How to Get Your First 1000 YouTube Subscribers22 min read
If you do these things, and you do them consistently, it is nearly impossible to not get your first 1000 YouTube subscribers in a short amount of time.
I recently hit 1000 subscribers! I am so thankful for everyone who comes to this website, and visits me on YouTube, for helping me get there. Excited to see where this internet journey goes.
At the time of writing this, I only have 1k subscribers, so take my advice with a massive boulder of salt. However, these are the things that I have learned, and applied, that, I think, have helped me gain my first 1000 YouTube subscribers.
1. Be Good and Be Consistent
This is really the only tip you need, be so good they can’t ignore you.
If you make good videos, consistently, you will amass followers at an exponential rate. I promise that. Let’s parse this statement, the “good” part will be difficult. Most of my videos still suck, I know that, but I also know that practice, just doing it, is what will make me better.
The second part of this statement is much more accessible, upload consistently. Not only does is this much better for your current subscribers and the YouTube algorithm, but, it keeps you accountable.
I made a decision to post a video, every week, for two years, and I plan to stick to it no matter what. This deadline I set for myself, every Friday at 12 pm EST (*wink*), keeps me publishing videos. If I didn’t have this deadline I may just wait out making videos because they aren’t ready, or I have a busy week, or… i’m sure you can think of some more excuses.
Bottom Line: Publish at least one video a week, at the same time every week, and make it as good as you can.
2. Use Analytics
What thumbnails are being clicked on more? Less? What titles seem to work? What videos are people watching longer? Did you edit it in a different way? Analytics is a great way to see what’s working and what isn’t.
For example let’s look at the past 28 days of viewership from my channel I see a clear trend.
Anki, studying, and “Vlog” seem to be working best. So what videos do you think I will be making more of?
Unfortunately photography, self-help, and tech may not be my niche. So I should make less of these kinds of videos if I want to grow my viewership.
This is using analytics at a very basic level. Other things I would look at include:
- Impression-Click Through Rate (How often people are clicking your title/thumbnails after seeing them)
- Watch time (As of now this is what YouTube seems to select for more and more)
- Comments and Likes (This indicates more “user interaction,” which means your video is, for some reason, getting more people involved; that’s a really good thing. Also according to backlink.io the more comments a video has the higher it ranks).
Bottom Line: Watch impression-click through rate and views to see which videos more people are watching.
3. Publish Longer Videos
We focus on those [videos] that increase the amount of time that the viewer will spend watching videos on YouTubeYouTube
Here’s a graph from backlinko.com:
It seems the top videos all have a high average length.
And, anecdotally, it seems my top performing videos are longer in length:
The average length of my top five videos is 14 minutes and 49 seconds, and according to backlinko.com, the average length of a video ranking on the first page of YouTube is 14:50. That’s pretty spooky…
It makes sense, what’s YouTube’s incentive? Well, their #1 incentive is to make more money. How do they make more money? They place more ads. How do they place more ads? They put more ads in videos. How can they place more ads in videos? They place multiple ads in videos. The greater the length and the more watch time your video has, the more chances YouTube has to put in ads and make more money.
Bottom Line: Aim for videos 15 minutes long.
4. It’s ok to ask your friends to follow you (once)
When you publish that first video, it will feel like the most important thing in the world, you are going to make it big time! I remember I posted my first video and thought this is amazing; I’ll be Ali Abdaal in no time! Then, after an hour, I had 30 views? 23 of which was me refreshing the video.
Realizing my YouTube debut was going poorly I reached out to my friends and family and bam! I gained 30 subscribers and 100 views, that felt good, and you might need that as your first push, that’s ok. Sure they may make fun of you a bit, but they most likely will support you, and if you can’t handle a bit of good-natured ribbing from friends and family, do you really think you can handle the comments that come from the internet when you’re famous?
As a final note don’t pester them, text/email/call them once and be done with it or they may be done with you.
Bottom Line: Tell your friends and family about your YouTube channel, ask them subscribe, do this only once.
5. Interact With Your Audience
When creators take the time to interact with their loyal community, it can encourage audience participation and ultimately result in a larger fanbaseYouTube
You are probably a small channel, like me, if you are reading this post. How can we compete with the people that have 1 million-plus subscribers? Well, one thing we can do that they can’t do, is we can be unscalable. Specifically, we can reply to every single comment. Yes, every comment.
Those bigger YouTuber’s just can’t do it; they get too many comments and they get them constantly.
Replying to every comment builds a more interactive community around your channel.
Reply to all comments.
Sidenote: I also do this with my emails, Instagrams posts, and Twitter (all though no one has directly tweeted at me yet with my 8 followers *sad face*)
Now, there is a caveat here, I, personally do not recommend commenting on other people’s channels for the pure reason of pulling viewers to your channel.
Now, I am all for interacting with other YouTubers in your space. In fact, I think that’s an amazing way to grow, collaborating with other YouTubers. Also, we all have egos and feel down at times, it’s so nice seeing another YouTuber, or anyone really, compliment you on your content or provide a constructive piece of advice or criticism. Then, people might follow your channel because you are making the internet a better place.
However, occasionally, I’ll get the comment on my channel, “hey great video – check out my channel because I do XYZ,” this isn’t interaction. This is an advertisement. It’s tacky, it’s lame, and people, including me, can see right through it.
Sure advertising your channel through comments on other people’s channels may pull a few videos, but, in my opinion, it is a waste of time and comes off as tacky. Time would be much better spent making consistently good videos.
Bottom Line: Reply to every single comment on your YouTube channel.
6. Learn From (Yes, Copy) Others
Every successful YouTuber has taken inspiration or copied others at some point in time.
What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original.Austin Kleon – Steal Like An Artist
Ok morality claim out of the way, who are people that make similar kinds of videos to you that are one or two scales of magnitude higher than you? For example:
- If you have 0 – 100 subscribers look at channels with 1k or 10k subscribers, what are their most popular videos?
- If you have 1k subscribers I would look at channels with 10k or 100k subscribers (what I am doing now).
I’ll show you exactly what I do when I want to come up with new video ideas. I go to one of these medical school YouTuber’s, or productivity YouTuber’s at anywhere from 1k – 1 million subscribers and see what videos they have that have done well.
For example, I was following this guy when he had less than 10k subscribers. It looks like “Day in The Life” and studying videos do well, so I wrote those down as potential videos.
For my “niche,” I was looking through different channel’s most successful videos and I saw a theme:
- Day in the Life “Vlogs”
- Study and “Study With Me” Videos
- Anki Videos
So, I made videos based loosely on those ideas. Right now I have a running list of my next 30 videos. I am just working through that list, but once I finish and publish those videos, I will probably do repeat this process for some more ideas.
Of course, this shouldn’t be your only source of video ideas, I have some videos coming out soon that I think are just “Zach’s idea.” But drawing inspiration from others is a great place to start.
Bottom Line: Look to channels 10-100x bigger than you in your field and look at their most popular videos, make videos with a similar theme to those most popular videos.
7. Have Good Thumbnails and Titles
This is extremely important. I’m going to spend a little more time on this because of just how important it is.
Most of my viewers, right now, are new viewers, they see a thumbnail and they click it. They don’t know me. They don’t know if my videos will be good. They are going just off my Title and thumbnail.
Using our previous tip one of the best things to do is look at other people’s posts.
I ramp it up here though, I have big dreams! I want to be the best! So I look to people I really admire for thumbnail inspiration.
Some things I notice about these thumbnails and titles:
- Simple and Bright
- Not Much Text
- Real World Props
Another good thing to do is before you make a Thumbnail or Title try and search your to-be title on YouTube. Look at what thumbnails do well. For example, as I’m creating this post and associated video, I will look at all of these and adapt mine from them.
Two great resources for checking out your titles/thumbnails:
- Thumbs Up – This shows you how your thumbnail will look
- Headline Analyzer – This gives your title a “score,” I usually aim for 65+, it’s annoying that they make you sign up (that part is new) but it’s worth it. Here’s an example of me using it for this post.
Let’s look at one of my earlier videos with a bad thumbnail and title.
I wouldn’t click on this, the title isn’t appealing, the side-by-side shot? What’s the story here? I’m not sure what I was trying to do. Now let’s look at a better one.
Here is an example of one that is better: it’s simple, the message is clear, it’s more enticing, and it’s something I would want to click on. Guess how I decided on this thumbnail? Exactly what I mentioned before, I searched which ones seemed to have the most views and then added my personal style.
In the end, you will never be able to truly figure out what the internet wants. So here are three things that I do that seems to be working ok:
- Step 1: Look at other people’s Titles and Thumbnails, which have the most views?
- Step 2: What would I want to click on? Which one stands out to me?
- Step 3: Does this deviate too much from who I am? How can I make this more “Zach.”
Bottom Line: Draw influence from those that have succeeded; when it doubt go simple.
8. Fix your audio
The camera doesn’t matter. Audio matters. It really matters.
This isn’t just the quality of your microphone, is the dishwasher making noise in the background? Are you 20 feet from the microphone? Is the window open and you live in a city?. Have you not prepared or scripted properly, so your video is filled with “ums”, “maybes”, and pauses?
I, and most people, will turn off a video if the audio is bad. Buy a $30 lavalier microphone, be aware of ambient noise, and speak clearly. This, and just this, can skyrocket your production quality.
talk about script?
Bottom Line: Invest in a microphone, get as close to the microphone as you can, eliminate ambient noise, script if needed, and speak clearly.
9. Optimize Your Videos For Search
If you look at my channel, it seems more than 25% of my views come from searches?!!
I try to make my titles amenable to that. Imagine you were trying to figure something out on YouTube, how would you search for it? Look at my top 5 videos, 3/5 of them have “How To” in the title.
The other great thing is that when you make your video searchable or matching what people might search, you can get a lot of views from Google. For example (in an incognito browser), if I type, “How to use AnKing Medical school” I’m the second result!
Another good way to optimize your videos for search is to use the search bar of YouTube. What are people searching for? Can you make a video that completes their thoughts? For example, when I was making the video for this post I did this. It may benefit me to include “fast” and “2020” in my title.
Now if you are really into keywords and SEO you can go here to learn more about that, but I, personally, have found this method to work fine without delving too much into the weeds of SEO.
Bottom Line: Type your YouTube video into the YouTube search bar, pick a title as close to the title near the top as you can.
10. Some Don’ts
- Don’t buy subscribers.
- Don’t mislead with clickbait (Do use clickbait, but actually deliver what you claim).
- Don’t disable comments, subscriber count, or likes/dislikes – 99% of the successful channels have this enabled, maybe for a reason? Also, it makes your channel look shady if those aren’t enabled.
- Don’t use copyrighted materials without permission.
11. Practice 80/20
The idea of the 80/20 principle is that 80% of your outcomes come from 20% of your inputs. If you can identify those inputs, and focused only on those, you could, potentially, have a 300% increase in your outcomes (80% x 5).
Of course this isn’t an exact science, but the general idea holds true.
I published a couple of videos that did OK but nothing amazing. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, one of my first couple of videos starting doing comparatively well. (This is my AnKing Guide video)
You think after that, after that, I said, “Ok it looks like that type of content did well, let’s never make an Anki/Vlog video again.” NO WAY JOSE. Are you kidding me? I don’t know why, but people seem to like me talking about Anki more than anything else. Why is that? I’m not really sure, but I’m going to double, triple, quadruple down on that stuff, and that is exactly what I did.
What happened? Well, my YouTube channel got more views and more subscribers at a faster rate than when I was doing other videos.
Actually, this video will probably not do so well. It’s not in that 80%, and that’s ok. I just wanted to make this video because I’ve been helped so much by others who made this video. But, importantly, if you go to my channel, you will see that pretty much 8/10 of the videos are medical school/Anki/studying related, that’s what people seem to like, so that’s what I will work on and continue to make.
Bottom Line: What is the 20% of your content that 80% of the community flocks too? That you get 80% of the output? Double, triple, and quadruple down on that content.
12. Create Evergreen Content
You want to build a positive feedback loop of awesome content. Make the internet a better place and you will be rewarded in turn.
Topical, zeitgeist, content, in my opinion, should make up no more than 20% of your material. Think about it. If you see a new channel on YouTube and you see “Best iPhone Apps 2005 For Scheduling Your Day,” do you think you will click that? However, if you see a video, that is, “How do properly manage and schedule your time,” you might click that. Both of these videos could have been published in 2005, but one is likely irrelevant while the other one is more likely to be relevant.
You want content that ages well because it starts to stack on each other. This is going to sound silly, but I didn’t even want people looking at my channel until I had my first 10 videos. I really didn’t want people to know I existed (yes I realize 99.9999% of the world still doesn’t know I exist). Why is this? Because if my first 3 videos were amazing blockbusters, and people were hungry for more, they would go to my channel and see exactly that 3 videos. And you know people, they wouldn’t wait around for the next video they would be onto the next thing.
Now look at it this way, someone comes to your channel that has 100 videos, if 80+ of these videos are timeless, evergreen, they will probably click around and stay with your channel.
Instead of making a video on the presidential election, why not make a video about how presidents get elected?
The great thing about creating evergreen content is that it continually builds on itself. If you make one timeless great video, that people continue to get value out of, they will keep coming back to it. You don’t need to update it. You don’t need to add to it. You just see get to see the benefits continue to roll in.
Bottom Line: Make at least 80% of your videos Evergreen, the other 20% can be topical.
13. Add End Screens
Ever notice how Netflix automatically goes to the next episode? Or if you finish a show it even sends you to another show that it thinks you would like?
All major content providers want to do this. They want you to stay on there longer, watch longer, so they can advertise more and make more money. It’s that simple.
If you don’t add your own endscreen YouTube will add it’s own end screen for you, but here’s the catch, it doesn’t send the viewer to another one of your videos, it sends the viewer somewhere else. See YouTube doesn’t really care where the viewer goes, as long as he/she stays on YouTube.
You, however, want the viewer to stay with you, why? For the same reason everyone else wants the viewer to stay. More watch time, more advertisements, more $.
I always select the “best for viewer” because YouTube knows what the individual is watching, has already watched, and will usually suggest a good video.
Now, of course, this is an algorithm, there is no human touch here. So there may be a perfect video to send the viewer to next that YouTube couldn’t figure out. If you know that video there is no harm putting up both of those videos, or only that video.
I personally like to just overlay it on something as you see above, but the below, from backlinko.com, is a good option as well.
Bottom Line: Add a 10-second end screen with a subscribe button and a a next video that is “best for the viewer.”
14. Have Fun (so you can play the long game)
I’m doing this because I think it’s awesome, yes it’s work, but in the end, I feel good about it. I have endless ideas about medical school, studying, and productivity videos. I don’t think I could ever run out of video ideas.
If you start to struggle after 20 video ideas for your new channel, it may be time to switch it up. Because the vast majority of channels do well after uploading many videos. Every single one of the top 50 YouTube channels has over 100 videos, with most having over 1000.
The other part of having fun, though, this is your channel. You can do whatever you want. I break all of these rules with certain videos, why? Because this YouTube thing is mainly for fun. Something about time flying?
Bottom Line: Have fun. Seriously, do whatever you want.
If you got all the way to the end, thank you so much for reading. I really think these tips, if executed consistently, will get you your first 1000 subscribers and more. It seems to have worked for me.
Gregory Yee · February 5, 2021 at 11:07 am
What a great read! I found a lot of it to be extremely helpful (and inspiring), particularly for someone like myself who is at the cusp of beginning a Youtuber’s journey as well. Have you considered doing a write-up or video about how you acquired all the necessary skills to put it all together? How/when did you learn videography, or write scripts? editing? website design?
Zach · February 5, 2021 at 4:59 pm
That is a good idea! I will definitely make a video about the specifics in the future.
Gregory Yee · February 8, 2021 at 5:05 am
I look forward to it! Maybe if you can explain how you aligned it to your medical school schedule, that would also be awesome too. I’m also a 2nd year medical student and I feel like, in addition to prepping for Step 1, it seems nearly impossible to learn YouTube (and the related, necessary skills) now. But…1% better each day, I suppose!