One of my favorite Broadway musicals in recent memory is Mean Girls — yes, the same story as the infamous teen movie.
This story resonates with so many people because of how relatable it is: There is a small clique called The Plastics that represents “the most popular girls in school.” They’re exclusive and everyone at North Shore High School envies them and/or wants to be in the club in some way. They follow their every move and follow their lead.
Soak in the amazing cast of Mean Girls at the Tonys 🤩
Now you may be wondering, what does this hilarious high school drama have to do with YouTube subscribers?
Why do YouTube subscribers matter?
Think of your YouTube channel as your clique and your subscriber base as your admirers.
Subscribers are your raving fans. They are the YouTube users who are are eager to receive more content from you and have raised their hands to say that your content resonates with them. And, if they’ve decided to receive notifications, they/ve also said they don’t want to miss a single one of your YouTube videos.
You can infer from the Mean Girls example that having a following builds social credibility. The more YouTube subscribers you have, the more influential you appear and the more appealing your YouTube channel looks to new, potential subscribers.
When your YouTube subscriber count hits 100, for example, you are allowed to create a custom URL for your channel. Reach 1,000 YouTube subscribers and you’ve hit one of the requirements to be part of the YouTube Partner Program.
Your YouTube subscribers are the first to view your new content, are (in theory) more likely to comment, and they’re more likely to share the content with their friends who share similar interests. The more engagement on your content, the more YouTube views it as a trustworthy video and will be more likely to serve that video at the top of the search results for new viewers to discover your channel.
Another perk of being involved with the partner program is monetization. Once you clear the threshold of 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time accumulated on your channel, you can collect ad revenue from display, overlay, and video ads on your YouTube videos.
And it doesn’t stop there: At 1,000 subscribers, you can also offer channel memberships, and 10,000 subscribers earn you the permission to offer fans branded merchandise on your watch pages.
Now that you understand why subscribers are important for YouTube content creators like you, let’s dive into how to grow your subscriber base organically, so you can reap the rewards of your own fanbase.
1. Create consistent content
Consistency is the name of the game with YouTube.
Long ago, when cable was all there was, viewers made it a point to find time in their day to watch a show when it aired. They could anticipate when the next episode was going to happen, and they could invest in the content because it was consistently being broadcast. In other words: network programming created a reliable entertainment escape for those tuning in every week to watch their favorite shows.
And what happens when a series wrapped up unexpectedly, or the network didn’t pick up another season? I know I felt burned when the CW’s The Secret Circle was canceled after the first season, and the cliffhangers I was left with were never resolved.
YouTube fans have similar loyalty to their favorite creators. If you publish high-quality videos on a consistent basis, that consistency gives potential new subscribers a reason to subscribe. It gives them a reason to invest their precious time into your YouTube video content because they can anticipate when you’re going to publish something new.
IMPACT client Acculevel, a foundation repair company in Rossville, Indiana, does a great job of letting people know they’re publishing regularly right in their channel banner.
If you are just coming upon their channel, and you look at their channel banner, pictured above, it’s easy to understand a new video is published every Thursday and you should hit subscribe if you don’t want to miss it.
2. Leverage your channel trailer
A YouTube channel trailer is a featured video that lives on the homepage of your channel, and similar to a movie trailer, this short video is an opportunity to share with visitors what you’re all about.
The trailer is also an opportunity to tell new visitors when they can expect new videos to drop and why they should subscribe.
This channel trailer by The Grossman Law Firm, an IMPACT client, tells viewers to subscribe for new content.
Scott specifically references the areas of law they’re discussing in their videos, the specific state it refers to, that they regularly produce new content, and he asks whoever is watching this video to subscribe to the channel.
This is a simple, short video, but it is effective for setting proper expectations for the type of audience that would benefit from the content on the channel, as well as really selling the value of hitting the subscribe button.
3. Ask your viewers directly to subscribe
It may sound cliche, but directly asking your audience to like and subscribe is a simple and effective way to get more YouTube subscribers.
Be human and genuine by sharing how much their engagement means to you as a creator.
Some creators do this at the end of the video, but former IMPACT client La-Z-Boy of Ottawa and Kingston in Canada have started asking viewers to subscribe in the middle of the video. See around 1:58 in the example below for their subscriber plug!
Not only do they ask people watching this video to subscribe for more content, but they also use a graphic to visually reinforce the question.
As a retail store, where many of their customers experience the furniture in person before buying, Dave, the on-camera talent, also does a great job of encouraging viewers to come to the store and “say hi to him,” and he can help them with their furniture shopping needs.
PS: Dave has, in fact, been recognized in the store for his appearances on the YouTube channel! #superstar
4. Make it easy for people to subscribe
While people are interested in your video, make subscribing as easy as possible.
VidIQ, a tool you can use to help grow your YouTube presence, does a great job of this. You’ll notice in the screenshot below, there’s a button that allows a viewer to subscribe when they’re hovering over the button.
The button right corner allows you to subscribe without taking your attention away from the video.
In addition to placing annotations throughout your video, make sure you also verbally encouraging people to subscribe to your channel. This is a more personal way of connecting with your audience and giving them a reason to subscribe. Using the same example, you can check that out in the video below.
Make sure to provide a few opportunities for your viewers to subscribe in case they aren’t ready when you initially ask. The easier you make it to follow your work, the more likely it is that you'll see your YouTube subscriber count increase.
5. Create engaging thumbnails
Although this tip may not seem as intuitive as the rest of them, think about it: In order for the other tips to work, you first need people to discover your content!
The thumbnail is part of the visual first impression a potential viewer sees after they’ve typed in the search, hit enter, and the results pop up. The thumbnail is where you distinguish yourself from the other search results and really earn their click.
The thumbnail and the title of this YouTube video are the same, which reinforces to the viewer that this content is indeed about the topic that they’re searching for. The thumbnail also features the smiling face of the on-camera talent, who is wearing the uniform of an HVAC professional, telling you this person knows what they’re talking about.
They make this the easy, intuitive choice to watch if you’re searching for this topic and if you’re creating the high-quality videos you should be you’ll be much more likely to earn those subscribers.
There are likely brands on YouTube that share a similar audience as you. In fact, their fans could also enjoy your content. Collaborating with these creators is a great way to introduce yourself to a new audience and win over new subscribers. Let’s look at another example.
YouTube is huge for musicians, and Boyce Avenue has been in the game for years. They perform original tracks as well as collaborations with other YouTube music artists like this one below featuring Jennel Garcia.
The same video can be found on Garcia’s page, so if Jennel’s audience wasn’t familiar with Boyce Avenue before, they would be now, and vice versa.
Sadly, I’m musically challenged, so I don’t know what it’s like to jam with another musical artist, but if I noticed an artist I followed collaborated with another, I’d likely head over to their channel and take a listen, maybe even add them to my list of channels I subscribe to.
It’s similar to if your best friend were to recommend a new show to watch or if a major network decided to do a series crossover to promote another show on their network.
And the same goes for businesses.
If you did an interview on another industry expert’s channel, you’d get in front of their audience and likely a lot of people who were unfamiliar with you before. After becoming aware of you, they may be more inclined to check out your YouTube channel and even subscribe.
7. Create searchable titles
Just like your thumbnail, the title of the video is of the utmost importance. A good title provides context around not just what the video is about, but the intent of the video and gets people to actually click and watch.
Let’s analyze this title from Jackson Galaxy’s channel.
The title of the video is “Stop The Constant Meow: 6 Reasons Why Your Cat Over-Vocalizes.” The video implies that it addresses “the what” – the cat is meowing – and “the why” – the reasons for the constant meowing.
When a creator shows an understanding of the intent of the user’s search, it implies a greater understanding of audiences’ needs and what they’re actually looking for. To answer the why is digging deeper. It builds trust and shows you’re a reliable resource worth subscribing to if they have additional questions.
(You'll also note that the thumbnail in this case doesn't directly reflect the title, but offers a funny, compelling reason to check out the YouTube video on its own.)
8. Create bingeable playlists
I’m currently planning my wedding. I’ve never planned a wedding before, therefore, how would I even know where to start with the whole thing?
As a wedding planning newcomer, the first video immediately puts my mind at ease when Lauren talks about how she’s planned many weddings before and she’s here to help.
She starts with the basics, and then the next YouTube video gets more specific with questions to ask potential venues and so on.
She gave me a step-by-step of everything I needed, making the process seem less overwhelming and keeping me on the channel. You better believe it, this bride immediately subscribed to this channel and referred back to Lauren for any questions I have. And judging from her over 5,000 subscribers, I’m not the only one.
YouTube playlists put your best foot forward to prospective subscribers by showing there’s continuity with your content and guiding them through a long-term journey. When you create a playlist focused on a long-term goal or process, people have a reason to subscribe and stay engaged.
In this video, “Bad Used Boats to Buy,” the first comment (below) is the creator asking for feedback from the audience.
Posting a comment and pinning it to the top of the page is not only considered great engagement with the platform, but it also invites dialogue to take place about the topic of the video. Outside of responding to their comments, follow the channels of your most loyal viewers.
Who knows, maybe your viewers will comment with a great idea for a future video!
10. Promote your channel on other social media profiles
When you launch a new video, definitely take the opportunity to promote your content on the other social media channels you use, and urge people to subscribe.
The thought behind this is if someone follows you on one platform, and they like your posts there, they could also follow you on another platform – in this case, YouTube.
A creator who does this well is one of my favorite channels, The Buttery Bros. These creators focus on creating content around fitness, specifically CrossFit Games athletes. Every time a new episode drops they post on Instagram, similar to the example below.
The post lets the Instagram audience know that there’s a new episode that’s dropped on YouTube with a compelling image, and shares a little information about what the episode is about.
My favorite part about this post is the artwork is identical to the YouTube thumbnail they use, going that extra mile to add a subliminal element of brand recognition.
11. Share what you're working on next
If you think back to traditional television, one technique to get people to tune in next week for their favorite show was to give them a preview of what’s to come. Game of Thrones, for example, was notoriously good at doing this, using ominous music and quick cuts to captivate the audience and make them excited for the next episode.
Your YouTube content can create the same anticipation.
If you want people to subscribe, sharing what you’re working on next is a great way to show people what they’ll be getting if they do.
If you’re creating a how-to series, for example, this could be a great way to entice your audience watching to stay tuned for your next tip.
One of my favorite examples of this is on the YouGoPro Baseball channel. Former professional baseball player John Madden is creating a ton of educational YouTube video content for developing players and coaches, and the start of this playlist below is no exception.
In this, John taps into his resources, bringing a big-league pitching coach, Hector Berrios, in to explain tips for developing young pitchers.
At the end of the video, Madden entices the audience to subscribe with the fact that Berrio will be sharing even more tips in future videos — tips that John himself hadn't heard up until that shoot!
If you leave YouTube users wanting more and tease what’s coming next, people are much more inclined to see the value in subscribing.
12. Tell a story
There is a reason storytelling has survived for thousands of years. The medium has evolved, but the formula is the same. Your viewers want to be educated, but they also want to be entertained. They want to be able to relate to you and know that you understand what they’re going through. Stories pull people in when they can see themselves in them.
Creator Justin Rhodes shares his experience with this on the Video Creators Podcast.
This particular video features Rhodes talking about how when he shifted his mindset, his channel grew.
By focusing on telling real stories about homesteading, and incorporating stories about his family, Rhodes is not only seen as an expert in his industry but a real human that people can relate to and root for.
Think about the story you want to tell with your content. What expertise can you share with the world? Can you frame it in a way that tells a story and builds trust?
Since the dawn of mankind, we’ve been telling stories to further our understanding of the world and to share experiences. If you’re reading this, and you don’t think you have a compelling story to tell, take another look. With the billions of monthly users logging into YouTube each month, there’s a good chance your story will resonate with viewers who could make up your subscriber base.
Subscribers add value to your channel
Simply put, your YouTube subscribers are not only your raving fans, but they’re also the first to watch a new video when it drops, the first to engage with your content, and they’re likely to recommend your content to their friends with similar interests.
With a big focus on building communities, building your YouTube subscriber base is a fundamental metric to seeing success on the platform. And, as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are benchmark subscriber numbers you must hit in order to level up your YouTube game.
If you focus on creating educational and entertaining content that provides value to a specific audience, you’ll soon see the subscriber number tick up, but don’t be afraid to experiment with new types of content ideas. You never know what will resonate with your audience until you try. And if something doesn’t work, that’s not the end of your channel.
And don’t forget to like and subscribe. Just kidding. ;)