Although Colorado is known for its mountain and outdoor recreation lifestyle, there is only one destination in the state where you can experience the intersection of so many prized ecosystems, including mountains, canyons, lakes and high desert. For people who define themselves by the amount of time they spend outdoors, they claim Grand Junction as their mecca.
The largest city on the state’s western slope, near the Utah border, Grand Junction offers the outdoor activities, natural wonders and extreme sports that visitors have come to expect from Colorado. What’s significant, however, is that it’s not as overly crowded as other popular Colorado destinations.
Grand Junction is nestled in a high desert at 4,600 feet. It’s the perfect place to go hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing or OHV’ing, even in the winter months, as the weather remains pleasant with sunny skies and comfortable temperatures.
“People have an idea of what Colorado is based on the season, and we challenge that a little bit,” explains Leslie Dysart, the Social Media Specialist at Visit Grand Junction. “We have skiing 45 minutes away, but you can also enjoy just about any other outdoor recreation activity as well. Our seasons don’t limit the activities available here, like other areas of Colorado do.”
Each year, the City of Grand Junction hosts a photo contest to showcase its natural beauty, inviting citizens to submit their best photos of the region for the opportunity to have them featured in the City of Grand Junction’s annual calendar, which is mailed to all city residents.
From offline to online: improving the submission process and increasing entries with CrowdRiff’s Public Uploader
In previous years, however, participants would have to print their photos, write their information on the back, include a flash drive of the photos, and submit them in person at City Hall. “In order to expand it, [the city] wanted to have an online campaign,” says Dysart.
She explains that the destination marketing organization, Visit Grand Junction, signed up with CrowdRiff just over a year ago, and now has access to a range of digital tools that help simplify the submission process, including Public Uploader.
Public Uploader lets their community submit their contest entries through a simple upload portal. Those photos are then fed directly into Visit Grand Junction’s visual content library.
The result: over 550 more entries than in previous years
As a result, the city decided to partner with Visit Grand Junction for the 2020 calendar contest, allowing them to automate the submission process for the first time. The impact was immediate — in previous years, the contest received around 200 entries on average; this year it saw over 750.
“Asking someone to print photos and drop them off, you're really limiting the number of people who want to be a part of it, so our submissions increased in quality and quantity this year,” says Dysart. “Not only in terms of different artistic styles, but they also featured a lot of diverse places throughout the Grand Junction area.”
Dysart adds that, in previous years, the contest was largely limited to seasoned photographers and hobbyists who had access to professional photography equipment. This year, however, the contest was expanded to a much broader community, and everyday citizens were excited to participate. Those amateur photographers not only take great photos, but Dysart says their images resonate more-so with potential visitors.
“That’s the obvious value we see in CrowdRiff — it’s trusted content that potential visitors love to view and allows them to learn about our destination. I think everybody trusts these type of photos a little bit more,” she says. “Utilizing user-generated content establishes credibility that this place really does look like that. These are photos taken by our residents, primarily with their phones, sharing incredible images which highlight this incredible place in an honest way.”
CrowdRiff streamlined the submission process and made the contest easier to manage
“Not only did the online contest garner more submissions that were diverse and appealing to potential visitors, but the entire process was much easier to manage on the backend,” shared Dysart.
“It saved us quite a bit of time, made the process fun, and it took the pressure off City Hall administrative staff who spent an exorbitant amount of time managing the old submission process,” she says.
Blog posts and slideshow videos that used photos from the contest drove views, engagement, and record-setting CTRs
The contest was so successful that Dysart incorporated some of the images into slideshow videos and blog posts. One such post, titled “Five ways to experience Grand Junction that should be on your list!” saw a total reach of 279,628, as well as 2,444 likes, 245 comments, 472 shares, and a record-setting 7,601 click-throughs. A video slideshow titled “Choose your adventure,” which similarly used UGC gathered through the photo contest, was viewed nearly 100,000 times.
“We pretty much utilize user-generated content for most of our campaigns and projects now,” adds Dysart. “This was one of our most successful CrowdRiff ad campaigns, so we’re definitely going to plan to use the same format in the future.”
“It was kind of just set-it and forget-it; we created an ad and an organic post on Facebook, put it up, and a few days later we had hundreds of photos submitted.”