A 5-step checklist for your next online contest

In his second blog post for the AMA, Mikolaj Napieralski, Head of Marketing and PR at the Orientalist Museum, Qatar, shares his advice on what makes an online contest work.

Photo by Joseph Morris used under Creative Commons

Launching a social media contest is a great way to promote an upcoming exhibition or event. It can accompany traditional marketing campaigns and help you reach a broader, international audience.

That said, the most successful digital contests follow 5 basic rules.

Immediacy – a successful campaign needs to have a central idea that is easy to understand and act upon. This is ideally something that can be communicated in a single sentence, such as “tag a holiday photo” or “win a vacation”.

The simpler the message, the easier it is to communicate, the more likely people will act upon it.

Personalisation – a campaign needs to be relevant to peoples’ interests for them to take part. But to make them care you need to provide them with a sense of ownership. In other words, they need to feel that their personal involvement has some impact on the outcome. When people can add their own photos, stories, illustrations, or suggestions to a campaign, they feel that they are adding to the experience. That makes them care about the end result.

Easy of entry – a campaign needs to be easy to access. The more steps involved in entry, the more people you’ll lose. While hitting ‘like’ on a Facebook image can be the simplest option, a truly effective campaign needs some level of contribution from the public. Hashtags are one of the easiest ways to get people involved and sharing their own content. They allow organizations to group content together and are an easy way for people to register (e.g. ‘use hashtag #MuseumDay to enter the competition’). More elaborate competitions may need entry forms, but keep the details to a minimum. Encourage people to register via their Facebook or Twitter accounts – this is an effective way to ensure you can communicate updates to people who have entered.

Viral element – to maximize a campaign’s reach, it should provide a way for people to share it on social media. In other words, it needs a ‘viral’ element. This will vary depending on the campaign, but popular ways to generate social media shares include:

  • Votes – any contest based around votes will encourage people to share the details with their friends as a way to up their vote tally;
  • Entry – requiring people to share content on their social media page as a condition of entry can build access to a broader network;
  • Exclusive content – offering people early or exclusive access to a product;
  • Charity donations – offering to make a contribution to charity for every share (so long as you have a wealthy corporate benefactor!)

The point is, there should be some incentive or reason for people to share details about the campaign with their friends. This is most successful when the items you ask them to share are in some way personal or specific to them, e.g. stories, pictures.

Reward – Finally, and most obviously, a contest needs a suitable reward. This reward doesn’t have to be monetary or physical. Having your name attached to an art show, or having exclusive access to a person or event, is the sort of intangible prize that’s even more likely to motivate people than a cheque.

Don’t forget to read Mikolaj’s previous post – a case study of an Instagram competition which helped develop interest in a ‘difficult sell’ exhibition.

Book now for AMA Autumn/Winter training events

Our fantastic new season of events is now available for booking, up to March 2015. The events will help you stay up-to-date with effective practice, realise your potential, and engage more audiences, more often.


We know staff time and training budgets are tighter than ever, so we’re continuing to offer more online workshops, as well as our traditional on location events. You can view all our upcoming events, or read on to find out about some of the great training on offer.

Continue reading

Developing an exhibition audience with an Instagram competition

Mikolaj Napieralski, Head of Marketing and Public Relations at the Orientalist Museum, Qatar, explains how a social media campaign made it easier for audiences to relate to a ‘difficult sell’ exhibition.


How do you make a fine art exhibition about the Ottoman Empire relevant to a young, international audience? That was the question we were asking ourselves as the Orientalist Museum prepared to launch The Art of Travel: Bartholomäus Schachman (1559-1614).

Held at the ALRIWAQ Art Space in Doha, Qatar, the exhibition introduced visitors to the story of Bartholomäus Schachman – a Polish mayor who travelled throughout the Ottoman Empire during the late 16th century. A renowned diplomat, explorer, and art patron, he commissioned over 100 watercolor miniatures during his travels and compiled them into an album.

Although the exhibition featured wonderful artwork, we were concerned that the themes and concepts would be difficult to communicate to the public. Especially in a region without an established museum heritage. To overcome this, we decided to look for ways to make the exhibition more accessible and relevant to the general public.

Riwaq Wrap


The subsequent Art of Travel Instagram contest was based on two principles:

  1. Travel is a universal theme that is relevant to both the exhibition and a general audience
  2. The most common way for people to record their overseas holidays and travel is to take photos and upload them to Instagram.

Launched alongside the exhibition, the contest asked people to share their travel photos on Instagram and tag them #ArtOfTravel. The best images were then reposted on our own account where people could vote for their favourites. Qatar Airways agreed to give away two international flights to the most popular entry at the end of the campaign.

By emphasizing the travel aspect (and moving the focus away from the Ottoman Empire), we hoped to start a broader conversation about how people capture and share their travel memories.
As the campaign progressed, we gradually incorporated more elements from the exhibition into our media output, subtly linking contemporary Instagram travel photos with the 16th century Ottoman empire paintings on display.


The campaign ran for five weeks and was supported by our other social media pages. The response far exceeded our expectations…

  • Over 6000 entries were submitted
  • Approximately 2000 people participated
  • 65 photos were shortlisted for the competition (which people could vote on)
  • 15,397 ‘likes’ were generated on our Instagram page from entries posted
  • 265 comments were posted about the 65 featured photos
  • Over 400,000 people reached via Instagram

The winning entry was taken by local resident Mohamed Ihab (pictured below). You can view it, and all the other entries to the contest, on the Art of Travel Pinterest page.


Broader takeaway

The Instagram contest was more successful than we anticipated. It took a niche art exhibition in the Middle East and introduced it to an international audience without spending a single marketing dollar. More importantly, it allowed the audience to participate, spread the word, and be part of the campaign.

The accessibility of the contest, the social media focus, and the universal themes that underlined it all, meant that even people who had not previously heard of Orientalist art were motivated to take part. More broadly, the campaign showed that there is a wider market out there that fine art museums can tap into. This is relevant to both our future exhibitions and the wider fine arts community.

AMA conference 2014 – part 3

In his third and final blog post on this year’s AMA conference, Taras Young, Digital Content Manager at the AMA, looks at the last day of the event through the words of those who were there. (Conference photography by Leo Cinicolo)


Having watched colleagues attend AMA conferences for several years and hearing about how much they had gained from and enjoyed the experiences I was excited and eager to attend my first conference. I found every element of the conference well planned and executed and used the guidebook app to help schedule and plan my experience with ease.

Tahnee Craven, Marketing and Education Assistant, The Riverfront

Our third and final day of the AMA conference 2014 started with a keynote from Matt Locke, of creative storytelling agency Storythings, and Clare Reddington, of Bristol’s experimental Pervasive Media Studio.

The theme of the morning keynote asked whether it was time to change how we think about audiences. First up, Matt described five new patterns of audience behaviour, and suggested that the way we work as arts organisations must change to match them.

Continue reading

AMA conference 2014 – part 2

In the second of three blog posts, Taras Young, Digital Content Manager at the AMA, looks back at the first day of this year’s conference through the words of our members and delegates. (Conference photography by Leo Cinicolo)


The first day of AMA conference 2014 kicked off in Colston Hall, Bristol, with introductions and our opening keynote. With more than 600 delegates in attendance, it was set to be our biggest conference ever.

The 2014 AMA Conference was a great opportunity to take a step back and examine the wider arts marketing environment. I particularly enjoyed the diversity of the speakers and the themes that were covered, from managing “short attention spans” in a world of new technology to re-examining organisational structures so that our institutions are flexible enough to change and grow with our audiences.

I particularly enjoyed that the lectures and social events were held in local theatres, cinemas, and galleries. It was a great opportunity to see how these organisations were run during the conference and offered a fantastic chance to engage directly with arts organisations in Bristol.

Kaitlyn Elphinstone, Communications & Public Engagement Manager, The National Gallery of the Cayman Islands

Continue reading