• I recently had the opportunity to spend a day or two encouraging passers-by to snap ‘selfies’ in aid of a good cause. For those who may not know, selfies are self-portraits usually taken with a smartphone and then uploaded to social media sites.

    Vicki and Lorene taking a selfie at the Haney Farmer's Market

    Vicki and Lorene taking a selfie at the Haney Farmer’s Market

    While most people were quite willing to play in, my request was sometimes met with “I don’t do selfies”, said in a somewhat toney way, which I must admit gave me pause. Granted, among a certain generation (usually teens, or single twenty-somethings on the club circuit) taking endless selfies or GPOYs (Gratuitous Pictures of You) can be an uber-narcissitic and annoying habit.

    Having said that, the selfie can be central to creating engagement on social media and a great way to strategically involve fans and followers with your business or organization.

    The B.C. Association of Farmers Markets’ (BCAFM) is running a very successful Selfie Contest that is an example of this strategy. For two weeks, people were encouraged to take a selfie at their local Farmers Market and then post it onto the BCAFM Facebook page via a contest tab.

    The BCAFM contest offered a weekly prize draw and a grand prize of $500 in market shopping vouchers. Contest entrants were asked to submit their photo and the name of the market where they took their selfie. They were also asked why they love farmers markets.

    Contests like these offer abundant opportunities. They create resonance with the target audience by literally putting the customer in the picture. They grow contact databases for future outreach, create a rich pool of testimonials, and engagement rates skyrocket. Particularly on Facebook, the algorithms that govern what gets seen in the fan’s newsfeed is based on how much they engage with you.

    In social media parlance, this kind of content is called user-generated content and has the highest value and the most credibility.

    In the BCAFM contest, the grand prizewinner will be determined by online voting, further increasing engagement and also leveraging social proof. The selfies of my friends and colleagues – people I know, like and trust – offer subconscious validation of the BCAFM’s value. Via this participation, the BCAFM, and by extension farmers markets in general, are endorsed and championed.

    Contests can be run on any social platform and are very popular on sites like Instagram and Pinterest. The Fraser Valley Regional Library (FVRL) recently ran an Instagram contest to encourage teen engagement, asking them to post selfies with their favourite books.

    To organize a contest you need to know who your target audience is, figure out which social media platform they prefer, and host your contest there. You also want to be clear about the strategic goal for the contest. The FVRL was after increasing engagement with teen users of the libraries.

    The BCAFM is targeting women ages 25-45 to increase market visits. We know that demographic is using Facebook, and there’s a good chance that the BCAFM contest has increased traffic both online and off.

    The BCAFM contest tracked the participation of markets across the province. Haney Farmers Market hosted a ‘Selfie-Help Booth’ on two local market days to encourage market-goers to take part, and placed second only to Kamloops. Not bad for our little market.

    More selfie fun!

    More selfie fun!

    Maple Ridge’s Bekki Hurley is currently a contender for the top prize, and a win for her will give the Maple Ridge market a boost in terms of increased recognition and awareness. Voting continues in the Farmers Market Selfie Contest until July 21, 2014.

    To vote for Bekki, or any of the fine Maple Ridge entrants, go to Facebook and visit this link, click on View Entries and then search for Maple Ridge or Haney and find our local selfies. Vote for your favourite selfie.

    UPDATE: unfortunately, Bekki did not win the Selfie Contest but she did win a prize for being a lucky voter and she will get to spend the rest of the summer using her new canning goods! We’ll be looking forward to some jam!