Rebecca Mulligan Santos shares how Bank of the West ran an Instagram contest to engage with their eco-conscious audience

As an organization, Bank of the West is prioritizing energy transition as the most immediate and important impact they can have on the future. According to Social Media Program Manager Rebecca Mulligan Santos, they’re making important decisions around their financing policies as part of their commitment to driving sustainable finance.

It’s from that priority and those policies that the idea behind their latest Instagram photo contest, #CaptureTheChange, came about.

The actual sentiment we were seeing in the engagement on those posts was incredibly positive as well. Rebecca Mulligan Santos
“We wanted to focus it on the idea that your money has the power and purpose to finance the change you want to see in the world,” said Rebecca. “Most people don’t think about how their banking relationship impacts our planet.”

#CaptureTheChange, which ran from February to March of this year, invited people to post a photo on Instagram of critical changes they see around themes of sustainability, environmental consciousness, energy transition, and green technology. For the contest, they had two grand prize winners who would receive a three-year paid lease on a Tesla Model S, and four runners-up (one in each of the themes).

“Those changes could be positive, negative, big, or small,” she said. “And then we wanted the entrants to include a caption for what the photo means to them and why it’s important.”

The contest itself branched off of an initiative their parent company, BNP Paribas, launched two years prior.

“This was an awareness campaign for us,” said Rebecca. “We looked at impressions and reach but focused more on the engagement we could get through the influencers.” This marked the first time Bank of the West was doing a contest on this scale.

Getting the contest off the ground was a huge collaborative effort across teams at Bank of the West.

We looked at impressions and reach but focused more on the engagement we could get through the influencers. Rebecca Mulligan Santos
“It was driven by the advertising team, working closely with the earned media, acquisition and compliance teams.” she said. And they didn’t waste any time getting the contest rolling.

“We worked on a fast timeline with only two months between the first kickoff meeting and the actual launch of the contest.”

Because so many people were involved, they had one project manager from the advertising side assigned to keep them on track every week. “That was crucial for this because there are so many tools involved and we needed to connect everybody and make sure there was a core part of the team that was aware of everything that was happening,” she said.

To deliver the contest, Rebecca and her team engaged Instagram influencers to both promote the contest on their channels and serve as judges.

“We worked closely with advertising partners and our agency managed those influencer relationships for us, which was really helpful,” said Rebecca.

Their agency gave them a list of influencers from the photography community and Bank of the West selected four photographers from that list.

“We provided guidelines to help drive the narrative, and reviewed every post they published. Then compliance had to review everything as well,” she said.

One challenge they ran into is that most people don’t follow their bank on social media — which is why influencers became so important to the success of the contest.

We worked on a fast timeline with only two months between the first kickoff meeting and the actual launch of the contest. Rebecca Mulligan Santos
“We were trying to set it up in such a way that people could connect the beautiful photography they were seeing from entrants and influencers with the changes we care about at Bank of the West,” she said.

All that focus and hard work paid off when the results started coming in.

Their overall engagement rate for this contest was 25x higher than their average brand campaign, and their Instagram followers doubled across the two months.

“The actual sentiment we were seeing in the engagement on those posts was incredibly positive as well,” she said. “Overall, the cost per engagement was much more efficient than standard social advertising.”

Rebecca said another great result from the contest is they now have actual benchmarks to use for campaigns moving forward.

We wanted to focus it on the idea that your money has the power and purpose to finance the change you want to see in the world. Rebecca Mulligan Santos
“We can compare results from organic, earned, paid influencer, and dark posts,” she said. “Based on this experience and these benchmarks, we’ll definitely be using influencers in the future.”

They also had big learnings from having creative tailored to each platform and paying attention to ongoing engagement.

“We learned it’s important to make sure you have a community manager engaging with the comments on each entrant’s post,” she said.

For campaigns like this in regulated industries, Rebecca said it’s important to engage compliance as soon as possible and get them involved.

“We are lucky to have a responsive compliance team that understood the urgency behind reviewing posts,” she said. “To help with this, before we actually launched the contest, I worked with compliance to develop guidelines to provide our influencers that were compliant with our policies.”

Rebecca Mulligan Santos has been a member of SocialMedia.org since 2018. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter.