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Hashtag Contests: Why Consumer Competition Helps Brands Win Big

Today, smart brands recognize the need to create authentic marketing experiences in order to better engage important consumer segments. Consumers are more informed than ever before, and expect personalization and transparency when exposed to marketing messaging. For marketers, the challenge has become how to enable personalized, meaningful experiences at scale, with a finite set of customer audience profiles, but a seemingly endless quantity of unique individual combinations of customer needs and interests. So, how can brands solve for this challenge?

Many organizations have turned to visual user-generated content (UGC), which we refer to as “earned content,” realizing that unleashing the power of their loyal customers to help create high-quality content is not only economical but can result in higher engagement levels and a greater sense of community around the brand.

If earned content is a fire lighting a path to modern customer engagement, implementing a contest can often be akin to pouring gasoline directly on the flame (I’m really proud of this analogy, so just let me have it, OK?). Specifically, brands are achieving some incredible results in collecting visual earned content through hashtag UGC contests on platforms like Instagram and Twitter, inviting users to submit images for the chance to win brand-related prizes. When executed properly, the cost-benefit of this strategy for brands is exceptionally powerful.

Hashtag UGC Contest Considerations

According to Social Media Examiner, brands thinking about employing a hashtag UGC contest should keep these considerations in mind:

You will need to create/maintain both a brand-owned hashtag and a contest-specific hashtag and ask participants to share a photo or video using the contest hashtag to enter. To extend the reach of your contest, add a “shareable” component—for example, ask for input from your audience to choose a winner.

  • Pros: By asking for content, you deepen the emotional connection between consumers and your brand, while a branded hashtag lets you effectively generate authentic images created by and for your consumer. Finally, a hashtag creates a gallery for viewing entries: anyone who searches for it will find the earned content stream.
  • Cons: Asking for users’ content increases the barrier to entry. Also, a contest must specify that the content is being submitted as part of a contest. So the user will need to have a hashtag including the word “Contest” or add “#contest” to the post, which can make the possibilities less fun, especially on Twitter where there is a character limit.

Gate 1 Travel: #Gate1Contest

A fantastic example of a brand that has been able to activate an enormously loyal consumer-base through a hashtag UGC contest is Gate 1 Travel. Gate 1 Travel is an international tour operator providing escorted tours, independent travel and custom groups around the world. The brand had been collecting a low volume of valuable, visual content from their consumers and turned to Olapic for ideas in how to increase their fan engagement on social. They chose to launch a contest, using the hashtag #Gate1Contest and incentivized their fans with a reward.

Utilizing email promotion, social media activation, and an internal contest, Gate 1 collected thousands of images in just over a month – a 1,584% increase in collected images compared to the previous month. That being said, an enormous volume of content isn’t necessarily helpful if it isn’t the right content. Gate 1 used the Olapic platform and Photorank technology to score high-quality content likely to perform, resulting in an increase of 2,059% in approved photos over the same analysis period.

The Container Store: #ContainYourselfContest

Another brand that has built an earned content foundation through the use of a hashtag contest is The Container Store. As a leading specialty retailer of storage and organization products, the brand isn’t just selling empty boxes; but is perpetuating solutions that save consumers time and promote an organized life. In 2016, the brand was interested in showcasing the various, and creative, ways that consumers were using its products to simplify their lives, and partnered with Olapic to showcase user-generated content on its website.

Customers uploaded photos through social media and directly to the brand’s website using #containyourselfcontest for their chance to win one of two $500 store gift cards. In just over a month, the brand collected over 200 photos, and realized more than 10,000 additional impressions on the content gallery.

Certainly, hashtag UGC contests cannot succeed on their own. Brands hoping to accelerate their collection and curation of high-quality visual earned content must also build the processes and strategy to make the most of these images throughout their broader marketing efforts. Gate 1 is a great example of an organization that is engaging consumers thoughtfully, and as a result, winning alongside the content creators who received prizes as part of the contest! You can learn more about the brand’s exemplary contest efforts in our latest case study.

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