How to Get Your Readership Involved and Grow Your Audience with Community Challenges

One of the things we’re always told is to build community – it makes all the difference between traffic who don’t care and an audience who are invested in you and your story.

If you have a blog or online following, and you want to take it to the next level, it’s having an engaged audience that will do it. And challenges are one of the ways you can get that audience engaged.

And if it’s Instagram you’re after, one of the biggest communities on the platform is made up of hundreds of thousands of people across the world who play Fat Mum Slim’s Photo A Day. Beginning in 2012, it now consists of 23 million photos shared and loyal fans from Angola to Zimbabwe, and is part of a super-popular iOS app Little Moments (which went to number one when it launched!)

Chantelle is the blogger behind the challenge to get you to see and share small snippets of your day to a theme, and I asked her for tips on how you too can rally your communities around fun and engaging challenges.

The Beginning

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Chantelle and I blog at Fat Mum Slim. I’m also a mum to two girls, a slightly mediocre wife to my husband, a cake enthusiast, and an App owner.

Can you give me some background on your blog, and how it led you to do Photo A Day?

I started my blog back in 2008, not long after giving birth to my own daughter. Back then blogging was absolutely new, and I decided that I would start one as a hobby to help me lose the baby weight {which didn’t work by the way}. I quickly realised that I loved writing and the online world, and it soon became a whole new career path.

In 2012 I started the Photo A Day challenge, simple because Instagram was becoming increasingly popular, I loved photography, and wanted to bring some positivity into my daily life. I created a list of prompts, and shared it on my blog and on my Instagram and invited people to play along.

What happened next was something I couldn’t have predicted. It went crazy. People loved it, jumped on and it was getting over a million photos shared each month. It was crazy! Four years on and it still has a dedicated community, and I’ve created a popular App around the concept which reached number 1 in the App store upon launch.

What has contributed to the 23 million photos shared?

Photo A Day has over 23 million photos shared alone. Over the years we’ve had to adapt to Instagram changes and some challenges and change the hashtags, so the total count on all hashtags is over 23 million, plus the photos shared in our busy Facebook group.

I love creating community activities, so I also run a gift exchange each year, and a happy mail project; both things bring joy to people’s lives and spread happiness around the world. I ask people who play along to share photos of the gifts and letters that they send and receive on Instagram. I also regularly host photo competitions where I’ll work with brands to create really great prizing and ask people to share photos for the challenge.

Lastly, for the Little Moments App that I have, I encourage users to share their photos that they’ve created using the photography App and there have been over 500,000 photos shared to date. I love hashtags used for community purposes.

Bringing the challenges to life

What have you learned from hosting these challenges?

I’ve learned that hashtags are such a powerful tool for these challenges, in creating communities. It’s great to see these mini-communities form from these hashtags, and friendships form. I’m always getting emails from people who have had meet-ups with these new friends. Last week a lovely lady emailed me to tell me that she was flying to Australia to travel around and meet new friends she’s made through the challenges.

What do you think makes the challenges so popular?

I think it’s important to make them easy to participate in, and that any level of photography skill is perfect. Not everybody is a professional. So I keep them inclusive, friendly and easy to participate in.

How have you then captured this audience and led them to your blog?

I’ve created photography lessons on my blog, so that people can learn more about improving their photography; topics like lighting, composition, apps, etc. The community really loves those lessons, and it’s been a great way to include the blog as well.

Have you wanted to or been able to monetise any of these challenges?

I’ve purposefully kept these challenges organic, but there was an opportunity last year to collaborate with Disney and create a list around a film they were creating. It worked beautifully. The main way I am able to generate an income from this is the traffic it generates to my blog, and through the App purchases we’ve had.

The day-to-day

Do you use any tools to help manage such large networks?

I use the Instagram scheduler for helping with planning content for the challenge, but other than that it’s about getting in and playing with the community. The community is so strong that I have some beautiful moderators who help out on Facebook within our community, so that’s been amazing.

The network is so big – how do you stop challenges like this from taking over your entire life?!

They really could eat up a whole lot of time, and they do, but I say to my community that when it’s not fun anymore people should take a break. It’s meant to add to your life and not take away from it. I also have community moderators across the various platforms and people helping out choosing the Fab 4, etc.

How do you deal with trolls or people causing trouble?

On Instagram the hashtag is so popular that spammers jump on it a lot, so we get a lot of nude photos shared to the hashtag. This was heartbreaking for me, because I’d put so much effort into the challenge and it was really off-putting for people. We’ve had to adapt and add in daily hashtags, which makes things more complicated, but it’s working for us.

In the Facebook group we do get some trolls now and then, but we’re quickly able to put out the fires. The moderator team are brilliant at managing that and knowing when someone needs to be pulled into line.

What do you do when your hashtag gets overrun by hijackers? Is there anything you can do?

Unfortunately this has been the biggest challenge. Instagram really doesn’t care, and it can feel like you have no control over something that was so awesome. Creating alternative hashtags was our only option.

Why do you think creating challenges like this are good for building community and reaching new audiences?

I think because they’re positive, they’re fun and they’re inclusive. I think that people love trying new things, and the beauty of Instagram is that people will see a photo that someone shares for the challenge, ask the what they’re doing and then often join the challenge too. It’s really organic and easy.

What advice would you give for people wanting to create challenges for their audiences and to help grow their online profile?

I think people should make them as easy as possible to participate in, and to make them about their community. I’ve watched people try to create an exact replica of what I do, but fail. I think it’s best to know your audience, target it to them, and make it successful that way.

What are three things you think are essential to a great online community challenge?

  1. Make it easy to participate. Make the instructions really simple, and obvious so that there’s no guesswork.
  2. Play along too. There’s no use creating something and then not participating yourself. Get in and be part of the challenge too.
  3. Make it fun! It’s boring when people or brands ask people to reshare their photos in order to win something. That adds no value to the followers, and only really benefits the brand/person running the challenge. Make it fun for your followers to participate. It’s great for them to get creative.

On August 4th Chantelle will be hosting an Instagram workshop on the Gold Coast, with her girlfriend, Rebel. They’ll be teaching everything they’ve learned as bloggers, eager Instagrammers, and as Social Media Editors. Chantelle will be sharing how she built her Instagram following to 100,000 lovely people, and how to use hashtags to grow communities and support your challenges.

For more info, go here

Do you participate in challenges? Have you thought of running one of your own?

About Stacey Roberts
Stacey Roberts is the Managing Editor of a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about all this and more at Veggie Mama. Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama, follow on Pinterest for fun and useful tips, peek behind the curtain on Instagramand Snapchat, listen to her 90s pop culture podcast, or be entertained on Facebook.
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