submit to reddit

contestguy.pngBy B.L. Ochman
Video contests continue to proliferate like mosquitoes in a rainy July. Most are run by companies dipping a toe in the social media water and hoping for a cheap way to attract viral buzz. However, like their insect counterparts, the vast majority of these contests, and the lackluster way they are marketed, suck.

Joel Moss Levinson has made a living for the past three years by winning corporate video contests – often marketing his entries more skillfully than the companies market their contests.

Winning by being less lame
Even contests with $10,000 prizes often get less than 100 entries. And some – like Denny’s disastrous effort – get less than 10 entries.
Levinson, who’s never held a job for long, and who has sometimes lived out of his car, has won more than $200,000 in cash and prizes by making videos for corporate contests.
His latest contest entry, for Quiznos, “The Skyscraper of Sandwiches,” is in the top 10 finalists. The prize? A year of Quiznos sandwiches for a year. Perhaps the lousy economy makes working for food more appealing these days.
Levinson’s skillful use of social media
Given that most corporate YouTube contests are lame, and entries often not only dreadful, but also few, Levinson’s self-marketing skills often propel his entries to the top.

“The way I see it, “Levinson jokes on his blog, “learning to get people to vote for me in online video contests and building my contest army is just to pave the way for my eventual run for President of the United States.”

He solicits votes on a Facebook group entitled “Yes, Joel, I’ll vote for your newest stupid contest” and he uses Twitter, blogs, e-mail and text messages to ask acquaintances to vote.
While Levinson actively campaigns for his entries, most companies use a build it and they will come philosophy. More often than not, contests rely on little more than a breathy press release or a series of Tweets to drive traffic to their lame contest. It didn’t work for Field of Dreams and it doesn’t work online. Like any other marketing effort, contests need smart marketing, seeding, and prizes people want in order to attract quality entries.
On his HappyJoel blog, he notes that “As often as I get emails telling me I made a “great entry,” I get emails telling me, “The videos you’re up against are lame.” I’ve got one in my inbox right now that reads, “Those idiots don’t have any idea how to make a funny psoriasis video. You’re going to cream them.” (He didn’t win that one.)
Tools for promoting a video contest:
If you’re thinking about running a video contest (yawn) here are some things that might help it succeed:

  • Don’t host the contest on YouTube, but do have a YouTube channel for the video entries. You give up too much creative control when you host a contest on YouTube or, but you save on what can become huge bandwidth charges if your videos are uploaded there and the contest really is a hit.
    Have a contest site, and don’t immediately take it down when the contest is done. Take advantage of the search engine juice by leaving the link and the winning videos online. If you do the contest annually, include the year in the URL.
  • Promotion to drive traffic to the site is where most contests blow it. Among the marketing tools that can drive traffic to your contest:
    blog advertising is still the biggest bargain on the Internet, and the most misunderstood (whatsnextonline has created successful blog advertising campaigns for clients including Budget Car Rental, American Greetings, and more.)
    social media including Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, Digg, StumbleUpon, etc, etc.
    creative outreach to bloggers. Hint: no “dear blogger” email pitches
    seed it: email customers and subscribers to tell them about your contest
    don’t count on a press release to bring traffic. It won’t
    – invite people who’ve had good entries in other contests to enter yours – think about paying them to create sample videos. It’ll help to raise the bar on entry quality.

Better yet, come up with a better idea than just another video contest.
How to make a video contest succeed. Or suck.
Denny’s Contest Has No Entries. Dear Denny’s, We Won’t Work for Food
Video Contests: Can All These Dogs Hunt?
A Winner of Multiple Video Contests and a Perpetual Runner Up