Online video contests are a great way to get amateur filmmakers interacting with your brand. However, getting people to send you videos is not as easy as it may seem. Here are a few considerations when asking people to send videos your way.

Setting the Rules

Rules have a bad reputation, but in the end they are going to make your life a lot easier. You don’t have to write a comprehensive manual for contestants, but even the most basic competitions have some stipulations.

The world of competitive eating is a testament to the importance of rule-making. Often contested, hotdog-eating competitions have strict regulations on beverages, separation of dog and bun, and half-eaten hotdogs.

Rules will help you narrow down the playing field, hone in on a subject matter, or set time limitations. Establishing guidelines will also make the competition more fair for contestants, and give them a point of reference during production.

Rules aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Constraints drive creativity! For instance, you can ask contestants to incorporate your brand in a creative way, or stipulate that there must be a unicorn cameo.

Here are a few tried-and-true considerations when it comes to the art of rule-making:

Time Length

How long do you want videos to be? Establish a maximum length so that contest videos do not become overwhelming cinematic works. These rules are helpful to contestants during production and prevent judges from becoming overworked.

Who and How Many

Who do you want your contestants to be, and how many people do you want making a single video? Some contests restrict entry to young adults, while others set a cap on the number of people who can be involved in the production. While these types of rules are optional, it can be advantageous to your brand, helping you to attract certain age demographics or focus on collaboration.


An often over-looked consideration is production. Guidelines over production value are really set up for the good of your contestants. Slick, well-done videos are great if they are part of your contestants’ creative prowess, but unfair if those qualities can be attributed to an uncle with the last name of Scorsese.

Originality and Likeness

It is good to make some sort of statement about originality. Rules governing originality can help protect you and contestants against copyright infringement, and protect the creative integrity of others. This can be a tricky, gray line, but thinking about copyright infringement or third party works is important, especially when it comes to the Internet. Further, statements about consent can be helpful in protecting the rights of those who have not agreed to be in the videos of your contestants.


Simply, why should people enter your contest? Are you going to provide the winner with a year supply of your product or a cash prize? Exposure to influential professionals? A new video camera or editing software?

Whatever your prize is, remember your contestants are going to put in a lot of work, as well as a lot of hope into your contest. Online films can become deeply personal testaments to someone’s personal journey or creativity. Good incentives will attract talented people and interesting videos to your contest.


Your rules are set. You have your disqualifiers. You figured out some sweet incentives. Now how and by what means are you going to choose a winner? Let’s start with the means.

Judges and Juries

Figuring out who is going to select a winner is an important component of designing your video contest. There are many great options when it comes to making this decision.
Of course, you can be your own judge, but it’s also a good idea to create a panel. Remember, Miss America is not decided by a single person, but by a panel of well-qualified judges. A judging panel is a great way of bringing a group of creative, diverse, and well-qualified individuals together to make a more objective decision. You can have your panel act like a jury or add together individual scores.

Another option is the democratic method. Let the people of the Internet decide. Sending people to your website is a great way of picking a winner and getting traffic onto your site.

Social media can also be a great way to enlist the masses as decision-makers. Posting submissions on your social media accounts to let people vote on their favorite is becoming an increasingly common way to determine contest winners.

With either method, use some caution. If you are directing people to your website, make sure your site is secure. When using social media be clear about how voting will work. Another consideration when it comes to social media voting is the nature of social media. The process can be completely democratic, however the winner can sometimes be determined by who has the biggest social network.


No matter who is determining the winner, you need to establish criteria for selecting a winner. Criteria will help judges or voters determine who should be the winner, helping them to stay true to the objectives of your contest. A set of criteria is also helpful to contestants. The guidelines help contestants to understand how decisions were made and can provide valuable insights for amateur filmmakers.


Ladies and gentlemen, the internet is a strange place. The internet can bring out the worst in people. Even if the glass is always half-full, when it comes to any contest, keep in mind that not all people live by this mentality.

Brainstorm what types of videos or behaviors you do not want to encourage. Take on the mentality of a Boy Scout: be prepared. Disqualifiers can also be important when it comes to judging or voting, especially if you are using social media as your poll. If you are using Facebook to tally votes, will you allow contestants post links to other social media sites like Reddit to encourage public voting?

Brand It

Remember, make this about your brand. An online video contest is an incredible marketing tool. A video contest is a great opportunity to expose people to your brand in an unconventional way. Whether gaining an audience through online voting or including your brand in the video submissions, this is a chance to get people to interact with you. Make sure that the contest aligns with your brand or organization’s objectives.

Promote, Promote, Promote

Make sure you get the word out there. Social media is a great way to advertise your contest, using different networks to bring in contestants and voters. Post updates, countdowns, teasers, or behind the scenes footage to get your networks excited about your contest.

There are also a lot of great websites that are dedicated to highlighting ongoing video contests. These clearinghouses are a go-to for amateur filmmakers. Online Video Contests, Film the Next, and Zoopa are just a few examples. Creating a contest blog is another way to chronicle your contest and a great way to connect with the blog community. Finally, a good incentive is a great advertisement. The better the incentive, the farther and faster word will spread.

Tell us about your experiences in holding online video contests and ask us your questions here, on Facebook, and on Twitter!