Last time we talked about contests, and how it’s surprisingly hard to get people to want to win stuff. You’d think free stuff would be an easy sell! But sadly, it’s not. And if free stuff isn’t a no-brainer, you can imagine how hard it will be to get responses to fan submission programs where fans actually have to work for something …
Here are a few lessons from my experiences with fan submissions.
1) Don’t exclude most of your audience from the program.
Two separate times, I have run a fan submission program where we sought out fan photos for a slideshow music video — and oddly enough, both times we were looking for graduation photos. The reasoning behind requesting submissions was that if fans were in the video, they’d be more likely to share it around. However, requesting a photo from a particular demographic — in this case, the small percentage of fans who had recently graduated and were still excited enough by that to want to share their photos — was pretty limiting for our prospects. This meant that most fans weren’t even able to participate, and we had to count on enthusiasm from all of the fans in the group that could participate. Getting enough photos from each fan base was like pulling teeth. I even had to put old photos of myself in one just to finish the video. (No, for the sake of my own dignity, I’m not going to tell you what video that was.)
So, make your fan submissions open to everyone and hopefully you won’t have to humiliate yourself.
2) Let your fans show off.
My friend Brett Gleason ran a brilliant fan submission program for his first full-length album. The album cover was a photo of half of his face, so he asked for photos of fans holding up the album cover over their own faces. He then reposted these hybrid portraits as a “Selfie Series.” This both promoted the album and allowed fans to spread pictures of themselves through his social networks. Appealing to narcissism is usually a great strategy.
3) Think about what your audience wants to create.
One of the best fan submission programs I ran wasn’t even my idea — I was browsing the Facebook wall of an artist and noticed that someone had posted a photo of him with meme-type lettering added. This sparked the idea for a meme contest where fans could submit their own meme-type images of the artist. This program worked brilliantly because it played off of something fans were already doing and allowed them to show off their own senses of humor. We then had the artist pick his favorite so the fans could learn about his sense of humor in turn.
In the worst case scenario, your fan submission program will be the impetus for you to go through your own embarrassing photo albums. But in the best circumstances, it’ll allow you and your fans to create something together and have a shared point of pride. Just don’t ask for graduation photos.