11 Tips for Running a Successful YouTube Contest

11 Tips for Running a Successful YouTube Contest

Did you know that YouTube reaches more people in the US than any TV network?

And that’s just on mobile…

With over 2 billion users, many of whom are aged 18-34, this video sharing platform is a candy store for brands looking to increase awareness and capture leads.

Unfortunately, unlocking the potential of YouTube isn’t as easy as posting a few videos. In fact, without the right approach, video sharing can be a huge suck on resources and a detriment to your brand.

Attracting engagement, views, and subscribers on YouTube is hard work and you need to find the right tactics to accelerate the process. It’s not all about great content.

One way of tapping into this platform’s potential is to run a YouTube contest.

Why run a YouTube contest?

Just like any contest or giveaway, a YouTube contest can help increase subscribers, drive traffic to other channels, and build your email list. All things that can improve your brand recognition and grow revenue over time.

Building an engaged subscriber base on YouTube also strengthens the connection with your brand, making it more trustworthy and memorable for prospects.

Unlike other social media platforms where content essentially disappears into the abyss after a few hours, YouTube content grows equity as time goes on. People find your videos in search engines, via social media shares, and when searching on YouTube itself.

So it’s well worth unlocking this platform’s potential with YouTube contests as it enables you to lay seeds (your videos) and reap the long-term harvest (evergreen brand discovery) as the videos mature.

As you can imagine, YouTube contests are subtly different from other social media giveaways, so here are 11 tips to help you launch your next one:

#1. Set goals

As with any contest, the way you structure how people enter, how you promote, and all the other back-end mechanics depends on your goals.

Are you looking to grow your YouTube subscriber base? Get more engagement on your videos? Or is the real goal to take people from YouTube to your website and collect leads?

Identify specifically what you are trying to achieve so that it can guide all other decisions for the campaign.

#2. Choose the right format

YouTube contests come in a range of formats just like any other online giveaway.

Here are the most common ways for people to enter a YouTube contest:

  • Comment, Caption, or Like. This is the easiest way for people to enter a YouTube contest. It is most appropriate if your goal is to increase engagement on your channel. Essentially, people enter by liking, commenting, or captioning one of your videos.
  • This is similar to a “Follow” contest on other social media platforms where you encourage participants to subscribe to your channel for a chance to win. It is designed to grow your list of subscribers and improve the engagement levels of your channel.
  • Submit a video. Promoting your contest on YouTube is one thing but you may also like to collect user-generated video content as part of your campaign. Asking people to create and submit a YouTube video as an entry for a contest has a higher barrier than simply liking a video, but it is great for lead generation.
  • Points for actions. You could combine all of, or some of, the above as well as other user actions such as following your Facebook Page or joining your email list and reward entrants with points for actions. Here is an example of a YouTube contest that combines a range of actions as well as a photo submission for entry:

Face-Vibes-With-Kaelynn-Win-A-Custom-Makeup-Kit- Contest
YouTube Contest Example

View and Create Your Own

#3. Pick a great prize

Picking the right prize for your YouTube contest can make or break your campaign. It also depends on what your goals are as to what type of prize is most appropriate.

As a general rule, if you’re aiming for subscribers and engagement, a big prize that resonates with a broad audience is the way to go. However, if your goals are to do with lead generation then the prize should be more aligned with your product or service.

#4. Follow Google’s guidelines

Google (who owns YouTube) has a set of guidelines for running YouTube contests. If you don’t abide by these guidelines then you could risk having your contest shutdown, or worse, your account suspended.

Some of the key points to be aware of are:

  • Not to affiliate the contest with YouTube or Google in any way.
  • Don’t manipulate metrics or make false claims.
  • Abide by local laws.
  • Have a set of official contest rules that are compliant with YouTube’s terms, guidelines, and any other legalities.
  • Make the contest free to enter.

#5. Use videos to promote the contest

YouTube is a video platform, so naturally, if you are trying to engage YouTube users with a contest, why not use video to promote it?

The best YouTube contest videos use a combination of graphics, face-to-camera dialogue, a preview of the contest prize, and a strong call-to-action for viewers.

Here is a great example of a back to school giveaway video with over 13,000 views:

#6. Host the contest on your website

This tip is particularly important if your YouTube contest is designed to capture leads – but we also recommend using a contest landing page even if you’re just looking for engagement metrics because it can increase awareness for your brand and website.

By hosting the contest on your website and optimizing an entry page, it allows you to capture email addresses, remarket to the new audience, collect user-generated content, and gamify the experience.

Here’s one of ShortStack’s contest templates that collects emails as well as gaining YouTube subscribers as a form of entry:

ShortStack’s contest templates acme beats download and win contest
ShortStack YouTube Contest Template

View and Create Your Own

#7. Don’t forget a hashtag

Choosing a campaign hashtag and displaying it on all your marketing collateral can increase brand memorability and encourage social media sharing. It also allows you to categorize submissions and display all contest entries on your landing page or website.

If you’re worried about the manual process of monitoring a campaign hashtag, ShortStack automatically collects all images, videos, text, and usernames associated with a hashtag during a campaign.

#8. Cross-promote on other channels

Getting exposure for your YouTube contest is one of the hardest parts. If you’re trying to grow the reach of your audience, how do you find new interested parties?

Well, why not use the audience you have on other channels already? Send out email campaigns to your list and promote the contest on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or wherever else you are active.

Cross-promoting your YouTube contest on as many channels as possible will help build momentum for the campaign. Like this Tweet:

Justlowriders twitter account cross-promoting on other channels
Promoting a YouTube Contest on Twitter

#9. Partner with YouTube influencers

It’s widely reported that influencer marketing has a strong return on investment for brands and can be an excellent way of expanding the reach of your contest.

Just like any other social media platform, YouTube has influencers.

Partnering with YouTube influencers to promote your contest and drive traffic to your account or landing page could take the campaign from good to great and explode its reach.

The cool thing is, most YouTube influencers are running giveaways all the time and will be well versed in creating the type of content that resonates with their audience. All you need to do is find the right ones, send them samples of the contest prizes and the rules, then let them do their thing.

#10. Optimize for search

As I briefly mentioned earlier, people are spending a LOT of time on YouTube searching for helpful videos and entertaining content. Many people will actually search for contests and giveaways from the YouTube search bar.

So, to increase exposure for your contest, make sure you optimize the title and description of the contest video with relevant keywords. For example, let’s say you are giving away a full set of home gym equipment. Use the words “home gym giveaway” to increase the chances that people looking for that exact thing will find your contest:

Optimize your YouTube search
YouTube Search Example

You could even create multiple promotional videos that target different keywords if you want to take things to the next level.

#11. Tap into incentivized referrals

Using the contest entry thank you page to get referrals can help your contest catch fire and go viral. This is easiest if you have a points for actions contest whereby people who enter are more likely to win by sharing the contest, using your hashtag, or referring other entrants.

This tactic has a snowball effect as more and more people enter, share, and refer, the snowball gets bigger and bigger. Before long, thousands of people are entering your contest without the need for paid advertising or other promotional content created by your team.


Are you ready to run your next YouTube contest or giveaway?

Start by defining your goals, then create a structure for the campaign and plan how you will promote it.

In our experience, the best YouTube contests are not limited to YouTube itself. They utilize standalone landing pages, multi-channel promotion, strategic collaborations, and incentivized referrals.


Create your first YouTube contest now

Get Started Today

Sign up for our free trial today. No commitments, cancel anytime.

11 Tips for Running a Successful YouTube Contest
Table of Contents

Get started today!