I’ve been running YouTube channels fairly successfully for about four years now. We’re not talking millions of subscribers or anything, but I’ve been very pleased with the overall number of views/subscribers that the channels have received.
Lots of people start YouTube channels, but most of them stop adding content and effectively give up within a year. I suspect this is because either the channel isn’t achieving the success they hoped for and/or it turned out to be a lot more work than they thought it would be!
So what does it take to run a successful YouTube channel? And how do you define success in this context anyway?
Decide Your Success Criteria
Earlier in the week, I spoke about why I run a YouTube channel and if you’re going to run your own YouTube channel, you should decide for yourself why you want to do it.
People usually give up on their channel because they become disheartened at the lack of perceived progress. Without defining your success criteria, all people tend to look at are the numbers of views and subscribers. Don’t get me wrong, views and subscribers are very important statistics for your channel, but they’re not the ‘be all and end all’ and they can often be misleading at first (see below).
For example, if one of your success criteria is to foster local community and the people around you are featuring in your videos and talking enthusiastically about the channel, then it’s a success. Even if the number of views is low.
Identifying your success criteria will also give you a way to measure your success. You can look back after six months and see how you’re doing on each of your criteria. Chances are you’ll be doing better on some than others, but you can take heart in the small successes.
Growth is Exponential
Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd. It is an unfortunate fact of human nature that people are attracted to successful things. If a million people have watched this video, it must be good!
This makes it really difficult to get going. Some people will look at the (very low) number of people who have watched your videos when your first start and assume they’re not worth watching.
Don’t worry about how many people are watching your videos.
Don’t worry about how many people are watching your videos. The actual numbers are immaterial. What matters is growth. YouTube’s analytics page is very useful here. You want to look at a chart of views or watch time and set the date range to ‘Lifetime’.
What you should see is a gradual upward trend. It will be very spikey as some of your videos are always going to attract more viewers than others. We had a lot of extra views when we were covering the UK Games Expo this year, for example. Try to ignore all the spikes and the fluctuations and look for the overall trend.
Exponential growth (where the rate of growth, not the just the actual numbers, increases over time) can be very deceptive at first. It will feel very slow and seem like you’re not really getting anywhere. As long as you can maintain the growth though, it will start to snowball. If you’re patient and keep going, you will be astonished at the number of views you can achieve long term.
The other thing to bear in mind here is if people are watching your videos, then people are watching your videos. Sure, we’d all like a million people to watch our videos, but if a hundred people are watching your videos, that’s still a hundred people! Picture one hundred people sat at home watching your videos – that’s a lot of people!
Consistency of Release Schedule
One of the most important things that will get people coming back to your channel is the consistency of your release schedule. It is much better to release one video every three days rather than release four videos at once and then nothing for a fortnight.
This will keep your videos appearing regularly in people’s feeds. The more people see your videos, the more likely they are to watch them. A significant number of people will watch your videos because they appeared as a suggestion from YouTube after they finished watching something else.
Think of it like subliminal advertising. Even if people don’t click on your videos immediately, just seeing your videos as an option will increase the likelihood of them clicking on them in the future.
One of the things that YouTube’s recommendation algorithm prioritises is new content. If you’ve just released a video, it’s far more likely to appear as a suggestion than if you released it two weeks ago. Spreading out your releases means that you will have new videos more of the time.
I recommend that you decide roughly how often you want to release videos and then stick to it. Depending on the nature of your videos, they may take much longer to make than other people’s videos. Factor that into your planning.
Start small. You don’t want to work and work producing several videos a week and then find you can’t sustain it and give up. Pick a conservative release schedule that you know you can maintain with relative ease and focus on keeping that consistency. You can always increase the number of videos you are releasing if you find you are building up a backlog of videos ready to be released.
Having a backlog of videos is really helpful.
Having a backlog of videos is really helpful though – don’t feel that you need to start releasing them all. It means if you’re ill or you go on holiday that you can still maintain your release schedule without having to record any more videos. It really takes the pressure off.
Prioritise Hot Topic Content
In the boardgame industry, some upcoming or recently released games generate a lot of excitement and buzz. BoardGameGeek has a very helpful way of identifying ‘hot’ games. They maintain a list called ‘The Hotness’ down the left-hand side of their homepage that shows you which games have the most interest.
If you’ve recorded some content (eg. a review) about a ‘hot’ topic, bump it to the top of your release schedule. It is likely to attract far more views while everyone is excited about it. This increases your exposure. The more people see your videos, the more people will subscribe and/or watch other videos from your channel.
While I was writing this I discovered that I had more to say on this topic than I was expecting! So I’ll be continuing this post next week. In fact, I haven’t even covered the number one piece of advice I would give to a prospective YouTuber. So make sure you check out How to Run a YouTube Channel – Part 2 if you’re interested.
Do you have any experience running a YouTube channel? What would your number one tip be?