YouTube has over 1 billion active viewers—that’s almost 1/7th of the world’s population.
As the owner of a YouTube channel, capturing some of those viewers as subscribers is how you grow your audience for the long-term.
But increasing your subscriber count on YouTube isn’t enough. You want engaged subscribers who will watch, share, and engage with your videos as you continue to create them.
Whether you’re using your YouTube channel to market your business or share your passion for making things on the Internet, here are some ways to grow your audience on the most powerful video platform around.
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Communicate Your Consistency
The key to any successful YouTube channel—the key to building an audience anywhere, really— is consistency.
Not only do you need a recurring theme across your channel’s content (like the format, the subject matter, or the niche you’re speaking to), you also need to communicate what that is to viewers. You need to build a brand for your YouTube channel.
Viewers don’t have time to figure you out and what you’re about. And when you think about it, people don't subscribe because of the video they just watched, but because of the expectation of more content like it in the future.
Even massive YouTubers that don’t seem to have a specific “thing” like Pewdiepie and Casey Neistat, actually did have a consistent brand of video content before they got to the point where they could branch out and thrive on their personality alone.
So, especially when you’re starting out, figure out what the premise of your channel is—what your promise is—and communicate it at a glance.
Here are some ways you can do just that.
1. Create a "channel trailer"
Many YouTube channels show a channel trailer at the top of their page that autoplays when visitors check them out.
Create a “trailer” video of your own that you can show to unsubscribed visitors on your page to quickly tell them what to expect from you.
The benefit of creating a unique trailer for this spot is that you can stitch together footage from your past videos or deliver your “pitch” directly to your audience and ask them to subscribe.
Here's a great example from How to Cake It that conveys the channel's focus (making cake), tone (having fun with cake), and personality (passionate about cake).
2. Come up with a pitch for your YouTube channel
An elevator pitch is an often underestimated tool that’s relevant to all self-starters, whether you’re an entrepreneur, a freelancer, or a creator.
And YouTubers are no exception.
This pitch can be used in your About section, your intro, your closing, or wherever you need to quickly communicate what your channel is about.
Most YouTubers already end their videos by saying something along the lines of, “If you liked this video, please hit the thumbs up, leave a comment, and subscribe.” But this call to action can be enhanced by creating an outro that speaks to the content that’s to come rather than what viewers just watched.
Your pitch can be as simple as: I post [videos you post] every [when you post] or a teaser for what's next. These couple of seconds capture the essence of your channel's content in a way that gives new viewers a reason to hit that subscribe button.
3. Develop a consistent visual theme for video thumbnails
Thumbnails, in some ways, are more powerful than titles when it comes to enticing people to click a video on YouTube.
It’s worth investing time in making sure there’s some consistency across them because it makes your channel look coherent.
YouTube lets you choose which frame to use as the thumbnail for each video, but you should look into designing your own.
Use Canva (free) to create custom YouTube thumbnails for each video to grab attention and create a sense of cohesion across all your videos at a glance.
You can see the difference it makes below. Not only does it make each individual video clickable, but it helps to communicate what you’re about which every potential subscriber wants to know.
Source: How to Cake It
Think Outside Your Own YouTube ChannelAs a creator, it’s easy to get lost in the creation process and lose sight of distribution: How will people watch your content if they never see it?
YouTube’s built-in audience will get you some viewers, but it’s worth looking into audiences outside of your own channel and even the YouTube platform.
4. Collaborate with other YouTubers with similar audiences
Collaborations aren’t uncommon on YouTube and are a great way to get exposure to a whole new audience.
You can reach out to a YouTuber you know or would like to partner with and suggest an idea for cross-promotion. A common approach is to have your proposed partner appear in one of your videos and vice versa, each of you getting an endorsement in front of the other creator’s audience.
Here’s an example of when Sean Evans of Hot Ones interviewed Harley Morenstein of Epic Meal Time over hot wings. Sean then appeared on Epic Meal Time to cook up the spiciest ribs ever. Both channels are about taking food to the next level and both entertain you in similar ways—it's a match made in heaven.
5. Cover the hype. Don’t try to create it every time.
As part of your YouTube strategy, consider making videos that go after existing hype because you know there's already an invested interest there.
Creating a video based on a current trend or celebrity can be a great way to bring some of that attention back to your channel and win new subscribers—if you can find an appropriate overlap with your content.
Some examples include:
- Covering existing songs instead of always posting your own original music.
- Parodying whatever is going viral at the time (like Pokemon Go or fidget spinners).
- Responding to another YouTuber.
- Reacting to a viral video.
- Newsjacking a story that the media is talking about.
Timing these posts right can help you be relevant in the eyes of people who might not consider your videos otherwise and introduce them to your channel.
6. Share your videos in niche online communities
You probably already share your videos on Facebook or Twitter already. But have you explored other online communities, especially the ones where you know your audience spends their time?
Niche communities—on Reddit, Facebook, forums, and elsewhere—that relate to your video's audience might appreciate what you created and subscribe to get more.
Try to aim for relevancy instead of just the size of the community when you post in subreddits or in Facebook Groups.
Remember that these are communities and, as a YouTuber, you should be transparent about who you are and what you do (use your pitch from above!). Users are often very protective of maintaining the integrity of discussion in these communities, so be sure you’re adding value first and foremost.
Encourage Binge Watching
It stands to reason that the more of your videos a person watches, the more likely they are to subscribe. Not only are they presented with more opportunities to follow you, they have a better sense of why.
So let's talk about two important ways you can turn one view into several.
7. Create playlists
Playlists are a great way to organize YouTube content for users. They also have a chance of showing up in the search results on YouTube, depending on what they're called. You can use the Keywords Everywhere Chrome extension to see what the monthly search volume is like for any given search.
If you have enough content, consider organizing it into playlists. Not only does this help segment your videos under themes, but it gives you control over the next video that plays instead of letting YouTube show someone else's content.
Whenever you can, share a link to your video from within a playlist. This way, viewers are met with video after video from your own channel that relates to whatever video brought them there.
8. Use YouTube Cards to suggest other videos
In a move that pissed off a lot of creators, YouTube discontinued their annotations feature which made it easy to direct viewers to other content or web pages. In its place, we’re left with YouTube Cards.
While annotations might've popped out more on screen, they didn't work well on mobile devices where more than half of all YouTube views happen.
So now, these Cards are your best bet for recommending other content within a video.
Use them to suggest playlists or specific videos to get viewers to watch more.
Build Yourself a Loyal Following
It should go without saying that "grow quick schemes" like buying subscribers won't help you in the long run. You don't need a million subscribers to have a valuable audience. All you need is a small group of super engaged fans who love what you put out into the world.
If anything, Youtube has proven that there's an audience for almost anything on the internet.
Whatever it is you create, you can go out and find yours.
Thank you to Amir Jaffari, Video Marketer at Shopify, for sharing his experience growing YouTube channels for brands and YouTubers.