When it comes to YouTube, there are numerous metrics to keep your eye on, but only one you should optimize - subscriber base. With algorithmic changes rightly de-emphasizing view count, many marketers and content creators have shifted their focus to optimizing minutes watched and completion rates. But these metrics are just byproducts of having engaging content—it’s pretty hard to optimize your video’s completion rate if your video is boring!
Instead of completion rate, focus on increasing your subscriber base then watch everything else magically fall into place. Well not magically, but it’s pretty easy to see the benefits. Your subscribers are your most passionate and loyal fans. They’ll not only watch more of your content (increasing views and minutes streamed), but they also do the bulk of sharing and commenting.
How We Built Our YouTube Subscriber Base
More subscribers lead to increased engagement, which then leads to better and better search rankings on YouTube and greatly improved suggested video results (the top two sources for user acquisition). This, in turn, leads to more subscribers who see your content first when they visit YouTube; and, thus, the circle of life is complete. At our DramaFever YouTube channel, we went from 2,000 subscribers to over 300,000 subscribers in 8 months. Our net subscriber growth rate is increasing and we’ll top half a million shortly. Let’s talk about how we did it.
Social Networking Cross Promotion
If you have a fledging YouTube channel, the first thing you should do is to cross promote it with your other marketing channels, be it social, email, blog or onsite. We found that by far, integrating our YouTube channel with our Google+ page produced the biggest positive change to daily new subscribers. So far, the prevailing storyline has been that YouTubers are upset about the forced integration (mostly due to the new comment system), but it’s quite simple: YouTube is pushing Google+. You’ll be rewarded for working with YouTube rather than complaining about their changes.
In terms of cross-promotion, we started by seeding our YouTube channel's subscriber base by promoting it to our existing audiences on G+, FB and Twitter. We then embed YouTube videos inside of Facebook using a third-party platform to increase organic views. Initially, it's all about getting traction on the YouTube channel through the other social media platforms sending subscribers to our channel on that site.
Finding Top Fans For Successful Collaboration Projects
First of all, by adding Google+ you’ll gain access to your “top fans.” These are Youtubers who are subscribers to your channel and who you can sort by “influence” or the number of subscribers that they have. At DramaFever, we asked 3 of our top fans to create a “Drama Club”. The Drama Club discusses the latest episodes of our popular Korean Dramas. We then upload these user-generated videos to our channel. Not only do we get new appealing content, but our Drama Club members then promote the video to their subscribers and, in turn, we promote our Drama Club members to our fans to increase their reach.
Along with fan discovery, Google+ is also increasingly seen as a signal for SEO. According to SeoMOZ’s 2013 survey of 120 search engine marketers, the total number of Google +1s is the 2nd correlated ranking factor behind page authority. Although Google’s head of webspam, Matt Cutts, pointed out that correlation does not equal causation (don’t chase +1s),he also suggested, in the same breath, that creating and highlighting great content is highest where you should spend your time. By integrating YouTube with Google+, you’ll be able to cross-post your content to Google+ for increased exposure.
Use RSS To Regularly reach Out To Your Subscribers
Finally, there’s one last important reason to increase your subscriber base outside of engagement. If you’re trying to build a direct relationship with your audience on only one platform, you’re going to have a bad time. By getting a viewer on YouTube to subscribe, you’re actually building a relationship on two platforms. Every time you upload a video to YouTube, you have the option to “notify your subscribers by email.” This doesn’t mean your subscribers will get an immediate email, but rather, YouTube sends out a weekly email to subscribers which may include your content, if it’s engaging.
Thus, focus on building subscribers and everything else will fall into place. Make sure the basics are covered such as using all the tags (rather than just one or two) and putting related videos in playlists. As long as your subscriber count is going up and to the right, so will views, minutes streamed, and revenue.