A Thorough Guide on Running A YouTube Contest

Last updated May 18, 2021

user Written by Nhat Kieu Minh

A Thorough Guide on Running A YouTube Contest

These days, big brands are using the YouTube contest as a digital marketing strategy, and it has proven to work wonders. Videos after videos are going viral like gangbusters after a contest.

If there’s one thing that hasn’t changed over the past few years, it’s the fact that YouTube contests have never failed to drive sales, increase user engagement, and more.

Do you want to know how to run a contest on YouTube? That is exactly what you will be learning from this article.

Why Run a Contest on YouTube?

Before getting to the main part, let’s take a look at the reasons why you should conduct a competition on YouTube.

First of all, a YouTube contest aids in increasing your metrics, including the view count, subscribers, views, etc. Over time, all that contributes to building brand awareness and revenue growth.

These days, it’s hard to grow brand awareness, especially when people hardly have any interest in lining up their rivals’ pockets. With the help of just one or two YouTube contests, you’re strengthening the connection with your brand, making it more trustworthy in the eye of potential customers.

Even better, if you know how to run a proper contest, your YouTube video will remain relevant and always show up first in search engines or social media shares.

In a time where content keeps disappearing every few hours, the fact that your video grows equity as time goes on is just splendid.

How to Run a YouTube Contest

As you may have guessed, hosting a contest on YouTube can be slightly different from holding a giveaway on other social media platforms. To know more, check out the following steps!

#1: Set a Goal

What is your initial goal of running this contest? Think of a realistic goal of what you have to offer. Understanding why you’re starting this contest makes it easier to measure the success afterward. 

We recommend you do this simple framework called SMART.

YouTube contest
The SMART goal
  • S – Specific: Be specific about why you want to run the contest.
  • M – Measurable: This factor depends more or less on the type of contest that you’re running. There are several platforms to measure the success of your contest, including YouTube’s Analytics, Google Analytics, or regular contest tool reporting.
  • A – Attainable: This is when you trace back to the goal you have set in the first place. Is it realistic? Will you be able to achieve your goal once the contest is done? 
  • R – Relevant: You can’t be running a YouTube giveaway for an iPad when you have a cooking channel, can you? Relevancy matters, so keep that in mind.

However, it’s a different story when your contest is sponsored by a brand (more on this later). 

  • T – Timely: How long is the contest running for? Set a deadline to when you can practically achieve the initial goal. If you’re pairing up with a brand, does it require a time limit that affects how fast the process needs to be done?

You don’t have to utilize all of these factors, but try to include them as much as possible. The SMART framework helps narrow down the goal, which not only saves time and effort but also maximizes your chances of success.

#2: Understand YouTube’s Guidelines

Many YouTubers often overlook YouTube’s contest policies and guidelines when holding a contest.

Some were lucky, as their contests still ended up abiding by the guidelines. Others, however, were not that fortunate, with their contests been removed from the platform. Worst case scenario, YouTube will ban your channel from its network forever.

It is important that you understand the terms of service and regulations before running a contest.

Local Laws

The last thing you’d want to do is to break the law with your contest. This act can potentially ruin the social proof that you’ve worked so hard to build, and also results in unwanted fines and not-so-happy participants.

Pay attention to these things:

  • Copyrights: YouTube has the right to remove or de-monetize your contest video if it finds you using copyrighted materials.
  • Types of Contest: Market your contest correctly depending on the type of contest you’re holding, or you may end up violating the laws.
    • Sweepstakes: Often random and free, with multiple ways for participants to enter.
    • Competitions: May require certain skills as well as time and effort.
    • Lottery: Random but will require an up-front fee.
    • Challenges: A wide term for contests with zero payoffs for different purposes.

YouTube Policies and Guidelines

Check out YouTube policies and guidelines before starting a contest to ensure you’re not violating anything. As the algorithm is very transparent about this, we expect you to abide by all of these rules.

Among all the social media platforms, YouTube is rather open and rewarding to whoever is planning to conduct a contest on this network.

#3: Choose a Stellar Prize

The prize will be the make or break factor of your contest. It decides whether participants want to take part in your campaign or not.

That being said, opt for a stellar prize; however, don’t get too carried away. It can be almost anything, as long as people want it.

Usually, products are people’s go-tos. But it can also be other things, including a service, or an experience about something. Whatever your prize sure is, pay attention to the relevant. To do this, you ought to know who your audience is, as well as your potential contestants.

#4: Partner Up!

It was proven that collaborating with other YouTube creators increases your organic engagement and discoverability up to four times. Thus, it’s even better if you’re partnering up with famous influencers.

As you already know, influencer marketing is not something new these days. It aids in gaining strong returns on investment for brands and makes an excellent way of extending the reach of the contest.

Yes, there are influencers on YouTube as well, and most of them have to be familiar with holding a contest on this video-streaming platform. So, you’ll only need to send the samples of the contest prizes to the right creator, and let them do their thing.

This is a win-win situation for both sides as you get to extend your reach, they get to save their budget, and vice versa.

The key to utilizing this factor is to opt for a creator with the same target audience as yours. Run through your goals and values to see if they are interested, then go for an agreement.

#5: Where Is The Contest?

Obviously, it’s going to be on YouTube, but if you have a business, it’s a good idea to embed the link of the contest to your website. That way, you’ll boost external traffic and widen the reach of your competition.

It is advisable that you use contest landing pages as it can increase the brand awareness to a certain extent, even if you’re just seeking engagement metrics.

Also, don’t forget to make use of the already-existed engagement that you have on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or whatever else you’re active.

Getting exposure for your contest is probably the hardest part. So, why not make use of what you already have? Cross-promoting helps grow the reach of your audience and find interested parties, resulting in a sturdy momentum for the campaign.

Of course, you’ll also want to generate attention within YouTube as well. Some strategies you can try include:

  • Add end screens of the contest to your high-ranking videos
  • Video sharing updates with your audience via YouTube stories or mention your favorite entries in your videos.
  • Offer small rewards for those who shared your contests with their audience.

#6: Hashtags Are A Must

YouTube tags are one crucial factor to impact your ranking on search engines, and contest tags are no exception.

YouTube contest
Don’t forget to add hashtags

In terms of YouTube contests, creating a significant hashtag will not only encourage social media sharing but also aid in keeping track of submissions. And when the video takes off, it will generate even more interest.

#7: Keep It Low Barrier

When conducting a contest, you’d want to make sure everybody can attend. Maximum participation in exchange for maximum engagement. You don’t have to make it easy, but as long as people can join, it’s a win.

If your goal is to grow your channel and a subscriber base, don’t forget to add easy-to-do tasks, including clicking like, commenting, or subscribing. As trivial as it sounds, this has proven to be quite an effective way, as long as the prize is promising.

#8: Optimize for Search

We assume most of you already know this, but contests are no exception to regular videos. You ought to optimize the title, description, meta, etc., for better ranking on search engines. 

If you want to take things more seriously, consider making several promotional videos to target different keywords.

#9: Announce Your Contest

The step we’ve been waiting for: the contest announcement. While there are lots of ways to do this, producing a video is the most approachable and is used by many YouTubers.

Make these things clear in the video when you announce your contest:

  • The promising prize
  • Add as many call-to-action as possible during the video, but don’t stuff them
  • The rules. This is the important part so make sure you give it enough time. Also, include a brief of the rules in the description for your audience to get a hold of what’s going on.

Last but not least, let your personality shine! As there are people out there who are running similar competitions, the only way to make yours stand out is to add a little bit of your one-of-a-kind character in it.

#10: Announce The Winner(s)

Depending on the type of contest you’re conducting, there can be more than one winner with similar prizes.

YouTube contest
Announce the winner

Once again, the most common way to do this is to make a video. But you don’t have to limit yourself.

People will have to watch this video to find out who the winner is, so why not make the most out of it by adding the fun and entertainment factor.

Sam Pinto, a beauty vlogger on YouTube, has recently announced the winner of her giveaway in the latest video. Of course, she didn’t forget to add a little bit of ‘content’ in there as well. Check out her video!

YouTube Contest Ideas

Now that you’ve got the basics down, it’s time to get in the making. Below are some contest ideas for your reference. Check them out!

Sweepstakes and Giveaways

Sweepstakes are the most easy and also participant-friendly sort of contest to conduct. Players will only need to do several basic tasks to win, including:

  • Subscribing to your YouTube channel
  • Liking or commenting on a video
  • Following you on different platforms
YouTube contest
A giveaway on YouTube

Caption Contest

Caption contests are not anything unfamiliar these days.

The rule is simple: ask participants to come up with captions for photos, videos, or artworks even. It can either be done via comment or special form.

Also, if you want to boost engagement, it’s best to let your audience decide the winner. Or, you can decide it yourself.

Comment Below

Asking for comments is another known YouTube contest. In fact, it can be seen as a marketing strategy. It aids in boosting organic interaction with your fans and subscribers on YouTube. 

Talent Contest

Talent contests vary, depending on the content your channel is targeting.

YouTube contest
A talent contest on YouTube

For instance, if you have a channel where you post the songs that you covered, you can also ask your fans to send their own videos covering a song. Also, don’t forget to ask them to use the contest hashtag so you can track submissions.

Content Suggestion Contest

Another popular YouTube contest is the content suggestion. This way, you can listen to what your subscribers truly want as well as find new user-generated content ideas. It is actually an effective way to get people talking.

The best part of a content-based YouTube giveaway is, sometimes you don’t even need a prize. Seeing an idea put into practice can be everything your fans wish to see.

In Closing

Ready to run your next YouTube contest? Once you have got everything clear, it should be as easy as cake to carry out a contest.

Define your goals first, then create a detailed structure for the campaign and plan how you will extend its reach for the best result. Good luck!


Nhat Kieu Minh linkedin

CEO & Founder of EazyViral

Continuously growing is our main target to become one of the best trustable providers in social networking services.

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