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The last thing I want to talk about, in regards to VidCon, is channel strategy. Over my days there, apart from some amazing workshops and seminars (particularly that by Matt Gielen), one of the coolest things was talking and networking with so many different people.
Particularly, it was interesting talking to a lot of different YouTubers, in all kinds of different sizes. But in this article, I’d like to focus especially on the smaller channels, and one common thing they all seemed to be lacking (apart from not using their damned analytics data – but that was a general issue!), and that is any form of actual channel strategy.
If you want to read the two previous posts on my takeaways from VidCon, you can read them both here:
Almost all of the smaller channels I talked to, simply said they “tried to make good content”. Sure, that’s all well and good, but how are people actually going to find that content?
Good content is needed for a channel, without it anything else you do won’t matter all that much, but good content by itself also won’t get you anywhere.
Imagine an indie filmmaker: he makes a movie, and it’s a good movie! And then… well, then he doesn’t do anything with it. Maybe he walks down to the local cinema and convinces them to play it a night, but doesn’t advertise it or spread the word about it – and then our dear indie filmmaker is confused why so few people showed up to see it.
“But it’s a good movie!” he laments, and he might be right. But if people don’t know your good movie exists, then it might as well not. People don’t know to seek out things they don’t know exists.
For instance, I was talking to a guy who had a philosophy channel, and I asked him how he expected people to find his videos on YouTube. He answered “well you can find my channel by searching for my channel name”.
OK? But if I don’t know you exist, how would I know what your channel name is? And if I haven’t seen any of your content, why would I search for it?
Naturally, I’m biased towards optimizing the videos for organic search, as one natural way to get found. After all, it’s what I specialize in.
But your strategy doesn’t need to be SEO, you just really need to have a strategy – any kind of strategy! PLEASE!
There’s plenty of different kind of strategies you could have. You could be incredibly active on social media, and specifically engage in conversations that revolve around the topic of your videos. You could be submitting your videos to Reddit, in the relevant subreddits. You could actively be doing collaborations with other channels once a month, or once a week. You could have a website that you also drive traffic to, where you promote your videos. You could have a newsletter.
My point is, there are plenty of different strategies you could take, depending on what fits with your channel.
A strategy also entails what kind of content you produce now, and what type of content you’ll produce in the future.
Let’s take gaming as an example here, since I know I have a bunch of Let’s Play readers. What is your long-term content strategy? I don’t mean “upload good content”, I mean specifically what games are you planning on playing? And do those games relate to each other, in a way where your original subscribers like your new content?
This brings me back to the points I was making in the previous post about going back to basics here.
Or how about finding out which of your videos are driving the most subscribers, and then set up an paid ad campaign in AdWords? Oh, but I already hear some of you going “But I don’t know how that works” – well, you know, learn it then?
AdWords aren’t horrifyingly complicated, especially not if you’re not min/maxing it for an brand company. Spend a few hours on Google and YouTube going through basic tutorials, and you’ll be good to go in half a day.
Next up some will say “But I don’t have the money to do it!” – who says it needs to be expensive? Especially if you’re a small channel, just start with a budget of 100 dollars. That itself should be enough to get your video(s) around, what, maybe 1000-2000 views? And if you picked the right kind of video, that might net you a hundred subscribers?
That might not sound a lot, but if you only have 200 subscribers right now, you just grew your entire subscriber base by 50% over a weekend.
Perhaps that’s the main takeaway here – if you want success on YouTube, you need to actually take YouTube seriously, and start handling it more like a professional. Sure, if you don’t want to do that, if you just want it to stay as a hobby, then that’s fine.
But then you also have to accept, that chances are you won’t get huge. If you treat it like a random hobby, chances are that it will stay as a random hobby. Yes, I know every month, a random YouTuber gets a lucky break and become huge overnight.
Perhaps you have a randomly viral video, perhaps you get lucky have get a video to the front page of Reddit. Perhaps the Fine Brothers decide to feature your channel in a React video like just happened with Carly Fleischmann (absolutely hilarious girl, by the way, you should check her out!).
But those videos and channels are the outliers. They are exceedingly rare. Chances are it won’t be your channel.
So you need some form of strategy. You need to actually sit down and think about how people are going to discover your channel even exists, and how you’re going to get them there. And once they are there, how are you going to get them to subscribe, and keep them watching in the future?