Contests and promotions, such as sweepstakes, giveaways and photo contests are becoming more and more prominent. They’re everywhere. And they work to get attention for brands.

There are many reasons to use a photo contest to drive activity, starting with the fact that it’s an efficient and affordable way to build an active database. Each person that participates provides information that can be a valuable source of ongoing marketing and promotion.

I’ve seen these promotions succeed and some that have fallen short of expectations.

There’s a detailed guide to setting up and executing a photo contest here and other tips for finding listeners with online promotions here.

But in this article, I’ll share some simple tips that can make a big difference in the contest entry rate in photo contests or any user-generated content promotion.

Quick Tips For Photo Contests

Following these tips won’t guarantee a great promotion, but it’s a great place to start. This checklist of 11 tips will increase your chances of getting the most from your campaign:

Make It Easy

Everyone is busy, and there’s a slight barrier to anything that looks like it’s too much of a commitment or is going to be difficult.

Sometimes, a simple statement about how easy it is to enter is all it takes. Use clear, concise instructions such as:

It’s easy to enter! Simply upload a photo that shows how you feel in the morning.

Be sure to show an example of the type of photo you’re expecting as part of the design.

Be Careful With Written Entries

Unless your goal is to limit response, don’t ask for a long essay. It’s too much work.

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Entries should be fast and easy. A good example is simply:

Share your New Year’s Resolution.

This is much more manageable for a user than being asked to write an essay about their health philosophy for the new year.

The less time and effort required, the more entries you’ll get. If it’s a photo contest, a short caption is more than enough, and many don’t require text entry at all. For best results, make it all about the photos, with text optional.

Be Aspirational

If including text or survey questions, ask in a way that inspires the imagination. Try to get users or dream a bit. This will stimulate response. All it takes is a simple tweak in how the promotion is phrased.

Instead of “Why do you deserve (prize)?” make it something like:

What would you do if you were debt-free?


If you won a free round-trip ticket to anywhere on the planet, where would you go?

Users can imagine answers to these questions as soon as they read them. It will inspire better responses.

Pick A Mass Appeal Theme

When creating a photo or video contest, there are clear themes that tend to be more successful. Two of these themes are pets and kids, which seems obvious.

Other opportunities involve sports team spirit, Halloween Costumes, etc. Also think about “worst” or “best” entries.

It also helps to be specific in the theme. It gets the user excited, and that makes it easier to participate. And as you know, the easier to play, the higher the  response rate. For example, “Show Us Your Most Outrageous Man Cave” is better than “Which Room In Your House Is Your Favorite?”

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It’s Not About You

A lot of brands like to do this, but it’s a mistake. It’s not about the brand, it’s about the user. They may participate to get a prize, but they won’t love it. And probably won’t share it.

An example would be a contest that asks the consumer to tell you where they want to go on vacation and how the brand’s product (specifically) would fit into their trip.

The first part of the question is fine, but adding the requirement that users also discuss the brand’s product is a horrible idea. It will result in very few entries.

Avoid Embarrassing Content

If asking for private and potentially embarrassing information, prepare for disappointing results! Who’s going to go there?

Don’t Make Users Scroll

If users have to use the scroll bar to find the prize, expect a dramatic reduction in the entry rate. They are lazy – if they visit your landing page and it is not immediately obvious why your campaign is worthwhile, they’re gone. This is another reason to keep it simple with more graphics and less text.

Emphasize the Prize

People enter promotions for access to deals, discounts, content, news, and prizes. It’s not because they like you or to support the brand. Sorry.  In other words, they’re greedy! They play to get, not to give.

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So show off the offer. Don’t hide it! This may seem obvious, but it’s amazing how many contests bury the most important part: the incentive.

Capture the main features of the prize in a short, catchy sentence. Provide details about the prize ‘below the fold’ or in a link. Above the fold should be big, exciting and eye-catching.

Obvious Call to Action

When it’s hard to find a main call to action, response suffers. Make the action button large, place it prominent locations and in attractive but bold colors.

Use Great Pictures

Bright, attention-grabbing images in a promotion make it clear at a glance what the contest is all about.

For user generated contests, use images that help the user understand how to enter the contest. For example, if it’s a photo contest that asks for a photo of a happy moment, provide sample images of happy moments.

Adding sample photos helps users understand what is expected.

Use Empty Space

While an enticing design speaks volumes, white space around elements on the landing page will draw attention with subtle emphasis.

Next time you notice white space in a landing page, check out what it is surrounding. Most of the time it will be the Call to Action. That’s how it draws your eyes.


An online photo contest is a great way to engage listeners and customers. Follow these tips for a better user experience and improve the results of that next big campaign.