Remember when it was easy to hide embarrassing photos? All you had to do was burn a handful of yearbooks and no one was the wiser about your Beanie Baby obsession or just how often you sported that awful trucker hat. These days, it seems like everything is fair game as all those old pictures are given new life on the Internet. Sharing awkward photos has become a popular trend over the last few years, inspiring blogs, books and car commercials (not to mention a multitude of both sincere and snarky recreations).
As the crowd around campus thins out a bit, you may want to focus more on online interactions than on in-store events. One easy way to make sure that your store stays on your customers’ minds even while they are away is with a portrait-style photo contest through the social media platform of your choice. Why not invite your customers to participate in an Awkward Photo Contest?
Since things slow down over the summer for many college stores, we wanted to keep this simple. Just select the option that works best for your store, follow a few easy steps to promote your contest and before you know it, you’ll have helped your customers create some supremely awkward new memories!
1. Pick a style
There are a lot of options when it comes to structuring your Awkward Photo Contest. Choose the approach that works best for your store (or invent your own):
The vintage method
This is about as simple as it gets. To be eligible to win, your customers will just have to submit an old photo of themselves, their family or friends. You’ll want to emphasize that all entries should be appropriate and inoffensive, and designate any parameters you’d like (for example, that pictures should be from before a certain year). Other than that, though, the stranger the better, right? Bring on the mullets!
Recreate a classic
In this version, participants submit two pictures: the original and the imitation. The original could be a family portrait or one discovered online —the official Awkward Family Photo site and Pinterest are both great places to find some inspiration. Either way, attention to detail and a sense of the ridiculous is a must as the students attempt to recreate the original as closely as possible. Again, establish any necessary parameters (number of participants, permissible props, no run-ins with the law, etc.).
Pro tip: Simplify the contest by choosing the photo they’ll recreate
While this may limit some of the variety, it’ll make it easier to keep track of the results since you won’t have to post two pictures for each entry. You’ll also be able to control the difficulty level this way.
Create something new
See how creative your customers can be when you ask them to come up with an original Awkward Photo! Since this approach required a little bit of innovation, you’re sure to get some great results if you set a few guidelines. For example, you could require that all photos have at least two people in them, or must have specific details like denim or animal print. You can even incorporate a little school spirit and make a condition that they display something with your school or bookstore logo (either worn or placed strategically in the shot). Also, decide if you’ll allow or encourage photoshopping. (We think you should — after all, those laser backgrounds are hard to find these days!)
2. Set a date
How long will you accept submissions? Since many students will be traveling (giving them plenty of opportunities to take some awesomely awkward pictures in locations outside of campus), you’ll want to allow enough time so that everyone who wants to participate has a chance to.
3. Choose your prizes
A gift certificate to your store always makes a great prize, and establishing a set reward for first, second and third places should increase participation. Alternative small prizes that could also work with the theme are photo albums or picture frames.
4. Promote the event
Download: all Awkward Photo Contest marketing materials
The more you promote, the more interaction you can expect. So be proactive! Hang up posters around campus and in your store and establish an online posting schedule like this one:
- 2-4 weeks before the contest begins: Start posting teasers on Facebook and/or Instagram and tweeting hints. Since images get the best results, use as many pictures as possible (giving proper attribution if they don’t belong to you or your staff). Try to post at least a few times a week.
- 1-2 weeks before the start date: Step up the frequency and post/tweet at least once a day. Announce the contest officially on Facebook, making sure to include all of the conditions and rules to eliminate any confusion.
- During the contest: As entries come in, post them and comment, or join the conversation. Continue to remind students to enter their pictures and restate the final day for entries.
Things are about to #getawkward at *STORE NAME*! Send us your most awkward photos before *DATE* for a chance to win prizes!
5. Post the pics
Since the winner(s) will be chosen based on the amount of “likes” from your Facebook followers, make sure you get the entries posted as quickly as possible. Post reminders about the contest on your other social media platforms as well.
6. Announce the winner
Post and tweet the winner’s name and remind them where to go to pick up their prizes. Be sure to thank everyone for participating.
7. Assess the results
What was the response? Will you run a similar contest again? Take into consideration all of the factors involved (i.e., the time of year) and document any feedback you may have received for future reference.