Snail’s Pace Guide to YouTube Channel Growth

Well hey. It’s a couple weeks after my six-month mark on YouTube and I finally hit 250 subscribers today. Only 999,750 to go before I hit my goal.

The wait for those last 10 subscribers may have been the longest I’ve ever experienced. Know when I hit 240? On March 23. It took more than two weeks to get that last 10.

Obviously, I know what you’re thinking: I gotta get in on that action.

And I’m going to teach you how to grow your channel exactly like I do. So that you too may hit 1,000 sometime around the start of the next Ice Age.

YouTube is a slow-burn social media site. This is a guide to developing a sustainable growth strategy.

Here’s the thing about growing your YouTube channel: it’s difficult.

It’s insanely difficult to get noticed on the platform. YouTube typically won’t promote videos and channels until they hit an insanely high level of watch time and views. You can rank in search for certain keywords that aren’t competitive, and that can bring in a fairly significant amount of views, which is great! But until you’re pulling in a relatively giant audience on your own, consistently, you won’t be hitting the front page (or even the suggested videos in the sidebar).

At one magical moment in time, YouTube will recognize your value and suddenly starts putting your face all over the place. The views and subscribers start rolling in. Once you hit that point, your promotional efforts can pretty much dial back to 1/10th of what you were doing, and you’re still going to see 10 times the results.

(And then you let me know when it happens, so we can celebrate, because that’s amazeballs!)

So, how do we get to that point? How do we flip that switch?

Slowly and surely.

Very slowly.

Building your community

The single-best thing you can do when you’re starting out your channel is to build a community around your channel.

You don’t just want subscribers. You want people who are going to be crazy-active. You want the ones who will watch every video, comment constantly, give your videos the thumbs up, share your really great stuff on social media, and hopefully even collaborate with you (and ideally give you input! Because every deserves good, if critical, feedback). These aren’t your fans. They’re your friends.

And the best way to get that is to comment on other peoples’ videos. Watch people who put out content similar to your own, comment on their videos, follow them on Twitter, talk to them, retweet them, laugh hysterically at their videos, enjoy their content, and be a good friend. They’ll be your friend too.

And it happens quickly, too. I had, like, two good YouTube friends after my first couple months, and then eight by the end of 2015, and now that number’s closer to 100.

Yeah. 100. 100 people I absolutely adore who are rooting for me to succeed (and who I really hope are going to succeed too!).

At first, your friends are going to be half of your viewers (and probably 80% of your engagement), so take care of them. Be friendly, be supportive, be sincere, and watch out for your community. Be decent. The other reason to take care of them is because you’re going to rely on these people for so much more than their views.

You’re going to rely on them for your first collaborations. You’re going to rely on them to get feedback (most of the time they’re also small creators). And you’re going to need them for motivation. You cannot do this alone. You will need the small bumps and boosts in confidence that you get when they interact like crazy with one of your videos. It will keep you going. I promise you. This community is going to save your sanity someday. Treat it well. I cannot state that enough.

Focusing on your content

Good content is the only way to make your growth sustainable.

I want to say that again.

Good content is the only way to make your growth sustainable.

I know several creators who have several thousand subscribers, most of whom they got from commenting on smaller channel and bringing them on board and being supportive of fellow creators.

And now they have a subscription box that they can’t even open because there are 1,000 creators’ videos in there. You’re suddenly a month behind in watching peoples’ content. And because you got most of your subscribers from being insanely supportive and commenting and being friendly, your views are going to plummet.

I noticed this happen on a smaller scale in March when I started taking this blog more seriously. I stopped watching everyone’s videos and leaving comments all over the place. I stepped back my efforts. And so some of my friends stopped watching me, too, because it was easy for them to forget that I exist.* My views were getting close to 100 on every video, and now they’re closer to 50 or 60.

That’s okay. They’re starting to climb back to where they were now, especially when I put out a kickass video, like my April Fools one:

My views dropped when I stepped back my efforts to be friendly, basically, so let this illustrate my point of how important it is to keep your community happy.

* They also dropped because my friends have been creating like fucking crazy. Seriously. There is so much great stuff coming out right now and I’m incredibly proud of everybody for how they’ve stepped up their efforts lately. Go team! 

Think about it: do you want to get well-known for being an exceptional creator, or do you want to get well-known as a person who comments on exceptional creators’ videos?

Exactly.

Focus. Priorities. Keep your goal in mind.

Be everywhere

I started watching Grace Helbig sometime around 2012, right as she started hitting the front page of YouTube. Any time I went to the site, her face was somewhere on the home page in my recommendations. If I watched a video of another vlogger or comedian, her face was in my sidebar, frowning at me.

Remember this moment from Project Almanac? I'm everywhere bitch.

YouTube tends to do that for creators who hit a certain level of watch time and engagement. They have a large, engaged audience, which screams “give me more attention.” YouTube will give you all the views when this happens.

My goal this year is to do 50 collaborative videos on YouTube (and since I’m already more than half way through that goal, I may up it to 75 or even 100 instead. Try to let that sink in. No, I don’t sleep).

Why am I doing this?

Well, it’s fun and I enjoy it, and I get to work with all sorts of really incredible people by doing it.

But I’m also trying to do YouTube’s work on my own. I’m trying to be everywhere. Because if my face and my name are all over the place and you’re seeing people talk about me everywhere you go, you’re eventually going to click through and see what all the hubbub is about.

Remember how I said you need to focus on your content?

That’s why. Because once I’m everywhere, I want people to see some really great stuff I’ve put out and subscribe and keep returning. I don’t want them to get scared off by an impressively shitty video and then have to overcome that first impression someday. I want them to take the bait and stick around.

This is also where commenting on other peoples’ videos comes in handy. If you’re participating in collabs and all over the content that people are already watching and then you suddenly pop up retweeting their stuff and commenting on their videos, you’re almost guaranteed to get their attention. Just hope for positive attention.

Put it all together

If you do all these things, I promise you that you will get to 250 subscribers after only six short months!

God knows where it’s going to go from here. It’s certainly unpredictable, and audience growth tends to come in peaks and valleys. My strategy is to get known as a creator, even if I don’t get the subscriber count from it. I want people to know who I am. I want my name to sound familiar. I want to get people talking about my content.

Because eventually, it means the numbers will start coming in. And that’ll be beautiful. And so much easier than trying to watch and comment on thousands of videos every single day.

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5 comments on “Snail’s Pace Guide to YouTube Channel Growth”

  1. Patrick Cleary Reply

    One thing I would add….have an identifiable point of view. Don’t chase after whatever it is that you think will trend on YouTube, just make the videos you’d want to see and haven’t seen before. Even if you are a crazy little niche, there are people who will watch, if you stay true to it and to yourself.

    • Michael Noker Reply

      Oooh. That’s an excellent addition! And I think you are one of the best examples of that – you’ve found a passionate audience after a long, slow-burn growth process, because your content is uniquely yours and stands out from everyone else’s!

  2. Amber C Reply

    OMG! I love this blog post so much! it is def. encouraging and genuine. I am tired of reading and watching video’s of the same thing but no one talks about putting in the work to building an encouraging community. Keep up the great work! I totally want to start a blog and etc on my own. I would love to connect to learn more about your goals and how you are able to reach them. Totally rooting for you ! 😉

    • Michael Noker Reply

      Thank you so much for reading! I’m glad you enjoyed it. The best way to connect with me is on Twitter – @michaelthenoker. Looking forward to it!

  3. Pingback: The Payoff (and Price) of Working for Free - Michael Noker

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