What should we look for in YouTube
How to get subscribers on YouTube (really) for free
Your YouTube subscriber count isn't just another vanity metric. Gaining more subscribers is the best way to increase your organic reach on the world's second largest multiverse website.
And if you really want to make money on YouTube, you must have a certain number of subscribers in order to gain access to many monetization features. You need at least 1,000 subscribers to become a YouTube partner and generate advertising revenue. The more subscribers you have, the higher you climb the stylish YouTube “benefits program level” ladder (keywords: awards, managers, production support).
But for all of us who are not trying to go viral or become YouTube stars (we hear you clearly: "I'm only here to support my brand's digital strategy with long-form videos ...") Subscribers still crucial. Why?
Because it's the YouTube algorithm that decides over 70% of the billion hours of video that people watch on YouTube every day. That means, your ability to reach new viewers improves with the number of subscribers you have, which increases your video views, watch times and engagement.
If you want to increase your video views, check out our guide.
But how do you convert viewers into subscribers? In addition, you will get to know tried and tested tactics that you can put into practice right away.
First of all, let's talk about the "elephant in the room".
Bonus: Get the Free Social Media Strategy Templatewith which you can plan your own strategy quickly and easily. You can also use this template to track results and present your planning to superiors, team colleagues and customers.
Why You Shouldn't Buy YouTube Subscribers
Perhaps you discovered this article because you were looking for an easy hack. A hack so simple it could make a person famous on YouTube with zero effort ...
Clear. Roger that. We don't want to put anyone in the shame corner here. We understand that busy people need to be efficient.
But the creative minds behind the world's best YouTube channels don't waste time or money on bot subscribers. You are too busy making great videos.
You don't care about anything else and you should act the same way.
First of all, let's take a look at how free YouTube subscription services work. It's a two step process:
- You earn your "free" subscribers by subscribing to and liking other channels as the service dictates. Most ask you to subscribe to 20 channels and like a certain number of videos. In return, 10 channels subscribe to yours.
- After a few days of renting out as a one-person click farm, you get bored and decide to spend the $ 10 (or $ 30 or $ 100) to get your fake followers without all the hassle.
The whole system works in a similar way to our test on Instagram engagement pods. Either way, the service wins: it either gets your time or your money. What would you like to have?
- Bot subscribers that bring no engagement
- Make a bad impression on your real audience, who most likely place a high value on authenticity
- The risk of conflicting with YouTube's fake interactions policy (tl; dr - you could get banned)
- Potential disapproval from any brand seeking to partner with you
At the end of the day, it's just not worth it.
There are now tons of video pranks claiming to have the recipe for millions of subscribers. Even if we love this ingenuity - for example an anonymous Google employee who looks like The Secret acts like asking to grant you your request for subscribers - these videos are only really useful if you are the person who made them. (Because the person who shot this video received 600,000 views).
So let's get to the real-world tactics that don't waste your time.
17 tips: How to get subscribers on YouTube for free
If you're just getting started, first take a look at our basic guide on how to set up a YouTube channel. It's a lot of work, but you start off with a blank slate. And to save you time, we've put together a list of tips for YouTube beginners.
And now, in order from simple to complex, our time-tested best practices that turn viewers into subscribers. Don't tackle them all at once. For every new video you post, try one of these tips or implement one per week. Here we go.
1. Ask your viewers to subscribe to your channel
As I said, we start with the easiest exercises.
Sometimes your audience just needs a little reminder. The big red button for subscribing cannot be overlooked. But you might also want to point out the bell next to it, which activates the notification function for your new videos. Very easily.
Does this tip sound too much like sales to you? It is a reminder that you are providing valuable content - you are simply making it easier for your viewers to keep up to date with your work.
Are you already doing this? Remember to show why your channel is worth subscribing to. And make sure to top it up when you've just scored (e.g. right after providing new and useful information or making your audience laugh). But don't overdo it or you risk scare people off.
2. End your videos with a hint about the next one you're working on
Subscribing to a YouTube channel is an act of anticipation. Viewers who have just discovered what your brand is about will be ready for more if you've done a good job.
Fanfare to host your next video and make it clear why you can't miss it is the most organic way to get people to click the subscribe button.
Of course, this assumes that you have your content schedule under control and know what's next. (Later more.)
3. Interact with your audience and make friends
As you develop relationships with your viewers, the chances increase that they will want to keep watching your work. Respond to comments. Follow their channels as well.
Sure, it's exciting when a famous YouTuber comments on your video. But who knows who will be famous next year. Form a community of like-minded people and encourage each other. (Yes, I'm talking about the shine theory.)
And once you're on the air, your audience will be contributing loads of free content ideas for your next video. Don't worry, you don't have to take them all.
Manage your YouTube presence with Hootsuite and not only can you upload and schedule videos, but you can also add comment streams to your dashboard. This makes it easy for you to review, reply to, and / or moderate comments on all of your videos from one central location.
4. Brighten up your channel creatively
Your YouTube banner welcomes everyone who clicks on your channel to explore. Maybe someone just watched a video and is looking for more. Maybe they are potential subscribers. Show your best side.
Your banner has to be clean, brand-compliant and convincing, and - this is where it gets cumbersome - be optimized for all end devices. For example, you should avoid important details being covered by your social media buttons.
We have a handy guide on how to create your own YouTube channel graphic with free templates in the most current formats.
5. Brand your thumbnails
A preview image is a 1280 x 720 pixel still image that serves as a cover for your video. It's also your first and best chance to get people to click your video. (Aside from your video titles, more on that later).
While some tend to advocate the most "eye-catching" design (read: screaming red capslock over a man's shocked face and a picture of a ... tomato?), YouTube doesn't follow the one-size-fits-all principle.
But we are not here to apply pressure.
To turn a viewer into a subscriber, check out your video page. What does a new viewer see? Lean, professional, and consistent videos that speak for an ongoing commitment to quality? Or a random mishmash that vies for attention?
You should aim for brand compliance in all of your thumbnails. Use the same font, color palette, or even frame composition so people will know (at least subconsciously) that they are viewing a video on your channel.
For example, John Plant built his survival channel Primitive Technology for around 9.9 million subscribers with subtle, minimalist previews. They're not pushy, but they're consistent. And very important: they are clickable.
6. Embed your videos on your website or blog
This is a clear win-win, because embedding videos in your website can definitely help improve the search rankings of your website with the Google algorithm. And for YouTube subscribers, showcase your video right where the people who are most likely to be interested in it are already looking for it.
7. Use the clickable YouTube tools in your videos
YouTube retired notes a few years ago, and that's a good thing. Pop-ups are a nineties box we are all better off without.
That being said, YouTube has other, less annoying tools that you can use:
- End credits: These are still images at the end of your video that you can use to remind people to subscribe to your channel or add another call-to-action before the YouTube algorithm forwards them to the next video.
- Branding Watermark: This is an additional subscription button that hovers over the video for the entire duration of your video, even in full screen mode. Like here:
8. Use playlists
Playlists are a great way to increase the playback times on your channel. They also motivate people to click on subscribe because they keep their best content in one place. (Or similar content in several places).
This is how Epicurious treats its YouTube playlists like TV series. It works like binge watching - if people want to be notified of the sequel at the end of the series, they'll subscribe.
LEGO is pursuing a different approach: the playlists are used more loosely and videos are added to playlists on a topic-related basis (i.e. all Minecraft-inspired videos are placed in one playlist, all Star Wars videos in another).
9. Run a competition
If you're looking to increase your engagement in the short term, or just feel like you're stuck on a plateau of subscriber numbers, check out our guide to running a YouTube contest.
Key Steps: Pick a price that means your audience and encourage viewers to subscribe to your channel and activate the notification feature in order to participate.
Bonus: Get the Free Social Media Strategy Templatewith which you can plan your own strategy quickly and easily. You can also use this template to track results and present your planning to superiors, team colleagues and customers.Download the free template now!
10. Celebrate special subscriber numbers
Everyone loves round numbers. Celebrate this and say thank you to all of the people who helped make it happen.
Here is an inspiration video with reactions to every single milestone you could ever reach.
11. Stick to a consistent release schedule
Many experts rely on a rule of thumb about the frequency of new videos being published. For example, starting with one video a week and then increasing the frequency to three to four films a week as the channel grows.
According to theory, more videos = more playback time. However, putting quantity before quality has its disadvantages.
If your goal is to convert viewers into subscribers, focus on quality first, and then consistency. (After that you can start worrying about the quantity).
When you upload videos consistently, people know that more good content is to be expected and they are more likely to click Subscribe.
You can also use a social media management platform like Hootsuite to schedule your videos for later posting on YouTube.
12. Attract your audience from other social media channels
That means cross-promoting on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and / or Facebook - wherever you have built a community of fans.
It's easy: nudge people to check out your YouTube channel through your Instagram or Twitter bio.
Alternatively, you can get the most out of your video production investment by sharing your content across channels.
For example, since IGTV accepts horizontal long-form videos, it's easy to upload your masterpiece there too.
Ultimately, if your ultimate goal is to get more subscribers, you should post teaser snippets on other social media and link to your YouTube channel to attract your audience there.
Pro tip: A social media scheduling tool like Hootsuite makes cross-promoting a lot easier. And we have a complete guide to creating a social media content calendar for you.
13. Research keywords to title your videos and define your niche
This tip is very important because it ensures views. Always keep in mind!
If you look at the keywords that are already being searched for on your topic on YouTube, you have material for the title of your new video and you can determine your tags. They could also serve as inspiration for your next video topic.
Do you run a YouTube channel for making kombucha at home? Then an initial keyword research could uncover a number of topics that interest YouTube viewers on the same topic. For example, how to choose the right brewing vessel, how to clean it or how to carry out the second fermentation. These topics could all be covered in their own videos.
SEO tools like the Google Keyword Planner help you identify the words people are using to find the information you are providing. Aim to find topics in a sweet spot: lower competitive values but higher search volume.
In this way, you avoid producing videos that no one is looking for (see the next tip) or videos with titles that no one can find.
It also avoids creating content on a topic that is heavily promoted before you're ready.
14. Offer something that people don't even know they want
80% of your videos should be SEO focused (see previous tip) to attract new views. The remaining 20% are for content with added value. By that we mean exclusive videos that no one else is shooting and that no one has thought of yet.
Because in order to encourage people to click on the subscription button, you have to go beyond pure functionality and offer a value outside of established search patterns.
A plus: With your blue ocean strategy (that is to say: to shoot videos in an unchallenged market environment) you can get creative and create something new and original.
For example, you could demonstrate your possum massage skills.
15. Create both current and long-running videos
Here's another 80/20 rule for you. 80% long-running, 20% current.
Yes, long-running content is important to extend watch times. (But Halloween videos won't be all that hot as of February.) But timely content is critical if you want people to subscribe.
Why? Because current content has to be consumed immediately or promptly. If your hot shoots for the latest political fiasco, Bundesliga game or the red carpet gala enrich the internet discourse, your fans want to be notified. And they will subscribe.
16. Form partnerships with other channels
This relates to tip # 3: Make friends. Use your connections to team up with other YouTube creators and reach their respective target audiences. Your target audiences trust your recommendations and their viewers trust theirs, so you benefit from it.
An example: The Popsugars “Top That!” Series invited guests to chat. It was like a daytime talk show, but for viral video stars like the psychic opossum masseuse.
17. Form partnerships with celebrities
This tip comes at the end because it is definitely the hardest one.
Unless you're Anna Wintour, and you can make tons of videos with celebrities asking you questions.
(Note: if you are Anna Wintour, please see tip # 1).
With Hootsuite, you can grow your YouTube audience faster. Easily manage and schedule YouTube videos and publish your videos quickly and easily on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter - all from a single dashboard. Free test now.
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Paige Cooper is a lapsed librarian turned digital music marketer & writer living in Montreal.
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