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YouTube Contests: Creative Ideas and Best Practices

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

Zak Ramdani June 29, 2021
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There are many ways to engage your YouTube subscribers and attract new ones. One way is by adding YouTube contests to your YouTube marketing strategy.

Use this guide for creative ideas, rules and best practices on how to plan and execute an effective contest that will not only increase your engagement rates on YouTube but will also boost your subscriber numbers.

Bonus: Download the free 30-day plan to grow your YouTube following fast, a daily workbook of challenges that will help you kickstart your Youtube channel growth and track your success. Get real results after one month.

8 YouTube contest best practices

You can get creative when planning your contest mechanics and prizes. But regardless of what you come up with, make sure to follow these universal YouTube contest best practices:

1. Set SMART goals

Be clear and specific about what you want to achieve. Set a date for the contest’s start and end, then identify your desired outcome before the beginning of the contest. Make sure that you have an actual need or purpose for running it.

SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

SMART goal graph explaining the acronym

2. Explain why people should participate

Your video description should include a compelling reason as to why someone would want to enter your contest, along with details on how they can do so. You should also include your contest’s rules in the description – more on that in a bit.

3. Choose a desirable prize

Make your prize worth competing for. It should check the following boxes:

  • Something that would be appealing to the contest’s target audience
  • Costs you little or nothing
  • Can be delivered digitally (this is great because it saves on shipping costs)

If you do choose a physical prize, make sure it’s something people will enjoy using and isn’t too difficult to deliver.

4. Make it easy to participate

Make it as easy as possible for people to enter the contest by providing clear instructions on how they can do so. This includes information on how many entries are allowed and what types of submissions will be accepted.

It’s also a good idea to announce your contest in advance, especially if you’ll be asking your followers to post something like a photo or video.

5. Get the word out

Be sure to post your contest’s link on all of your social media platforms, and email it out to your email list (if applicable). This will help you increase participation from those who might not have seen a dedicated video announcement you may have posted to your channel.

Most importantly, though — make a video about it!

6. Work with influencers

Engaging a well-known social media personality to help you promote your YouTube contest can help it go viral. Not only will this person’s followers see the contest, but their endorsement may encourage them to participate as well.

7. Get creative

To make your YouTube contest stand out from all of the others you’ve seen on social media, try coming up with a creative idea that will intrigue viewers and get them interested in participating.

8. Partner up with other brands

You might want to engage other brands in your context. Use it as an opportunity to promote all of the brands involved – and you can all pitch in for a valuable prize.

3 YouTube contest ideas and examples

1. Giveaway

Giveaways are easy to organize and are a great way to get your subscribers engaged. Just find an item that would be attractive to your target audience and give it away as the contest prize.

Two types of giveaways you can run include ‘random draw’ and ‘winner takes all.’ In both cases, you draw winners from your list of subscribers.

Here’s an example of a random draw giveaway:

2. Comment below

Another way to engage your audience in a contest is to ask for comments on a specific video.

You can drive comments by sharing the video to your other social media channels and by including a clear call to action in the description of your YouTube video. Most importantly, talk about the context in your video.

You then draw winners from the comments and announce them in a follow-up video, or on your other social media.

3. Talent contest

You can also ask your fans to submit their own videos, whether it’s of them dancing, acting, or performing a challenge. Ask them to use the official contest hashtag so you can track submissions. When the contest is done, you can post the fan-submitted videos to your YouTube channel.

Here’s a video from TMS Productions, showcasing the winners of an editing challenge:

YouTube contest and giveaway rules

YouTube has strict policies and guidelines around contests and giveaways on the platform.

For example, YouTube contests must be open to the public and free to enter. The person or organization hosting the contest must provide the audience with clear rules and take full responsibility for making sure that the rules align with local laws and the platform’s policies.

For more information, visit YouTube’s context policies and guidelines.

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By Zak Ramdani

Zak has over 10 years of experience in SEO, specializing in enterprise SEO. He has led organic search programs for big brands like Avis and Budget, and has supported search strategies for Cigna, ToysRus, and many more. Currently Zak leads the SEO strategy at Hootsuite, the world's largest social media management platform, as their Great SEO Owl.

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