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How to convert YouTube viewers into subscribers

How to convert YouTube viewers into subscribers Teresa Caro

Has anyone ever shared a YouTube link you loved so much that you subscribed to its YouTube Channel to be sure to catch the next video? I've done it, once or twice. (Simon's Cat is my favorite.) The problem is that because so many of these viral videos are one-hit wonders, viewers rarely expect the next one to be even half as entertaining. Also, few users realize that YouTube has channels, so subscribing doesn't come as naturally as "liking," "following," or "connecting." So how can you overcome these challenges and make the most of YouTube's brand channels? Start with these six steps.

Serve up the right content

Studies show that consumed and shared typically fall into the same categories. Categorization aside, your content must align with your brand. Taco Bell can be unconventional and shocking, whereas Chick-fil-A needs to be family-friendly and cute. In other words, do not simply create content for sharing's sake. Create it to reinforce your brand. In addition, ensure the role and purpose of your YouTube content is clearly defined. YouTube is not Facebook, Twitter, or Vine; your content and approach should reflect this understanding. Finally, give your viewers a reason to subscribe (e.g., a second-screen experience, ongoing original content, tips or advice, celebrity videos, curated/sponsored clips, product demos/premieres, etcetera).

Create branded channel art

Channel art is now the biggest piece of branding on the channel page, so take this opportunity to showcase your brand's personality. The design scales across any device, which allows viewers to enjoy the same visually compelling, entertaining and authentic brand experience anywhere, anytime. A more branded, complete YouTube channel page will help viewers feel an emotional connection with your channel, which will ultimately turn casual viewers into loyal subscribers.

Have a riveting trailer

YouTube's version of a call-to-action, the new trailer feature is a great opportunity for brands to convert viewers into subscribers, as it enables brands to highlight videos to play only for non-subscribers. The viewer lands on a brand channel and, without prompting, the trailer video begins to play. Use this tool effectively, and it will persuade viewers to subscribe.

Include a call-to-action

If you don't ask, then viewers won't know (or remember) to subscribe. In every video there is a place for brands to write a description -- for example, "Click the SUBSCRIBE button to get notifications on when we post brand-new videos." Disney uses this feature to the fullest.


As marketers, we know an integrated approach makes everything work harder. In-video programming enables brands to cross-promote videos. Provide links to websites discussed in the video and always incorporate additional branding once the video is published. This is a great opportunity for a brand to ask its users to subscribe to the channel page with text overlay inside the video. Birchbox did a great job with this.

In-video programming also gives brands an opportunity to create real-time engaging content within a video. If your video is talking about a great e-commerce site, have a pop-up that links to said website. If your video is discussing a new product you're selling in stores, provided a pop-up that allows users to buy it.

Buy them

As with any digital experience, this is not a "create it, and they will come" scenario. Paid, owned, and earned media need to work together in order to ensure the best results. For YouTube, their TrueView ad units are still a high-value option. Definitely take advantage of it before other brands figure it out and YouTube starts elevating the price.

Ultimately, when it comes to brands leveraging YouTube, we believe that the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer. Brands that have been successful with YouTube in the past will continue to be successful; those that have struggled to make the most of the platform will continue to do so. Don't be one of the brands that struggles. Start focusing on taking advantage of YouTube and all it has to offer.

Teresa Caro is the SVP of social and content marketing at Engauge. Co-author Emily Schwartz is a social engagement coordinator at Engauge.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

Teresa Caro leads Social Marketing for Engauge. At Engauge, we believe social marketing is the connective tissue of marketing — the common link that creates a real-time, interactive connection between brand and consumer. During her tenure at...

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