Set a creative strategy
Got a viral video that pulled 100,000 views? Great! But now what? Chances are, if the audience loved it, they’ll want more. Think beyond the one-video hit and consider developing a series of videos that are just as popular. Use these guidelines to test your ideas and give them the best chance of success on YouTube.
Will viewers share these videos?
We use “shareable” interchangeably with “viral” -- the idea that people watch your videos and immediately want to share them. Sharing or recommending videos is powerful because people are learning about YOU from the people THEY trust the most -- their friends and family. We think people share videos partly because of what the videos say about themselves. For example, sharing a funny video demonstrates their sense of humor. Smart content makes them look smart. How will your videos make people look when they share them? What was the last thing you shared in social media? What made you share it?
Some ways to be shareable:
- Be topical: When a story is breaking, join the conversation by crafting an episode around it.
- Be relatable: Strike a chord with viewers on a subject they can relate to, whether it’s a broad topic like cell phone habits, or a niche topic like life in New York.
- Be valuable: Try to provide practical value to the viewer. Tutorials rank among the most helpful, frequently used videos on YouTube.
- Be remarkable: Upload a demonstration of exceptional talent or ability.
See it in action
Shareability fundamentalsShareable content often gets passed along by your viewers’ family and friends. Be sure to think about how your video could appeal to those outside your core audience. When you’re thinking about video ideas, ask yourself whether each concept feels compelling enough to share. Is it useful? Interesting? Will it trigger an emotional reaction?
Shareability: I forgot my phoneViewers love content that reflects their own experiences, and it’s likely they will share it with their like-minded communities and social networks. (Video in English)
Are you speaking directly to your audience?
YouTube is an incredibly social platform. Viewers see their favorite stars as friends. Conversation is an effective way to bond with your fans. And these bonds greatly increase the likelihood that they will champion your channel to others.
Talking to the audience builds loyalty and repeat views. As you look at series ideas, consider how to have a dialogue with your audience. Establishing great communication can mean the difference between simply finding an audience and creating subscribers who come back again and again for more.
Some ways to be conversational:
- Talk to the audience in your core videos: The entire show can consist of this element, or just a segment of it.
- Talk to the audience in separate uploads: If you don’t want to have a “video blog” section, consider making supplemental videos to check in with subscribers, say thanks, or respond to comments.
- Be authentic: It should feel like a conversation because it is. For full effect, it’s critical that the face of the channel comes across as real, honest, and genuine.
See it in action
Conversation fundamentalsBeing conversational is an effective way to strengthen your relationship with your fans and make your videos feel authentic.
Conversational: LET’S DO THIS! from Shay CarlIn this video, Shay Carl shares his struggle to lose weight with his fans. He opens up and speaks directly into the camera in an intimate, conversational way. (Video in English)
Can you involve the audience?
Imagine if you had the power to affect what happens in your favorite TV show -- how thrilling would that be? One of the unique advantages of making content on YouTube is that you can give the audience the chance to participate.
Interactive videos are effective because they show viewers that the channel is as much for them as it is for the creator. So, as you develop show ideas, see if you can involve the audience in what you’re making.
Some ways to be interactive:
- Ask the audience questions directly: Be sure to respond to their answers in a subsequent video.
- Ask the audience to submit ideas for future episodes: If you use their idea, be sure to give them a shout-out.
- Incorporate viewer video submissions: With permission, feature clips your fans have submitted to you.
See it in action
Interactive fundamentalsInteractive content gives your audience a chance to participate in what you create. It makes them feel important and included, and this builds loyalty. What interactive elements can you add to your videos?
Interactive: Questions and Answers #2 (ft. Charlotte Lu)“The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” is a scripted, interactive series. Here, a fictional character makes a Q&A video to talk with the audience. (Video in English)
Does this idea have strong recurring elements?
Top creators agree that consistency is a must if you want to build a loyal audience, but that can mean different things to different people. Some creators consistently release videos on the same day and time. Others suggest it’s all about consistent formats, so fans know what to expect. Using the same face or personality across your videos might be your consistent element. Even a consistent tone of voice can be helpful. Regardless of how you achieve it, make specific elements of your channel cohesive when you plan your content. How can you improve consistency on your channel?
Some ways to be consistent:
- Package your show format clearly: Come up with a durable idea that can sustain interest over multiple episodes.
- Upload on a regular schedule: Stick to delivering videos on a certain day, and communicate this to your audience.
- Feature a consistent personality: Sometimes a likeable and charismatic person can be the “glue” of the channel.
- Stick to your theme: New show ideas shouldn’t stray too far from the theme and voice already established on the channel.
See it in action
Consistency fundamentalsTop creators agree that consistency is a must if you want to build a loyal audience. It’s effective because it instills a sense of familiarity and expectation among fans. How can you be more consistent with your own content?
Consistent: True Facts About The CuttleFish from zefrank1Ze Frank makes learning fun in his “True Facts” series. The comedic voice-over and the stock nature footage are the show’s key consistent elements. What other consistent elements do you see in “True Facts”? (Video in English)
Is there a clearly defined audience?
It’s important to know who you’re trying to reach with your videos. Is it a broad audience, or a certain community? Viewers love seeing videos they can relate to, so try tailoring your content to a specific group or demographic. This could be a large group, such as parents of toddlers, or a small niche, such as collectors of Disney toys. Either way, we’ve found that the more you can define your intended audience, the more traction you’ll get. Channels can grow quickly when they connect with passionate communities. Understand who your audience is and define specific characteristics to attract them.
Some ways to be targeted:
- Target audience from the channel level: SkyDoesMinecraft is entirely devoted to players of the game Minecraft.
- Target audience from the show level: Ingrid Nilsen’s channel includes all sorts of content, but her series “Get Ready With Me” targets a specific age group who is particularly interested in makeup and fashion.
- Target audience from the individual video level: Sh*t Sri Lankan Mother’s Say focuses on one-off videos for a specific audience.
- Target an underserved audience: Some audiences get little attention in other media; they’ll reward creators who pay attention to them on YouTube.
See it in action
Targeting fundamentalsChannels can grow quickly when they connect with passionate communities. Understand who your audience is and define specific characteristics to attract them.
Targeted: What kind of Asian are you? from HelpmefindparentsIndividual videos can hone in on particular communities and trends. This example highlights the experiences of Asian Americans in a creative way. By flipping cultural norms, it resonated with a broader community as well. (Video in English)
If the audience loves it, can you make more of it?
To set yourself up for long-term success, you need to build a sustainable operation that will maintain viewer interest over time. Think about what it takes to produce your series. If your audience really loves it, are you able to create more considering the location, the equipment, and budget? Is this a topic or type of production that you’ll continue to love well into the future?
Some ways to be sustainable:
- Think light and nimble: Try to produce in a way that’s less time- and labor-intensive. Typically, the less involved the production, the longer you can sustain it.
- Be realistic: Understand what it will take to produce the series, and how long it will provide content for your channel.
- Block shoot: Record several videos in one day to maximize resources.
- Know what’s next: Have a plan for what you’ll deliver to your audience after the current series is finished.
See it in action
Fundamentals of sustainabilityGrowing and maintaining a successful channel can be a long road, so it’s important that you develop ideas that make sense on a practical level. Will your channel concept stand the test of time -- from an audience retention point of view and from your personal ability to produce it?
Sustainability: Christmas Face (A Song) from Rhett and LinkRhett and Link often make high-gloss productions, but not to the point that it slows their flow of uploads. They reserve their main channel for bigger productions, while their second channel houses their lighter, quicker-to-produce content. (Video in English)
Will your videos surface in Search or Related Videos?
YouTube is one of the most-used search engines in the world. People pour onto the site looking for video content around all kinds of subjects. Sometimes these queries center around hot topics or trending events, like an amazing sports play, an election, or the Olympics. Other times, people search for more universal or “evergreen” information, such as how to fix a water heater or how to create a “smokey eye” makeup effect. Either way, discoverable videos pile on extra views and potential new subscribers.
Think about how your YouTube channel can take advantage of trends, as well as, evergreen subjects. This can help you be found in search results and related videos when viewers are looking for more of what they love.
Some ways to be discoverable:
- Build trending topics into your show: Design your series in a way that the episodes can engage trending topics in news or pop culture. Use resources like Google Trends, Twitter Trends, and sites like Trendspottr.com to find out what’s being discussed.
- Make “evergreen” content: Create videos that answer common questions or solve common problems. Videos like “How to tie a tie” draw continuous traffic, day after day.
- Be an optimization wizard: Check out our lesson on getting discovered and learn how to best optimize every video with effective titles, tags, and descriptions.
See it in action
Fundamentals of discoverabilityDiscoverable content can take many different forms on YouTube. Think about how to incorporate trending and evergreen content into your video repertoire. How will you make your channel more discoverable?
Discoverable: 8 Valentine’s Day Gifts That’ll Blow Her Mind: The Anti-List #1 from Barely PoliticalWhen you tailor content around a specific event or holiday, your videos become more discoverable. Viewers tend to search for content around big events and "evergreen topics" -- topics that never go out of style. (Video in English)
Can a brand new viewer fully appreciate every episode?
When looking at new series ideas, it’s worth considering that a significant percentage of people may discover a single episode through a social feed, a search result, or a Related Video. Therefore it’s important to have videos that don’t require a lot of context.
A show with “stand-alone” episodes is helpful because, if you’ve uploaded 50 episodes, those represent 50 chances for a new viewer to stumble upon your work, enjoy it, and subscribe for more. As you develop a new show idea, ask yourself if a new viewer can appreciate each episode by itself. We’re not saying you have to have a fully accessible show, but it can help a channel grow faster.
Some ways to be accessible:
- Don’t tie each episode to the pilot: Design the show so that each episode doesn’t rely on a specific backstory that’s only described in Episode 1.
- Show a brief recap of the situation: Create an intro sequence that reviews what the audience may have missed so they have context for what they’re about to watch.
- Make a strong Call To Action pointing back to the pilot episode: Let viewers know where they can learn the backstory. Use annotations or links in the description.
See it in action
Fundamentals of accessibilityKeep accessibility in mind when creating new content. Make videos that are open to new viewers, or develop ways to provide context for your viewers.
Accessible: Epic Chef - Pizza ChallengeEpisodes of shows like Epic Chef are accessible because they’re self-contained, providing entertainment without any need for context. (Video in English)
Is there room to feature other YouTubers?
Nothing boosts a subscriber count faster than collaborating with other creators who have passionate fans -- especially those who are making similar videos. Partnerships provide great opportunities to expose your content to new viewers who are likely to enjoy what you do.
When the guest star promotes the video, your work is seen by another loyal audience who already knows how to use YouTube -- how to subscribe, comment, and favorite videos. If they like you, they’ll subscribe to you too.
Collaborating is also a great way to build relationships inside the very vibrant and active community of creators.
Some ways to collaborate:
- Build a “guest chair” into your show: Design the show in a way that makes it easy and logical to have guest stars.
- Reach out to partners who fit: Find creators in your genre or niche who serve a similar audience.
- Be as specific as possible: YouTubers are busy with their own channels, so when reaching out, be as clear and specific as possible. A well-prepared script is often welcome.
- Take care of your guests: Feature guests prominently and in a positive light. Strive to make sure they’re proud of their role in the video. They’ll promote it more if they love the way it turns out.
See it in action
Fundamentals of collaborationPartnerships with other creators provide great opportunities to expose your content to new viewers who are likely to enjoy what you do. What channel(s) would you like to collaborate with? What does your channel have to offer in a new partnership?
Collaborative: Head Squeeze Vsauce special: Can music make you smarter?On James May's popular science channel, Michael Stevens from Vsauce guest stars to discuss whether music is really good for the brain. Both creators share a passion for music, and Michael offers a unique scientific angle. (Video in English)
Is this idea coming from a place of genuine inspiration?
Top YouTube creators will often tell you that loving what you do is of the utmost importance. Not only will it give you more stamina as a creator, but viewers can identify true inspiration -- or the lack of it. Therefore, you’ll want to be seen on camera as authentic, interested and, most importantly, passionate -- and this comes naturally if you’re truly inspired.
If you’re an individual, make videos that will make you happy. It happens to be key to building fans. If you’re part of a company, strive to make content that’s true to brand, and find talented people who are inspired by the channel’s mission.
Not sure, where to start? Think about which channels inspire you and what is it that draws you to them?
Some ways to find inspiration:
- Pay attention to what you love to watch: Think about what you enjoy from television, movies, news, or blogs and consider making something in the same vein.
- Iterate based on what you most enjoy: Try different formats and observe what audiences like best. But also observe what you enjoy doing -- hopefully they’ll be the same!
- Avoid producing videos just because you think they’ll be popular: In the long run, making videos you don’t want to make will most likely lead to frustration.
- For companies: Brainstorm ideas that are true to brand.
See it in action
Fundamentals of inspirationUse your authenticity and enthusiasm to create great content for your channel. What inspires you as a creator?
Inspired: Veritasium’s passion for scienceThe creator behind Veritasium is a science experiment enthusiast and knows what he's doing. He has a ton of credibility among his viewers and a clear passion for figuring out how stuff works. (Video in English)
How conversational are your videos?Try it now
Does your content promote interactivity?Try it now
Gauge your viewers’ reaction to your videos: use the Comments and Likes and Dislikes reports to track how much your viewers are interacting with your videos. You can also download these reports and compare the number of comments and likes/dislikes to the daily views to understand interactivity on a per-view basis.
Can you sustain your series?Try it now
Look at your upload frequency. Do you feel you can keep up with the current release schedule? Experiment with different upload schedules and monitor subscriber engagement through the Traffic sources report in YouTube Analytics.
Can you continue interacting with your most-engaged subscribers?Try it now
Moderate comments in one place -- it’s easier than ever to respond to commenters across all your videos.
How many subscribers are you adding per view?Try it now
Use the Subscribers report in YouTube Analytics to see how many new subscribers you’re adding to your channel every day, and compare that to the daily views you’re getting on your channel. Look for increases in new subscribers per view and find out what led to those changes.
How do you measure the impact from a collaboration?Try it now
Download the Subscribers report in YouTube Analytics. Calculate the average new daily subscribers for a period of time before your collaboration video was published; then compare that number to the actual daily subscribers you received every day after the collaboration. The difference between the two numbers is a rough estimate of the number of new subscribers your collaboration generated.
How do I know which blogs and social media sites are sharing my videos?Try it now
Use the Traffic sources and Playback locations reports to understand which blogs and social media sites are driving traffic to your videos. In the Traffic sources report, look at the traffic that is coming from “External websites.” In Playback locations, look at the sites that are driving traffic from “Embedded player.” In both cases, you should consider reaching out to the sites listed in these reports to feature your future videos.