Jay of JayzTwoCents recently made a video on why he will no longer do giveaways on his YouTube channel after giving away $100,000 in PC hardware over the last eight years. YouTube slapped him with a warning for using an external website link in the description of his giveaway video that could have driven traffic to inflate his engagement metrics. The offending external link was for Gleam, a popular contest management service that Jay and many other content creators have used for years.
Gleam, however, was a known problem for several months by content creators who pay close attention to YouTube policy changes. When I expressed my opinion in comments that Jay was responsible for the situation that he was in, I got push back that he had done nothing wrong and YouTube should not have given him a warning. Even big content creators like Jay need to stay current with YouTube and third-party policy changes.
Giveaways are either a curse or a blessing for content creators. Newer channels use giveaways as a way to grow fast at the risk of gaining an audience that cares more about free products than the latest video. Established channels use giveaways as a way to give back to the community and reward long time supporters.
Roberto Blake recommends that content creators should not do giveaways until they have at least 1,000 subscribers. He mentioned in a recent video that a channel with 1,000 subscribers represents the bottom of the top 10% of all channels on YouTube. To put that number into perspective, the top 10% include channels from 1,000 subscribers to 91 million subscribers. The 1,000 subscriber mark is where the remaining YouTube features become available, including monetization and super chats.
About two dozen content creators in recent months got warnings by YouTube for using an external Gleam link in the description of their giveaway videos. TeamYouTube tweeted a response to Erica the Technology Nerd that giveaways are not being ban. The external links that can inflate engagement metrics, such as views, likes and subscribers, are ban under YouTube’s “Fake Engagement Policy” and “Contest Policies And Guidelines.”
It’s unclear whether or not YouTube knows what Gleam does for the community.
Gleam is a popular service for keeping giveaways fair for the viewers and manageable for the content creators. Larger channels like JayzTwoCents can easily have 400,000 contest entries spread out across multiple platforms like YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. The days of dumping contest entries into a spreadsheet, using a random number generator, and picking the winner from the corresponding row number of the spreadsheet are long gone.
Gleam has many actions for setting up a contest, including asking for views, likes and subscriptions on YouTube. Those particular actions are no longer compliant with YouTube policies. As of March 4, 2019, Gleam is recommending “visit a YouTube channel” as the preferred action for YouTube and let the viewer decide what to do once they are on the channel page.
On March 11, 2019, JayzTwoCents posted his giveaway video with the Gleam link in the description that asked for comments, likes and subscribes on YouTube. Shortly thereafter an asshat reported the Gleam link. YouTube disabled the Gleam link and slapped JayzTwoCents with a warning. The warning itself was a recent policy change in how YouTube handles community guideline violations. Under the old policy JayzTwoCents would have gotten a community strike with serious consequences for his channel.
On March 15, 2019, JayzTwoCents posted his follow-up video on why giveaways on YouTube were no longer worth the trouble. If he had made himself aware of the policy changes at YouTube and Gleam, he could have avoided the warning altogether. Or maybe not. With YouTube cracking down on external links in the video description, using Gleam or any third-party link may no longer be safe for anyone’s channel.
Jay announced his Gleam giveaway link on Twitter and his only YouTube action is to visit his channel. There is no penalty for telling viewers to go to his Twitter account for the giveaway link. For now, at least. By hosting his giveaway on Twitter, Jay will also need to stay current with policy changes at Twitter in addition to YouTube and Gleam.