The summer travel season is upon us and it’s the perfect time for hotels and destinations to brainstorm summer social media contests.

Since travel is innately visual and an exceedingly photographed experience, photo contests are an effective way to engage and unite your audience around your brand.

While we spend a lot of time solidifying the specs of a social media-based contest and how they tie into our overall strategies and bottom lines, it can be easy to overlook basic yet critical details that need to be identified to get the ball rolling.

Here are the primary elements to consider when planning a photo contest on social media:

Duration: A precise duration of the contest period will need to be defined. Positioning a travel-related contest as “summer contest” is fitting.

When starting now, that gives you lots of time prepare all the elements and campaign logistics.

Prize: With so many social contests happening nowadays, the incentive to enter will be a critical aspect of people taking the time to enter.

Can you give away a stay or a unique, one-of-a-kind experience? That’s going to help sell your contest and make you stand out.

Hashtag: Creating a distinct hashtag is great as it’s channel-neutral and can run across Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

That said, the barrier to entry will need to be defined since some may be using the hashtag on their private profiles (and subsequently, you would not be able to see the photos).

Thus, it is also useful to have a “home base” where users can also submit their photo to us for entry into the contest.

Landing Page: There should be a landing page that contains, at least, the contest overview and link to the rules and regulations of the contest.

Elaborating on the above point, if you’re doing a photo contest, for example, and intend to require photos to be directly submitted, that would be on this page as well.

Having a designated submission page also forces people to opt-in to you being given consent to re-share their photos.

Creating a gallery with the entered photos is a great way to showcase them.

The photos can be used down the line for longer-term marketing initiatives, too!

Contest Format: Identify the overall theme and logistics of the format.

Are you asking people to share photos of a certain type? In a certain location? Of a certain thing?

There are numerous ways to approach a photo contest that has travel at the core.

Winner Selection: If your contest is broad, it’s safest to say that a winner will be chosen randomly as opposed to us choosing a winner for a specific reason.

When you choose for a specific reason, it gives sore losers the opportunity to contest the winner for any subjective reason, which could open up a can of worms.

Contest Execution: If you are going to choose the winner, random is the way to go. That said, the contest could be formatted differently.

For example, the winner could be chosen publicly, by the social audience. You could encourage entrants to share their photo and have their friends vote.

This assists in both spreading the contest as well as bringing people to the website.

You could break the contest into segments – i.e.

  • Period 1: Submit your entry
  • Period 2: Vote! Share! Have your friends vote!
  • Period 3: Top 3 revealed – back to vote for the final 3! (second and third place should get some sort of smaller prize as well)
  • Period 4: Winner revealed

On-Site Activation: Although your contest may be based online, don’t undermine the value of activating the on-site audience.

Since your guests are clearly already familiar with your brand if they’re staying at your hotel, why not try to convert those in-person guests into online advocates?

Supplemental, on-property promotion can be crucial in addition to the push on social media.

For example:

  • Add an overview of the contest (or link to one) in the post-stay email.
  • Put up signage and collateral throughout the property, in guestrooms, as check stuffers in the restaurants and bar, in their key packs, etc.

Planning ahead on these basic steps will ensure your social media photo contest runs smoothly.

It’s helpful not to jump the gun and work on the intricacies of your promotion before having the foundational elements outline.

Once you have all the above out of the way, you can focus on the substance of the contest and how to make it a home run!