When I started my YouTube channel in 2008, the platform was still in its infancy – no one really knew what it would turn into, and opportunities to generate revenue were few and far between. Fast forward a little over a decade, and travel vlogging is now a legitimate industry made up of thousands of content creators, many of whom ask the same question: how do I grow my audience?
In such a crowded field, how do you make sure your content stands out? How do you get your videos seen? What should your game plan be? While these are important questions, it’s best to start at the very beginning: building and growing your audience.
A hook is key if you want to grow your audience. You have to have a clear vision of what your videos will be about and create content around a certain niche. If your travel vlogging focus is on food, understand what type of food content people are searching for – do SEO research (using a site such as Keyword Finder) and see what the other major food travel vloggers are doing. But remember to put your own spin on it, and to create content you love – that enthusiasm will come across to the viewer. In my case, I’m a foodie who loves having authentic, one-of-a-kind local experiences in places that are off the beaten track. So far, I’ve immersed myself in the cultures of 74 countries. I generally spend two to four weeks in a country at a time, and have so far hosted more than 1,000 travel episodes across six continents.
Growing your audience on YouTube is a process. Anyone who thinks they’re going to have a million subscribers in just a couple of years is fooling themselves. This is a long-term process that takes at least five years, minimum. You have to do it because you love it, first and foremost. You’ll have to make sacrifices and actively work at your craft. Take advantage of every opportunity to visit a different country and document it. Some people think it’s crazy that I spend two weeks in a country and film my experiences from sunup to sundown every day. It’s easy for me. I do it because I love it. I don’t see myself doing it without the camera now. It would make me sad to come home after an amazing trip and not have it documented. This is the best legacy I could possibly leave.
So, you’ve started your YouTube channel and have released a beautiful, well-made video. Now what? One of the first things you’ll want to do is ask yourself what action you want your viewers to take after watching your video. Obviously, as a YouTuber, one key goal is to entice your viewers to ‘like’ the video and leave a comment. You’ll also want them to subscribe to your channel and turn on notifications so they get updates every time you upload a video. If your viewers do leave comments, it’s important to learn from them. I like to hear what my viewers enjoyed about the video. It provides me with helpful information on what my audience likes, which points me in the direction of what type of content I should make next.
At this stage you should have set up your social channels, so you can flag them on the videos. I usually don’t mention my other channels in my videos, but provide a link to my Instagram in a pinned comment (pinned comments stay at the top of the comments under the video). I also provide links to my social media accounts in the video description, as well as my website, where they can then sign up for my David’s Been Here mailing list.
I send out a mailer each week, which features updates on what I’ve been doing and where I’ve been that week. That can include places I’ve traveled to, a travel vlog series I’m in the middle of dropping, and future travel plans that have been confirmed. The mail ends with reminders to follow my Instagram and to watch my adventures on Instagram Stories. I also provide links to my latest blog posts, interviews I have conducted with fellow travelers, and recent YouTube videos. Lastly, I share links to travel news stories, interesting travel blog posts from other bloggers, and a handful of travel deals. Make sure the mailer isn’t just promoting your channel and has useful content they can’t get anywhere else.
As far as viewership number goals go, I never set goals for the number of views or likes I want a video to hit. I can usually estimate, based on how the series it’s a part of is doing, what it may do, viewer-wise. But don’t set goals for things like that. It’s more important to create evergreen content so that each video continues to accumulate views over time instead of being a flash in the pan. Focus on creating videos about things people search for so your videos can always be found and will always be relevant.
Once you find your niche, don’t be too quick to expand outside it. Only do so once you have a large audience. I recommend starting a second channel and bringing your core audience over from your first channel. For example, I wouldn’t do a ski vacation video on my current channel. I would do it on a second channel once I was sure I had an audience that would follow me elsewhere. That way I have a ready-made audience, and eventually, twice as much revenue.
One of the keys to growing your audience is to focus on the content you create. Make sure it’s something you would personally want to watch. Cut out any footage that is overly long, boring, or content that brings down the pacing of your video. If you upload longer content – videos that are 20 minutes or more – make sure the video will keep your viewers’ interest. I want my viewers to feel like they are watching a movie, and not to realize they’re 12 minutes into a 20-minute-long video, because they’re so engrossed with what they’re watching.
If you create a vlog series that averages decent numbers – let’s say roughly 50,000 views per video – and your next series only does half that or less, don’t beat yourself up over it. Be patient and stay positive. Make sure you do your metadata, description, and title correctly so your content can rank for different keywords. After that, just give it time. Just because a video doesn’t do well right away doesn’t mean it can’t do well later.
I have videos that reached a million views that didn’t take off until six months after I released them. Suddenly, videos that had only gotten a few thousand views until that point suddenly had 10,000, 50,000, 100,000 views. That’s why I am a big believer in creating evergreen content to grow your audience. It can catch on at any time and can get big numbers for years and years after you first published it.
If you’re worried about your subscriber count, just remember this: I created my YouTube channel in 2008. I started off doing hosting-style city guides that would take me two to five days to make. I would film several days and make one video out of that footage. I wasn’t releasing consistently at that time. It took me 10 years to reach 100,000 subscribers, which I finally cracked in April of 2018. Just four months earlier, I was at 60,000.
The thing that made all the difference was me. I had switched from hosting-style videos to vlog-style videos in July of 2017. I started vlogging daily, which helped me grow my audience at a fast rate. Then, I eventually started filming two to three videos per day when I traveled so that, when I was back at home, I had enough videos to tide me over until the next trip, sometimes even longer. On August 1, 2019, I hit 400,000 subscribers. It has been like a snowball effect since then.
Create as much content as possible to reach your goals. Make sure it’s quality content that you like and that you believe in. My current five-year plan involves me releasing a video every day during that time period. It’s how I envision myself hitting my goal of one million subscribers.
And don’t forget: always work to get better at your craft, diversify your content, and go far and beyond what anyone else does. And do the things that other people don’t do on your travels.
Repeat after me: Content is KING. I have a rule that I got from entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, which is this: release at least five pieces of content every single day. For me, the cornerstone of that content is the daily travel vlog. I also release one static Instagram post, three Instagram stories, and a blog post. The video and the blog post are the two hardest, but releasing this amount of content is, in my opinion, the key to staying on the minds of your followers.
I believe in shooting for the stars. Work like hell to get what you want. If growing your audience is what you want, you have to put in the work to make it happen. It’s a lifestyle, a lifelong commitment, and a forever game.
If you can’t make releasing a daily vlog a priority, then it’s going to be much harder for you to reach the 1 million subscriber mark that everyone on YouTube aims for. After I surpassed 100,000 subscribers, a million was my next goal. I didn’t shoot for 200,000 or 250,000 or eve 500,000 next. It was always a million.
Another reason releasing daily vlogs is important is because people will take notice of your hustle. They’ll see that you’re working your butt off. You should strive to be the hardest working person in the room at all times, period. Be willing to outwork anyone and everyone.
When you release content daily, things will blow up out of nowhere, whether it’s a day, a week, a month, or a year later. I have videos that I filmed back in 2012 that got no views back then. Now, some of those videos are approaching a million views and get anywhere from 500 to 1,000 views per day!
It will blow your mind what will happen to you after releasing daily videos for five years. It brings you a steady stream of revenue and helps to continuously grow your audience. You never know which content will catch on and when.
Now that you’re releasing daily content, it’s time to promote it. I like cross-promotion, personally. Every once in a while, I’ll promote my latest blog post on my YouTube community wall. I make sure not to do it every day because I don’t want to spam my subscribers.
To grow your audience overall, I also recommend utilizing Instagram. I’ll often share footage from my latest YouTube vlog in my Instagram stories and link it to the video. Other times, I’ll post 60 seconds of YouTube footage in a static Instagram post or post a carousel of photos and videos with a caption telling my followers that I’ve just released a new video. Intertwining your YouTube channel and social media platforms is a fantastic way to grow your audience.
I also highly suggest releasing all your YouTube videos on Facebook as well. You’ll make more revenue that way and get more exposure. It’s easy to forget that everyone isn’t on every social platform, so make it easy for everyone in your audience to access your content.
The more content you produce, the more eyeballs you’ll get on it, which leads to more opportunities. If you want to make things happen, make money, grow your audience, and get to the next level, you have to work your butt off. Release content you love every single day and remember that growing your audience is a marathon, not a sprint. Keep at it, stay focused, and remain optimistic.
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