How to Generate More Leads on YouTube

Discover how to generate more leads on YouTube without relying on PPC ad platforms like Google AdWords or Facebook ads. Utilize YouTube giveaways and engage with your target audience.

By Dana Kilroy ・11 min read
Best Practices
Campaign & Contest Ideas
Social Media

Want to generate more leads on YouTube without relying on PPC ad platforms like Google AdWords or Facebook ads? I've got two words for you: YouTube giveaways (or is that three words?!). YouTube has more than 1.3 billion users and, in any given month, eight out of 10 people between the ages of 18 and 49 watch YouTube. YouTube is also the 2nd most frequently accessed social network out there behind Facebook. In other words, there’s a good chance your customers and your potential customers, are already watching YouTube. Yet only nine percent of small businesses have a YouTube channel. Compare that to, say, Facebook, where about half of all small businesses have a presence. If you already have a couple of videos up and running, and are looking for ideas for how to get more subscribers and turn those subscribers into paying customers, the tips that follow are for you.

YouTube is also the 2nd most frequently accessed social network out there behind Facebook.

Increase Subscribers and Engagement Using Call-to-Action Cards

On YouTube, you can sprinkle notification cards throughout your videos. These cards are the easiest way to add interactive elements to your videos and keep viewers engaged for longer. When a video creator has installed a card, you’ll know it by the little “i” that pops up in the right-hand corner of the screen. When a viewer clicks the icon, they’re shown your message, including a link if you’ve added one.You can add up to five cards to any video and there are five different kinds of cards available (though one of the options listed is available only to brands that are part of YouTube’s Partner Program). Here’s a description of each cards.

  • Video or playlist cards. Link to other videos on your channel, or to a playlist.
  • Channel cards. Link to a channel you want your viewers to know about, for example, collaborators or brands you work with.
  • Video cards. Link to specific videos to boost views.
  • Playlist cards. Link to a specific playlist to draw attention to a a group of videos on your channel.
  • Link cards. Add links to associated web pages, crowdfunding sites and merchandise. At this time, only members of YouTube’s Partner Program can create link cards.

At the very least you should insert an end screen during the last 20 seconds of your video, pointing people to whatever video you want them to watch next, reminding them to subscribe, or prompting them to visit a landing page where you have information about a special offer or contest.

Generate Leads Using Contests as Incentives

While watching YouTube videos is typically a fairly passive activity, you can make the videos more engaging by adding things like the cards described above. And you can incentivize engagement even more, and collect leads at the same time, by running contests and giveaways. One of the best incentives a brand (or a blogger) can offer on YouTube is a prize. In fact, YouTube’s very first viral video was linked to a contest. “The Extreme Diet Coke & Mentos Experiments II: The Domino Effect,” was created by two guys who do kooky science-y experiments. Their Mentos/Coke video was part of a campaign to drive traffic to a contest at The video got 8 million views, doubled traffic to for three straight months and was one of the top-viewed YouTube videos for several years (this was before “Despacito” and “Gangham Style,” and other music videos, started getting views in the billions).A few years later, Ford ran a similar contest -- The Fiesta Movement -- for which they gave away cars, in this case 100 Ford Fiestas the winners could drive for a year. Yes, a car is a huge prize. But consider the results: Ford tracked more than five million mentions of the contest on social media and saw a 38 percent boost in awareness of the Fiesta amongst a targeted (Generation Y) audience. All that without spending money on traditional ads.

When Ford ran a contest giving away 100 cars, they saw a huge response. Before I get into the various kinds of incentives and contests you can use on YouTube, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out some of the issues facing all social networks these days. Every platform is being forced to be more protective of user data and user privacy, and guidelines seem to change by the day. That’s why I’m increasingly recommending that brands and bloggers alike host contests and giveaways and other promotions on their own websites, or as landing pages/microsites, and then promote the campaigns on the various social channels. It’s actually a win-win for brands because you’re able to control your users’ experience, keep more traffic on your own site, and safely collect the data that’s most valuable to you.

Offer Incentives for Video Views and Comments

Recently, a change in YouTube's API allowed for comments to be imported into 3rd party platforms, which has become a game changer in boosting video engagement and revolutionizing YouTube-related contests. Check out this contest template offered by Their points for Actions feature allows participants to earn additional chances to win by watching the video. Then, earn even more chances to win by commenting on the video. The contest host can import the comments into the list of entries and count them as additional entries. YouTube Comment Import Feature

Follow YouTube’s Rules for Contests and Giveaways

Before you grab your camera and start filming, take a moment to understand YouTube’s rules for contests and giveaways. Like other social platforms, YouTube has rules creators must follow when they host contests. For starters, YouTube does not allow contests to be run through ads. (You can read the complete list of policies and guidelines here.) YouTube’s vast community guidelines encompass contests, so make sure you’re familiar with those as well.

YouTube has a vast list of rules regarding contests.Here are some of the most important rules to be aware of, and what they mean for your contest*:

General Requirements

  • What YouTube says: You are solely responsible for your contest. What it means: YouTube is not responsible for any mishaps related to your contest, including cheating, fraud, misrepresentation, prizes that go undelivered or videos that don’t load.
  • What YouTube says: Your contest must comply with all applicable federal, state and local laws, rules and regulations, including U.S. sanctions. What it means: You must ensure you meet local age/eligibility requirements, and disclosure requirements. Some states in the U.S. also require companies to register and bond prizes that exceed $500. In other states, prizes worth $5000 must be registered and bonded. It’s up to you to know the laws of your state (or country). To learn even more, check out this excellent post, written by an attorney; it offers further guidance, including IRS-related cautions for blogger giveaways.
  • What YouTube says: Your contest cannot infringe upon or encourage the infringement of any third party rights or the participation in any unlawful activity. What it means: Don’t ask people to share copyrighted material, or to perform illegal acts as means of entering your contest. For example, you can not ask people to film themselves driving a car at a speed that exceeds the speed limit or is otherwise against the law.
  • What YouTube says: You cannot ask the users to give all rights for, or transfer the ownership of, their entry to you. What it means: You can’t ask for any rights that void YouTube’s license agreement. By uploading anything to YouTube, you are entering into their license agreement, giving them the right to show the video. If you ask for exclusive rights, it may supersede YouTube’s license agreement.
  • What YouTube says: Your contest must be free to enter (don’t forget to check your local lottery laws). What it means: You can’t require people to purchase anything from your company in order to be entered for a chance to win. If you require a purchase you’re running a lottery and private lotteries are illegal in the U.S.
  • What YouTube says: You and a third party must not manipulate metrics on the YouTube service, including numbers of views, likes, dislikes or subscribers. What it means: Do not exaggerate your numbers or use a tool that pads your numbers. Don’t encourage people to fraudulently inflate your metrics by repeatedly watching a video or clicking on ads.
  • What YouTube says: You cannot associate or affiliate YouTube with your contest without YouTube’s prior written consent. What it means: You must specify in your official rules that your contest or giveaway is not associated or endorsed by YouTube.

Your Official Contest Rules

  • What YouTube says: You must have a set of “official rules” which:

1. includes links to the YouTube Community Guidelines and indicate entries that don’t comply will be disqualified. What it means: YouTube forbids content that features or encourages nudity or sexual content; harmful or dangerous content; hateful content; violent or graphic content; harassment or cyberbullying; spam; misleading metadata; and scams or threats. Content that infringes on copyright or privacy, or impersonates an individual or channel, may be removed.

2. states all disclosures required by all applicable federal, state and local laws, rules and regulations, including U.S. sanctions. What it means: On your official rules, include details about the value of your prize, including information about prize registration and bonding, and tax liabilities.

3. are wholly compliant and consistent with YouTube Terms of Service. What it means: Make sure your rules are aligned with YouTube’s Terms of service.

  • What YouTube says: Your contest must be conducted, and all prizes awarded as outlined in your official rules. What it means: If you’re offering a prize, award the prize!
  • What YouTube says: You are responsible for your rules and all aspects of your contest administration. What it means: Write your own rules and ensure people who enter your contest have followed them. YouTube does not have your back.
  • What YouTube says: Your rules must clearly state that YouTube is not a sponsor of your contest and require users to release YouTube from any and all liability related to your contest. What it means: Make clear in your rules that YouTube is not involved with your contest, in any way.
  • What YouTube says: You must include a legally compliant privacy notice in your Official Rules which explains how you will use any personal data you collect for contest and adhere to that use. What it means: Include a privacy policy in your official rules and tell your participants how you will use their information and who will have access to it.

The following YouTube rule is stated separately, under YouTube’s conditions of use, but it’s a biggie: You may not offer or promote prizes or rewards of any kind in exchange for clicking on a YouTube subscribe button. Finally, if your contest is sponsored by a third party -- as in, you’re giving away a prize that was given to you, or the company whose prize you’re giving away sponsors you -- you must disclose the sponsorships, per the Federal Trade Commission. The verbiage can be as simple as: “FTC Disclaimer: Some of the prizes offered in this giveaway were given to me by XYZ company and some were purchased by me” -- or whatever the case may be. You can read all about FTC guidelines and other suggested verbiage, here.

You may not offer or promote prizes or rewards of any kind in exchange for clicking on a YouTube subscribe button.

Decide on the Type of Contest

Whether you decide to run your contest on YouTube, or simply promote it on YouTube, there are lots of options for YouTube contests. Since I’m focusing on collecting leads, I’m only going to talk about those options.

Vote to Enter

Let your fans decide what they like best. Display two or three different videos and have your users vote on their favorite. Before they can vote, they have to fill out your form. Here’s how you’d set it up.In this example, you own a restaurant and you’re giving away a huge haul of BBQ tools in honor of an upcoming event -- let’s say, the 4th of July. You create a video announcing the giveaway and direct people to your landing page where they can watch three quick how-to videos showing off different grilling recipes. Then they get to vote on their favorite of your three recipes. BUT, before they can vote and get a chance to win, you require them to fill out a form, sharing their best email address with you.

Have your followers vote on their favorite video in exchange for a change to win your prize. View and Create Your Own You choose a winner at random, but make sure you follow-up with everyone who entered, sending them a thanks message, and if it’s appropriate, including a code for a discount on your products.

Upload and Vote

For this kind of user-generated content contest, you ask people to submit their own video -- perhaps showing them using or talking about your product -- and then have viewers vote on their favorite. In keeping with the grilling theme, you’d ask people to share a clip of them grilling their favorite recipe, or perhaps prepping their favorite dry rub. If you’re worried about cheating, you can let people know that the top 10 vote-getters will be entered into a final round and then you, or a panel of judges, will choose the final winner.

Have your followers upload their own image, vote on their favorite and share to get more votes. View and Create Your Own


Comment-to-win contests are the most popular type of YouTube contest or giveaway because they’re so easy to enter. To enter, people just have to, yep, leave a comment. My biggest issue with this kind of contest is that it’s hard to manage entries, and it’s even harder to collect any meaningful contact data. Of course you could set the contest up so the comment works like a poll, asking people to comment with the name of a favorite product of yours, or asking them to “fill in the blank,” giving the answer to any question you want to know, or to caption your video. What I’d recommend, though, is making contest more useful for you by awarding extra chances to win for anyone who clicks over to your landing page and then fills out your form. That way you’re collecting comments and leads.

Charles Preston is a sushi chef who hosted a “comment to win” contest.

Download & Win

Here’s an example from Kristin Omdahl, a woman who shares knitting, crocheting and sewing tips on YouTube. She has a campaign running where if you subscribe to her channel and share your email address, you can download one of her knitting patterns for free, and be entered to win her popular book of knit and crochet patterns. She certainly has a niche market, but she’s doing a great job of giving away something she knows her followers will value. At the same time, she’s building subscribers.

YouTube creator Kristin Omdahl used a YouTube contest to collect email addresses.

Get the Word Out

As any marketer knows, the time when we could post a piece of content and it would get all the organic attention we could dream of are long gone. These days, whether you’re trying to get eyes on a blog post, or a contest or any other sort of promotional campaign, you’re going to have to get creative with promoting your campaign. That is, unless you’re doing something like giving away motorcycles like Harley Davidson is with their #FindYourFreedom campaign -- which every media outlet picked up within hours of the announcement.

If you’re using contest software, ideally there are built-in features designed to make the campaign more share-worthy. For example, you can use a “refer-a-friend” tool to award extra chances to win to anyone who shares your contest. You should also promote your contest on your own properties, including your website and blog, your newsletter, and your social channels (including updating all the headers on your channels). Since email still enjoys higher conversion rates than any social network, don’t forget to send an email blast to your lists. If you have good relationships with influencers, encourage them to share a link to your promotion, and don’t be shy about investing some money in paid ads.If you’re looking for a way to get your business in front of a massive audience, and turn those people from passive viewers into engaged potential customers, a contest is the way to go. You can use a contest to collect UGC, and to drive traffic to your website or landing pages. Let me know if you have had success with a YouTube contest.*This is not legal advice, I’m not a lawyer. It’s our interpretation designed to help you get on track.

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About the author

By Dana Kilroy ・11 min read

Dana Sullivan Kilroy is a communications professional with more than 20 years of experience delivering compelling content. Her work has appeared in national, award-winning publications and sites, including: The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Fast Company, Inc.

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