Getting traction on YouTube is HARD. I’m not sure why exactly, but getting people to subscribe is like pulling teeth. This is true even if your content doesn’t suck. For the rest of this post, let’s just assume you are putting out awesome content. When you started, getting to 100 or 1,000 subs seemed easy right? But you’ve been working your butt off for months and it turns out that gaining subscribers is way harder than you expected!
It is 2018, everyone has a Google account right? Subs are free and easy. Why is it so hard to get people to click that red button?
I think it is helpful to try to get into the mindset of a person who hasn’t subscribed yet and try to think about the things that might stand in their way. Remember, not everyone uses YouTube or the internet in general in the same way you do.
Some reasons people might not subscribe:
- You can watch YouTube without being signed in
- People don’t remember their Google password (they just have it saved on their main device, or use apps to access things like Gmail)
- Signing in is tedious (might require 2FA or other hoops)
- They don’t have the YT app and don’t have time to install it right now
- People don’t realize that their Google/gmail account means they automatically have a YT account
- They don’t want others to know they subbed to you
- They want to keep a very curated feed and they only sub to very specific kinds of channels
- You only have one video that interests them or you have too much variety
I’m sure there are a hundred different reasons, and that may be a fun case study for another blog post, but let’s get back to how to get more subscribers.
Because getting subscribers is difficult, I see too many people who say “just keep creating great content and subscribers will come.” I’ve seen FAR to many channels where that just isn’t the case. I look back and see dozens of amazing videos and under 1,000 subscribers.
The truth is, getting traction on YT takes hard work. Hustle, consistency, and maybe a bit of luck are all key ingredients. Casey recently said that getting to 10,000 is the hardest part. So I want to brainstorm and practice some ways to get more subscribers. Instead of focusing on really huge ideas like getting 10,000 subs, I want to break it down into ideas that should be able to get 100 subs. If I can come up with 10 of those, I can hit 1,000 and that is a great start.
I’m going to keep a running list of ideas, invite other people to help brainstorm new things to add to the list, and then go and try them myself.
One more side note (and another idea for a future post): I do understand that having more subs who don’t care about your content isn’t as helpful as having fewer and more loyal followers. Numbers aren’t all that matters, blah blah, I get it. That being said, getting some traction in the beginning is absolutely critical. I see way too many people who are suffering and struggling to hit 100 when they should be blowing past that milestone and pushing toward bigger goals. Again, in the long term it is going to be very important to create content that people like to consume, and to cultivate relationships and human connections. That will almost always be more important than subscriber counts. However, let’s be real. There are tangible benefits to getting more than 1,000, 10,000 or even 100k subs. YouTube gives you new features, brands are more likely to be willing to even start a conversation about sponsorship, and you have the social proof that lets people know you are serious about this YT thing.
So while I think in the beginning (especially pre-100) you should just do whatever it takes to get those numbers up, I’m also not going to be adding ideas like buying subs, sub4sub, or any other crap like that. Some of my ideas might not bring 100% qualified and loyal visitors, but they are all ideas that should bring real people who at least want to give you a shot.
Top Ways to Get 100 Subs on YouTube
The first group of ideas are things that you can do by putting in the elbow grease yourself. You don’t need to depend on other people to promote you, you will be promoting yourself. Some will get you 100 subs in a day, and some will get you 100 subs over the course of a few weeks or months.
1. Just ask your friends and family
You probably have far more than 100 people in your social networks. I just checked and I have over 1,600 friends on Facebook and over 500 Instagram followers.
To get 100 subscribers, first go for the low hanging fruit by making a public post and asking people to subscribe.
Then make a really quick Facebook video showing HOW to subscribe (many people don’t know).
After that, reach out to people directly by sending a message that says: “Hey! I started a YouTube channel and I’m working really hard to get 100 subscribers so I can access new features for my channel. Do you mind checking it out and clicking subscribe while you’re there?” Obviously personalize this for your needs, but you get the idea!
2. Randomly ask 500 people (in person)
Ok, it might take more or less than 500, depending on who you ask (and depending on how good you are at pitching your channel). But the idea is to directly ask a ton of strangers to subscribe.
First, come up with a reason to ask people to subscribe. Check out this study that shows that simply using the word “because” can increase the chances of someone doing you a favor, even if the reason is bogus. A real reason would be better because it will also give you a chance to practice perfecting the value proposition of your channel.
Second, make sure you have an easy way to access your channel. If you don’t have a custom URL, set up a simple redirect on your website. Bonus points if you have a business card, sticker or something to hand people that will help them remember your channel. You may also want to try asking people “do you have the YouTube app?” and then asking them to pull it up and subscribe right now.
I’m planning to try this at our local university, on a busy street downtown, at a local market, or at an event where attendees are likely to be interested in my content. It will really be outside of my comfort zone, but I think it will be a good exercise!
3. Randomly ask 1,000 people (online)
You can also look for random people online to ask to subscribe. I don’t mean spamming your link in a bunch of groups or forums, but sending personal messages to people that you don’t know.
My suggestion would be to find places where you can interact, and then send messages to people who participate in conversations with you. You can also search for people who have shared content similar to yours or who follow people with similar channels. You won’t be able to see a subscriber list on YouTube, but you can go to a YouTuber’s Instagram or Twitter and find people to message.
I know this has the potential to be really spammy or awkward, but as long as you are polite, have a good reason to send a message, and don’t pester people, it may be worth sending a few hundred messages to see if you get any response. Do this over the course of a few weeks or months, not in a single day.
4. Run hyper specific ads
I know this would require spending money, but I didn’t say all of the ideas on the list would be free. I’ve seen ads to subscribe to a YT channel on Facebook, Instagram and as pre-roll ads on YouTube itself.
One time I saw a pre-roll YouTube ad asking me to subscribe to a YT channel of a small business located close to me. Just the fact that they started that ad mentioning my city caught my attention.
I haven’t tested Facebook ads for YT subscribers, but it is worth a test. I’ll be experimenting with ads to grow subscribers, and also looking for other people who have done this and shared their experience.
5. Join (or create) communities of other creators and interact regularly
This is one that won’t likely get 100 subscribers in a day or two, but I’ve seen this method work well for many people. It does take work, as you need to contribute to the community regularly. Once people get to know you, they’ll want to see more from you. This could be a community that already exists, or you could create a new community. Don’t limit yourself to groups of YouTubers, search for communities around your interests and the topics of your channel.
Be sure that you give more value than you intend to receive. Jab, jab, jab, right hook is the name of the game with this idea.
6. Host a giveaway
Giveaways are a great way to grow your following, and you don’t have to be a huge channel to start using this strategy. In the early days, it may make more sense to do an informal giveaway to subscribers to increase the sense of loyalty and exclusivity. You could give away something really small or simple just to encourage people to comment, subscribe, and invite others to do the same thing.
Once the channel is a bit larger it may make sense to take giveaways more seriously. Use a tool like Gleam.io, who has a great guide to hosting a giveaway on your channel. A little searching on Google or YouTube will reveal many other tips and case studies on using this strategy to grow your following.
7. Take advantage of obvious places to plug your channel
This is another method that works best as a trickle over time, but it is very passive in nature. There are several places to put your YouTube channel URL that you may have completely overlooked.
First, consider adding or updating your email signature. If you’re anything like me, you probably send dozens of emails a week. Make sure to put your value proposition and a link to your channel at the bottom of each email.
You should also include a link to your channel on your most used social media platforms. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, wherever you have a profile with a bio, include a link to your channel.
You can also add “?sub_confirmation=1” to the end of the link to your channel to prompt people to subscribe when they visit your channel link. Bonus points if you make that a pretty link. Here’s an example:
8. Break videos into a series/playlist that gets updated over time
Creating a series or playlist is a great way to increase subscribers because it gives people a natural reason to subscribe (they want to see the next video in the series).
My plan is to turn this list of ideas into a playlist on my channel as I test each idea, and hopefully that will encourage people to subscribe to see what happens as I test each of the new ideas.
9. Present at local meetups
When I was first growing my Facebook group, my first 100 members came from a public speaking engagement at a local organization. There are likely dozens of meetups that happen every month in your city. Many of them will be looking for speakers, and if you have expertise on a subject, you can often get in front of their group. It is pretty common to have 15-50 people at local meetups, and if you present your channel well, it isn’t unlikely to get most of the audience to subscribe. Present at 3-5 meetups and you could easily hit 100 subscribers!
10. Make something you can send to 100 people for cheap
I’ve seen quite a few people doing this with stickers, but it could be anything that you can send people for subscribing. Make subscribing to your channel like an exclusive club or membership.
You may not be able to get the name or even the channel name of every person that subscribes, so be sure to ask them to take an additional action after subscribing like filling out a form with their mailing address so you can send their swag.
11. Say you’ll do something at ___ subscribers that all of your friends would love to see you do.
This can work very well if you have a following that connects with you personally. This can also be a great way to push more friends or acquaintances to subscribe that you missed from the first tip.
You’ll shave your head at 100 subscribers.
At 500 subscribers you’ll donate $500 to a local charity.
At 200 subs, you’ll create a video about ____.
When you get to 1,000 subscribers you’ll give away a ____.
12. Do a local treasure hunt
Plant a treasure in your town and make a video series with clues to find it. Make sure to space out the clues so that people need to subscribe to get the next clue. This will probably work best if you can make the treasure substantial, but people love getting in on this kind of game, so you may be able to gain 100 subscribers just by posting fliers around town and posting in a few local Facebook groups.
If your channel doesn’t really have a local following, you could also do some sort of online treasure hunt. Create a riddle or puzzle and give people clues each week to find the answer or solve the puzzle. This could be a really fun way to collab with other YouTubers or network with other website owners who might be willing to hide your clue on their website.
13. Get a booth at a local market, tradeshow, or festival
This may look very different for every city, but I know in Columbia we have a market where local artists can get a space for less than $50 and hundreds (sometimes thousands) of people attend every week. I could probably write a totally different blog post with creative setup ideas for a YouTuber. There are so many creative ideas possible and they will probably vary wildly based on your niche or channel topic. A friend of mine who has a channel focused on teaching kids about engineering set up a booth at this market and had kids help build a project, took video at the booth, and used it in videos on his channel. You could set up a booth simply asking people to tell a story on camera and create a video series about locals. If you sell a product you could set up a display of your products and also set up a TV displaying videos from your channel.
This could also work at an industry tradeshow. This might work well if you have an educational channel and you can set up a booth at a convention where your target audience is in attendance. Often these booths go for $100-500, and you may even be able to negotiate a special deal if you can provide some video coverage for the event.
14. Do a local show with a series on the best places to find ___ in your city
I really want to try this with a few different ideas. In particular, I want to make videos about the best burgers in my city, and the best guacamole in my city. I’ve also been wanting to do reviews of playgrounds with my kids. There’s an infinite amount of content with this kind of series. The main reason it attracts new subscribers is because people want to make sure they see future content so they don’t miss the “best” place.
This could also work for non-local channels. You can always do a series about the best of anything that you’d like to review. Each review may get views, but creating a series is much more likely to attract subscribers.
I think the local idea is great because it taps into a community that already exists. People feel like they are subscribing to support someone who is part of their community. Who doesn’t want to watch a well made video series about their own city? Think about other natural communities you can tap into as well.
15. Host a local meetup
16. Take advantage of your current audiences
17. Website popup if you have traffic
18. Embed a subscribe button on your website
Ideas Requiring Collaboration
Some ideas require networking and building relationships with other people. The following ideas require reaching out to someone else and may depend on that other person completing an action.
Collaborating can often yield far more than subscribers. It can feel really awkward at first to ask people to help you, but if you can get past that initial fear, you’ll be rewarded! Be prepared to hear “no” more often than yes, but don’t give up on an idea just because a few people didn’t agree to help. Often it takes 10 no responses before you’ll get a yes.
19. Twist on the giveaway, get local businesses involved
This could be a twist on the giveaway, or the treasure hunt. Try to get local businesses to donate to the final prize or treasure, and make your subscribers go to that business to get the next clue. This works well for the business owners because you drive foot traffic to the local businesses by requiring your viewers to go there to gain entries or clues. It works well for you because if you can get several businesses participating and they will put up a poster or some cards for you, you’ll get more subscribers from the people who visit the business.
This could also work with online businesses if you get creative. It may seem obvious to think about getting other people to contribute to your giveaway, but I think it is important to differentiate the ideas because some people may get caught up on trying to figure out what to giveaway on their own.
Another option if you’re having trouble getting someone to donate a prize is to purchase the prize from a local business or a company you support. You can even sweeten the deal by offering to do a promo video for them. I imagine you’ll be able to get a yes out of someone if your offer is “I want to pay you, create a free promo for you, and drive more traffic to your business.” If you’re thinking “yeah but what’s in it for me at that point,” don’t forget that you are asking them to promote your contest or giveaway to all of the people who walk into their business. There is also power in reciprocity and when you try to add value first, you’ll be surprised how often people want to give value back to you.
20. Interview people (with an audience)
One of the great things about interviewing people is that if you make the interviewee feel really great about themselves, they are likely to share the interview with their audience.
Keep in mind that your interviewee doesn’t necessarily need to have an audience on YouTube. Maybe their audience is on a different platform, or even a local in-person audience.
Remember that your goal is to make the interview valuable to your audience AND the audience of the person you are interviewing. Then be sure to ask your interviewee to share the interview, and make it extremely easy with templates and graphics when applicable.