How to Activate a Community Around a Contest With No Prize

When launching contests on social media, a call to action can never be too simple. Case in point: Edelman and Adobe asked a simple question on the Adobe Photoshop Facebook page as Halloween 2014 approached: Are your skills good enough to solve a murder? As the rest of the country stocked up on candy and costumes, Edelman successfully activated Photoshop users with a contest to see who could solve the crime.

In the days leading up to Halloween, Edelman took over Photoshop’s Facebook page and began promoting a contest targeted at serious users.  Fans of the design tool swarmed to Facebook to prove their proficiency with the program. Users were prompted to download a Photoshop document for the contest, which served as the crime scene that they were to manipulate in order to solve the murder of one Professor Photoheim.

Edelman kept fans coming back by releasing additional documents that included clues to the identity of the culprit. On Halloween morning, Edelman released the identity of the murderer and rewarded users by displaying their Facebook photos and names in a final post. Other than that, there was no mention of a prize.

Here's how Edelman inspired and challenged Photoshop fans with a small budget and no tangible prize.

  • The product was the centerpiece—Even though the conversations were happening on Facebook, the legwork of the contest was done on Photoshop. Edelman knew this would keep the brand front and center throughout the campaign and give enthusiasts a unique way to engage with the product.
  • Users helped each other—By keeping their posts on Facebook limited to sharing download links, Edelman gave users a space where they could help each other solve the mystery. In the comments section of Facebook participants were organically posting questions, walk-throughs and tips to using Photoshop more efficiently.
  • Edelman started early and updated often—Edelman’s early promotion of the contest built up substantial buzz in the community, which turned into impressive participation numbers. But what kept Photoshop fans coming back was Edelman’s strategic release of more information and tools to the game in the days leading up to Halloween.
  • With great content, they didn't need a flashy prize—Photoshop users who participated in the contest had no other incentive than to showcase their mastery of the tool to the Photoshop community. As an unprompted bonus, Edelman selected the first two users who solved the crime and surprised them with Adobe swag and a personalized note from the Photoshop team, which they shared out to their networks and the community.

Edelman’s work brought Photoshop an above average engagement rate of 8 percent, while the Facebook posts garnered over 25,000 likes, 667 shares and reached over 1 million people. PR News also recognized Edelman’s achievements by awarding the campaign a 2015 Social Media Icon Award.