Lydia Sweatt is a writer, bookworm, and bass guitar enthusiast. When she goes outside, a bicycle goes with her.
The Secret Formula for Gaining and Retaining YouTube Subscribers
Growing a YouTube channel is a tricky task. When you're just starting out, the main goal is attracting enough viewers so you can eventually turn them into subscribers. After that, it's a constant game of retention, where you do everything in your power to keep those subscribers instead of losing them over time.
But did you know that everyone loses subscribers sometimes? A slight decrease is normal, especially when YouTube deletes bot accounts or people age out of your community. But overall, you want your audience to keep growing as you chase other goals, like monetization and brand sponsorship.
So how do you keep your subscriber count high on YouTube? It boils down to one secret:
To grow your audience, you need more than action-packed videos. You have to build a community!
Online Communities: What the Research Says
In a recent consumer trends report, Hubspot asked more than 1,000 people why they joined online communities. Unsurprisingly, the top reasons were to have fun, share common interests, and stay connected with others — the same goals people have when hanging out in person.
But that’s just one part of the equation. To keep growing, a community needs its members to show up repeatedly, engage with others, and inspire more connection. So what makes people commit to those behaviors?
According to the same report, community members reported seven benefits of joining an online group:
- Learning something new (39%)
- Getting ideas and inspiration (31%)
- Meeting people with similar interests (29%)
- Being entertained (27%)
- Cultivating a sense of belonging (23%)
- Finding a support system (21%)
- Escaping from their daily life (19%)
This explains why some people don't just join communities; they become active, long-term members.
Image credit: Hubspot
So what does this mean if you’re growing a YouTube channel?
Notably, people want more than entertainment. They’re looking for safe spaces to have fun, share common interests, and develop a sense of belonging — even on video-sharing sites.
So that’s the secret: Entertainment + community building = new subscribers gained and old ones retained.
Step 1: How to Grow Your YouTube Community
Where do subscribers come from? Which creators are they drawn to? You’ll find the answers you need in three powerful habits.
1. Start with a Passion, Hobby, or Interest
From the research above, we know people join communities to learn something new or find inspiration. That’s why you should start a YouTube channel focused on your passion or a strong hobby. Then you can attract like-minded viewers who are more likely to subscribe to your channel.
Plus, it’s much easier to talk about what you know. You can make videos quickly and are less likely to give up on something you're passionate about.
2. Be Yourself
No matter what kind of channel you make, be your raw, authentic self. That doesn’t mean you have to overshare with viewers or let strangers into your life. But you should open up to people about the topics you care about while showing your personality.
Don’t be afraid to get emotional, either. A University of Chicago study found that movie-goers paid more attention to emotional scenes connecting them to the human experience (sad, happy, humorous, etc.).
All of this helps you build a community faster. As viewers get to know you, it becomes easier for them to get to know each other!
3. Experiment with Video Ideas
You never know what’s going to take off on YouTube. That’s why experimenting is so important, whether you’re trying out new storytelling formats or video ideas.
And fortunately, you have many to choose from. There are pranks, vlogs, tutorials, Q&As, reaction videos, and even YouTube challenges. When you find a concept that gives you more views repeatedly, stick to it!
Step 2: How to Keep the Subscribers You’ve Gained
Based on the research above, encouraging people to return to your channel boils down to their engagement. This goes beyond the typical advice of “make videos people want to see.” While that’s undoubtedly a part of it, people seek intimate communities where they can keep the fun alive.
1. Make Your Viewers a Part of the Creation Process
You may have started a YouTube channel to express yourself, but ultimately, you create videos for an audience. Including them in the video creation process is an excellent way to gain their trust.
You can do this by:
- Polling viewers about which video you should make next
- Filming a Q&A where you shout out each person before answering their question
- Highlighting supportive YouTube comments at the end of your video
These actions make people feel seen and celebrated. You’re helping them connect with you (and each other) by simply acknowledging their presence!
2. Respond to YouTube Comments
As often as you can, try to respond to the comments people leave under your videos. It keeps people engaged, and seeing your replies may inspire other people to leave more comments. All you have to do is lead the way by being social first!
3. Create Gathering Spaces for Your Subscribers
Technically, YouTube is already a gathering space. But sometimes you need a more intimate setup.
You can go the extra mile by hosting weekly livestreams or chatting with viewers on the Community tab. If that goes well, experiment with members-only spaces outside of YouTube, like a Discord server, Facebook group, or Patreon. Providing a dedicated space helps people connect faster!
4. Grow with Your Audience Through the Years
As time passes, your audience will grow older and wiser. They may not be the same teenagers you started a YouTube journey with five years ago, so pay attention to their growth.
Did their aspirations change? Do they still care about the same things? Are you noticing comments that say, “No more pranks?” If so, it may be time for a shift.
5. Keep Showing Up
Lastly, you can’t have an engaged YouTube community without showing up consistently. It’s easy to lose subscribers by not having an upload schedule or disappearing for long periods, especially without saying goodbye. Keep showing up for your audience, and they’ll show up for you!