How to Grow Your YouTube Subscribers The Right Way
Whether you use YouTube for your business or create videos for their own sake, your main goal is to have people see them. How do you keep getting that audience to grow, and what makes that audience grow?
Here we’ll look at things to keep top of mind while following best practices to build your foundation of loyal subscribers.
The first stages of growing your subscription base
When growing a YouTube presence, you may feel torn between whether or not to build your subscriber base organically or pay for a few thousand or so upfront. To keep it simple: Don’t pay.
For starters, buying subscribers equals spending money — or time and energy, which is money — that gives you little in return. Most “bought” subscribers are just bots that don’t engage with your account. More importantly - this practice is against YouTube’s policy on fake engagement, which risks getting you banned from the platform.
Then there’s free “get subscribers quick” schemes that are just that — schemes. It works by having you subscribe to a bunch of other channels with the promise that you’ll then be repaid in subscribers. It’s a slog that wastes your energy and time for some subscribers that, like the bots, won’t engage with your account further.
In plain fact, there isn’t a cheat code to get subscribers. The best strategy is to produce quality videos. Follow the below practices to ensure your channel is in the best place possible to succeed.
Visual, creative, and framing elements that will help grow your channel
So you have the quality content piece all sorted, but what else can you do to build up your base? There are a number of things you can do to help your videos get seen more and your channel grow in popularity. Some of this includes ubiquitous practices that are already familiar to you, even if you haven’t consciously thought about it.
You’ve probably noticed on YouTube that more popular, less amateur-appearing channels usually have enticing video thumbnails that are both visually appealing and attempt to generate intrigue. This practice provides an immediate visual hook as the first impression that a viewer will have of you.
Alongside enticing video thumbnails, it’s important to make sure the other visual aspects of your channel are polished and unified. This makes you look more professional, and ensures the visual components of how your channel presents itself — your banner, icon photo, etc. — are working together. Creating a channel trailer is a good idea and can work alongside these visuals. Overlander Network’s channel trailer here on Special.TV is a great example you can view here.
The other super common practice — to the point that it’s been parodied routinely — is just mentioning in your videos to like and subscribe. “Smash that subscribe button,” as they say. And hey, they say it for a reason!
When users scroll through YouTube’s homepage, videos auto-play — but they autoplay on mute. Without captions, most people will just continue scrolling, but when they can see the things they’re missing on audio, it makes them stay longer and be more likely to become interested and explore the rest of your channel. Not to mention, this makes your videos accessible to those with auditory disabilities, sensitivities, or processing disorders; being inclusive is always a good move for you and your viewers and community. Another great reason to CC your videos is the opportunity to hit keywords you may not be able to hit in your titles or descriptions. More on that next.
This includes aspects like good titles, video keyword tagging, a high quality “about” section on your channel, and video descriptions and video chapters.
While you aren’t limited to the amount of keywords you can use, make sure that the ones you end up using are related to one another. Content with wildly different keyword focuses would thoroughly confuse YouTube’s algorithm and users as to what your video is about. For example, the market for people searching for a “food recipe” and “windshield wiper replacement how to” in the same video is likely very low.
Note for new creators: once you reach 100 subscribers you can create a custom URL with your channel’s name or something related instead of the default characters that are given to all YouTube channels otherwise. To add or edit a user name simply go to ‘Settings’ then ‘Overview’ and click ‘Edit on Google’ and enter your desired YouTube name.
The organization of your videos and channel is another detail that shouldn’t be overlooked. Arrange your content by creating playlists of related videos. It’s also highly recommended to put out videos regularly. This doesn’t mean you have to post a bunch of new videos each week, but it does mean you should have at least an informal calendar of when you post, and stick to it. This will both give YouTube users more points to discover your channel through new videos, and will keep your audience coming back if they know you’re regularly producing new work. It’s especially effective if you go beyond an informal publishing calendar and have specific days/times, when you publish videos. If your audience knows that Thursdays at 10AM are when you post new stuff, they’ll know to regularly return on Thursdays.
In general, an optimized channel will see both increased subscriber growth and engaged users.
Other focuses for engagement and reach
Beyond the content itself and the plethora of ways to optimize your channel, there’s also a recommended best practice for outreach efforts. These can be focused both on the community and outside promotion.
Increasing community engagement can be as simple as responding to comments on your videos. This makes your audience feel more connected to you and thus more likely to be loyal and interested in future work that you publish. Not to mention, if you respond to comments, that incentivizes other viewers to comment more, increasing your engagement which is a positive signal for the YouTube algorithm (read more on how you can play the YouTube algorithm game here.)
Engaging with your community can also include holding the occasional giveaway contest to promote both interaction with your channel and a sense of community loyalty. One pro-tip: give your audience a sense of belonging with a name! The subscribers and engagers of a channel reviewing shipping boxes could be called the ‘packing nuts’.
Apart from promoting engagement within your YouTube channel, there’s also a handful of best practices on other platforms to increase your reach and impressions.
- Cross-post! Make sure to hit up all the usual suspects, such as Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok, with notices of new content. Posts can include stills from your videos, behind-the-scenes shots, or short clips/trailers.
- If you have an email list or newsletter, we also recommend including new YouTube videos in these. This is an easy way to increase your viewership; if you’re going to send out this email list anyway, might as well include your best recent videos!
- If you have a website, include on it links to a few videos you feel would act as good hooks for your audience.
Just like so much of growing your presence online, there’s no quick-fix or way to cheat the system. Practices like this, though more time consuming than doing nothing, begin to compound in their return to your audience growth. Creating work that others come to eagerly anticipate will ensure you create a strong, foundational subscriber base.
By regularly creating quality videos and laying the foundation for users to discover your work through the above practices, you’ll also create further monetization options. This includes things like merchandise, sponsorships, and subscription-based exclusive opportunities such as community streams, early-access premiers, exclusive videos, or extra content. If you have a Youtube channel where you’re already in a place to monetize with opportunities like those, Special.TV is currently accepting early-access applications.