Contests are a great way to engage people – to get their attention and to reward them for participating.

And they can be pretty easy to put together – you just put up an awesome prize, figure out some scheme for people to compete, invite people to participate, run it for a while, and then pick a winner!  Right?  Well, they are easy, but to do a really great contest takes a little preparation.

Turns out, the experience someone has in participating in a contest is just as important, and sometimes more
important, than a fabulous prize.  So, creating a great experience will help make your contest more successful.

Why is that? Because people already have stuff to do in their lives – and they don’t generally need another project.  But what they do need and want is some fun, the opportunity to engage in a social activity, and a chance to win something cool or something they wouldn’t otherwise have.

Putting together a contest that meets those needs isn’t hard, but it does require some advanced thinking and preparation.

So here are 5 key features of a successful video contest:

1. Make it incredibly easy for people to participate.

Twitter contests are great for this – usually the most successful contests require you to retweet something and you’re entered.  The more you retweet, the more entries.  A win-win for everyone.  And a very low hurdle to get over for someone to participate.  You can do this for video contests, too!  Make it so easy to participate that it’s something someone can do in a moment.  Like a video upload they’ve already got on file, or a new video they’re likely to make because they do it all the time anyway.  Examples are the endless videos people take of their kids and their pets, or a video of them doing some sport they’ve mastered, or a video of a silly activity.   And then make it easy for people to share – which takes us to the next recommendation…

2. Make people look good!

Ask them to do something that will more than likely be flattering or engaging – showing off something they love to do or wear, or saying something cute or funny or inspiring.  Have their entry be something they love creating and feel proud of when it’s done – then they’ll want to share it with everyone they know!  Which makes your contest visibility increase dramatically – and you get more participants because who doesn’t want to look good.

3. Try making the theme of your video something funny.

Funny is viral (so is something deeply moving, but that may be a harder video contest to create).  Funny is easier to do.  So create your video contest around people entering something crazy, silly, or funny.  People love to be entertained.  If it’s silly enough, then looking silly becomes the ‘looking good’.  And that means you get people sharing.

4. Ask people to enter something they already have or they create in their normal lives.  

Choose topics like pet videos, or kid videos, or something they took at a weekend event, or something from the beach.  The more you play into what people already have, the easier it is for them to participate.  Look for the natural fit between your contest idea and the people you want to have as participants.  Which leads us to our final point…

5. Know your audience!

Make sure you’ve thought out who would be entering, why, what they normal do, and what’s important to them in their lives.  What is their idea of looking good?  What kind of entertainment do they want? What would be a prize that would be fun to try for?   And what experience will you create for them in entering the contest that they would love to have?

Adding all this together will make your contest fun, engaging, and easy to love.  Try it!

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