In an interesting blog post yesterday, YouTuber, web video marketing expert and author of the awesome online video handbook, Beyond Viral, Kevin Nalty, aka Nalts, makes the provocative statement that, “[YouTube] subscribers simply don’t matter nearly as much as people think.”
For many, subscribers have been viewed as the ultimate measure of a YouTuber’s success and sustenance. Popular channels are ranked by most-subscribed, successful partners will tell you about the importance of growing your subscriber base, and more and more creators are adding ‘Subscribe’ annotations to their videos and asking viewers to “Please subscribe!” But Nalts turns this idea of subscribers on its head, even going as far as to say, “I’d trade you half my 250K subscribers for 1000 actively engaged viewers,” using this “provocative overstatement” to bring his point home.
While Nalts does point out that, “A solid base of ‘fans’ or avid viewers is invaluable,” he does provide some good support for his claim that subscribers just may be a thing of the past. He points out that these days subscribers really don’t account for many of a YouTuber’s views—”the majority of views by the top 500 YouTubers are driven by ‘related videos’ and micro-featuring.” Not subscribers. Additionally, not all subscribers are actually fans. A lot of people may subscribe to a YouTube channel on a whim and then, when they see your video come up in their feed, they may write some not so nice comments if it’s not something that is really their style.
So what’s to be done? If subscribers are no longer to be seen as currency on YouTube, what should creators be focusing on? Nalts offers up a set of new rules, and you should definitely check out his post for the full rundown. The new rules begin with stopping the constant checking of subscription numbers and focusing, rather, on building the relationship with your real fans.
Nalts also stresses the importance of producing regular videos. There is a constant battle of quality versus quantity when it comes to web video and Nalts reveals, “I used to post daily, and when I stopped (on advice of many that said they’d prefer a good video weekly than decent videos daily) I lost a lot of momentum.” That’s not to say that you should forgo quality and just upload any old thing so that you can get a video up as often as possible. However, you don’t need to spend a full week on every single video.
In addition, he brings up the point that rather than just asking viewers to subscribe, you should focus on asking them to comment, rate and favorite your videos—after all, this is what makes videos climb YouTube’s most viewed and most popular charts.
Finally, Nalts suggests creating topical content related to what’s going on in the world—news, holidays, popular culture…and don’t forget to bring your own audience in via Facebook, Twitter and other networks.
I have asked a number of YouTube partners about their advice for someone who wants to succeed in the wild world of YouTube and almost all of them have told me that building a subscriber base is extremely important. They’ve said that your subscribers are your “fans”—they are the viewers that keep coming back, again and again. I think it is so interesting to hear from Nalts that subscribers may not be all their cracked up to be and that there are far more important things to focus on.
What’s your take on YouTube subscribers? Let us know in the comments below.
Megan O’Neill is the resident web video enthusiast here at Social Times. Megan covers everything from the latest viral videos to online video news and tips, and has a passion for bizarre, original and revolutionary content and ideas.