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How to Run the Best YouTube Contest in 10 Easy Steps

8 min read

Want to gain subscribers, win leads, and drive sales? A YouTube giveaway can help with all of those goals (and more).

Marketing on YouTube is all about building community, and YouTube contests are a great way to do that. Not only do they help viewers interact and feel connected to your brand. They also encourage likes, comments, and shares—all of which influence your rankings in YouTube search.

In this post, we’ll share key tips for hosting a YouTube contest. We’ll also go through the YouTube giveaway rules and offer creative content ideas to get you started.

Bonus: Download a free guide that reveals the exact steps one creator took to gain more than 23,000,000 views on YouTube with no budget and no expensive gear.

How to run a YouTube contest in 10 steps

1. Set SMART Goals

Research shows that people who set their own goals get more done than those who don’t. Get clear on why you want to host a YouTube giveaway before you start planning it.

You can use the “SMART” goal framework to get started. That means, setting goals that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

2. Choose a stellar prize

Your prize can be almost anything—as long as (the right people) want it.

Of course, products are an obvious choice. But your contest prize could also be a service or experience. (In fact, research shows millennials may actually prefer experiences to products.)

Whatever it is, make sure your prize is relevant to your channel. First, make sure you’re clear on who your audience is. (Check out YouTube analytics if you’re not.)

Then, choose something you know they’ll value and enjoy.

For example, ECO-BOOST’s audience is super environmentally conscious. Check out the green goodies she shared in this YouTube giveaway.

3. Partner up

YouTube partnerships offer exciting opportunities for brands and creators.

For brands, they help foster audience awareness. Collaborations with YouTube creators are 4x better at driving brand familiarity than those with celebrities.

In turn, partnerships help creators expand their reach—as well as their budgets. That makes them a win-win for everyone.

There are several ways to host a partnered YouTube giveaway:

  • Collaborate with a brand who will provide free prize(s)
  • Combine prizes with a partner to increase your offerings
  • Pay a YouTuber with a larger following to leverage their audience
  • Promote a creator’s campaign in exchange for the same
  • Find a collaborator who will share your contest with their contacts
  • Whatever option you choose, make sure your partner’s target audience is similar to yours. Talk through your goals and values before signing off to confirm you’re on the same page.

4. Decide where to run your contest

Hosting your contest on YouTube is an obvious choice. But some brands prefer to embed their YouTube contest into their website.

Here are a few advantages of hosting a YouTube giveaway on your own site:

  • Boost traffic
  • Create a branded landing page
  • Gain detailed analytics on the campaign
  • Increase brand trust and awareness
  • Funnel visitors to your e-commerce store
  • Deciding where to host your YouTube giveaway goes back to the SMART goals you set earlier on.
  • Choose the setup that makes the most sense for you.

5. Keep it low barrier

For maximum engagement, you’ll want maximum participation. That means, making your YouTube contest easy.

Of course, asking participants for video submissions can pay off. But simpler tasks, like likes, subscribes, or comments are often more effective. This is especially true if you’re still growing your subscriber base.

Take this LimmyBoi campaign, for example. He promises an iPhone giveaway, but only if he can get at least 1,000 likes on the video. He got more than three times that number by making it super simple to join!

6. Pick a contest hashtag

If you do decide to ask viewers to create their own videos, make sure you use a contest hashtag. A great hashtag is a simple way to keep track of submissions. Plus, it can help generate more interest—especially if one of the videos takes off.

For example, the #bottlecapchallenge started on Instagram. But the concept quickly spread to other platforms. Now, even furry YouTubers are taking part!

7. Announce your contest

There are lots of ways to launch your YouTube giveaway. Creating a video is the most obvious (and effective).

Here are some simple tips for creating your announcement video:

  • Show off your (amazing) prizes.
  • Add plenty of calls-to-action to encourage submissions.
  • Share the contest rules later on in the video. (This will get viewers to watch through to the end—an easy strategy for boosting watch time.)
  • Keep the details brief. Include the full contest rules in your video description.

Finally, don’t forget to let your personality shine. You may be making a quick announcement, but your video still represents your channel. Make it engaging, like this young YouTuber does!

8. Get the word out

Next, you’ll want to generate as much attention as possible for your YouTube contest. Luckily, there are lots of ways to promote your content on YouTube.

Some popular strategies include:

  • Add end screens promoting the contest to your top-performing videos.
  • Share regular updates with your audience. Remind them of the prizes or highlight your favourite entries so far.
  • Offer mini-rewards to fans who’ve shared your contest with their followers.

Your outreach shouldn’t stop at YouTube, though. Cross-promote your giveaway on your website, newsletter, and other social channels. If you partnered with someone, have them do the same.

9. Monitor success

Use YouTube analytics to monitor traffic as the contest progresses. Amp up the promotion if you’re not getting the attention you need.

10. Announce your winners

When the time comes to wrap things up, create an awesome video announcing the winners.

Don’t be afraid to get creative here. People have to watch this video to find out whether they won. But by making it fun, you can get even more views.

For example, this YouTuber asked his daughter to help announce the winners. Watching them share the funniest submissions from the contest is adorable!

5 important YouTube giveaway rules to know

YouTube has extremely strict regulations when it comes to contests. Make sure you read them in detail before you get started. You’ll also want to review their Privacy Policy, Terms of Service, and Community Guidelines.

Here are a few key rules to note:

1. Make it free

This one speaks for itself. It must be free to enter your contest.

2. Observe local laws

Regulations differ by country, state, and city. Make sure you’ve brushed up on your region’s legislation before running your YouTube contest.

First, review your local copyright laws. Make sure the material in your contest video is 100% original. If it isn’t, YouTube may flag or remove it.

Then, determine whether you’re running a contest, a lottery, or a sweepstakes. Each of these falls under a unique set of laws. Choose the right term and market your YouTube giveaway accordingly.

3. Use honest metrics

It’s illegal to manipulate metrics on YouTube. Stay away from third-party services that promise free views, likes, or subscribers.

4. Create clear “Official Contest Rules”

This may be the most important of all YouTube’s regulations. Every YouTube contest must have a set of “Official Rules.”

These rules must:

  • Link to YouTube’s Community Guidelines and state that contestants who don’t follow them will be disqualified
  • List all applicable laws and sanctions (federal, state, and local)
  • Follow YouTube’s Terms of Service
  • Explain how and where to enter the contest
  • Include the maximum number of times someone can participate
  • State what counts as an invalid entry
  • Include a clear start and end date
  • State how and where you’ll announce the winner
  • Outline what the prize is, and how the winner will receive it
  • Disclose any sponsorships (including prizes donated by partners)
  • Include a legal privacy notice explaining how you plan to use any personal data collected (e.g. subscriber names, email addresses, social handles)
  • State any location or age restrictions
  • Include a disclaimer that YouTube hasn’t endorsed your contest in any way. Make it clear that participants release YouTube from any liability related to the contest.

5. Accept responsibility

Finally, remember that you are 100% responsible for your contest. It’s up to you to ensure no one gets hurt.
If you’re still unsure whether your contest idea will work, seek legal advice. (Or, better yet, try something a little less risky.)

5 YouTube contest ideas and examples

Now that you’ve got the basics down, it’s time to start creating!

We have an entire post dedicated to social media contest ideas. But if you don’t have time to read the whole thing, here are a few of our favourites:

1. Sweepstakes and giveaways

Sweepstakes are easy to organize and participate in. They’re one of the quickest ways to boost engagement across multiple platforms.

In a sweepstakes, participants perform a basic task for a chance to win. This can include:

  • Subscribing to your channel
  • Following your other social media accounts
  • Liking or commenting on a video
  • Some combination of the above.

We love how young YouTuber Minai runs giveaways. To qualify, viewers have to subscribe, turn on channel notifications, watch one of her videos, and leave a comment. Each of these tasks would benefit her channel on its own. But together, they boost engagement even more.

2. Caption contest

The basic idea behind these YouTube contests is simple. Hosts present uncaptioned photos, videos, comics, or artworks. Then, viewers submit creative caption ideas—usually via comments or an online form.

You can let fans vote to choose a winner. Or, you can decide yourself. Either way, you’ll end up with tons of engagement. Plus, some very funny fan-generated content.

Take Lindybeige’s Hannibal caption competition, for example. The announcement video generated more than 50,000 views!

3. Comment below

Asking for comments is another popular YouTube giveaway strategy. These contests can range from super simple to very difficult.

The most basic option is to have viewers leave any comment they like. But you’ll get higher quality engagement if you ask them for something specific. For example:

  • Answer a skill-testing question
  • Find an object hidden in the background of your video
  • Guess how many x are in y
  • Ask a question related to your video

Take this YouTuber’s back to school giveaway, for example. Participants left comments explaining why they thought they deserved to win. The host ended up with tons of thoughtful comments about how much fans loved her channel.

4. Talent contest

You can also ask your fans to submit their own videos. Get them to dance, act, or perform a challenge. Have them use the official contest hashtag so you can track submissions.

Terrell’s Song Association Contest is a great example of how this works. Fans submitted 60-second videos of themselves singing. The top 5 contestants won a free, all-expenses paid trip to Los Angeles and a guest appearance on his show.

5. Content suggestion contest

Finally, you can use YouTube contests to generate new content ideas. For these giveaways, fans tell you what they want to see more of in future. It’s a great way to get people talking.
But the best part of a content-based YouTube giveaway? You don’t even need a prize! Often, seeing an idea put into practice is all the reward fans need.

Snack Time’s character suggestion contest is a perfect example. It generated more than 5,000 comments—plus an awesome new character!

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