Note: The information within this guide applies to all small channels, regardless of how old they actually are.
Hey guys, Welsknight here! I was browsing the "Getting Started on Youtube" forum, and almost half of the threads on the first page are asking questions like "How do I grow my channel?", "How do I get 50 subscribers?", and "How can I start building my community?" I hate to break it to you, but there is no magic wand to wave that instantly grants you meaningful, active subscribers and a good community of viewers. But there are definitely legitimate, time-tested ways to grow your community. What are they?
While I certainly don't have all the answers, what I will do is share with you my experience over the last couple of months, both the good and the bad. I started my Youtube channel in mid/late September, and I am sitting at 166 subscribers (EDIT: A little over a month later, I'm at 635 and gaining about 20 a day) at the time of this post. I'm very happy with that, although I know that there are people out who have done better in less time. But, I've done enough rambling. On to the guide!
Part 1: Crafting Your Channel
The first thing any new Youtuber should do is put some serious thought into their channel. Answer these questions, and any others you can think of:
Once you have those questions answered, it's time to start making your channel look good. Get some reasonably professional-looking channel art and an avatar. Make your thumbnails (and don't use MS Paint). Watch, read, and generally absorb as much information as you can about how to make your content and channel as professional as possible. Keep in mind, the goal is to make your channel look appealing, and to try and set it apart from other channels as much as possible.
- What kind of videos are you going to make?
- What kind of games are you going to play?
- What is your target audience?
- Are you going to swear, or is your channel going to be family friendly?
- How much time can you reasonably commit to your channel while maintaining your sanity?
- What will set your channel apart from the thousands of other gaming channels out there?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses as a commentator?
I made the mistake of not doing all of this first, and I wish I had. I probably missed out on some potential subscribers and viewers because in the first few weeks of my channel, it was not polished. With that said, you can't polish a turd, folks. If your content is not high-quality, or you don't have everything organized nicely into playlists (rather than the big convoluted mess of an activity feed), then you will have a very hard time growing. Leonardo Da Vinci himself could paint your channel art, but it won't help if your content is poor. Which leads into the next part of crafting your channel...
Make sure your videos are as high in quality as you can possibly make them. Nobody really enjoys watching gaming videos recording via a camera pointed at a screen. If you can't make a high-quality video for a game, pick a different game. Always render in the highest possible settings that you can achieve. Now, let me be clear: I'm not saying that you need to record and render in 1080p60fps. I'm saying that if you have the ability, given the equipment that you have, to record and render in 1080p60fps, you should. Don't cut corners or take shortcuts if it means cutting quality. Your goal should be to make every video better than your last one. Learn how to use basic tools like Audacity and Handbrake. Get your hands on a decent video editing software ASAP. Get your hands on a decent microphone ASAP (there are plenty of excellent options for less than $50, and I'd be happy to point you to a microphone in just about any price range).
Consider your content as you edit: is this worth watching? If not, cut it out, or do a time-lapse. For example, I do a lot of Minecraft. Minecraft can be a very repetitive game, when doing large projects. Do you, as a viewer, really want to watch me place all of the 500 wood blocks that make up the walls of my build? Probably not. You want to see enough to understand how I'm building it, but watching me place all of those blocks will just get boring and repetitive, which means that I will either edit it out entirely (jump-cut) or do a time lapse with music.
Consider your schedule: you need to be recording and uploading regularly, whether it's 2 videos a week, or 2 videos a day. Sporadic uploading, that is, 2 uploads in one day, then 3 weeks of nothing, then another video, then 2 months off... that will hurt you, and will greatly hinder your growth.
If you need help improving your content or channel, and you want feedback... ask! I highly recommend http://reddit.com/r/LetsPlayCritiques for feedback, and http://reddit.com/r/LetsPlay for general knowledge and technical questions. Just make sure you read the rules before you post.
So, now you've got quality content and a professional-looking channel. Now what? Well, now it's time for...
Part 2: Promoting Your Channel
How do you get noticed, especially as a small channel? Well, sharing your content with friends and family is a great place to start. However, if that's not something you're comfortable with (I only share my content with a handful of select individuals), there are other ways to promote your channel too. Let's talk about a few different ones:
Because it is such a common thing, I'm going to talk about sub-for-sub. For anyone who doesn't know what sub-for-sub is, it's agreeing to subscribe to someone who subscribes to you, based solely on the fact that they subscribe to you. I'm all for checking out the channels of your subscribers, and subscribing back if you like their content. But simply subscribing with no intent to ever watch a video is pointless, and honestly, kind of immoral. Sub-for-sub is how you see channels that have 1500 subscribers, and only 15 views on their videos. I would rather have my 160 legitimate, hard-earned, and most importantly, active subscribers, than 1600 subscribers who only clicked the button because I did the same for them. It hurts your engagement, and frankly, it makes you look bad and unprofessional. Don't do sub-for-sub, plain and simple.
- Reddit: This is probably the best place to promote yourself, but you have to be very careful about how you do it. Reddit is a fickle beast; people there generally do not like self-promotion, and they especially hate spam. Read the rules of each subreddit before you post. Become part of the community, and be invested in it; don't just pop in to post your videos from time to time. Post videos that contribute something to the community, and for the love of god, try to avoid making it sound like an advertisement!
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization): Learn it, love it, live it. SEO is love, SEO is life. If I talked about this a whole lot more, this guide would double in length, but needless to say... it's very, very important. There are lots and lots of guides out there about how to properly name, tag, and describe your videos so that they pop up higher in search results; find them, read them, and absorb them.
- Twitter: This is an easy one, especially with Youtube-Twitter integration. Hashtag your videos, tweet them to various accounts that will retweet them, interact with your followers, and generally make Twitter your best friend and time-killer.
- Youtube Forums: Places like this forum, Yttalk.com, and other Youtube forums can be great places to make connections, give your channel some exposure, and make friends.
- Collaborations: Collaborations with other content creators can also be great! By collaborating with other channels (preferably about the same size as yours), you can "share" subscribers and viewers.
- Game Forums: Forums for specific games can be an excellent place to share your content for that game. For example, I am an active member at the Pokecommunity.com forums, where I post all of my Pokemon content. Not only are they generally welcoming of it, you can get some very loyal subscribers there, as long as you are part of the community, not just a video spammer.
- Facebook/Instagram/Other Social Media: Yes, you can use them. I have not been very successful with them personally, though, so I'm not going to cover it here. However, if someone else wants to post their secrets to success with other forms of social media, I will be happy to update this thread and give credit.
Let's wrap it up (TL;DR) with some promotion do's and don'ts.
- Promote yourself, anywhere and everywhere.
- Always try to represent your channel positively.
- Become a member of the community where you promote yourself.
- Be creative in your self-promotion.
- Make sure you're promoting a channel with content that is actually worth promoting.
- Be spammy and annoying.
- Do sub-for-sub.
- Forget that you represent your channel, always.
- Be afraid to ask questions.
- Cut corners.
Thoughts, comments, questions, or concerns?
This was awesome! I just am wondering on what you might think of my channel as well! RecklessVillen
I can take a beating or two! I want to improve anything as much as possible, certain things I do not know how to fix but always willing to learn! Again, thank you so much for this! I will start promoting again on Twitter! I came back not to long ago but this guide is very helpful. Thanks again!