As I mentioned before, I have been involved in a number of video contests over the past few decades. But the ability to harness the power of crowdsourcing and use a video contest to obtain User Generated Content (UGC) has only been viable for a few years. Several years ago I worked with the EDUCAUSE/Internet 2 Cyber Security Task Force on a contest for college students to produce spots to promote cyber security awareness. Even at that late date we faced such issues as how are we going to get the videos? Uploading video would have dramatically reduced the quality. Did college students have access to the tools to produce a decent quality program? We did not want to exclude anyone. Now those issues are of little concern.
Recently I worked with Arizona State University’s College of Public Programs and Zooppa.com to hold a contest to generate content to promote the College’s Spirit of Service Scholars Program. Working with Zooppa greatly reduced the logistical issues and the day to day management of the contest, but there are a few things I learned that can make a difference in the outcome of the contest.
The content creators tend to form communities around different organizations such as Zooppa who regularly sponsor contests. This group is on the lookout for contests and will hear about it from the press releases and posting to their community. This group is motivated by the contest. They are creators and the topic is less important than getting an opportunity to produce and to win. From the perspective of a sponsor these creative producers will not be your core group or fans. They will be very creative and give you great content but if you want to engage your natural fan base you will need to target those people with your own message.
Will your fans take part in the contest? That depends upon their demographic. As easy as it is to produce a video these days it still takes talent and work to produce a good one. Your fans may not have many video creators and you may not get anything from them. Does this mean you should not hold the contest? You should still hold the contest because the process of promoting the contest not only gives you an opportunity to talk to your fan base about the contest and the publicity about the contest will reach new groups. If you are working with an organization that is putting on and promoting the contest be sure they know you want to reach out to specific groups, even if it is unlikely you will get many contest participants.
Because those who may ultimately be making videos for the contest will not be from your core group you will need to be very explicit about any instructions or requirements. This is a bit of a balancing act because you do not want to get in the way of their creativity but they must understand your requirements. For example we wrote a brief that was posted on the contest site explaining the goals of the contest with links to our web site for more information. We wanted a spot that challenged young people to consider a career in the public sector. The public sector covers a lot of ground so we gave some examples that included mayors and city managers but also police and firefighters. I was surprised at how many entries pretty much said if you want to be a firefighter or police officer go to ASU. Don’t assume people will actually do any research, they may just parrot what you wrote.
The same caution goes for graphics and tag lines. You should provide the graphics that you want included in the video, such as a logo, but don’t assume that the contestant won’t put a black logo on a black background. If you like the video otherwise you should be able to ask them to change it. You should also consider URLs and tag lines. It’s amazing how long and cumbersome a URL can get on video. Provide a short one or better yet, give yourself options in the future and tag the video yourself after the contest.
This is an opportunity to get some good content but because it is an open contest you will get a few duds. Expect it. Also, if you have a vision of what you want and are hoping that someone in the contest will give you that it would be better to save your money and hire someone who can produce a video to your specifications.
Using crowdsourcing as a means of creating content can be very powerful. It does take planning, and even with the new tools of the internet, a lot of work. Partner with someone who has the experience and tools to do an effective campaign.