So now, you've got awesome content and you know you'll be able to put out new videos each and every week. You believe you're a web video star in the making, and it's only a matter of time before truckloads of cash just start piling up outside your studio apartment. You make that first video, it's the funniest and most entertaining thing ever, and just wait until those YouTubers see next week's video! You're sure, as soon as you post it, that special someone from 5B will come rushing to your door demanding a date, unable to find proper words for how great you are.
There's only one problem: while great content is important, it doesn't guarantee an audience. You're going to have to build an audience. And the good news is that this is a simple thing that you can usually do within the content.
Here's the broad overview from the YouTube Creator Playbook:
Strategy: Invite viewers during the video to take actions that can help build an audience
Why it Works: Online video is an interactive experience. Community engagement and subscriptions build audience.
How to Do It: Accomplished through production and/or annotations.
Get Your Audience Involved
Community engagement involves three things: subscriptions, comments, and likes/favorites/shares. How do you get people to subscribe? You ask. And you in turn need to provide the content consistently that makes a subscription worthwhile. How do you get people to comment? You can ask for those too, but you should probably ask a thought-provoking question that will get people to comment. And asking for people to like, favorite, or share your video increases the number of potential viewers through social media.
Here's a video from MysteryGuitarMan, one of the channels the YouTube Creator Playbook highlights:
Notice how this video is everything we've talked about so far: it grabs your attention, it has awesome content, and at the end of it, he does some very simple things: he asks you to subscribe, and he even advertises two previous videos you may have missed.
The Playbook refers to this as a "Call to Action" (CTA). This is where viewers make your video a social experience by subscribing, commenting, or liking/favoriting/sharing.
Constructing Your Army of Viewers
Subscribers are important to establish a base of viewers. The people who subscribe to your channel like you enough that they want to see more. So every one of those people who subscribe is pretty much an automatic viewer. You look at some of these channels, like The Annoying Orange: that channel has 2.1 million subscribers. 2.1 million automatic viewers.
We've talked about The Annoying Orange before. One of the ways they built such a big subscriber base is by releasing content consistently every week. It's one of the most important relationships between you and your audience, providing them any reason to care at all.
But how do you get them to subscribe? Ask them. YouTube believes it's best that the personality on screen asks for the subscription, although texts/annotations can help as well. You might as well use them in tandem, right?
I'd Like to Have A Word With You
Comments have a multi-pronged purpose: they increase your ranking in search, it gives you a chance to interact with your audience, and it allows you to become familiar with the viewers you have. Comments have a way of gathering momentum, particularly if the issue is a particularly heated one that many people are passionate about. But you don't have to get into politics or hot-button issues to get people stirred up. You can ask a simple question, like, "The Godfather Vs. The Godfather, Part II…which one's better?" or if you're really brave, "The Godfather Vs. Office Space…which one's better?"
The question you ask in trying to receive comments should be relevant to the show, however. Don't ask movie questions if you've been talking about Barack Obama's poll results the whole show.
If your comments get people fired up, and you start getting a lot of them, this helps your search engine results. It's pretty fantastic for your video to come up in the first few results if someone simply types in "Barack Obama" into Google. You know you're doing something right then.
Also, commenting allows you to interact with your audience. When you react to something someone has said, you are in effect validating that person for watching the video and taking the time to comment. Even the way you handle a nasty comment can give your video and your brand respect and admiration from those who already like you, and well, bring even more comments.
Those comments also tell you who you're audience is and how you can cater to them in the future.
I Really Enjoyed My Time Here, And I Think Others Will Too
You remember that scene from Wayne's World 2, where Mike Myers talks about hearing a rumor, and then they'd tell two friends, and they'd tell two friends? Well it was a parody of this commercial:
Social media is the same way. This is getting a few of your friends to see the video, and then sharing that video with everyone on Facebook or Twitter, and then having all of those people liking it, and telling their friends, and so on, until the special someone from 5B sees it and finally asks for that date you've been expecting since you first published the video.
This process increases your ranking in search and starts multiplying your viewers like wildfire. And this begins by asking your viewer simply to like or share the video. You're not going to get everyone to do it, but if you can get just a few, then the chance for increased viewers is good. You can ask them directly in the video, or just put a little note in the video that asks, or both. Pretty simple. Didn't cost you anything.
Reviewing the Playbook: Subscriptions, Comments, and Likes/Favorites/Shares
Watching content online is an interactive and social experience. Content creators rely on the actions of their viewers to help them succeed, but the majority won't act unless you ask. Tip: Use annotations as prompts if the content doesn't feature a personality.
Videos you produce and publish should have specific Calls to Action (CTA). Depending on what your CTA is, you can use the beginning, middle, and end of the video to direct the actions of your viewers to help you boost your ranking, engagement, and audience. CTAs should be minimal and simple. Too many prompts can cause confusion. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for viewers to perform an action.
Critical to grow subscriber base, so videos launch with an audience from the start.
- Videos should have a CTA for the viewer to subscribe to your channel.
- Give them reasons to subscribe: more great videos every week, never miss an episode, etc.
- People > Text. A personality asking viewers to subscribe is more compelling than text on the screen, but both can be effective.
Important for ranking in search, viewer interaction, and knowing your audience.
- Ask your viewers to leave a comment on the video.
- Asking a specific question or an "A vs. B" prompt will increase your comments. Focus the interest/actions of the viewer and simplify what they need to do.
Positive Video Actions from your viewers will improve your videos' ranking in the algorithm.
Ask viewers to Like, Favorite, or Share the video by talking to the camera or using annotations.
- "Likes" and "favorites" increase your video's ranking in search and get broadcast out to the viewer's YouTube friends, which draws new viewers to your video.
- Viewers sharing your video on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter broadcast your video to all their friends and followers.
Your Call to Action Should Make Sense
I'll go back to a show the Playbook highlighted in the first section, The Philip DeFranco Show. He always asks you to "Like" the episode, and asks a question at the end of every show inviting people to comment on some topic he covered, alerts people to other shows he does, and sometimes has giveaways. The interactivity happens at the 7:30 mark, and I'll warn you he can throw in some occasional swearing on his show:
Notice how the calls to action he gives happen at the end of the show. He doesn't talk about a topic in the first 2 minutes, then request people to comment to a question he asks, because those people might leave the video to do that, then forget to watch the rest. And while YouTube tells you that you should try to figure out what is best for you, most of the time your call to action is going to take place at the end of the video. I'm sure there are some creative times you want people to respond in some way to your video before it's even done, but not many.
Also, the question he asks is relevant to the video. If he talked about a whole bunch of stuff about politics and then asked a question about sports, that's a disconnect from what you just watched, something your brain hasn't been pondering during the video at all. You're not likely to push anyone's buttons with an unrelated question.
All of this should be kept in mind when you are creating your content. You should be able to find a way to segue into the calls to action smoothly.
Reviewing the Playbook: How-To Steps
Determine Desired Actions
- Decide what actions you want your viewers to take for each video. The key community actions should be included in most videos, where possible, but assess the right actions for your content and overall objectives.
Style and Timing of CTAs
- Determine the right style or variation of CTA that makes the most sense for your channel and the content.
- Annotations, host mentions, and other methods can be used to create CTAs in your videos.
- Decide where in the video each CTA should appear keeping in mind that you don't want to direct viewers away from the video before they finish watching.
Include CTAs in the Video
- Videos should have a call-to-action. Keep these important elements in mind when shooting the video and adding annotations.
A Tip On Using Insight: CTAs
Yep, Insight even tracks your community engagement, and if you're getting your viewers to respond. This tool pretty much does it all as far as tracking how well you've made your video in connecting with others. Much like with your content, you can experiment with CTAs and see what works best for your audience, finally finding that groove. The Playbook says:
Use the Subscription graph and community engagement graphs in Insight to track changes in viewer actions in response to your CTAs. Including CTAs in your video should lead to increased community actions taken by viewers including subscribing to your channel, favoriting, liking, and commenting.