brand. You can use it to reward those who use your brand, or you can invite those who have never tried it before to enter. You might be targeting professional photographers, or amateurs, but either way it can be very effective.
If you want to make sure that you get high levels of engagement and a good amount of entries, then you need to set everything up carefully. Lots of forward planning is required, and you should only launch when you have everything in place and ready to go. These tips should help you to create an effective and successful photo contest which gives you great results.
Choose your platform
Firstly, decide where you are going to host your contest. The most common choices are to either use social media, or to build your own dedicated contest page on your own site. It is far easier to host it on a photo contest site, however, as this gives you access to an audience that you would not normally reach. It also means that all of the tools you need are there at your disposal.
If you want to make a real impact, this is going to be your best option.
Remember your goals
What are your aims for this photo contest? Do you want to raise awareness of a cause? Is it all about bringing people in to see how great your brand is? Or do you want to reward your fans by giving them the chance to win something exclusive? Whatever your goal may be, you should keep this in mind throughout the process of setting up and running your contest.
Think about the process required with your contest, too. Do you want people to share their entries on social media and ask people to vote for them to spread the word? Are you aiming to attract those that are already fans of your brand, or those who have not yet discovered you? How you market the contest and also how it is run will be based on these decisions.
If you are looking to get email leads, you need to make sure that they are collected during the process. All entrants should be forced to enter their email address, but what about voters? If you ask people to leave an email, you may get fewer votes. If you are looking for the highest quality photographs, you may not want others to vote at all. Instead, you may want to put together a panel of judges.
This is something that you have to organize far ahead of time, as we will discuss later on.
Focus on your audience
Your brand no doubt has a strong image, with lots of guidelines about which colours you might use or how you might present the brand. You have to keep these consistent within the photo contest, and remember that both the challenge and the prize should appeal to your audience.
Let’s say that you are a tripod brand. You might create a competition which asks photographers to submit their best long exposure – a type of shot which is easier to take with a tripod. You could offer one of your own products as a prize, or team up with an expert and offer tutorials in using tripods for long exposure shots.
It would not be appropriate, however, for a kid’s clothing company to run the same contest and offer the same prize. It would be better in that case to ask photographers to capture their children looking happy, or showing off their best style. The prize could be a gift voucher for the brand.
Making sure that your audience will appreciate both the challenge and the prize is essential for getting the right leads. Let’s imagine that you asked people to submit a selfie and offered them the prize of an iPad. You might get hundreds or even thousands of entries, but how many of those people would really be interested in your brand? Most will simply unsubscribe from your mailing list after the contest is over.
Plan against cheats
As sad as it may seem, you are almost certain to find some entrants who cheat in some way or another. They might not fulfil all of the requirements of the contest, or they might ignore the rules and enter even if they are not allowed to. They may even enter the contest with a photograph taken by someone else.
How are you going to check against all of these eventualities? You may only need to be on guard when you choose the winner. When shortlisting your final images, or when it becomes clear that certain images seem to be getting more votes, check out the entries very carefully. You can use Google’s reverse image search to investigate whether the person who submitted the photograph really did take it themselves.
You should also bear in mind that a contest where outsiders have to vote can essentially become a popularity contest. You can keep an eye on votes which come from suspicious circumstances, such as click farms (where a customer pays for lots of clicks to be generated falsely for a certain link).
To simplify matters, include a terms and conditions page which lists everything you feel entrants should know. Make it clear that those found cheating will have their entries removed, and you will then be able to act easily later on.
Decide your winning strategy
When it comes time to pick a winner, you should have a strategy clearly in mind. If you are judging the photographs personally or with a panel, you will need to make sure that you set time aside for this.
There are benefits to letting users vote, as this means that you do not have to make any decisions yourself. On the other hand, you will need to prepare to potentially award a prize to a photograph that you do not feel is up to standard. You may not even feel that it represents your brand or the theme well, so there is a lot of risk here.
The judging panel takes time and effort, and may be costly if you want to hire an industry expert or celebrity. However, this does mean that you can ensure the prize goes to a worthy entry. Make sure that you have a date set by which you will announce the winner, and that you hit this deadline exactly.
Set it up
When you have chosen your rules, selected a theme, and you know what your prize is going to be, you still need to work on setting the contest up. It is important that you give this a lot of consideration, as you may not get many entries if your contest is confusing or vague.
One thing that you should certainly remember to do is to triple the amount of calls to action you include. Most people tend to skim-read when looking at contests, so don’t just tell them once – remind them over and over again. Do not leave anything to chance!
The entry form itself should be made especially clear. Add reminders about the limitations on the file size you may have imposed right next to the upload button. At least then you can be sure that entrants have had as many chances as possible to read the rules.
Promotion is key
If you are going to get any entries for your photo contest, then people definitely need to know about it. How are you going to promote your contest? Think about this carefully before you start, and put together a schedule so that everything happens at the right time.
Social media is an obvious place to share the news – use hashtags which will direct people to the competition where appropriate. You should repeat these posts as often as possible for the duration of the contest: call people to enter and change the wording up now and then to keep it fresh. The more people see your tweets or Instagram posts, the better.
You can also harness the fans that are already paying attention to your brand. Use your mailing list and send out two or three reminders, as well as an announcement on launch day. You can even mention the contest in person or have banners made if your brand has a physical store. This will help to make sure that you are capturing attention in as many places as possible.
You can also get social influencers on board to really spread the word. Inviting them to compete is a good start, but you could also work with them to promote the contest by offering them something in return, such as a free product.
Don’t launch the contest until you are absolutely sure that everything is in place. If you have to change things later on or find yourself in trouble, you will give off an amateur impression to the entrants, and this will cause them to view your brand in an unwanted light.
Running your first photo competition may not be easy, but you will be astounded at the entries that come in. Follow these guidelines and it is sure to be a success!