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Nonprofit video contests are great. I think they are the most interesting type of online contests, and not just because I like watching YouTube videos. Aside from giving thousands of nonprofits a platform to tell the stories of their hard work and producing hours of fascinating and visually enticing video content, video contests can offer more benefits than your standard “vote for me” prize or grant competition, both for the organization running the campaign and for the contestants themselves.
Here are some of my favorite features:
- As the entrance process requires some serious creativity and effort, contestants tend to be more engaged and driven than those who blindly enter other online contests with low barriers to entry.
- The videos themselves are responsible for much of the promotion and messaging, which can save both the sponsoring organization and the contestant lots of time, money and effort.
- Since video contests tend to have a smaller contestant pool than other contests, the chances of winning are greater.
- When the contest is over, both the host and the contestant have great video content for their websites or other uses. In this sense, even the losers win as they stand to benefit from their own hard work, rather than viewing their participation as a waste of time and money.
All that said, video contests can be disastrous if they are not run correctly. There is a lot of thought and planning that goes into a successful online video contest, so it is important to make sure that you cover all your bases when considering pulling one off.
I recently attended a Google conference on online marketing, where I had the opportunity to sit in on Ramya Raghavan, YouTube’s Nonprofits and Activism Manager, giving an expert perspective on video contests. While there were many valuable takeaways, such as limiting the length of video submissions (around 2 minutes), contest length (under 12 weeks) and using automated upload platforms (like YouTube Direct), it was incentives and promotion which proved to be the most imperative elements for making a contest succeed – or fail miserably.
Give me one good reason why…
Incentivize, incentivize, incentivize. As video contests have a high barrier to entry, a sufficient incentive is highly necessary to obtain enough submissions. As Ramya put it, money is always appreciated, but video producers are outside of the box thinkers, so give them an out of the box incentive. Here are some options that were presented:
- A chance to meet with a celebrity or expert in your field.
- Access to a closed event, or better yet, participation in a closed event. Check out the "What a difference a friend makes" video contest on mental health, where the winner will receive a free trip for two to the 2010 Voice Awards in Hollywood, and have their video screened publicly at the event.
- A “video makeover” package of production equipment.
- Free promotion of the winner’s cause / organization on your website.
What’s even better is a package of multiple items; the winners of the DoGooder Nonprofit Video Awards were given a $2,500 grant from the Case Foundation, a feature on YouTube’s homepage, a Flip Video Camera and free registration to the 2010 Nonprofit Technology Conference.
It was also noted at the conference that it is important to offer smaller, more frequent prizes on top of your big prize. Offering daily or runner up prizes greatly increases the chance of winning and creates more happy campers. As Lisa Feldberg of ePrize put it, most people are not even concerned with the value of the actual prize, they are most satisfied with the feeling that they won something. This can also help you with promoting web traffic; offering voters entrance to some sort of giveaway will greatly increase participation.
Viral Video for Contest Success
The place where most video contests blow it is in the promotion, which is important for obtaining both sufficient submissions and voters alike. While traditional advertising methods and press releases are helpful, online video contests are rooted in web 2.0, so take advantage of that market for advertising. Ramya suggested making a call-out video and promoting via social media. Your own YouTube, Facebook and Twitter pages are a great place to start, but reaching out to YouTube celebrities or influential bloggers in your field can help your contest go viral.
What’s even better is to include these influencers or celebrities in a panel of judges, giving them a larger stake in the contest and more of an incentive to promote heavily, while at the same time giving the press something to write about; check out how the Obama administration used celebrity judges like will.i.am to promote a video contest in support of the President's healthcare reform plan. Ramya put a lot stress on the judging, as having a panel of judges can also help you narrow a large content pool to a manageable group of 10 or so videos fit for promotion and fit for your audience to vote on.
There are also plenty of website channels built for promotion of these sorts of campaigns. Onlinevideocontests.com is obviously a great place to promote. Also, keep a lookout for the re-launch of Space for Good, a new hub for showcasing nonprofit videos. And, of course, for the best promotion, the 500 pound gorilla in the room is always YouTube. Check out the video below for tips on advertising with them.
At the end of the day, online nonprofit video contests can produce some of the most entertaining, enlightening and fascinating content on the internet, but because of their high barrier to entry (the capability and skills needed to create a good video), they can also fail relatively easily if they don’t gain enough traction. Proper incentives and promotion are key to the success of any contest, but they are especially important for ones reliant on video submissions. Developing a solid game plan for these elements can put you well on your way to pulling off one of the most innovative and amusing marketing promotions, for the benefit of both your organization and your contestants.