Building up your YouTube community is hard work, but totally worth it for any serious content creator. Find out why on this week's episode of TubeTalk.
When you look at the big YouTube channels, there's one thing that they all have in common. They all have an amazing community or fan base. That means that as soon as a new video is launched their fans are the first to comment or the first to watch or the first to share. You have to focus on building up your community if you stand any chance of success on YouTube.
The mistake that a lot of us make is that we only use the tools that YouTube provides. In other words, we use the community posts, or we reply to comments, and that's pretty much it. So today we're going to focus on using multiple tools to build a communication channel between you and your audience because that is how you grow your own YouTube channel.
So, how do you build that one on one relationship and engagement with your audience? I put that question to QuHarrison Terry, Growth Marketer at for Mark Cuban’s group of companies. Now you all know Mark Cuban - he’s a venture capitalist, and he's also one of the sharks on an amazing show called ‘Shark Tank’, where he invests in certain companies that he believes in. But once the show is over, once the due diligence has been done, and once Mark and his team really get to grips with that company to help them grow, QuHarrison steps in and helps with those communications, helps with their strategy, helps with their growth.
Now QuHarrison himself has been a founder of several companies, especially in the high tech space, from an advertising agency, specializing in marketing to millennials, to a healthcare data exchange platform, the world's first digital art marketplace powered by blockchain, so plenty of experience in growth and community building. In this episode you will learn:
How to build your YouTube community
How to treat YouTube as a serious business so you get that return on investment
Why creators need to think of themselves as a brand
How to reach your audience where they are
The best tools to use to reach your YouTube community
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How to Build an Engaged & Loyal YouTube Community: Full Transcript
Liron Segev: QuHarrison, thank you for taking the time to be on Tube Talk.
QuHarrison Terry: Thank you.
Liron Segev: As content creators, we are out there, we're delivering our content, we're getting views, we're getting likes, we're getting subscribes, we're getting comments. Surely that's enough, no?
QuHarrison Terry: I think it's enough for some, but if you're serious about this and you want to make this a full time job or a serious stream of revenue, you have to kind of treat it like a business. And in that regard, what business do you know that succeeds that doesn't serve their customers? And in serving your customers, you can't serve them if you don't talk to them, right? You have to talk and listen to them and then modify your product ideally, and now you have a business.
Liron Segev: So, the two way communication. We're looking at it saying, "Okay, well we're behind the camera, we press record, we upload onto the platform, we're pretty much done. Maybe we'll do a bit of social media, but technically we're done." You're saying then, we're going about this the wrong way around?
QuHarrison Terry: Yes, yes, yes. I'm thinking you created a product, but you only get a portion of what's really out there if you only look at the metrics that are given to you from a platform like YouTube, right?
A lot of those metrics are great for YouTube, and they could be great for you in certain situations, but in most situations they're not telling you the full picture. Like if someone came to your video and watched it just because they did a simple search, that doesn't mean they know your brand. That doesn't mean they know you, but it is an opportunity for them to get to know you. And how do you continue that conversation after they've watched or received the information they had?
Liron Segev: Okay, so you've hit on a couple of very important key points here. So, first of all you mentioned they don't know your brand. Do you think that YouTubers, content creators as a whole, are maybe not thinking of themselves as being a brand?
QuHarrison Terry: I think at a later stage it becomes almost impossible to not see yourself as a brand. When you have 500,000 subscribers or a million subscribers, you're a brand. You're a household name in some places, right?
When you're just starting out, it's really hard to see yourself as a brand when it's just you and your friends at home, your family that check out your content, and so I think it's a perception that changes over time. But to answer your question, I think everyone should look at themselves as a brand if they want to not passively create content, but actively do it.
So if you're seriously just considering starting a channel or already have a channel and you're taking it serious in the sense of it's fun, it's just something you do in your past time but you enjoy it, then yes, it's a brand of some sorts, right? Even if you do it and this is like your full time gig, it's a brand, and you have to treat it almost as if it were a real brand. Whether that be a company, a business or an organization, because the brand is key.
Liron Segev: Well, and the brand is you. I mean, at the end of the day it's your that's out there. And you want it to be top of mind when people think, "Hey, I need to have a good laugh today. I'm having a really bad day. Who's my favorite YouTuber?" You need to be that person, that destination. My toilet is clogged. Who do I go see? You know?
QuHarrison Terry: Yeah, that's true.
Liron Segev: So being top of mind means essentially creating a brand. Do you advise content creators to think as a business even when they're small?
QuHarrison Terry: Yes, yes, undoubtedly. I think that even in this conversation, when we talk about brands and what it means to be a brand or if you should consider yourself as a brand, that can be very daunting. Right?
I imagine if I were just trying to get content out the door, that might actually prevent me from creating content if I started to think about a brand and me as a brand and how that should function, because there's a lot of tough questions that you run into when you start to think of yourself as a brand.
So, the prerequisite I would put on the whole consideration of considering yourself as a brand would be think about it, but don't let it paralyze you. Acknowledge it, but don't let it be the end all.
Liron Segev: Right. And not responding to the analysis paralysis. I need to get everything absolutely perfect, otherwise I'm never going to press that record button. Well, that's going to stop you from ever pressing the record button, right?
QuHarrison Terry: Correct, because some of the people with the best brands don't make a lot of content. I mean, look at Beyonce. She's a great example. Beyonce doesn't run around always making content, following the nine tips you need to do on Instagram or YouTube to grow an audience, but she has an impeccable brand.
Now you can say she did a lot of things in a prior history or timeline before social media really existed, but the key point I'm trying to make here is a brand is something that co-exists alongside your efforts and actions.
She put definitely the time into becoming an artist and sharing her art, and that basically paid off dividends and turned into the massive brand that she has today.
Liron Segev: And at the end of the day, it's still about the content. Even if you don't have everything nailed perfectly but it's still good content, people are going to watch.
QuHarrison Terry: Correct.
Liron Segev: You're going to build an audience because you're giving them value. You're giving them something for their time, which is awesome. All right, so that was the one point I wanted to pick up on the brand. Hey, communicate with your audience. Let's dive into that, because that is really impactful. I see a lot of content creators saying, "Okay, I've uploaded my video, I've uploaded to YouTube or to Instagram, whatever the platform may be. I've engaged with people in the comments. Well, I've done my job." Put a little tick box and move onto the next video. Are they wrong?
QuHarrison Terry: No, they're not wrong. I mean, would you think they're wrong?
Liron Segev: Well, I would think that there's different levels of communications based on different levels, right? But I do think that you can carry that conversation way beyond just a reply to a comment.
QuHarrison Terry: I would totally agree with that. I think there's a lot of examples there, but for the people that commonly think about like what does communication on the platform and off the platform look like, I see so many people just default to email. The thing about that is I think it's the lazy way of communicating with your customers.
I've got an email newsletter and I've got a paid newsletter, right? I understand email and I cherish it as a channel, but I also do see how it is a lazy mechanism for people to talk with their customers, especially if you have a younger audience, right?
So one thing I would do is I would look at my YouTube data, and I would look at where do people, one, consume my content? If people are consuming my content and watching my videos on mobile, well that's a great metric. I probably would much rather show up in an iMessage, a text message, a Slack or Discord.
If you're consuming me on desktop, then maybe something like a survey or an email or a Chatbot experience might work better. Right? And I think to your broader point with there being levels to the dialogue at which you can converse with your viewers, I would say there's some good examples out there already.
When I watch Jared Polin's videos, Fro Knows Photo, he's a YouTuber, he makes a lot of content breaking down the schematics of cameras and how they intertwine into a creator's life, and he gives a lot of how-to guides, a lot of actions. He's the guy I go to when I want to know all the settings on a device related to photography and videography. His channel is very unique, because he's got over a million subs. He can't really respond to all the comments because of just the volume.
And with that being known, what he's done is he's built some pretty interesting funnels. He sends everyone back, for the most part, to froknowsphoto.com, and then there's different offers for different people. So he has the email newsletter, he has the discount if you just want something right then and there. He has a tutorials, of course. He even has courses, right?
I think that ecosystem that he's built is very much a heavy lift. If someone were to start today and they were just getting started, I would not say, "Go make froknowsphoto.com," but I would say definitely learn from it, right? And just say, "Hey, I really like how he sends everyone to this one destination. And that destination can be a plethora of things, but the one thing you do need to do is get information from the viewer. Whether that be a name, an email, a phone number, and then you need to continue that conversation."
Liron Segev: And the most important thing here is owning that relationship.
QuHarrison Terry: Yes.
Liron Segev: The one thing that, as much as we love YouTube, at the end of the day we only have a subscriber, name, and a number, and it's not a telephone number, it's just a number of subscribers. If we want to send out a message to say, "Hey, we're going live tomorrow," there really isn't a way to do that. You're relying on YouTube notifications for all of those.
What he is doing is very smart. He's owning the relationships by building up a mailing list, by building up a call list, by getting people to opt in. That is actually absolute gold. Content creators of smaller sizes could maybe not do everything, but maybe they should focus on building up one channel of communication, give away something, give away a free ebook. Maybe is that a good place to start?
QuHarrison Terry: Yeah, totally. Even if you've given away time. It's not scalable, but if I were starting off and you are inspiring or helping people, make yourself available, even if it's just 30 minutes a day, and you can pick the channel.
I've seen people do lives on Twitter and Instagram. I've seen people do things on LinkedIn. I've seen people do things via email, right? I mean even Gary Vee, you've seen him just give away his phone number. He's like, "Shoot me a text message."
Liron Segev: How simple is it to pick up your phone and say, "Okay, go live on Instagram," and say, "I'm going to answer your questions for the next 30 minutes. Come and hang out."
QuHarrison Terry: Right, and the first initial sessions are probably going to be quite dry, there's not going to be a lot of people.
Liron Segev: But that's a good thing though. You can practice.
QuHarrison Terry: It's true. That's true.
Liron Segev: Do you find that YouTubers as they start to grow and build, they're realizing that, "Hold on, this stuff costs money. I need to be able to fund this somehow."
QuHarrison Terry: Totally. Totally. Because your time is money, right? It's the one thing that's not scalable. A lot of people trade hours for money, and that's like their job, right? And some people are YouTube creators and they can create content, and they put a lot of time into their content, and then they trade that content for monetization of some type, whether it be a brand deal, whether it be advertising or affiliate dollars. And knowing that your time is the most valuable asset you'll have, yeah, you need to take this seriously and monetize it to some extent.
I think owning that communication channel with your customers alleviates you from relying on certain platforms too much. Obviously you need those platforms to reach everyone and reach the masses, but if you've got ... Kevin Kelly, he's got a really good theory on this on 1000 True Fans. If you're interested in knowing why it's important to own the relationship, I'd recommend reading Kevin Kelly's 1000 True Fans theory. I'm not going to cover it here. That could be its own episode.
Liron Segev: I've just read Pat Flynn's Superfans book, as well. He talks about exactly the same thing, that once you have fans and they know you and they get to kind of think a one-on-one relationship with you, it's amazing how many doors that unlocks for you. You might not be thinking about that right now. Maybe you're thinking I'm too small, maybe it's only my friends and family that watch it, but if you can start building your mindset and around that and start thinking of this as a business, that transition will be so smooth as you're growing bigger and bigger and bigger versus trying to just shove something down at a later stage.
QuHarrison Terry: Right. I think a lot of people too, when you're just starting out and on this journey of trying to communicate with people, you might not see the benefit right away.
Liron Segev: Yeah, absolutely. Like, I'm commenting back. That's pretty much as good as an email.
QuHarrison Terry: Right, right. And you're like, "Well, I don't know. I put a lot of energy and time in this, and I didn't get anything out." I think it's a rolling 90-day period. You have to assess your efforts over a 90-day period. Consistently put up shots for 90-days. A shot could be shooting an email, sending a tweet, sending a text, making yourself available, and see what works, and then go back and reassess where your time is actually valuable spent.
Liron Segev: And it's okay to fail.
QuHarrison Terry: Yes.
Liron Segev: I mean, certain things are just simply not going to work with your audience. You've got to be okay with that. Not everything's going to be a slam dunk. I have to use a Maverick term. Not everything's going to be a slam dunk right out of the gate. You're going to have to experiment and see what works for you and what works for your audience as well.
QuHarrison Terry: That's the journey.
Liron Segev: That's the journey. I do like the point, and this is actually a super point what you made about if your audience is from mobile, speak to them in a mobile first environment.
QuHarrison Terry: Yes.
Liron Segev: You mentioned some of the tools and we went through them very quickly, so it's worthwhile mentioning again. What kind of tools would you suggest on mobile phones?
QuHarrison Terry: So on mobile phones, if I had an audience and my YouTube data told me 50% or 69% of my viewers were coming from that channel, I would definitely try iMessage business chat, right? That's something that's been underutilized, but really what Apple did is they opened up an API and they allow anyone with a business to send a message as an iMessage directly to phones. That's really cool. And then that would be an angle, SMS would be an angle.
I think another angle I would go is overly sharing my Snap code or my social tags. Not just in the description, but I would better incorporate them into the mobile experience. So like maybe I say, "If you're watching this in the first week, I've added it to my snap story and it will be in my featured highlights." Right?
I would get creative knowing that you're not going to get someone to go from their phone to their desktop computer and do a checkout process right away. In some cases you could, but what you could do is get them to go to something that they're going to do intrinsically in mobile. And the social media apps that are more personal and ephemeral really only take place on your mobile phone.
Liron Segev: No, but that's great, incorporating that messaging into maybe your outro as you're ending up your video. So, "Hey guys, after this I'll be sharing some behind the scenes, maybe on my Instagram or maybe on my Snapchat, and here is a link. Go and make sure that talk to each other there. I'm usually available for quick chats there, too." Drive the audience actively. Don't expect them to find you.
QuHarrison Terry: Potato Jet does a great job of that. At the end of his videos what he does is he's like, "Hey, what'd you think? Did you like this video? You like the color orange background? You like this lens?", and then he tells people to chat in the comments. But he's super active in the comments, right? So he does it right on the platform, and I think people can do that too, but if you want to take it off the platform and build up an audience elsewhere, it's not a problem to to try that out as well.
Liron Segev: And it's okay to get weird.
QuHarrison Terry: Of course.
Liron Segev: I mean, you don't have to follow one thing. Try it, evaluate, did it work? Yes or no? If it did, do you have to tweak it? Yes or no? And then rinse and repeat until you found a formula that absolutely works. As you keep on saying, "we have to measure, measure, measure." Any tips on what we should be looking out for?
QuHarrison Terry: Let's say I had a YouTube channel and I had a dashboard, what I would do is I would go into my YouTube dashboard, I would look at the different types of viewers that I have and where they're coming from. More specifically, are they desktop, are they web-based, mobile, are they video game consoles? Because that that could be interesting. I'm sure there's some channels if you're a streamer, you probably have a large percentage of people that are viewing you from a gaming device or a console.
Liron Segev: Ooh, I like that. It makes sense.
QuHarrison Terry: Yeah, and in that case that's a different experience because that's a shared screen experience, right? You have their phone which is free, they're watching on a TV, and then in some cases people have different monitors going because they're playing video games, right? So you can capture two other screens in addition to the screen that you have. And so that would be the first step, is I'd figure out where is my audience when they're watching my content?
Liron Segev: Don't be scared of your analytics. Go and investigate that. Going to your demographics, go into your sources. One thing that we always glance over, we assume everybody is coming from the US or they're all English speaking. You'll find that India is a very, very big player on YouTube. Could you leverage that as well? Could you create something around those contents as well? Don't be scared of your analytics.
QuHarrison Terry: And vidIQ makes it easier than ever to make that happen. You know? So get in the dashboard, use vidIQ and figure out where people are viewing your content. What I would do is I would make a super, super easy path for my highest engaged viewers to find me. In my case, let's say it's a mobile phone. I would go to Landbot and I would make a chatbot experience that is like a landing page. I don't know if you've seen Landbot.
Liron Segev: Well let's explain it for those who don't know.
QuHarrison Terry: Yeah. So Landbot is a website that allows you to create chatbot simultaneously or instantaneously with relative ease. You don't need to know how to code, and it looks really, really slick, and it's super fascinating and captivating. I would use Landbot to basically wow the viewer, because your content already did that. They watched your content, they're engaged. You need to meet them exactly where they're at, right?
And so if they're already amazed, keep them there. So I would use that so I wouldn't have to worry about the UX to design, and I would create an experience that was just asking them a question. It could be a survey. Answer these questions or fill out this form or play this game or do whatever." And at the end, I've gotten your information and you've gotten something out of it.
I would then reach back out and I would analyze all the feedback and all the surveys and all the results that are coming in, and I would reach out via email, Slack, Discourse, text message. Whatever platform you chose, I would reach back to those people and say, "Hey, I saw your results. This was really cool. I was fascinated, blah blah." And if you're an introvert, because if you're an introvert you probably don't want to do that, I would automate it.
I would pre-write all my little scripts, and I would just copy and paste it, copy and paste it, copy and paste it. Even if you don't want a response, make it so that they just can say yes or no.
And then you don't have to continue the conversation, right? But I would look back and just analyze how many yeses, how many no's.
Liron Segev: Well, what's great about that is that not only do you get the cumulative results, so many yeses, so many no's, but I love the idea of identifying kind of your top engaged fan and then having a one-on-one conversation. "Thank you very much. You gave me amazing feedback. I really appreciate you being here. I'll look forward to seeing you on the next episode, and I'll be looking out for you in the next forum." Something like that.
QuHarrison Terry: Totally. Exactly.
Liron Segev: Yeah, you have a fan for life.
QuHarrison Terry: You definitely have a fan for life, and they feel comfortable suggesting things they want to see, topics they want to watch or hear, and that's powerful.
Liron Segev: That's ridiculously powerful. I think what just to be kind of really the cherry on the cake here is if you can ever reply back to someone with a video message as opposed to an email or a message, that's a game over.
QuHarrison Terry: Game over. That's hard. That's hard to do. It is very hard to do.
Liron Segev: If you use a tool like IFTTT ( If This Then That), you can actually design a whole bunch of pre-scripted thank you messages or pre-scripted welcome to my channel messages, and simply use that and automate your life away.
QuHarrison Terry: Really? I didn't know that.
Liron Segev: How awesome would that be to do that?
QuHarrison Terry: I love the sequence. I never thought about it, because then you're making four videos but the sequence is the same every time, and it's just as personal.
Liron Segev: And it's just someone who gets it on their phone. It's like getting a shout-out from your favorite celebrity. You feel special. And this is about building that relationship with your audience.
So as we wrap up here, anything else that comes to your mind? I mean, I love the fact that you have a helicopter view dealing with slow many companies.
QuHarrison Terry: Yeah, a couple of points, right? You need to repeat any of these processes that we've mentioned in order for them to work, because nothing really works when it comes to conversations the first time. Imagine any good relationship you had, and go back to the first conversation with that person. The first conversation was probably not the conversation that made that a great relationship. It's awkward, it's weird. You don't know each other. First date stuff.
The first conversations, those are the ones you really want to like, you want to throw those shots away. That's not the best moment. And in that knowing that, you have to repeat these processes, you have to try these conversations. Don't be annoying. Don't be annoying, don't be creepy. Don't only respond to the attractive followers that you have.
But the more frequent you are when talking to the people that you want to engage with, the more likely they'll become loyal watchers and admire some of the things you have to say, and build relationships that last. I think if you get stuck, it's probably not easy enough.
It's probably the process that you have is probably not easy enough. So when I think about the businesses that don't talk to their customers, it's not because they don't have the desire or know why it's important, it's because the process in which they need to talk to their customers is not easy enough for them to do on a repeat process.
Liron Segev: Okay, that's a good point. Just keep it simple.
QuHarrison Terry: Yeah, keep it simple. And I think stay open. All the the people that we've mentioned, you'd be comfortable asking them literally anything, and even dumb questions, right? Don't be the snob that says, "Ask me the hardest question so I can answer that and show off my intellectual prowess." That's not going to build a great community, and it's going to deter a lot of the first time newcomers that actually are going to be your most valuable assets when it comes to word-of-mouth virality.
And when you have a strong community, you actually won't have to answer the easy questions because your community will do it for you because they will want the visibility.
Liron Segev: Yeah, a hundred percent. We do live streams all the time, and our own community tends to allow other people in the community asking those questions, which they already know the answer to. It helps them, they feel good because they're contributing, they're part of the bigger picture. It's just a win-win situation. I dig that.
QuHarrison Terry: Exactly.
Liron Segev: Okay, this is what I love is that it seems so simple once we have the conversation, but so many people are not thinking along those lines. So now this is the challenge to everyone listening, is to go back to your content, go look at your analytics, don't be afraid. Find out where the people are watching you, and see how you can engage with them on that platform. Make it simple for them to communicate with you and don't be a snob. Don't only answer the high subscriber people, answer every single one of those. I know it's difficult, but that is how you build your own community.
QuHarrison Terry: Totally.
Liron Segev: Okay, we're going to have to have you on again, because I feel every time we speak there's just so much more that we can go into.
QuHarrison Terry: All right, thanks.
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Liron Segev, aka TheTechieGuy, is the Director of Customer Success at vidIQ, an internationally celebrated Digital YouTube Strategist working with some of the largest brands and YouTube influencers in the world. Over the past 20+ years, his work has taken him to South Africa, the UK and the US where he frequently speaks at conferences and provides expert tech commentary for various print publications, radio, and TV while actively running his Tech YouTube Channel.