The world’s most popular and arguably successful YouTube “star” remains the Swedish video game influencer PewDiePie, who has some 105 million subscribers and makes $1.15 million per month. Russian-American Anastasia Radzinskaya, who has the YouTube handle Little Nastya has 56.9 million subscribers and makes in excess of $250,000 per day.
Not everyone is going to make that kind of money, of course. It is a combination of showmanship, finding (and keeping) viewers and no shortage of luck. For every YouTube star there are plenty of individuals who couldn’t find an audience if they set themselves on fire!
“The one key to success for YouTube creators is consistency,” suggested Jennifer Quigley-Jones, founder of London-based YouTube influencer agency Digital Voices.
“Consistency” has a lot of meanings however.
Quigely-Jones added that it means knowing the niche or topic your audience love you for and building a channel around it. “Keeping a distinctive format or editing style and showing your personality,” she added. “Posting videos regularly. Most YouTube creators spend years building their audience and it takes a lot of consistent hard work to get there.”
Standing out in a crowd also helps. This is why there are countless musicians offering lessons, or dozens of history experts and notably plenty of video game commentators, but only a few of each have truly reached the level of YouTube stars.
“Being an expert definitely helps,” explained Brian Dean, one of the world’s authorities on SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
“But it’s probably the 10th most important key to success on YouTube,” added Dean. “The number key to success on YouTube (by far) is bringing something new to the table. In other words: positioning. Whether your channel is about cooking or MMA, there are probably 1000+ other channels that cover that same topic. So the first question you need to ask yourself is: ‘How can I make my channel stand out?'”
This can be relatively easy for channels that feature a specific person.
“After all, every individual is unique,” said Dean. “This is one of the reasons that personalities – like PewDiePie – do so well on YouTube.”
Rules of Audience Attraction
To become a YouTube sensation you’re going to need to attract and grow that audience. What generally won’t work is to take the Field of Dreams approach. In other words, you can build it but that doesn’t mean the audience will come.
As a social media platform you need to work to build that audience. More importantly you really need to understand the platform. While there are no actual YouTube videos that will show you how to become a star, you can learn what some of the stars have done.
“That means watching other YouTube creators and working out how you want to emulate some of their formats, whilst making them your own,” said Quigley-Jones.
“Once you know what type of content you want to make consistently, then think about all the little optimization tricks,” she noted. “For example, YouTube prioritises watch time, so make sure you’re producing videos that are 10 minutes or longer. Thumbnails are exceptionally important – make them clickable and appealing (either with a designer or yourself). Then you should listen to audience feedback in comments and look at viewing behaviour for your videos, and tweak accordingly. It will take time and the first 1,000 subscribers are the hardest, but being consistent, focused and business-minded from the outset will really help.”
There are three other points that Dean suggested as well. “First, create engaging videos. The YouTube algorithm promotes videos with high levels of engagement and watch time. Which is why it’s important to create videos with this in mind before you shoot.”
Second, create a community around your channel.
“In other words: reply to comments,” Dean added. “Encourage discussions. And all in all, interact with as many viewers as you can. It makes a big difference. Finally, use YouTube Analytics to figure out what’s working. What’s not. And how you can improve.”
While it may not allow you to quit your day job; Dean and Quigley-Jones said it is possible to make money by posting YouTube videos.
“There are literally thousands of YouTube creators that have become full-time YouTubers,” he added. “But they’re a fraction of a fraction of a percent of all the channels on the platform. In fact, most channels aren’t even monetized. So it’s absolutely doable. But it usually takes at least a few years (and a lot of videos) to get there.”
The good news too is that YouTube isn’t really all that greedy – and it is possible to make something.
“Revenue splits (only on YouTube, not Instagram or TikTok), brand deals and platforms like Patreon make YouTube the best platform to earn revenue,” said Quigley-Jones. “You cannot monetize your content with adverts until you have 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 monthly hours of watch time, but once you hit that point, it can become a full-time wage relatively quickly.”