Are YouTube Contests a Waste of Time? 10 Reasons Not to Create and Participate!

Are YouTube Contests a Waste of Time? 10 Reasons Not to Create and Participate!

Why am I not running a contest on YouTube even though it works to rank videos higher, even though a bunch of top YouTubers are doing it, and even though I’ve run contests before?

Will you please watch this video and find out because this might save you a ton of wasted time, effort and energy and perhaps even violations on YouTube?

If you have a channel or if you are just a viewer on YouTube, you might be able to save time and energy not participating in other contests.

Are YouTube Contests a Waste of Time? 10 Reasons Not to Create and Participate!

If you will enjoy reading and contributing to the discussion for this post, will you please join us on the YouTube video below and leave a comment there because I read and respond to most comments on YouTube?

If you find anything helpful in this video or funny, will you please leave a like because you will feel great helping other people find it?

Now, why am I not doing contests even though they work so well?

Because I don’t like being on the receiving end of them.

Because I’ve run contests before, I know they do work well, and yet one of the big reasons I’m not doing contests: YouTube has a pretty stringent contest policies and guidelines.

Are YouTube Contests a Waste of Time? 10 Reasons Not to Create and Participate!

Now, I know they are not often enforced at least relative to the number of contests I see that don’t appear to follow them, that doesn’t mean they can’t be enforced though.

If we have learned one thing on YouTube it’s that often things can slide for a long time like ads on videos that probably shouldn’t have had ads on them, then all of a sudden, there is a massive wave of enforcement.

I would imagine, at the rate we are going, the contest policies are going to get a massive wave of enforcement in the near future because there are so many YouTubers not following the guidelines.

You have probably seen videos by now, here is what the contest does.

The contest says, “If you like this video, subscribe and hit the notification button, and then post a comment saying you did it, then you’ll be eligible to win.”

Are YouTube Contests a Waste of Time? 10 Reasons Not to Create and Participate!

That’s what a lot of the contest videos that I’m seeing are doing.

It’s working because these videos are ranking higher and getting tons more views lots of times, but these videos appear to violate the YouTube contest results.

Notice right here, “You and any third party are not allowed to use things like the number of views, likes, dislikes, or subscribers in a way that fails to reflect genuine user engagement.”

Are YouTube Contests a Waste of Time? 10 Reasons Not to Create and Participate!

YouTube could easily throw out a whole bunch of penalties under this one because when you are telling someone they have to like and comment, subscribe and turn on notifications, you have artificially boosted the metrics on that YouTube video, especially then if you are not actually delivering the contest.

You see, YouTube also says, “Your contest must be conducted and prizes must actually be awarded.”

Are YouTube Contests a Waste of Time? 10 Reasons Not to Create and Participate!

You can’t just say you are going to do a contest and not follow through with it. You also have to have a legally compliant privacy notice in your Official Rules, which explains how you use any personal data.

Are YouTube Contests a Waste of Time? 10 Reasons Not to Create and Participate!

You also cannot ask the user to give rights for ownership of anything and you have to comply with all kinds of potential rules including even if you are not in the US, you might have to comply with US sanctions even if you are in a different country.

Are YouTube Contests a Waste of Time? 10 Reasons Not to Create and Participate!

You generally need to have a page on your website that lays out all of this.

All contests on YouTube are subject to the rules below. You also have to comply with all the Privacy Policy, Terms of Service and Community Guidelines.

Are YouTube Contests a Waste of Time? 10 Reasons Not to Create and Participate!

I’ve read through, there is a lot of these things that you need to know about.

Generally, you should have a page on a website or somewhere that goes into all of this. Especially if you look through all of these details, if you see all of these different contests, you have to have a set of official rules, which includes links to the YouTube community guidelines and indicate which entries will be disqualified.

Are YouTube Contests a Waste of Time? 10 Reasons Not to Create and Participate!

I have not seen hardly any contests of the ones I’ve noticed that actually are complying with this.

Now, I haven’t investigated everyone carefully and I’m not coming to you as some saint saying that these people are wrong. I’ve done a whole lot of things to get ahead online. I have had a bunch of accounts and websites get banned.

In fact, it’s amazing any of my accounts still exist because I have cheated rules and systems out of ignorance or out of blatant loophole violations or out of completely disregarding the policy even while knowing it.

I’m coming near as someone who has done things like this so many times, I hope that you have the information and the motivation here to avoid doing the same thing and avoid participating in it also.

As a user, I never participate in any contests like this because I believe the contest is rigged already. For example, if someone’s running a contest on their YouTube channel that says, “Just comment, like and subscribe,” I figure there is a good shot they are probably just giving the code to their friend right before they post it anyway, and even if that’s only a small minority of the time, that makes it impossible to win.

Even if most content creators are honest and trying to do the contest, many simply do not deliver out of a failure to follow through.

I’ve seen several where the contest has these ridiculous guidelines like “my channel has to pass this number of subscribers and this many views” and that’s just unlikely to ever happen, therefore, the contest will never be delivered even though tens of thousands of people tried to enter it.

Are YouTube Contests a Waste of Time? 10 Reasons Not to Create and Participate!

I’ve seen other ones then where the odds of winning the contest are so small, there is no point in participating, therefore, as a user, I never participate in contests by anyone else because I know it’s a waste of my time 99.9% of the time.

If I calculate the dollar per hour value of that, let’s say, optimistically, a contest is worth $100, which I’ve not seen any, but I’ve offered some that were. As a user, if my odds of winning, looking at most of these contests, are approximately one in a thousand, if I spend about a minute or two of effort every single time.

Now, if you count, let’s just say up to 1,200 minutes for simplicity. That’s, I think, 20 hours of time. Assuming the contest was actually legit and actually followed through, that comes out to $100 for 20 hours of work. That’s $5 an hour, assuming you actually win once, assuming the contest was legit, and assuming that the contest was $100.

Now, if it’s a $20 Amazon gift card that was legitimately given away and there were more than a thousand people in it, or the odds weren’t fair or it was not legit, the actual dollar per hour of participating in a contest is realistically probably $0.10 or less per hour if you figure in all of the other stuff I just said.

Therefore, I know it’s a total waste of my time to participate in almost any contest where I don’t know the creator of it and understand that it’s legit.

Therefore, why would I do something on the giving end of that even if I have a legit contest?

You see, I’m making this video because I was just thinking about doing contests today. I was just about to write up a contest page on my website. I was going to use, which does not currently exist.

I was going to write that up, go through and make sure I complied with all of these links and rules, so that I could have a contest on every one of my videos, so that I could artificially boost my likes, subscribers, comments and watch time on my videos.

Are YouTube Contests a Waste of Time? 10 Reasons Not to Create and Participate!


Because my mind focuses on results.

I want more YouTube subscribers and I want more views.

Now, what I can tell you from experience is a result focus leads to a lot of wasted effort, a lot of annoyed people, a lot of undesirable results, even when the result is achieved.

It seemed like a fantasy a few years ago for me to have 240,000 subscribers.

Are YouTube Contests a Waste of Time? 10 Reasons Not to Create and Participate!

Now, what so many people have pointed out on my channel is the ridiculously low number of views I actually get on my videos per subscriber.

I make videos and I’m lucky to get 1,000 views out of 240,000 subscribers on my videos.

That’s because I’ve done a bunch of hustling. I’ve done several contests before and many of them worked well.

What I’m discovering, it’s better to just honestly do a good job with things and not try to use these things like running a contest to try to artificially boost engagement, to try to artificially push our channel ahead.

Because I’ve done so many that have worked, what I can tell you is in the long view it does not come out well. When you think of it years later, it is often better to have never done it at all, and that’s why I’ve made this to help you get out of the same trap that I’ve been in so ridiculously many times.

You see, I’ve got 240,000 subscribers because I’ve done a bunch of things that would help me get ahead without thinking about the big picture.

For example, if you look at my most popular videos, they are hacking videos.

My top two videos are hacking videos where I paid someone else with skills I knew were valuable that they did not realize were valuable. I paid a freelancer to make these videos.

I knew they had the potential to get a ton of views and sell a lot of courses.

They did and guess what?

Are YouTube Contests a Waste of Time? 10 Reasons Not to Create and Participate!

A lot of the comments on my channel that have been negative, frustrated and annoyed, have been from these videos, from people subscribing and wanting more hacking videos, and me saying, “Whoops, sorry. I’ve made all the hacking videos I can make because Ermin and I are not working together anymore. I’ve made all the videos I can make, sorry, I don’t have anymore.”

You see, when you do things like run contests, and then you don’t follow through on them, people get mad. Not only that, but if you violate these YouTube contest policies and guidelines, you could actually lose your entire YouTube channel if you have done it on enough of your videos.

I went through and I found 10 of my videos where I potentially could have been in the contest policies and guidelines.

Now, I found maybe three where I actually did a contest and I did not comply with these contest policies and guidelines. I set those videos on private.

I found several others where I mentioned there I was talking about contests or giveaways, and I figured I might as well just set those to private.

You see, if you go through and run a bunch of contests on your YouTube channel, you could get hit with a bunch of Community Guidelines strikes on your channel, which could wipe your channel out completely.

Some of the top creators, some of the guys that have hundreds of thousands of subscribers, even more than I do, with ridiculous numbers of views are in danger of, if not getting their whole channel wiped out, getting their monetization and live-streaming ability restricted, getting the ability to upload longer videos restricted.

Several of the big YouTubers in the future may get hit with these Community Guidelines strikes all at once for contest policies that don’t follow the guidelines by YouTube. Because the more other people do contests like this, the more obnoxious they are already getting for me, and I don’t watch that many YouTube videos.

Are YouTube Contests a Waste of Time? 10 Reasons Not to Create and Participate!

If they are obnoxious for me, they are probably getting really annoying by now, and with enough obnoxious annoying contest videos made by YouTubers at the top, who you would think don’t need to do that, but they are doing it anyway just to compete with each other, YouTube headquarters’ staff is likely at some point to jump on the contest policies hard and make a bunch of big YouTubers examples out of it.

Either by banning channels or hitting them with Community Guidelines strikes that then they end up complaining about, educating and encouraging people, “Look, don’t run contests on YouTube.”

Three of my top videos that have over a million views here are a reflection of things that I would probably have been better off not doing to start with.

Now, sure, I made lots of money off these videos, Ermin has made hundreds of thousands of dollars off of these videos in the courses we made together.

I’ve made up a hundreds of thousands or so on Steem. The question is, what would I have done if I hadn’t spent all the time, energy and money I had, to make these videos?

The thousands of dollars I paid Ermin to make these videos, all the tens of thousands, actually, probably close to a hundred thousand I put into Steem, the money I paid for “League of Legends” coaches.

If I had just done a channel with my own videos without any hustling or shortcuts, I almost certainly would be farther ahead, in terms of an actively engaged and enthusiastic audience that loves my videos.

That’s the bottom line.

I estimate I’ve lost tens of thousands of what you might call genuine subscribers who love my videos, because I’ve done so many of these other off-the-wall things like “League of Legends” coaching videos and hacking videos that have done things that weren’t really me.

This is really me now, this is just me talking about what I’ve been thinking about, trying to help you avoid the same trap I’ve fallen in and nearly fell in again today.

Are YouTube Contests a Waste of Time? 10 Reasons Not to Create and Participate!

That’s really me and it’s okay to collaborate with other people, but you might want to make a YouTube channel if you are going to collaborate with someone else.

I might have been better off for Ermin and I to make our own YouTube channel together instead of me just putting these, or you can go back and say a lot of how things could have been better.

The question is today, how do I honestly and actively engage with you?

How do I do it without artificial manipulations?

I’ve got two or three videos with over a million views, and I’ve got several with hundreds of thousands of views, lots with over a hundred thousand views.

Another angle I did not figure was, if I get videos with millions of views, I didn’t consider how that would impact my ability to genuinely engage with each person on my YouTube channel.

This is one of the hard lessons for me to learn that I build real fans, I build subscribers that love watching almost any video I put up or who are interested to see what I’m doing even if the desire is not there to watch.

I do that by real interaction and when I’ve got all these videos that bring in all these comments on a subject I don’t know anything about like hacking, even if I know a little bit, the questions the viewers ask are generally way over my head, and I can’t respond.

That’s a disappointing performance on my channel.

One of the main reasons I did not do a contest is because I knew I’d fall into that same trap again. If I make a contest video be just like these hacking videos where my channel is bridged with so many comments, it’s hard for me to actually look through and respond to them.

I probably could do a great job because I actually have an incredible contest system in mind. That same thing, like the video, subscribe, get alerts, and then I’d use cryptocurrencies to deliver the actual giveaway and it’d be fully transparent.

It would probably work ridiculously well, but it would ruin my ability to actively engage.

It would ruin my ability to really answer genuine questions on my channel. It would lower my ability to build true fans, and instead I would be looking at a bunch of people coming to my channel wanting something.

I can tell you with millions of followers online, most of which I’ve hustled for, but somehow, I think there are several hundred thousand real followers in there between Facebook and YouTube and maybe throw in Twitter, but then I have to say among instead of between.

What I can tell you is, it’s not enjoyable to have a bunch of people coming to me wanting something every day.

“Jerry, can I talk to you? Jerry, can you give me some money? Jerry, can you promote my business? Jerry, Jerry, Jerry.”

Are YouTube Contests a Waste of Time? 10 Reasons Not to Create and Participate!

Contests stir up that wanting and so do things like putting videos out that you can’t just keep making more of.

“Jerry, more hacking videos.”

I can’t make more or I’d need to pay someone else to make more, which I’ve even tried.

You see, contests are like a Pandora’s box.

When you open the contest up, it can work, it can do great things often, especially in the short term for a channel. It can get a lot of views, but the question is are you willing to do everything it takes to follow the rules on the contests, not put your whole channel at risk?

Then, do you really want all of the results from the contest?

Do you want 10,000 comments coming through on your video from people who just want money and who really don’t care about what you have to offer, but just want some money out of you?

Is that what you want?

I’ve done that so many times, I know “no,” I don’t want that.

I can handle one guy on the street asking me for money. I can buy him dinner for $10. I can’t handle a thousand people coming to me and trying to win my contest all at once.

That’s annoying, and it’s annoying to be on the other side of as a user, and it’s something I wouldn’t want done to my friends and family members, wasting hours of their very valuable time trying to get a few dollars out of a YouTube creator running a contest who primarily has the motivation to compete and boost their own channel rather than give back to viewers.

I hope I’ve made this message clear, this is shared out of love, out of learning. It’s not wrong to do a contest, feel free, it does work.

You can see proof that it’s working all over, it’s working so well, there is bound to be a backlash, and if it’s anything like the YouTube ads policy backlash, it might be really hard.

I went through pages of results on YouTube, and not one other video that I found, no one else said, “Why not to run a contest.”

This is my video on why not to run a contest.

Don’t run a contest, unless you want the learning experience out of it, then go for it, feel free.

I’ve done a bunch of contests, I don’t want to do any more contests, as of like three hours ago.

I was just telling my wife this morning that I might start doing contests on my channel and I just thought through all this.

I just had all this brain dump at once, “These contests are a real bad idea, stay away from contests. You should be able to tell the difference now between a good idea that seems good right now and won’t seem good later and a great idea that seems great now and will seem great later.”

Are YouTube Contests a Waste of Time? 10 Reasons Not to Create and Participate!

Thank you very much for reading this.

You might ask, “Okay, Jerry, if I’m not going to run contests, how am I going to get people to actually like my videos, subscribe to my channel, and comment?”

Do it in an authentic way, which I’ve attempted to do in this video, if you noticed, at the very beginning I asked, “If you find anything helpful, will you please leave a like, because you will feel good about helping more people find this video?”

That’s an open, honest and vulnerable way to do it.

I’m asking for what I need, I’m asking for a like on the video because likes help more people find it. I’m also asking you for comments on the video because I’m reading my comments and responding to them now.

If you have a question or if you want to make an additional point you think it’d be good for me to consider or for any other viewer to know about, will you please leave a comment because I’m interested in reading it and you might enjoy helping make the video and the community better through your contribution?

What I suggest is honest down-to-earth engagement, not, “I’m high up in the sky, I’m God, I’ve got all this money, I’m just going to give it to you, you poor little minnow, poor little surf, I’ll just give you $20 if you do all this.”

In my opinion, that is not genuine connection. Ask for engagement like I’ve done here in a genuine way, and then make it safe to say, “No, if you don’t want to like this video, don’t, that’s fine, I’ll still keep making videos. If you don’t want to subscribe to my channel, that’s fine, I’ll keep making videos.”

Make it honest because not every creator is trying to cheat with contests or trying to cheat some other way. There are a lot of creators on YouTube doing a great job without contests, without paying someone else to make videos on a popular subject or getting a bunch of ad money and being able to advertise a bunch of those videos as I’ve done.

There are lots of creators doing a great job just by making helpful videos and honestly engaging and interacting with their fans.

That is my vision going forward, because after seven years on YouTube, I’ve gone off the path in, not every way, I’ve gone off the path in a lot of ways, not doing that.

This is a video doing that and leading by example, I hope, anyway.

Are YouTube Contests a Waste of Time? 10 Reasons Not to Create and Participate!

If you’d like to see more videos like this, will you please subscribe and maybe turn those notifications on if you don’t want to miss them because I think you will love being on this journey together with me?

I love you, you are awesome.

Thank you for being one of the 1% who got all the way to the end of the video or the 10% who skipped to the end to see what I’d say, see if I’d say, “I love you” again.

Maybe I will see you again soon for another video.


Jerry Banfield

Edits from video transcript by Michel Gerard at