The 5-Part Strategy to Build an Audience on YouTube

A good YouTube growth strategy is incomplete without a plan for building an audience. Three steps must happen for an audience to build:

  1. Get someone’s attention
  2. Get them to actually watch the video
  3. Get them to come back in the future

An audience isn’t built from somebody deciding to watch video, and then a second or third video of yours. Building an audience means having a relationship with someone who is continually interested in what you have to say.

It takes more than two or three videos to do that. Having a strategy for building an audience isn’t required to grow on YouTube. Plenty of people do well without a strategy behind what they post. But having one means growth can happen exponentially faster.

The traffic source = the audience

So how exactly does one develop a strategy to build a YouTube audience?

Building an Audience Starts with a Click

Before even watching your video, someone browsing the interwebs needs to make the decision to click on your video. An audience isn’t built overnight, but rather something you want to grow and nurture over time.

There isn’t a definite start and end point, it’s a process. You’re building and constantly deepening a relationship. Regardless of whether that viewer has never seen you in their life… or they’ve already watched 20 of your videos.

Getting attention is the first step. How do you do that?

1. Win the Click on YouTube

If someone has never seen your channel before, you will need to make a good first impression. Getting attention on YouTube means persuading someone to click.

It comes down to the title and thumbnails. This means every video should be compelling enough for a random person to want to know what it’s about with no context of who you are or what you do.

YouTube is a visual platform, and you’ll want to keep this front and center when it comes to creating thumbnails that are clickworthy but not clickbaity. This means taking the time to create thumbnails and come up with ideas for how to win the click.

Your thumbnail should not be a visual replica of the title. The thumbnail and title need to complement each other without saying the same thing.

A good thumbnail will get you a good click-through rate on YouTube, but it won’t build an audience for you. Now if you’re looking for a guide to YouTube thumbnails, check out our ultimate thumbnail checklist!

Thumbnails are super important, don’t get me wrong. But they’re less of a factor in developing an audience.

2. Winning the click is easy; earning the stay is hard

Once someone has decided to click your YouTube video, we have to bridge the gap from being a complete stranger to building a relationship with that person. They have to warm up to you.

The solution? Provide value. Fast.

On YouTube, you are buying someone’s time with what you say.

And words are expensive.

Giving the audience quick wins early in the video is a better way of providing value than craming it all at the end. Only a fraction of viewers will watch to the end, so you might as well put all the value in the beginning.

This means giving some kind of justification for clicking, like answering some of the questions they’re wondering based on what they saw in the thumbnail and title.

3. Educate, entertain, or both

The best way to build an audience on YouTube is to provide valuable content. That’s what people want on YouTube after all, right?

Your choices are either to educate, entertain, or some combination of the two. Doing both is better than one, but doing one really well is better than half-assing both.

Build your brand

This boils down to the type of video you create. Generally, that means either solving a problem for someone or showing them something interesting.

4. Get them to like you

Providing value is one thing. Doing it in a way that makes someone like you is a different challenge. Storytelling to build an audience is key to a well-executed content strategy.

Having a story, personality, and relatability are three things that don’t inherently provide value because they accomplish something more important: they build trust.

Building an audience is one thing, but building a loyal audience is harder. You want your viewers to feel like they know you. Then they eventually trust you and view you as an authority figure.

The Power of Storytelling

This is where the magic happens: when people start to trust you, you have a brand; not just a YouTube channel. There’s three main elements to gaining trust from your audience:

  • Get personal
  • Don’t be perfect
  • Have an opinion

There’s a lot more to each of these steps, so if you’re curious, read our strategy on how to build a loyal audience.

5. Make them want to come back

You could make the best video on a given topic and tell engaging stories all day long. But whether that viewer chooses to watch another video of yours is out of your control.

This is the part you have less control over. Someone might decide to binge all your content in one sitting, or wait a week and click your next video that shows up on the home page. Or they might simply never watch your content again.

This is why high-quality, valuable content should be the priority across all videos you create. If that person decides to go watch another equally top-notch video on your channel, they’re more likely to keep watching more.

Creating binge-worthy content that builds on itself is a great way to do this. If you can create content that connects while teaching someone and entertaining them at the same time? Even better.

Customer v Brand

Add some storytelling by getting real and personal with your viewers, and now you’re left with more than just an audience. You’ve built a fanbase that loves your content and views you as an authority. This is also a higher converting group of people that might want to do business with you.

Your subscribers are not your audience

Gaining subscribers on YouTube and building an audience are two separate things. Your audience should be the byproduct of good content, be it video content or written content.

Your viewers on YouTube will be different every single day. They eventually become your audience by regularly being interested in what you have to say. The best way to keep people interested is to provide value in every video.

The number of subscribers your channel has isn’t really important when it comes to audience development. It’s a small part of the equation when building a loyal fanbase.

Why?

Because if the most a person ever does with your channel is watch one video, randomly subscribe to you, and never come back for more, is that really an audience?

The better strategy is having a returning audience who watches your content because they like you. They might not always be the ones subscribing, especially if you’re using unique calls to action that cut through the noise.

Building an audience is about fans, not viewers.

Once you have a following and a reputation of creating high-quality videos, you want to think about your ongoing relationship with your audience. Kickass YouTube videos should deepen the relationship with your audience.

Views vs building an audience vs gaining subscribers are different things

If you’re not sure whether you have an audience yet, ask yourself:

  • Do you see the same people commenting on your videos?
  • Do viewers know your personality?
  • Do they know about your personal life?
  • How would they describe you as a person?
  • Do they have a reason to trust you?
  • Why would they watch your channel over another?

This is easier to accomplish if your videos are personal and involve a decent amount of talking about your own experiences. But I realize that not every channel is easy to sprinkle with stories about yourself.

Some of my channels have a heavy focus on myself where my audience knows my story, where I’ve lived, what I like and dislike, etc.

Other channels of mine are less branded to me. They might only include a couple quick stories or opinions every once in a while and may not even show my face.

The best kind of audience is an engaged one.

The secret sauce to building an audience that behaves like a true community isn’t about the videos. It’s about the conversations happening apart from the videos. The best communities are built when the conversation continues after the video ends.

To truly build a relationship with your audience, make the conversation a two-way street! Engage with them. In practice, this could be:

  • Respond to every single comment (even the negative ones)
  • Ask questions in every response you write. Ask for feedback, opinions, concerns, etc.
  • Pin your own comment at the top asking something anybody can respond to
  • Tag other commenters in your responses when relevant

Keep the conversation going after the video ends. It’s good to develop your own checklist for engagement across your videos. This will accelerate your journey to building an audience that feels connected to you.

Audience is built on viewership. Community is built on connection and engagement.

Think of it like the thumbnail and title are the first date with your audience, but the comment section is marriage for life when it comes to how to build a community on YouTube.

Getting someone to subscribe is like getting in bed with them: it used to be a big deal, but these days everyone is casual about it.

Building a community is one strong way to build a brand, but it starts with being intentional about giving people a reason to come back to your content.