Anyone who has ever experienced the joy of watching an old childhood video, or watching a clip of one of their own children, knows the power of video. While looking at a photograph of your baby (or pet) can brighten your day, watching a video of them can result in a much more visceral experience. While a picture says a thousand words, a video—with sound, movement, and feeling—has the ability to connect with people on a deeper level, and cause emotional reactions that can’t be matched by most photos.
With 2016 repeatedly crowned the year of video, if you still aren’t including video in your content strategy, now is the time to do so. With over 1 billion people around the world visiting the site each month, YouTube is a solid place to focus your video strategy. Whether you’re an agency, a brand, or a YouTube personality, knowing the fundamentals can help you better position your channel for success. We’ve put together the following tips to help you get more YouTube subscribers, see more engagement, and build your channel, one view at a time.
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of how to leverage YouTube for your marketing success, it’s important to delve into why this is a place your business needs to be. With social media video such a big focus in 2016 and beyond, the benefits of using YouTube to carry out your video strategy are countless. For example, YouTube is the second largest search engine, following Google. Furthermore, by having content on YouTube, you are positioning your organization to be found more easily through Google itself. Google groups images, text, books, local searches, and video all together in the results, meaning that your YouTube videos will appear just as if they were a text-only site. Some other key stats to think about include:
- Syndacast predicts that by 2017, 74 percent of all internet traffic will be video
- 52 percent of marketers name video as the type of content with the top ROI
- Shoppers who view video are 1.81 times more likely to purchase than non-viewers
- YouTube reaches more American adults aged 18 to34 than any cable network
- YouTube is available in 61 languages and is being used in 75 countries
- YouTube videos are easily shareable, with 323 days worth of YouTube video viewed on Facebook every minute
With this information in mind, the following tips will elevate your YouTube presence from unnoteworthy to Oscar-worthy.
How to get more subscribers on YouTube: 13 essential tactics
1. Post quality and useful content
This might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be amazed at all of the videos out there that are of either terrible quality, or lack any truly valuable content. If you want to post a dark and fuzzy video of your midnight fast-food run, do so on your personal channel (and maybe think about hiding those videos from the general public).
For your brand’s page, create unique content or take a look at trending or popular themes and topics, and put your organization’s spin on those. If your product or service has experts behind it, use those experts to provide answers to common questions (through a Q&A video) or to demonstrate how your brand solves popular problems. Think about what your target audience member is searching for, and what their main pain points are, and create video content that addresses these needs.
2. Pick your title and description wisely
As some of the first impressions of your brand’s YouTube presence, your video titles and descriptions should reflect the high quality your organization is known for (or strives to be known for).
With YouTube’s maximum title length set at 100 characters, you want to keep your title as clear and concise as possible. Your video name is what will attract your audience and act as the deciding factor in whether they’re going to click on your content or not—no pressure. Vidrack author Ryan Parent provides some helpful guidance on the matter, sharing that “the best advice I can give for writing video titles is to be descriptive and accurate.” This isn’t the place to try and surprise your viewers, nor is it the place to exercise the phrase “you won’t believe what happens next!” Nobody likes to feel tricked into watching something that they didn’t sign up for, so ensure your title and description are as straightforward as possible.
Specifically speaking about your YouTube video description, Parent shares the following tips for helping you attract more subscribers through your descriptions:
- Don’t leave it blank—Many people make the mistake of leaving this area blank, missing out on a big video optimization opportunity.
- Use tags—Tags act as keywords for your videos, so if you neglect adding these you’re missing out on huge discovery opportunities.
- Don’t copy and paste—Instead, write unique, descriptive and keyword rich content in the description that YouTube can recognize.
- Add URLs—Send traffic to your website and other social channels by including URLs in the description .
3. Include a clear call-to-action
The built-in features of YouTube allow for you to easily incorporate a CTA in your videos. If someone has taken the initiative to actually click on and watch your video content, you’re halfway towards getting them to complete any desired next step. Usually, interacting with content such as a video indicates interest—even if it’s small at the moment—so make sure you prompt your audience and let them know what they can do to get more information and continue the relationship. If your objective is to grow your subscriber list, something like “subscribe now!” should be your CTA, but savvy marketers use YouTube for everything from driving traffic to collecting leads.
There are a few different methods of including a CTA on your YouTube videos. The Animoto blog explains three of the most prominent ways you can do this:
- A vocal call-to-action: If appropriate, have the person speaking in the video tell the audience what action to take next step
- A text call-to-action: Use titles or captions to share information and suggestions for your customers’ next steps
- Call-to-action buttons: To add a level of interactivity to your videos, you can add a CTA button or overlay to your content. Ann Smarty of Internet Marketing Ninjas provides clear directions on how to do exactly this.
4. Create an engaging YouTube trailer
As a way to attract viewers to your channel—and ultimately gain new YouTube subscribers—a YouTube trailer offers potential audience members a look at what your content is about. The YouTube Creator Blog offers the following tips for how to make the best channel trailer possible:
- Include a clear CTA encouraging viewers to subscribe.
- Entertain the viewer to show what your channel is about rather than tell.
- Indicate the type of videos your viewers can expect, and when they can expect them .
- Think about the video’s context, as it will be seen on the channel (possibly after a viewer has already seen at least one of your videos).
- While there’s no perfect length, shorter is generally better.
5. Put some effort into the look of your channel
As one of your key marketing platforms, you will want to put as much effort into your YouTube channel as you do your other online profiles. As a company asset, you will want to ensure that you are incorporating your brand style and brand voice wherever possible. The look of your channel should be both professional and aesthetically pleasing, as it is your audience’s main visual impression of your organization. Think about what you want viewers to feel and do when they’re on your channel, and how the overall look of your channel can help you meet these objectives.
YouTube’s Creator Academy offers the following tips for branding your channel as a means of getting more subscribers:
- Focus on the content: “Your brand should correspond to the type of content you produce.”
- Spend time on your channel icon: “Your channel icon visually represents your channel everywhere across Google and YouTube, so make sure it looks good large and small.” YouTube recommends using an 800 x 800 pixel JPG, GIF, BMP, or PNG file.
- Pay attention to channel art: “Channel art is the banner across the top of your channel. It provides a great opportunity to really show off your channel’s personality! Channel art appears on all platforms where viewers can see your channel (TV, mobile, tablets, etc.) Upload an image that is at least 2560 x 1440 [pixels].”
For more information from YouTube on how to make your channel perform the best it possibly can, check out Creator Academy’s page on the topic.
6. Personalize video thumbnails
As an additional way of polishing the look of your channel, it’s smart to personalize your video thumbnails. Make use of branded fonts, colors, and images that reflect what your content will speak to, and remember that a thumbnail’s worth a thousand words. As YouTube’s Creator Academy states, “Custom thumbnails are a great way to package your video series with a consistent look and feel. They can also help viewers pick your video out from a sea of other thumbnails.”
For a thorough guide to creating great video thumbnails, this resource from YouTube’s Creator Academy is extremely valuable.
7. Use annotations
If you want a surefire way to make your videos more engaging and interactive, using annotations is the way to do this. Annotations allow you to “layer text, links, and hotspots over your video,” helping you “enrich the video experience by adding information, interactivity, and engagement.” The possibilities for annotation use are limited only by your creativity, but some common uses include:
- Letting viewers skip ahead (keeping them watching in the process)
- Suggesting other videos for the viewer to watch
- Linking to your website
- Linking to a subscribe button for your channel
- Adding a CTA (sign up, learn more, etc.)
As YouTube explains, “By encouraging viewers to watch more, you can help boost your channel’s watch time which aids your placement in Search and Suggested Video.” Through earning more views and audience members, you are sure to get more YouTube subscribers overall.
8. Post consistently
How many times have you been excited to check out an organization’s YouTube page, only to find that they haven’t uploaded a video since 2011? This is all-too-often the case, and leaves the viewer disappointed and questioning the authority of the brand. One of the best ways to get more YouTube subscribers is to simply be a reliable source of information for them, through providing frequent and consistent content. Make realistic goals (for example, one to two new videos per week), and ensure you stick to these. Your audience will come to depend and count on you for at least one type of recurring content—content they will find themselves looking forward to.
By positioning your brand as one that your audience and customers can trust, you’re guaranteed to build a dedicated following. As basketball and YouTube professional Dre Martin explains, you don’t have to be the best or most revolutionary, “but you can be the most persistent. You can be the most dependable when it comes to sharing fresh new content. You can set a schedule that you stick to, earning you more trust than the creators who post only when they feel like it or get around to it.”
9. Keep it short
With the average YouTube video clocking in at 4.4 minutes, it makes sense that the shorter the video, the more likely you are to keep your audience’s attention. With the general attention span for a YouTube video peaking at around the three minute mark, this is also something to keep in mind. However, as with most content marketing strategies, it’s important to adjust this principle when necessary.
As Andrew Stark of Stark Insider TV states, “Shorter is typically better. But depending on your subject matter—an interview, speech, or investigative expose—you will need to go longer to properly convey the story.”
10. Collaborate with other YouTube users
As with other social media networks, there are countless communities within YouTube dedicated to whatever is relevant to your brand or organization. Find other YouTubers within your industry, and invite them to collaborate on a video or series of videos. This is mutually beneficial, as cross promotion gives both of your brands visibility in new markets and gives you the opportunity to gain new YouTube subscribers.
To help you get started with some collaboration efforts, Vlog Nation offers the following ideas for YouTube partnerships:
- Guest appearances in each others’ videos
- Making one YouTube video and dividing it
- Uploading your videos to each others’ channels
- Collaborating with Google Hangouts on-air
- Exchanging shout-outs
- Collaborating through social media
Besides cross-promoting on other YouTube users’ channels through collaboration, you can get more subscribers through promoting your content on different channels and platforms. Help direct traffic to your YouTube channel through consistently including links from your email newsletters, website, and other social media accounts.
Another way to cross-promote is within YouTube itself, where if you are managing more than one YouTube channel you can “turn your channel into a single destination for viewers to access all of the other channels you own or love.”
12. Interact with your audience
This may seem like a given for anyone who knows the value of social media engagement, but it’s crucial to interact with your audience. This doesn’t mean simply answering questions they ask you directly, but encouraging them to ask such questions and giving them quality content that warrants comments.
Commonly referred to as the “YouTube community,” it’s important to recognize that YouTube isn’t somewhere you can just dump your content and forget about it. Find out what active audience members within your specific community and industry are interested in, and speak to this. You know how great it feels when somebody comments something positive or (respectfully) thought-provoking on your social media posts? Do the same for others on YouTube, and notice the ways in which you get back as much as you give.
Asking engaging questions on other users’ videos is another way to spark conversation, and drive audience members and the user themselves, to your channel. If you are able to establish yourself as an active member of the community, you will naturally create a situation where you gain subscribers. Some key ways to engage with other users and get more YouTube subscribers are:
- Take a few minutes each day to view other YouTubers channels and content, and pose appropriate questions or comments
- Encourage your audience members to ask questions
- Ask audience members to contribute ideas for your future content
- Run a YouTube contest where you ask for video replies
For a more detailed guide to engaging on YouTube, the accompanying Creator Academy page is a solid resource.
13. Reward your subscribers
One key way of not only engaging with your subscribers, but getting more YouTube subscribers, is through rewarding them. Everyone loves the chance to win free things, prizes, and valuable assets, so offer them things and give them a reason to subscribe or stay subscribed. Your viewers probably don’t care as much as you do yourself about reaching a milestone such as 500 subscribers, so give them an incentive to help you get there. Show your gratitude for your subscribers, and make them feel appreciated.
Do something such as host a contest, a giveaway, or offer a shout-out to subscribers in exchange for them being loyal fans, or sharing your channel and videos. You can get more YouTube subscribers by giving something back, and truly showing—rather than just telling—your audience how dedicated you are to them.
As you can see, there are countless ways to get new YouTube subscribers. By focusing on what your audience wants, rather than simply what you or your brand wants, you have the opportunity to build a dedicated community. Concentrate on creating unique and valuable content that is relevant to your audience’s needs and interests, and you will undoubtedly see your YouTube following grow.