Friday, March 30, 2012

'Front Page' photo contest a hit with readers

Screenshot of our new timeline page w/cover photo
The 'Front Page' photo contest we hosted this month was a hit with our audience — and I'm rather pleased with the way it all turned out.

About the photo contest
Tomorrow's Facebook deadline to switch to the timeline format prompted all of this. We needed a 'cover photo' and I was inspired by a colleague's work to crowdsource for submissions to fill that space.
We received almost 40 entries.
Considering there was no monetary prize associated with it — just the opportunity to be featured on the front page of our paper — that's a pretty good response.

The voting process
We set up an album on Facebook and uploaded the photos as our very first board on Pinterest.
On Facebook, we had a total of 581 votes — that's more engagement on any one topic than we've ever had before.
We also saw our number of likes for the page increase by 64 over a one-week period. Average growth for the page is usually somewhere around 30 new likes a week, so that was a good boost. Plus, in the first 24 hours after the album was posted, we saw likes to our page increase by about 30 — awesome, considering that's an average week's worth of growth.
The Pinterest board generated 34 repins and when the contest was done, we'd gained 15 followers to the account.
We still have a lot of work to do on Pinterest, but it's a good first step.

Promoting the voting
Votes began adding up as soon as the album was posted to Facebook, but we took some extra steps to promote it as well.

First, I sent an email to everyone who submitted a photo. I gave them links to the Facebook album and Pinterest board and also provided links if they wanted to Tweet or promote it in on other social networks, like Twitter.
At the end of the email, I encouraged them to browse our Facebook wall. Note that I did not ask for likes, but instead talked about why the Facebook page is important to us.
Here's the text:
Lastly, I'd like to encourage everyone to take a moment after voting to browse through our Facebook wall. This page has become a great way for us to interact with our readers — we post stories and photos (though we're cautious not to overdo it!) and find great value in the feedback we get from people. A newspaper's job is not just to disseminate news and information, but to foster discussions about the important issues facing our communities. We hope you'll join those discussions. Feel free to share information of your own with us too — be it a photo, request for a story, news tip or just a question.
We wrote a story that included links to voting on both social networks. I also put all the photos into a video slideshow. Two weeks later, the video is still one of the most viewed on our website. Today, it's ranked as the ninth most viewed since the day it was uploaded and has had a total of 267 views.

 It was already on Facebook and easy to reshare the link to the album. On Twitter, we Tweeted out the link to the web story so the audience could both learn about the contest, view submissions on the slideshow and get direct access to both the Facebook album and Pinterest board by links provided in the story.

The story for the web also ran in print. We included QR codes for smartphone users to go directly to the Facebook album and Pinterest link.

The links provided in the email and used in Tweets were the same links that generated the QR code, so we can't distinguish between who clicked the link from the email I sent vs. Twitter vs. who used the QR code.
The winning photo
The links/QR codes were a success — 252 clicks for the Facebook album and 85 clicks for Pinterest.

Who won?
A 16-year-old high school student named Katie Musser won for her photo of a calf photographed at an educational farm. In her entry, Katie wrote: “I think this photo shows Oakland County because of all the farms and activities that people can do out in Oakland County. Everyone, nowadays, wants to be outside and enjoy life with the family. Going to a farm for a day is a great way to show the family what life was like back when everything was farm land.”

A lesson learned
We should've specified that only horizontal photos would be considered for the contest. The reason? The Facebook cover photo needs to be horizontal.
Luckily, our second place winner, Stephanie Campion, submitted a great horizontal shot of her daughter feeding two birds out her hand at a local park.
Second place photo
Campion wrote that the image “best depicts Oakland County because it captures so many different elements when thinking about our area, and also Michigan as a whole. It shows that even in the doldrums of winter, our families can find amazing and inexpensive things to do in the area that children will always remember. The snow, wildlife, nature and family connections — all things the area brings that we sometimes take for granted, yet we’re all truly fortunate to have.”
Our solution was to feature Katie's photo on the front page of our print edition, while Stephanie's picture would win the cover photo slot. Both are happy with that.

What this says about Oakland County
I really appreciate the general message expressed by not just the photos of the two winners, but by the majority of photos that were submitted — Oakland County is a place that people live in and appreciate for its natural beauty and opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy it.
Check out all the amazing photos Oakland County shutterbugs submitted:

Friday, March 23, 2012

Voting now open for Oakland Press 'Front Page' contest

I'll expand on this more later, but for now, here's what you need to know —
• Voting for The Oakland Press 'Front Page' Contest is now open.
• Where do you vote? Facebook and Pinterest. The story Vote for the photo that best represents Oakland County will take you directly to both the Facebook album and our Pinterest board.
• Voting closes promptly next at 2 p.m. Thursday, March 29.

Here's a slideshow of all the photos:

Friday, March 9, 2012

'Front page' photo contest seeks reader submissions

Photo contests are my new favorite thing.
Entries for the "front page" photo contest we're hosting at The Oakland Press are starting to fill my inbox and I feel rather privileged to be the first to see the submissions.
Entries I've received so far range from a rare shot of a hawk bathing in someone's bird bath to a fawn nestled in a garden, sunsets over some of the county's lakes, gorgeous landscape scenes from the many parks our county boasts and so much more.

Why we're hosting the 'front page' contest
On March 30, all Facebook pages will be switched over to the new timeline format. This format includes what is called a cover photo — essentially, a really big image that runs across the top of the page.
The Digital First Media engagement group has been buzzing about the new timeline — check out Mandy Jenkins' blog post, How news brands can get started on Facebook Timeline.
Jenkins' mentioned that The Kingston Daily Freeman, a sister paper in New York, is crowdsourcing for a photo to fill the prominent space.
Sounded like a great idea to me, so we put together our own crowdsourcing request asking people to send in a photo that best represents our county.

What the contest offers our audience
Once the submission deadline has passed, we'll put the photos in an album on our Facebook page as well as a Pinterest board (it'll be our first time using Pinterest, yay!) for public voting.
The photo with the most combined likes/pins will be the contest winner.
We're going to run the winning photograph prominently on our front page and write an article with background information about the image and photographer who captured it.
And of course, it'll get that coveted cover photo spot on our Facebook page — for six months, we promised!
It's great exposure for aspiring photographers.
While digital first may be our mantra around here, we have not forgotten about the power of the front page and we're happy to use that power to showcase the talent of the community members we serve.

What the contest offers The Oakland Press
Oh, so much.
We are building an awesome album of photos from members of our county about the county we serve. That's pretty cool on its own,  promoting the talent of our community members and our community all in one album.
I'm counting on a lot of engagement with this too. I'm sure the photographers who are submitting pics will share the voting links with their own networks to better their chances at winning, and I hope that translates into more people finding out what a vibrant Facebook page we have.
Last but not least, the photos are a beautiful source of visual content for us — for our website, for our print paper and for our social networks. 
It's a win-win for everyone.

Going forward
Reporter Shaun Byron began urging us to run photo contests over the summer. His idea was to ask the county's students to submit photos that best represent Oakland County in the summer.
We never got the contest off the ground before summer ended. And then fall turned to winter and you know how it goes.
But we've found a new enthusiasm for photo contests — or rather, we're inspired by the enthusiasm of our audience for these contests — and it's a safe bet that we'll be doing a lot more of these in the future.