Browsing through various internet marketing groups I see a majority of posts are from people talking about one thing: subscriber count. I’m here to tell you that subscriber counts aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
Sure, having a high subscriber count can be helpful in many cases. It can help you get a nicer initial boost on videos you post to YouTube due to the notification system. It also unlocks certain features like Super Chat that you can’t use unless you’re at a certain number (currently 1000). Other than that it doesn’t have too much weight behind it other than looking cool.
The fact is that many channels now have large subscriber bases so it’s no longer anything special to have thousands of people subscribed to you. Many of these large subscriber bases aren’t even watching anymore, they’ve just never bothered to unsubscribe to you.
So if I am down on the importance of YouTube subscribers than what IS important? Simply put: engagement.
Engagement is the force behind successful channels. It’s one thing to get users to watch a video or look on a page, but it’s an entirely different thing to convince them to interact with your content. Engagement comes in many forms: comments, likes, and shares being the most common. YouTube loves content that is engaging because it keeps people interested and can build a better community. So if YouTube likes it, you should like it too.
There are many other benefits to gathering engagement on your channel. Engagement tells us a lot about what fans like and don’t like. Likes/dislikes can tell creators what is going over well and comments are an option for further discussion or suggestions. It also looks great to a potential sponsor because you are demonstrating that you have the power and pull to make people take action. After all, as a sponsor you’re looking for creators that can convince their user base to take action and look into a product or service.
So am I saying that subscriber count has zero to do with anything? Of course not. For one, it does give us practice with our persuasion skills. If we’re able to persuade people to subscribe to our content then maybe we can also use those skills to persuade them to check out a sponsor or buy a product. Another important detail we can gather from subscriber count is how much people value our content. Usually people don’t just subscribe from one good video. Most subscriptions come from the channel overview page and you’re more likely to get subscribers if your channel features a lot of content the viewer will like.
So while it does provide some value and insight on the health of our channel, the subscriber number is not what we should be focused on (especially in the beginning). Instead try focusing on your views and watch time. It is a well known fact that YouTube favors videos and channels that keep viewers on the website. You don’t do that by getting people to click a subscribe button. You do that by hooking viewers and keeping them watching your content for long periods of time. As for views, when you’re getting started you can try to gain search traffic by targeting relevant and valuable keywords.
Getting views and watch time will lead to some real magic in the long term. Views and watch time will lead to higher search results and more appearances in the suggested videos column. This will cause (hopefully) your subscriber count to rise as more viewers will see your content. If you’re getting the eyes on the channel and providing good value it will lead to a more consistent flow of subscribers, I promise. It also doesn’t hurt to ask them to hit that subscribe button either. A good call to action can do wonders for you.
The bottom line is this: Views and Watch time lead to subscribers, not the other way around. If you’re new to YouTube and constantly find yourself checking your counts try to stop focusing so much on it. Believe me, I’ve been there and I understand the excitement of seeing a channel grow. However over time you’ll see the same thing I did; if you focus on providing a great value on a consistent basis the rest will start to fall in place over time.