YouTube can be a very potent source of traffic and an interested audience, but it’s difficult to get a foothold and grow. Yet some of the largest YouTube channels on the site grew from nothing only a few short years ago. You probably won’t be able to grow to millions of views per day, particularly if you’re trying to funnel traffic to other sites, but you can gather a decent audience.
More importantly, you don’t need a huge budget to grow your YouTube channel. It’s hard to do without any investment at all, but it’s possible to get away with a mixture of free and inexpensive options. Consider these growth options.
One simple step you can take is link your YouTube channel in your other social media profiles. Add links to your about sections on Facebook and Instagram. Make it your primary link on your Twitter profile. Add it to your Google+ other profiles section. Spread it around as much as possible.
To take it a step beyond passive linking, share your YouTube videos on each of these sites when you post them, or when they become relevant. This is the key; if you have a video from a year ago about a topic that is trending now, share it again for a fresh burst of activity.
Free: Newsletter Promotion
Your newsletter is a captive group of users who you know for a fact are interested in your website, your business, your content and your brand. Informing those users through your newsletter when you post a video can be a great idea. If your newsletter is a monthly publication, for example, you can dedicate a section to a featured video posted that month. Weekly newsletters are harder, unless you’re publishing videos frequently enough to have one each week. In either case, a footer link to your YouTube channel page will be beneficial.
Free: Video SEO
Video SEO is a massive topic that can – and has – been covered in entire full-length articles and cast studies. There’s a lot you can do, so this will just cover the basics.
- Optimize the video itself, in picture, audio and writing quality.
- Optimize the video title for both viewers and search engines.
- Pick a selection of content-specific tags and industry general tags.
- Optimize the video description much like you would optimize a short blog post.
- Upload a video transcript when you upload the video itself.
- Create a custom thumbnail to illustrate the content of the video.
Free: Industry Forums
Your business, brand or channel is focused on some topic. That topic has fans; if it didn’t, you wouldn’t be focused on it because you’d have no chance to make a profit. A fan presence means there are going to be discussion boards dedicated to it. Seek those out and become a member. As you integrate with the community, you can bring up the fact that you operate a related channel on YouTube. You can share your link and ask for critique, what those fans might want to see, what they find unappealing and so forth. You gain the benefit of a link from an interested community and a ready-made focus group.
Free: Press Releases
The wrong way to use a press release is to write something that looks like a blog article and try to get as many blogs to post it as possible; that just puts them all in line as targets for content duplication, and you for unnatural links. Instead, send out notes to the owners of those blogs informing them of your content and telling them that, if it interests them, they can feel free to embed your videos to comment.
Free: Channel Collaborations
YouTube is full of content creators looking for a leg up, and often their sights turn on their fellow creators. Some attempt to put down and cannibalize the other channels and their audiences. Others go the symbiotic route with collaborations. The core of collaboration is finding a fellow YouTube creator with their own unique audience and the desire to grow. Come up with ideas for collaboration videos and brainstorm with each other to come up with a compelling video or series.
Free: Hangouts with Fans
YouTube virtually requires a fleshed out Google account, but you can use that to your advantage. Of course, if you already have a Google+ account, this is even easier. Just set up dates for fan Q&A sessions on Google Hangouts. You can record your screen with a video capture card, and you can edit and publish that video later. Cut out highlights and pack your video with a high information density for the best effect.
Free: The YouTube Fan Finder
The YouTube Fan Finder is a powerful program that allows you to create advertisements for your channel, much the same way you would using YouTube TrueView PPC advertising. As long as your channel is in good standing with no copyright claims, it’s public and your ad is short, you can submit up to five free ads. YouTube prefers channels with a certain level of viewership to maximize the visibility of your ads, but small channels can still use the program.
Cheap: Local Guerilla Advertising
Guerilla advertising is simple and inexpensive. Print out flyers or order sheets of stickers with your channel name on them. Go around town and stick them to surfaces; bulletin boards, traffic signs, telephone polls, park benches and anything else you want to put them on. If you’re an online brand with no local base of operations, you can offer free sticker sets to dedicated fans to make street teams across the country.
Cheap: Channel Shirts and Merch
It’s surprisingly easy these days to create and sell merchandise for your brand, even if it’s just a logo with a channel URL somewhere. You don’t need to worry about pre-paying and pre-selling to maintain a budget. Instead, just set up a storefront through one of the many print-on-demand services, to make and sell t-shirts, buttons, hats or whatever else you think your users might want.
Cheap: Attend Conventions and Seminars
There are probably conventions surrounding your brand you’re not even aware of, let alone attending. Investigate, identify and attend these seminars and conventions for maximum exposure. Maybe they’re conventions for like-minded fans, maybe they’re industry conventions, or maybe you just want to attend VidCon in the summer; they all work. Just throw on a custom branded shirt, hand out buttons or stickers and you’re good to go.