5 Lessons From First Direct’s ‘Pictures of Happiness’ Facebook Promo

This clever, two-phase promotion that crowdsources photos for future ad campaigns offers five lessons for financial marketers.

First Direct, an online bank in the UK, recently held its “Pictures of Happiness” promotion on Facebook. From thousands of photos submitted, seven were shortlisted for a public vote and one winner was selected. Banks and credit unions often struggle structuring Facebook promos that work, but here are five things First Direct did right.

Ali Evans took the grand prize for this artistic image of happiness.

1. Have a Strategic Purpose

Pictures of Happiness wasn’t designed merely as a way to generate extra ‘Likes’ for First Direct’s Facebook page. There’s more to it than that. The promotion was actually part of a bigger two-phase campaign. In the first phase, First Direct engaged its Facebook audience with a call for photos — something that generates brand awareness and positive press in its own right. In the second phase, First Direct will feature “user-generated, crowdsourced photos” in an ad campaign that is certain to draw more attention and press. From a marketing perspective, this is a win-win.

Some photo crowdsourcing promotions like Westar Credit Union’s “Mile of Smiles” charity drive use submissions as nothing more than a yardstick — a means to measure donations. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, but Pictures of Happiness illustrates that social media contests can have strategic aims broader than just pumping up your number of ‘Likes’ or followers.

2. Tell Them How It Works

With many Facebook promos, the app landing page often gives potential participants little more than a glancing overview of the contest’s process and structure. This can come across to consumers as a shady, frustrating tactic — if you want to know how this competition works, you have to ‘Like’ us first? Lame. But that’s not the case with Pictures of Happiness. The landing page for their promotional Facebook app lays it all out in one single page. The instructions are both thorough and simple, outlining all the steps including dates and timing.

How did Pictures of Happiness work?

  • Submit Photos (August 23 – September 2) – Participants were invited to upload a photo to Facebook or through the bank’s website.
  • Photos Shortlisted (September 3 – 5) – An independent judge reviewed all the entries and shortlisted their seven favorite photos.
  • Public Voting (September 6 – 10) – The final seven photos were put to a public vote on Facebook. Users could also vote by SMS text messages.
  • Winners Announced (September 12)

A diagram from First Direct’s Facebook page illustrating how the “Pictures of Happiness” promo worked.

3. Tie The Promotion Together With Relevant Prizes

The grand prize was a Nikon D7000 — a $1,000 camera — and a weekend trip to London at a five-star hotel, including a half-day photography master class and a private screening of First Direct’s ad campaign featuring the winner’s photo.

This grand prize is smart. Instead of offering cash or some other prize unrelated to the competition, First Direct gave away a nice camera. This helped attract participants that were serious about photography, which in turn improved the overall caliber of photos submitted.

The other seven shortlisted winners received a £100 gift card for Jessops (a UK camera store) and a free copy of “The Complete Guide to Digital Black & White Photography” by Michael Freeman. (It’s worth noting that First Direct’s brand identity calls for a color palette that is exclusively black and white, including all photography.)

4. Anticipate Problems and Address Them Promptly With Solutions

Pictures of Happiness did encounter some hiccups with the image uploading process, but First Direct representatives on Facebook were quick to respond. Some users complained that photos could only be submitted through Facebook citing privacy concerns about how apps work (or just a general dislike/distrust of the world’s largest social media property), but First Direct also provided an email address where users could send submissions.

5. Share the Results

It’s important to circle back and celebrate the winners. At the promotion’s conclusion, First Direct updated both its Facebook page and the competition section on its website with the winners. When you ask for crowdsourced submissions from the public, it’s best to share all/most of the entries and imperative that you publish the winners.

A couple weeks after the Pictures of Happiness promotion ended, First Direct was still receiving submissions. Instead of discarding the photos, the bank chose to post them on Facebook. It’s unusual (and a little bit cool) that a campaign from a financial institution would draw any interest when there’s nothing left for participants to gain. And it’s nice that First Direct acknowledged this; many banks might have just shrugged their shoulders and moved on to the next campaign.

First Direct revealed how many photos were submitted (2,200 with 1,770 of those published publicly), but didn’t divulge how votes were cast.

The bank now has over 21,000 ‘Likes’ on Facebook.

Gallery of Photos

First Direct assembled most of the submitted photos into a simple but effective gallery, with hundreds of images that are as compelling as they are professional in quality. As you might expect, pictures of puppies and kids were common themes in the photos submitted. (Note: photos of places and things are a lot less “happy” than photos of people. Photos of those caught in the middle of a hearty laugh are the most engaging.)

What financial marketer couldn’t make any of these photos work? They are beautiful, honest and engaging.

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