Horizon Featured Article

5 Tips for Running Effective Photo Contests

Northsail Understands the Value of Interacting Directly with Customers

If you read our discussion about Interactive Marketing, you'll know that we take customer engagement and communication very seriously.

These are important parts of core values, which is why we do our best to be honest and upfront with all of our clients. We always guarantee that we'll finish projects on-time, on-spec, and on-budget. On the rare occasion that we don't think we can complete a project to our high standards, we'll simply turn it down.

We don't joke around when it comes to quality, and our clients know they can always trust us to come through for them.

So, how are you interacting with your customers? Do you maintain open communication with them through your Social Media Marketing channels?

If you haven't tried them before, photo promotions are great types of contests to interact directly with your customer base. More than that, utilized properly, photo contest ideas create excitement and encourage customer engagement.

What is a Photography Contest?

A photo contest is exactly what it sounds like: a type of contest that involves customers submitting photos, and a chosen person receives a prize.

At their core, they're a marketing strategy used to target demographics within your customer base and encourage them to create user-generated content for you that you can then use as a marketing material for future campaigns.

You could suggest that customers submit photos of themselves using your products/brand in specific situations, like family gatherings, holidays, public events, or in a certain type of location. In many cases, these contests are run alongside a well-designed Hashtag campaign.

This sounds simple, but it's actually much more complicated than it seems. There are a lot of factors to consider, before you just start accepting submissions from customers. Factors that will ultimately determine how much impact your photo contest has on your target market, and whether it draws the kind of attention you're looking to generate.

Thankfully, the actual contests are much easier to organize than they used to be, since a contest widget can be created to easily accept and organize incoming submissions. It's a massive improvement over trying to run the same kinds of promotions in the past, where you had to receive photos via email and organize them by hand.

Why are Photo Contests Useful?

As we mentioned, photo contests are an incredibly effective way for engaging with customers directly, and creating excitement for them, through both your prize offering and the interactive nature of the promotion.

There are a few other benefits to photo contests, as well. One of the biggest being that with a successful contest, you could see a substantial increase in your traffic and interaction, through both your website and social media posts. This could be a fantastic way to increase your Brand Awareness with potential customers.

Also, photo contests have a unique benefit that you won't get from most other marketing strategies. The photos that customers submit for your contest can be used for your business' future marketing campaigns as social proof of your brand, as long as you ensure you include that in the terms and services agreement they click when they submit their picture.

Because customers themselves are submitting the photos, using them in future strategies is a great way to put your customers at the forefront of your brand's image, which is a fantastic tool for creating long-lasting Brand Affinity within your target audience.

5 Tips for Running a Photo Contest

Now that you know a little bit about photo contests and why they're an important resource for you, let's discuss some useful tips you should keep in mind when you're arranging your next photo contest:

1.) Create a Definitive Goal for Your Contest

What's your goal for running the photo contest? Are you trying to increase the number of followers you have on your social media platforms? Are you trying to gather customer data/emails for future campaigns? Is your main focus to increase awareness and word-of-mouth for your brand?

No matter what your endgame might be, you need to make sure that you're creating a firm goal before you start. This will help you know which types of analytics you should be tracking, so you can monitor the success of your photo contest.

Knowing what you're trying to accomplish will also play a role in how you build your contest, and what rules you put in place for your customers to opt in.

If your main focus is to collect customer data, you may have a submission form that needs to be completed along with their photo submission. If your goal is increased brand awareness, you may want to consider offering additional benefits for customers that share your contest on their own feeds. A little extra motivation can go a long way, even if it's just a 5%-10% off discount code.

2.) Clearly Define Your Contest Rules & Guidelines

Is there a specific product or series of products that need to be included in the pictures customers submit, in order to be eligible?

Who will be judging the contest? Is it done internally? Will all of your customers be voting to select a winner? Will you announce the winner publicly, or is it something you'd prefer to do behind the scenes? Is this a social media contest or are you running it exclusively through your website? Is there a cash prize? What is the contest goal for active users?

There are a lot of different elements here that you need to consider. There's no right answer for which type of photo contest is going to function the best overall, but you need to find one that will work well for your brand and for your customers.

More than that, you also need to make sure that your customers know exactly what to expect from your contest if you're asking them for user-generated content.

Some customers may not want to apply, if they know the winning photo is going to be on display in all your stores and on your website. Others might get extremely excited at the opportunity to become a face for your brand.

Only you can determine the right way to run your contest promotion, based on the time you've spent getting to know your customer base, their preferences, and your overall marketing strategy.

The most important thing is that you make the rules and guidelines clear, and that once you start the contest, you don't change them. Otherwise, you might alienate some of the prospective customers who've already submitted an entry.

3.) Pick an Exciting, Relevant Prize

The only way that customers will want to take part in your photo contest is if you give them a reason to be excited, which is why choosing the right prize is so crucial to the success of your contest.

It's always a good idea to try and find a prize that's big and lavish enough that customers wouldn't normally purchase it for themselves, and something that's relevant to the rest of the products/services you're offering. Finding a way to connect your prize with your brand will give customers that much more reason to participate.

For example, if you sell outdoor camping equipment, you might want to choose something like a high-end tent or a backyard standing fire pit as your prize. You could ask your customers to send photos of themselves and their family members using some of your other products during one of their summer outings, as their submissions for the contest.

Those prizes would hit all the marks. Lavish enough that many customers won't purchase them for themselves (without some serious forethought), and relatable to all of your existing offerings. Best of all, all those photos of families happily using your products in rural settings will likely make for some fantastic future marketing materials.

4.) Pick a Theme that Speaks to Your Audience

Generating excitement is an obstacle that every business owner must constantly face, but there are some tactics you can use to your advantage. Themed photo contests are a great example of one of these tactics, which has proven to consistently benefit brand engagement.

There's something fun and whimsical about having a contest theme, instead of just asking customers to submit a photo with certain specifics.

Take the example we discussed above, with the outdoor equipment store. Instead of just asking the clients to submit pictures of families using their products, they could accomplish much of the same and give the contest a theme like 'Summer Fun in the Sun' too.

You might not get as many specifically tailored pictures, and you'll likely have at least a few customers that will think way outside the box of what you're expecting - but that's alright! Even the photo submissions that you don't use are a great tool for getting to know your customer base, in a more in-depth, personal manner.

You could even lean away from very specific types of photos, and encourage customers to get creative with your theme. The kinds of results you'll get will vary widely, but you never know, customers might come up with some clever, entertaining photo ops that you would never have considered.

5.) Don't Overcomplicate Things

Since you've read this far, you can see that there are a lot of small elements that need to be taken into account when you're creating a photo contest. It's not nearly as simple as it sounds.

However, that doesn't mean that you should overcomplicate the process of running a photo contest for your customers, or for yourself.

Take the time to sit down and hash out all the details, long before running the promotion. Once you have all the details sorted out, try to keep all the fine print as concise and clear as possible. People want to participate in contests, but when you have a half-page of fine print for them to read through, it makes anyone leery of what they might be agreeing to do. The devil is in the details, as they say.

As long as you have everything organized, you should have no issues answering customer questions about the photo contest, so there's never any confusion.

Don't make it a hassle to opt into the photo contest either. If there's too much work involved, a large majority of your potential entrants will simply walk away, even if the prize is exciting. They should be able to keep their personal info to a minimum to enter.

Be content to accept just first and last names, as well as email addresses for contact. Most people are comfortable sharing their email address, if you aren't requesting a phone number as well.

There's a fine line to tread, when it comes to collecting customer data. Just remember: if you only think you can get away with having 3-4 fields in your submission form, that's okay. Any customer data is better than none; which is what you'll get if you put 8-10 fields in your form, and too many people start opting out.

Northsail Knows a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

But Direct Customer Feedback is Priceless

Anytime that you can find a way to interact directly with your customer base, there's a good chance you'll be able to glean some useful information from your interaction.

We understand how important getting direct feedback from customers can be, which is why we'd like to invite you to take part in a free trial for our upcoming service 'Horizon'.

With Horizon, you can create high-performance microsites and landing pages for your business, quickly and efficiently. You can also easily incorporate promotions and customer data collection forms into any of your site pages.

Our only request is that you take a little bit of time to let us know what you think, once you've had a chance to check out Horizon and give it a try. There's no obligation on your part, so why not test it out? You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!

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