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17 Smart Ways How to Get More Subscribers on YouTube

Social media has been cool for over twenty years now. Although it started mainly as a way to network and keep in touch with family and friends, nowadays social media is an important place to do business. This is true for content creators and “offline” businesses alike. Advertising or distributing content on YouTube, in particular, has become very popular and highly effective. And in turn, it’s critical to know how to get subscribers on YouTube.

Just like any other social network, having more followers, or subscribers, as they are called on YouTube, should always be a goal for any business. For individual YouTubers, getting 1,000 subscribers has special meaning because it means you have passed one of the requirements to begin monetizing your account through the YouTube Partner program. Regardless of who you are, you should always strive to get more – rather than fewer – YouTube subscribers! Let’s look at some ways to accomplish this task.

Do YouTube Subscribers Really Matter?

Yes, they matter. And it isn’t always hard to get subscribers. I just looked at my own YouTube analytics and saw that views of my YouTube videos from subscribers were only at 10% of the total. This is pretty close to the 14% average that one data point suggests. On the other hand, both of these numbers represent a relatively low percentage of views, with algorithm and search-related views making up most of the remainder. With subscribers contributing so little to overall video views why bother?

Try to think of it in this way: There are only 2 ways to scale on YouTube. You can either create more videos and thus show up for more search terms and keywords, or you can grow your subscribers, knowing that as they grow, they will still contribute to more video views.

I would argue that both are important to growing your YouTube account. Remember, subscribers and other viewer types alike will share or engage with your content, making it more prominent over time. Knowing how to get subscribers on YouTube is critical to improving your impact on the platform.

How to Get More YouTube Subscribers

There are lots of different ways to grow your YouTube account, but here is my best advice for how to get subscribers on YouTube. Each of these options covers a different aspect of your YouTube account, its branding, and the community you provide. Ideally, you’d do all of these steps eventually. However, this will take time and discipline, and in some situations, a particular step won’t make sense for your channel. 

1. Brand Your YouTube Video Thumbnails

First, it’s important that you use some level of branding for your YouTube video thumbnails. By default, YouTube randomly selects several still photos from your video and lets you choose one when you upload a video. However, you can also create branded thumbnails in a couple of different ways. First, you can take one of those stills, and then add branding like a logo or writing in custom colors. Second, you can use a single image for all of your videos. 

No matter which way you add branding to your thumbnails, your videos will be easy to recognize as yours. In turn, people will realize how much of your content they watch and be encouraged to subscribe. Better yet, it’s a method of how to get subscribers on YouTube that takes seconds per video.

Here is an example of one of my thumbnails looks like – notice the few words I use and the large font to ensure they are easily visible from inside a mobile device:

If you have nowhere to start, I recommend using Canva, but if you want a larger selection of thumbnail makers to choose from, check out my following post:

Further Reading: The Best 14 Thumbnail Makers for YouTube

2. Add a Custom Channel Trailer

Channel trailers are short videos that you can put on the first page of your channel. If someone clicks on your channel name below a video, the channel page is what they’ll see. Often, the channel trailer plays automatically, and it introduces your channel. Similar to a movie trailer, this piece of channel content tells people what they can expect. Be careful with this one, though: as they say, the first impression is the most important. You can even encourage a subscription in the channel trailer. 

How can you create a channel trailer? Really, you can use whatever video footage generator and video editor that you’re already using. Make something unique for the trailer or select some of the best clips from existing videos. Or some combination of the two. Don’t be afraid to add branding, either. Add a theme song, if any, and your usual introduction. Creativity is key!

3. Interact with Your Audience and Make Friends (a.k.a. Build Community)

As with traditional brands, YouTube channels need a brand community. One of the easiest ways how to get subscribers on YouTube is through the community tab that you’ll have access to once your channel reaches 500 subscribers. A community tab lets you post channel announcements. In addition, these announcements get posted to your subscriber’s home page.

Even without access to the tab, doing live streams and responding to comments is a great way to interact. These activities help you build up your subscriber account so that you’ll reach 500 subscribers sooner. Plus, by interacting with your audience you’ll make it much easier to become influential if that’s your goal. Or for company channels, interactions help brands increase subscriber affinity.

YouTube community tab

4. Ask Your Viewers to Subscribe

Asking viewers to subscribe is the easiest way how to get subscribers on YouTube. As the saying goes, you won’t know if you don’t ask, and not everyone thinks to randomly subscribe. Failing to ask for subscribers is akin to letting people look at your stuff and not buy it since subscriptions can equal money. Don’t forget to encourage subscriptions once in every video!

This doesn’t need to be complicated. A lot of YouTubers ask for subscriptions in the middle of the video, right before the most important part of their video. Others make their request close to the end. Your analytics will help you decide which approach to take: if viewers usually watch to the end, then this is probably a good time to ask. Otherwise, ask early enough that your viewers will get the pitch. Then, work on making your content relevant to the end.

5. Release Videos on a Consistent Schedule

Whether you post weekly or every day, potential subscribers want to know how often they can expect content. After all, it’s hardly worth it to watch a channel that only posts on an irregular schedule. And even more than that, if you don’t post consistently, you won’t build up a catalogue of content that people can find through search. Either way, consistency is critical.

How often should you post? The answer is different for various YouTubers. Some creators post five days a week, while others might only post once or twice weekly. Generally speaking, the ideal posting frequency depends on how much time you have to create content, your niche, and other factors. Be sure to experiment and find something that works for you.

6. Run a Contest or Giveaways

A popular type of content for influencer marketing is contests and giveaways. On YouTube, these are videos where the content creator offers a prize for some form of engagement. People love them because it offers a chance to get something for free. In addition, you’ll build brand recognition and loyalty. I have a more detailed article about this process on my blog.

Further Reading: 6 Social Media Contest Ideas Worth Exploring

7. Optimize the Titles and Descriptions of Your Videos

An important part of how to get subscribers on YouTube is SEO optimization. This isn’t surprising, because better YouTube SEO means more views and thus more subscribers. To master YouTube SEO, be sure to see how well your videos perform by keyword. In addition, the keyword research tools on several social media dashboards will give you ideas. You might even use that keyword research to help build your editorial calendar.

Once you have the perfect YouTube keywords, you need to use them to optimize the titles and descriptions. In other words, your vids shouldn’t just be built around keywords or topics. Include the most important keyword in your title, then integrate a couple more into your descriptions. Just make sure that everything is relevant so that you don’t spam people.

Further Reading: YouTube Video Optimization: Simple Tricks Beginners Can Implement To Rank Their Videos

8. Think in Terms of Playlists – and Create More of Them

Often, part of how to get subscribers on YouTube is keeping people interested. Playlists are great for SEO and viewer engagement, leading them deeper and deeper into your content and increasing the chance they subscribe. However, you’ll need to build up your video catalogue for a while before there will be enough to make playlists. 

How do you create YouTube playlists? Simply put, you navigate to a video and click “add to playlist” in the toolbar below the video. Then, you have the option to add a video to an existing playlist or create another one. For most creators, it’s best to choose a topic and build the playlist around it. For instance, I might make one called “influencer marketing” or “email marketing tutorials.” Make sure that everything you put in the playlist matches the category, though.

9. Entice Your Audience Over From Other Social Media Channels

One of the best ways to get people to view your content is to distribute it through other social media channels. This is a time-honored tradition, especially for bloggers who Tweet links to their latest post. Especially if you have a great audience on other social networks, like Twitter or Instagram, it’s easy to leverage this following as how to get subscribers on YouTube. Often, all it takes is for your fans to find out that you’re active on the other network. 

An easy way to accomplish this task is by adapting your thumbnail image to Instagram, Tweeting the link to the new video, or link to it on Facebook. By using the thumbnail, you’ll get the opportunity to impress potential viewers in the same way you’d do it on YouTube. In addition, the people who see your posts advertised on other channels, are more likely to subscribe than random browsers.

This is an example of me sharing one of my YouTube videos on Twitter, albeit I shared it as an image of my thumbnail with a link to my YouTube video in hopes of getting more visibility in the algorithm.

10. Collaborate With Other Creators

One of the nice things about social media is the possibility of collaboration. Content creators love to talk to and collaborate with other content creators, and YouTube is no exception. I’ve seen joint live streams within the same niche, for example. Other video collaboration ideas include guest episodes for product demonstrations, interviews, and giveaways. Best of all, this is one of the best ways how to get subscribers on  YouTube because both collaborators benefit from exposure to each other’s followers and subscribers.

11. Use YouTube’s Clickable Subscription Tools/End Cards in Your Videos

A great tool that YouTube has in its creator studio is YouTube cards. In a nutshell, cards are notifications that display inside a video while it is playing. There are several types of YouTube cards, including a subscription link and links to other relevant videos. In particular, subscription cards are a great option of how to get subscribers on YouTube, because it not only encourages subscriptions but makes it super easy. People that might not subscribe if they need to scroll below the video may do so if they can just click inside the video. This is especially true for mobile users for whom the video is taking up the entire screen.

Here is an example of my End Screen and what it looks like inside YouTube’s video editor. It looks very complex, but once you create one End Screen (mine features a “best for viewer” video of mine together with a subscribe button), you can easily import it into all of your videos.

YouTube end screen sample

Further Reading: YouTube Cards: What They Are and How to Best Leverage Them

12. Embed YouTube Videos in Blog Posts

Similar to distributing your YouTube videos through social media is embedding them in blog posts. This is especially effective if you’re writing a blog post that covers the same topic as your video, or if the video is helpful to someone reading the post. By embedding the video, you’ll give people the opportunity to not only find out that you have the YouTube channel but also immediately view one of your videos. There’s a high chance they’ll visit your channel and hopefully subscribe.

How can you embed YouTube videos? It varies by CMS, but if you have WordPress, it’s easy. Simply select the link feature in your text editor and paste the link. WordPress immediately embeds the video, including a thumbnail. Then, you only need to adjust the component size and other properties as appropriate. Look at the preview, and you’re done.

Here’s an example of what it looks like:

YouTube video

13. End Your Video by Teasing What You’re Working on Next

Most of us have seen this technique on television. It usually begins, “next time on (show)” followed by a video trailer. Or for two-part TV episodes, you might just see “to be continued.” The second option probably isn’t your best bet, but the first option is brilliant. The only drawback is that you have to film at least part of the next video before you can put the first one up. And if world events change in a flash, you might find other videos that need to take precedence. Normally, though, this is a great technique.

14. Do Your Keyword Research for Titles, Descriptions, and Hashtags

As with SEO, knowing the right keywords will help ensure that your videos become more discoverable and thus increase the chances of more subscribers. There are several ways to accomplish this task, such as social media dashboards. In addition, find out what your competitors are using in terms of non-branded hashtags. Finally, if you’re distributing your video links through other social media channels, you’ll want to mark the videos with those hashtags.

Further Reading: 13 Powerful YouTube Tools You Need to Grow Your YouTube Audience

15. Promote Videos in Your End Screen

Remember those YouTube cards I mentioned earlier? They’re great as more than just an inducement to subscribe or a “coming next” announcement. Many YouTubers use these cards to promote other videos that viewers might find relevant. In this case, they aren’t necessarily part of a series. Rather, the advertised video is something that people who watch the first video may enjoy. It’s a great way how to get subscribers on YouTube who are engaged with your content.

16. Track YouTube Analytics

YouTube analytics

One of the best ways how to get subscribers on YouTube is to understand your current audience. By consulting YouTube analytics regularly, you can understand the demographic watching your videos, what videos they watch a lot of, and where they come from. Then, you can easily optimize your video strategy based on this information. Over time, you’ll get more people coming to your channel because you know what your audience likes. Plus, you’ll spend less time creating content that doesn’t produce results.

17. Produce Highly Engaging Content

Lastly, these other tips only work well when you produce the kind of content that people want to consume. Minimally engaging content only works well in niches like medicine or canned university lectures, but these don’t usually make money. Over time, even for serious subjects, people will flock to videos, and content creators, who can explain things in an engaging way. Be the person who viewers trust, or who viewers find entertaining. Either way, you win.

Starting out on YouTube, or establishing monetization, can seem like a daunting task when you see all the channels that have thousands or millions of viewers. However, by following the tips in this article, you will soon find your viewership to grow. And, with enough subscribers, anything is possible.

Further Reading: 11 Tips on How to Grow Your YouTube Channel in 2024

Hero photo by Collabstr on Unsplash

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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.

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