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How to Get Your First 1K YouTube Subscribers (ft. BowTiedCommoner)
Building a standalone YouTube channel
For today’s article I tagged in BowTiedCommoner to write about the strategies she’s using to grow on YouTube. This is the article to read if you’re interested in starting a standalone YouTube channel (not tied in with a content site) and don’t know where to start.
Hello Frens, Commoner here! So, you want to start a YouTube Channel. Brilliant.
First question: are you prepared to consistently upload for 9 months (at least) and post around 50 videos before you make a cent from ads? There are other ways to make money from YouTube, but the advertising monetization threshold is 1000 subscribers and 4000 watch hours; that’s hefty.
For the record, I am still not monetized. If you are not prepared to work this long for free, then this is not the Wifi Money stream for you. There is no better place to build an audience than on YouTube, but it is definitely a long-term play.
That aside, let me save you oh, 3 months, by teaching you how to be smarter than me.
The most important part of the entire process is choosing video ideas. Your production skills (recording, editing, thumbnails) will improve with repetition, but if you are not picking the right ideas, you will languish forever in a forgotten corner of the internet.
So, then you ask, “Commoner, do I need to pick a niche?” Everyone and their mom told me to pick a content niche, but in my experience, it is less about narrowing down on a topic area, than it is about narrowing down on an audience. This makes YouTube a bit different than your typical content website. For example, my audience is ultra-based, sovereign-hopefuls who like to laugh at libs while also learning something new. They’re typically men, between say 20-50 years old.
That audience is going to like videos about the collapse of the Roman Republic vs. USA, the ideal marriage age, the coming of the Karen apocalypse etc, etc, videos that are connected only by my very specific point of view. That’s my niche. But, to attract new audience, I must play the keyword shuffle. And the way you grow is by getting new audience that comes back.
The secret sauce for me has been: something my die-hard audience will click on + something trending + something I can rank in. How can one idea be all those things? Please, step into my office.
Something my die-hards will watch: This is where understanding your audience is critical. YouTube tests your video with your existing audience first, before trying it with broader audiences. If your subscribers don’t like it, it’s dead.
Something trending: I look at competitors, or channels I want to emulate, and look at which videos 1) performed well overall and 2) are still being watched today. VidIQ is a super helpful tool that will show you have many views per hour (VPH) all videos on YouTube are getting. If a video posted 2 years ago is still getting 300 VPH, that’s a solid idea.
Something I can rank in: This is how you make “evergreen” content that keeps generating views and new audience members. If you optimize the SEO on your videos with keywords you can rank in, you will be found through search. This is essential to new channel growth. VidIQ has a very handy keyword comparison tool. (No, I am not an affiliate for VidIQ but dang, I should be.)
Here’s evidence for the power of SEO. This is the impressions count for my Diversity video every day since it was published. After adding optimized keywords, “diversity equity and inclusion training,” into the Title, Description and Tags, you can see the huge uptick in impressions.
Let’s walk through a real-life example of picking a video idea. Based on my content, I set up a trend alert for any high performing video with the word “economics” in the title. I noticed this video “The Evil Economics of Tinder” was doing quite well.
From here, I started looking into related keywords. “Tinder” and “dating” are very competitive words on YouTube, so I needed to go a bit more niche. “Free dating apps 2022” and “tinder experiment” were less competitive and still highly searched, so I noted those down to include in the Description and Tags. Then, I remembered a relevant book I read in college called Cheap Sex. “Mark Regnerus cheap sex” had the highest keyword score yet, so I noted that it needed to go into the title.
So, our list of keywords is now “cheap sex,” “economics of Tinder”, “tinder experiment” and “free dating apps 2022.” A solid title could be “The Sinister Economics of Tinder: A Generational Experiment in Cheap Sex.” And blam-o, I’ve got a video idea, and one that will likely appeal to my based male audience.
Now, all I need to do is make it!
So, my starter guide for someone starting from Ground Zero:
Narrow down on an audience persona (age, gender, interests); start specific and then you can broaden.
Pick 5 video ideas, based on similar channels and keywords, like I just explained. If someone finds your channel this early, and likes it, you want them to be able to consume more than just one video. If they can, there’s a higher chance they will subscribe and come back.
Produce them at the highest quality you can: camera quality, audio quality (insanely important if you’re anon), intro, music, quick frame changes.
Then, wait for some data to come in. If your click-rates are super low? Okay, you need to really work on thumbnails. If you lose 40% of your audience in 10 seconds? Alright, intros need to be more engaging. If you aren’t getting any impressions? Your SEO/ideas really need to be better researched.
Test, and iterate. Over, and over, and over, again. Publish as consistently as possible, at a minimum once per week but ideally twice.
Keep putting your name in the hat, and eventually, magic will happen!
And finally, I know you guys are going to ask me about Shorts. I have had major success with Shorts, but the audience for my Shorts is very different from my long-form content. There’s no harm in posting them, but the data you get from them is less helpful for refining your content. Also, any watch hours from Shorts currently do not count towards monetization, so they are essentially only a vessel for subscriber growth.
Reaching the monetization threshold is only step 1 of the journey; the real money is made long, long after that. If you are serious about building a loyal audience, a realistic timeframe is probably 2-3 years, not 6 months. What does Bull always say, “Give up 3, and you’re free?” Exactly.
If you’ve never heard of my YouTube Channel, here’s my favorite video:
And if you like my writing style, subscribe to my Substack here:
I’m going to write articles explaining the entire production process I undergo to make my content (research, modeling, writing, drawing (ew), and editing), so stay tuned for that.
Thanks so much for reading and have a fantabulous day!
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