Followers of this blog have heard about the success and fun we had with our photo booth at this year’s Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day. In Olympia, we had the privilege of inviting committed housing advocates to pose for a picture displaying an advocacy message of their choice. At the same time, Seattle University student Tiana Quitugua was hosting her own photo booth on campus. She was not only asking her peers to pose for a photo, but also providing information about housing and homelessness that was new to some students. Tiana was kind to share some insights from her experience. Read on for great tips and fun photos!
Written by Tiana Quitugua, Seattle University Project on Family Homelessness
A table filled with bright mustaches, bowties and glasses; signs with catchy captions; and a basket filled with pink Hershey’s kisses. This was my Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day (HHAD) photo booth amidst the 8 a.m. hustle and bustle of Seattle University’s business building.
HHAD is an event in Olympia, sponsored by the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, at which constituents meet their legislators to advocate for housing and homelessness issues. As a student at Seattle University, I couldn’t attend this year’s HHAD on Jan. 28 because of classes. I decided hosting a campus photo booth that day would be a great way to support HHAD and the Firesteel photo booth in Olympia, and to create awareness of family homelessness on campus. This event was a first for our Seattle University Project on Family Homelessness.
At the photo booth, we asked students and faculty to take “unselfies” to share on our project’s social media accounts as well as on their personal accounts. Selfies are photos you take of yourself; unselfies are cause-related selfies of you or others to be shared on social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Since this was our first time doing something like this, I didn’t know what to expect. Would students be interested? I was nervous. I thought the event would be a success if I could convince 15 people to take a picture with me between 8 and 11 a.m.
Working the Crowd
I greeted people passing by and invited those who looked over to take a quick picture to support HHAD.
Those who agreed picked a sign and/or a prop and smiled for a picture, which I took on my phone. I offered to take it on theirs too, so they could share it as well. I then posted it on Instagram with a caption and hashtags, and shared it on Twitter, where it was retweeted and favorited by others, including Firesteel.
I ended up recruiting 36 people for the pictures, and posted 41 pictures to Instagram and Twitter.
The event was way more successful than I’d hoped. Here’s what I learned.
Tips for Success
Tip 1: Be friendly, energetic and proactive. Instead of silently waiting for people, invite them over.
Tip 2: Create an exciting presentation space. The table, laden with bright colors, fun props and interesting visuals, grabbed attention even for sleepy students.
Tip 3: If you can, hold your event at a time when your location will have the most traffic. I chose the business building atrium because it has the most open lobby and is located in the center of classrooms and offices where people congregate. This timing worked out well for complementing the activity in Olympia.
Tip 4: Set an objective or goal. An objective helps evaluate your success. For example, mine was 15 photos based on an estimated five per hour, and I far exceeded that. Now I have a baseline for next time.
Tip 5: Don’t just shoot it — post it! Post the photo to your personal and/or organization’s social media account. Include a brief caption, appropriate hashtags, tags, and individual names to make it personal. Encourage participants to post to their personal accounts as well.
Tip 6: Plan promotions. The more buildup, the more people will come. I posted on the university’s calendar, emailed listservs, created a Facebook event, and promoted through word of mouth. Allow at least two weeks to get the momentum going!
Tip 7: Outline materials. Making a checklist helps determine what materials you have and need, and the best set-up. Materials like these will definitely benefit your event:
• Table signage gets people interested. Avoid too much text.
• Provide key-message signs that participants can hold.
• Props like mustaches, glasses, or symbols that represent your cause are fun and festive. I found these online and taped them to popsicle sticks.
• Action or information sheets about your cause can further engage people.
• Organize your table for efficiency, such as information sheets and candy in the center, and props and signs at the ends of the table for easy pickup and picture taking.
You can make all materials on a low budget. The signs, handouts, popsicle sticks, plastic tablecloth and candy were the only items we had to pay for. Because it’s free to take photos on smartphones, our total cost was less than $75.
Be creative by using recycled materials and making them by hand. If you have a larger budget, purchase hats and boas. You can even make fun information packets with pamphlets, cards, candy, and a mini sign with your organization’s logo.
Tip 8: Don’t let rejection get you down. Inviting people to the booth can be tedious and you will face much rejection. If you have ever worked in retail, you know what I mean. Maintaining your confidence, motivation and smile will keep you going.
Tip 9: Remember that sharing is caring. Don’t stop with a single social media post; share it with other people and platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Tagging and hash-tagging individuals and groups will also increase visibility and the likelihood for sharing.
It Starts With You
Anyone can do this! I operated the booth by myself at a university campus for three hours. Think of all the possibilities you, a group of friends, or a whole organization can accomplish!
Check out other Firesteel content on photo booths:
• Facebook album with pictures from the Seattle U booth and the Firesteel booth in Olympia
• “Advocacy Day in Pictures” blog post
• Spark Change Podcast Episode 5: “Unselfies” and Photo Booths