Eyes on the Prize: Instagram Contests for Social Change

It's on us group image

This April, Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) focused on the theme “prevention is possible.” Sexual violence is a pervasive social issue and there are actions we can take to make our communities safer, more equitable spaces for everyone. Prevention can take many forms. It may mean stepping in when we witness troubling behaviors, or promoting healthy relationships, or supporting survivors. How do communicators encourage positive behavior change and get people talking about sensitive issues like sexual assault?

To learn from one organization’s strategy, I spoke with Jennifer Grove, prevention director at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC).

Among several other tactics, NSVRC created a #30DaysOfSAAM Instagram contest to encourage conversations about prevention. Each day in April, NSVRC prompted users to post a photo based on that day’s theme, including:

Favorite feminist

4/6 Favorite feminist icon #WCW

SAAM Coloring Page

4/25 Get creative! Print, color, and share your SAAM Coloring Page

It's on us (group shot)

4/30 It’s on us (group shot) #ItsOnUs

NSVRC then chose weekly winners, who received a prize pack in the mail. #30DaysOfSAAM drew 3,600 submissions this year.

Social media contests are a great way to raise engagement and awareness around a social issue. Inspired by a cause and good old-fashioned competition, users generate rich content that organizations then can share and repost. Users often become ambassadors for the cause, extending its reach to their friends, family and other contacts.

I first learned about SAAM from a friend’s Facebook post. The message about resilience and support for survivors was powerful coming from someone I respect and love. As a communicator, I wanted to learn more about how organizations like NSVRC encourage such conversations on social media.

Jennifer Grove
Here are some excerpts from Jennifer Grove, sharing specifically about the #30DaysOfSAAM contest.

Why did the NSVRC decide to create #30DaysOfSAAM? Was this its first year?

We started #30DaysOfSAAM in April 2014 as a way to engage the growing community on Instagram in our SAAM efforts. At that time, there were not many anti-sexual violence organizations active on Instagram, and we thought it would be a great idea to add our voice to the mix and populate the platform with pictures and messages about awareness and prevention efforts happening around the country.

Who were your intended audiences?

We really weren’t sure what to expect as far as participation. We wanted to draw in both people from our field and people who were totally new to our organization and/or to anti-sexual violence work. I think we did a great job on both fronts. We steadily saw our number of followers increase. People were commenting on the pictures and promotional material and tagging others, encouraging them to get involved. We decided, since the campaign was a success, to continue it each year.

How did you decide on the prompts and types of photo requests for the challenge?

We initially took a look at some other “picture-a-day” Instagram contest lists and got some inspiration there. We then looked at other partner organizations and causes to see what they had going on during the month of April that we could link to — like Day of Silence for LGBTQ awareness, Anti-Street Harassment Week, Earth Day, etc.

Addressing the intersection of various forms of oppression is crucial in social justice work. Sexual violence is tied to society’s valuing of some over others — it’s critical that we connect the dots and work to end violence and oppression in all of its forms. That’s why it’s important for us to support and promote like-minded causes working for social justice and equality.

We also look at current events and issues as well as links to our annual SAAM campaign theme to come up with the prompts, so they’re a little different each year.

Why did you choose weekly winners, instead of one winner at the end?

We wanted to really get folks interested in participating every day, and give them incentive to do that with more chances to win. Plus, with thousands of photos submitted for the campaign, it would be nearly impossible to choose just one winner.

How did you promote the contest? What channels did you use to promote it?

We used our other social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to promote the contest. We also promoted it through our Instagram, and sent information in our monthly e-newsletter and to our mailing lists.

What were some of the lessons learned? What would you change about the challenge if you do it next year?

We learned that, as the campaign grew in popularity, we needed more people to assist with the daily tasks for this campaign during April. So, the tasks were split between our Instagram team members and it’s much more manageable now.

Another lesson learned is that prompts which require group responses were less popular than prompts that individuals could response to. So next year we’ll be sure to call for less group shots.

Congratulations to NSVRC on a successful campaign that spread the message “prevention is possible!”