Anyone who’s a creator on YouTube wants to know the answer to this question: How do I grow my audience on YouTube?
It makes sense because no one wants to invest countless hours into creating videos and feel like they’re not actually reaching people. We want people to see our videos. We want them to change lives, influence people and even financially support us.
As a certified YouTube consultant and a YouTuber myself, this is a question I wrestle with a lot, both on my own channels and my clients’ channels. However, after being active in the space for the past seven years and being a part of many successful channels, I’ve learned that the answer to that question isn’t based solely on implementing a bunch of YouTube tips and best practices. That helps, of course, but YouTube growth often comes from strategically wrestling through a series of other questions first.
Your Channel is a Restaurant
Think of your YouTube channel like a restaurant. Just as a chef focuses primarily on the food he prepares for guests, creators often focus primarily on the videos they prepare. However, anyone who has eaten at a restaurant knows that the likelihood of returning to eat again depends on the overall restaurant experience and not just how good the food is. Good food is obviously important, but so is price, mood, lighting, promptness, cleanliness and more. They all contribute to a successful restaurant that causes people to come back time and time again.
If we want viewers to come back time and time again on YouTube, we need to consider the overall channel experience too. What contributes to a channel experience and how do we create a positive one that entices viewers to be drawn into our content and subscribe?
I break it down into three strategies that’s encompassed by a fourth strategy. Each is necessary to create a highly subscribable YouTube channel.
1. Channel Strategy: How does your YouTube channel present itself to a viewer?
If you’re a restaurant owner and you want hungry people to stop and eat, the first thing people will notice about your restaurant is its physical appearance. If they’ve never heard of your place, they’ll make a lot of assumptions about what kind of food you offer based on what they see. Naturally, they’ll assume a restaurant that’s flashing neon beer signs in the window will offer a much different dining experience than a place that has a big friendly plastic mouse out front (If that’s your restaurant and I see the mouse, I’m totally mocking it publicly on Instagram. Just a heads up.).
The same is true for your YouTube channel. If someone in your target audience stumbles across one of your videos and then goes to your channel to check out more, what would they assume about your videos? Does your channel’s design make them feel like, “Yes, this place is for me!” Does it quickly and clearly communicate what value your channel has for them, or will they need to invest some time into digging around to figure it out? If so, you’ll most likely have a high abandonment rate of potential subscribers.
Everything from your channel’s header image, channel icon, channel trailer, the sections listed below it, and even how consistently you publish videos should all be strategically aligned to intentionally communicate why your channel is valuable to your target audience. The easier you can make this for viewers the easier it will be for them to feel enticed to watch more videos and subscribe.
2. Search & Discovery Strategy: How does a viewer find your channel?
You just built your restaurant and you’re proud of all the work you put into it. Your food is great, the experience is amazing, and you’re ready to open for business. There’s only one thing missing: people. How will people find out about it? How will you get visitors to come check it out?
On YouTube, most people do this for their channels by optimizing their videos for search results, through collaborations, and using social media to promote their content. These are all effective ways to get discovered, but there will always only be 20 videos in the first page of search results, a limited number of collaboration opportunities, and a lot of noise in social media to drown out your promotion.
When you think through your search and discovery strategy, it’s important to think creatively. There are thousands of ways to jump ahead of the competition and get your content in front of your target audience. Yes, thousands and thousands. Maybe you can use your social media accounts differently than anyone else, or you reach out for collaborations in a unique and valuable way that gets attention. Creativity with videos isn’t the only place where your creativity needs to shine.
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