Before I give you a marvelous collection of YouTube secrets, a quick aside. They say you can tell a lot about a person by the company he keeps. Could it be said that a lot can be told about your blog by the search terms that brought people to it? Check out these classy terms that brought people to the blog you’re reading. Big butt? Really?
Okay… now your secret ninja YouTube lessons of the week. There’s a bucket of important insight here, so read it carefully. You could jump to the “key takeaways” section, but you won’t likely remember, internalize or act upon this without my examples.
Let’s face it. YouTubers are still preoccupied with subscribers, despite the fact that they mean less and less. While YouTube continues to grow in total views, behavior is changing in a subtle but important way. The most popular creators, as we have discussed many times here, are a) nourishing a community, and b) posting regularly (CharlesTrippy, ShayCarl) with decent and consistently innovative content (MysteryGuitarMan).
But top webstars are also promoting their videos via other digital and social-media channels — especially Facebook. To some degree, YouTube has become BYOA: “bring your own audience.” While this is becoming vitally important, it’s not entirely new. Many people, like MrSafety/SMPFilms, were propelled instantly on YouTube because they brought their MySpace audience over. Corey had a “head start” and continued to boost YouTube views by reposting on MySpace (a site I never much liked). Why do you think Machinima popped so quickly? It brought its loyal audience over to YouTube, where it found a secondary one.
If you bring an audience to YouTube via other social-media sites, you’ll find YouTube’s algorithms rewarding you in turn. Want to appear on the coveted spotlight page? It’s simple: Get a surge of views quickly with active commenters. Views beget views. While some hard-core viewers continue to surf their subscriptions box, the “unwashed masses” won’t know about a new video unless it’s posted where they live online… and that’s Facebook and other social-media sites. Take my wife (please take my wife- badaboom): Wifeofnalts doesn’t know when Nalts posts a video, but is always current on the latest videos by Michael Buckley (WhatTheBuck) because he alerts people via his popular Facebook account that she follows. I’m working on that by placing more emphasis on my Facebook Nalts public page and my active Nalts profile (accepting all friends until I max out at 5K).
Sure there are maybe 20-100K people that eat, sleep and breath YouTube. They’re the big fatties like me enjoying the “all you can eat” buffet. But the drive-through crowd represents 90% of the viewing… they don’t graze on YouTube, they snack.
DaneBoe (creator of the astronomically popular Annoying Orange) told the audience at VidCon2010 that his views surge when he alerts viewers of his Facebook account, which has a gazillion fans/likes. He believes that Annoying Orange’s Facebook presence is vital (Keep in mind that Daneboe was so spoiled by a 6-figure income on Metacafe that he was extremely late to YouTube). But he propelled to meteoric fame through his relatively new and cult-forming fruity character. Before Annoying Orange there was almost no “famous” and “popular” channel on YouTube that wasn’t… a person. Characters, like the hysterical ClipCritics, haven’t caught on like ordinary joe’s. Even brilliant comedic content like Barely Political and College Humor (Jake & Amir) grew quite slowly. Now this semi-pro independent content is the VIP of YouTube now. It’s the “New Establishment,” and YouTube is putting wind behind its wings.
So let’s drop our obsession with subscribers. I think this little tidbit is as applicable to video creators as to the intended audience (youth ministers). It’s from a free eBook by godrox on YouTube:
“Don’t focus on numerical growth- focus on being a healthy group. Anything that is healthy naturally grows.”
Aint it true? We often get sidetracked by subscriber numbers, which used to be incredibly important to getting views. But increasingly it’s evident that the quality, not quantity, of the views matters more. And quality of a relationship between a person and his/her audience relies on a cross-site presence. I’m working hard to build my Facebook presence, although my Twitter followers seem to cap at 10K (I once read that a community fragments when it passes that number, so I tweet manically when I’m close… hopefully shaking off those without fortitude).
Why did the YouTube collaboration between Fred and AnnoyingOrange benefit Fred more than AnnoyingOrange? Because even though Fred is more popular (as evidenced by total subscribers), AnnoyingOrange is more popular based on views of recent videos. Daneboe’s subscriber base is “fresher” and represents more active users. Fred’s subscriber base, much like my own, is artificially high based on an aged account– diluted by once-active viewers who are not currently watching in any frequency. Newer subscribers tend to be more active.
So 10 active users on YouTube is worth more than 1000 inactive accounts.
This isn’t entirely new either… I’ve known many YouTubers (Pipistrello) who “groom” their subscribers by booting inactive accounts. I thought it an odd move several years ago, since the number of subscribers had material value… it gave you “clout” with advertisers and fellow creators. Especially if you were on the top-100 list aside other hot properties.
The “health” of an online-video channel, however, can better be judged by views on recent videos. A low view-to-subscriber ratio is not a bad thing, it’s just symptomatic of an older account. A rapidly-rising YouTube “star” will have high growth rates, and lots of views on recently posted videos.
Check this Mashable link to see some of the most popular webshows in June. Again a very misleading list because some of these accounts (Charlie the Unicorn) are artificially high because 3 or 4 videos consistently get millions of views. Take this GSWanson17 account as an example; no videos in a year, and not so many views… but this one copy of “Charlie the Unicorn” video skews the account because it’s been seen 50 million times. So if you were to sponsor a video with that channel or Harry Potter Pals you won’t likely get the views you may expect. A better indicator of the views you could expect is to look at the most-recent 10 or 20 videos posted, and average them. SecretAgentBob (FilmCow) makes this hard to determine from his channel.
So how do I use this knowledge to my benefit? For starters, if recent videos don’t get a lot of views I promote them or “burn” them (think Burn Notice). Others design their account page to make it difficult to see the most-recent videos, and instead drive people to older, more popular videos. This, of course, can amplify the problem it is designed to conceal. Someone “checking in” on his or her channel page may not be able to locate the recent videos easily, and thus fall out of habit.
My two cents. Thoughts? Anyone? Beuhler? Then again, if you want to know who’s HOT check WillofDC or VidStats, which placed heavy emphasis on subscribers (versus views). My views are consistently high, but recent videos aren’t getting the 40K plus views they were getting last year… suggesting it’s time to freshen up me act, or convince someone hot to collaborate… like youtube.com/Tobuscus. Think he’ll bite?
- Subscribers and total views can mislead advertisers into thinking a new video will get views.
- Increasingly YouTube success is dependent on a significant presence on Facebook, and active “seeding” to blogs, social-media sites, and other forums.
- The YouTube pyramid is growing increasingly sharp like television or radio… as a collective audience, we can only handle so many superstars. We want to have something in common with others, and that fact propels some content and widens the gap between the top 10 and the rest.
- A webstar “on the rise” is more likely to get fast views and new subscribers, and those new subscribers are more likely to be active than those ancient accounts who subscribed to someone years ago (or use YouTube infrequently).
- The winner is the person who maintains a relationship with frequent users of YouTube, and brings YouTube traffic from other properties.
- The “New Establishment” (independent semi-produced content) is being promoted by YouTube. It’s not the end of the 15-minutes of fame to remarkable amateurs, but it’s increasingly difficult to build and sustain a solo act. TheStation picked up on this fact early, and helped prove that 1 plus 1 = 11.
- If your YouTube channel features recent videos that aren’t getting high views, savvy advertisers will hold that against you for sponsored videos. However most will be oblivious to this because they aren’t as well read as you.
- Could Annoying Orange’s success be a “tipping point” for non-vlog content? Will we see more characters and shows getting views on YouTube, a medium historically dominated by individual creators?
- Bottom line: If you’re a marketer or advertiser, it’s probably better to not enter the online-video jungle than enter without a no-biased guide. Sure there’s gold, but there are also lots of hungry cannibals. In my next post, I’ll help punctuate this by writing a point-counter-point on advertising (or not) with Nalts. That’ll be fun. I’ll show you how I can use stats and information to suggest I’m a SUPERSTAR and then I’ll pull the rug from under myself!