Video is fast becoming a big deal. Some estimates suggest that 74% of all internet traffic in 2017 will be video.
If you want to benefit from the rise in video popularity, YouTube is a great place to be.
One of the defining features of YouTube is that the platform allows you to build loyal and dedicated audiences that become so developed that they evolve into communities.
You don’t have to do much searching to find real world examples of this, too.
There are many YouTubers who have massive communities. These communities will watch each and every video that these YouTubers post. Creating a community like this is hard to do, on any other platform.
If you want to create a YouTube community of your own, it can be tough to know where to start.
While there’s no fool-proof plan that will help you build a community, there are some strategic steps that you can take, to help you get going in the right direction.
In this post, we’re going to take a look at how you can build a community using YouTube and what these steps are.
We’ll also examine how you can develop a sustainable plan that will help you get results well into the future.
By the end of this post, you should be ready to build a YouTube community of your own, even if you’ve never uploaded a YouTube video in your life.
Remember that YouTube is a social network
It’s easy to think that YouTube is purely about video and to therefore mislabel YouTube as simply a video hosting site.
However, viewing YouTube through such a lens would be wrong – especially if you’re looking to build a community.
Download this cheat sheet to learn how to build a community using YouTube.
If you want to achieve success with building a community on YouTube, you need to remember that people may go to YouTube for content –but they’ll often come back to a certain channel for the sense of community and connection.
This sense of community and connection can often be measured by assessing engagement, not views.
Engagement generally relates to how much of your video people watch and if they’re leaving ratings and comments. Engagement can also relate to how many people take action when you ask them to.
If you’re looking to build a community, you’re ultimately looking to create a situation where you can consistently generate high levels of engagement.
In fact, with an engaged community, you’ll have the chance to create engagement levels so high enough to drive 2x more actions than most celebrities.
The sense of community and connection that creates high engagement is what makes people so loyal to a particular YouTube channel.
Therefore, you need to think about everything that you can do to develop deeper connections with your audience – something we’ll touch on later.
It’s also important that you take a moment to appreciate the ‘typical YouTube experience,’ in the context of what we’ve discussed above.
Tim Schmoyer is someone who has a lot of experience, when it comes to building success with YouTube.
One of his most interesting insights is that you can’t treat a YouTube video as if it’s a television program.
Tim explains how television is a ‘lean back experience’ and YouTube is a ‘lean in experience.’
This means that when people are watching TV, they might be multitasking, generally doing other things.
However, when they’re watching a YouTube video, they’re pretty much fully engaged in the content that is on the screen – hence they’re ‘leaning in.’
Because people are so fully engaged, it’s actually easier to build a sense of connection. And, this ‘lean in experience’ is generally why connection is such a big deal on YouTube.
Of course, the flip side is also true, in that people can become bored with you quickly.
You can respect the lean in experience created by YouTube, by speaking directly into the camera whenever possible and speaking as though you are communicating with a friend.
You don’t have to do this for all of your videos, but it helps to do have some moments in your videos where people can see you actually ‘speaking to them.’
If you understand and take advantage of the ‘lean in’ concept, you’ll be able to generate high connection levels much more easily.
You are the star
As we’ve discussed above, if you want to build a community on YouTube, you need to foster a sense of connection.
And, for many who belong to YouTube communities, the main point of connection is the host of the YouTube channel.
Therefore, the better the sense of connection and community with the host, the more influential the host will be.
In fact, for US teens, 8 of the top 10 most popular and influential celebrities are YouTube stars.
Though you might not get to that level, understanding that you’re the focal point of video will boost engagement, thereby increasing your influence.
So, in essence, you are the star of the show.
Now, how can you use that fact to turn your viewers into a dedicated and loyal community?
One thing that you can do is to share your origin story.
Using such a story, you can help build some common ground between you and the audience (something we’ll touch on later).
This helps to humanize you, ultimately giving people a reason to watch your videos, rather than someone else’s – even if the other video covers similar content.
‘New people’ are going to be watching your videos all of the time. So, it’s a good idea to quickly discuss your origin story at the start of each and every video.
However, you might also want to create a longer video, where you go into a lot of detail.
In this video, you should explain why you started the YouTube channel, what your personal story is and what you hope to achieve, with the videos that you’re creating.
Another thing that you can do is to remember that you’re not a ‘character.’
Sure, when creating your YouTube videos, you might need to ‘over emphasize’ some aspects of your personality to make your videos more engaging.
But, being authentic needs to be your ‘north star.’
Though it sounds cliché – you should aim to be yourself, when producing your videos.
You’re not a character in some kind of TV show.
If you pretend to be ‘someone else,’ people will figure it out and this is going to have a negative impact on your goal to build a YouTube community.
On top of that, in the long-term, pretending to be a character is going to be exhausting.
You’ll constantly have to maintain the standards created by the ‘character’ and you’ll always be wondering if you’re ‘doing the right thing.’
Don’t be afraid to create authentic content that actually represents who you are.
Being authentic is more than just some ‘feel good idea’ – 63% of people buy from authentic brands, rather than competitors who hide their true selves.
When you’re authentic, there’s less of a need for you to over-produce content, so that none of your mistakes are visible on camera.
You’ll also feel much more comfortable making jokes (jokes can make content more interesting and help build connections), when presenting your content.
If you’re authentic, when creating content in relation to a topic that you’re super passionate about, your passion will shine through and viewers will appreciate it.
Make it so that people feel like insiders in your world.
If people feel like they’re insiders, they’re going to feel like they know you better.
You can make people feel like insiders by showing them other aspects of your life that don’t relate to the core content that you’re creating.
You can also make people feel like insiders by creating your ‘own language.’
More specifically, you might want to create certain words that help describe certain issues/challenges/situations that you and your target audience might be dealing with.
Or, you may just create words/sayings that explain certain things that you stand for (more on that shortly).
Many well-known YouTubers do this and it is even a strategy that’s recommended by YouTube.
Here’s an example of a YouTuber who follows the above advice –
Take a moment to think about any unique words or phrases that you have used in the past. Consider if you might benefit from ‘formally’ using them in future videos.
Communities have something in common
Communities are generally defined as ‘communities,’ because the people who belong to these groups have a set of shared principles and values.
They all have something significant in common.
As the star of the show, it is up to you to decide what these principles and values are and then make them obvious.
Take some time to formulate a purpose or mission, in terms of what it is that you want your channel to achieve.
If you’re developing a video for a brand, it helps to find some kind of middle ground, in terms of what your audience cares about and what your brand stands for.
When you find this sweet spot, people will be more receptive, because your content relates to issues that your audience strongly cares about.
When discussing your purpose or mission, mention explicitly what it is that you stand for and how you want to change the world for the better.
You can do this at the start of every video, or create another video entirely.
Note: While it is true that you might be able to implicitly showcase what your YouTube channel is about, by only creating videos related to a certain topic, doing things that way won’t necessarily help you to build a community.
Sure, you might achieve a lot of views, but you won’t have a dedicated community that will rush to watch your latest videos and fight for you in arguments, when someone else brings you up.
When you can provide a mission/purpose statement, you give people a ‘why,’ in terms of the reason that they pick your videos over other videos that cover similar content.
Get to know your community
Without them, you wouldn’t have a following that consistently watches and engages with your videos.
Therefore, it’s important that you regularly interact with your audience, in order to help foster the sense of community.
The most basic way that you can do this is by responding to comments.
Every now and then, dip into the comments section and see what people are saying. You don’t always have to leave ‘constructive’ comments.
A simple ‘thanks for watching’ can actually go a long way.
Here’s an example, from Gary Vaynerchuck – someone who’s heavily into YouTube and building a community using the platform.
If you noticed, his comment generated a disproportionate number of likes, partly because people appreciate him interacting with his audience.
You can also host a Q&A session with your subscribers.
Let them know, ahead of time, that you’re going to be hosting a Q&A session. Then, ask them to leave questions in the comments section.
If you find that there are any comments that have a particularly high number of ‘likes,’ it might be beneficial to give them priority.
There’s also the option of co-hosting one of your YouTube videos with your fans.
When you do this, you’ll create a lot of goodwill with the fan that you do the show with.
However, you’ll also show a lot of your subscribers that you’re willing to engage with them and even share your screen time with them.
When engaging with your fans, try to get to know your loyal fans, as much as possible.
These individuals will be your biggest brand advocates and will do a lot of promotion for you.
You can often identify your most loyal fans, when going through the comments. You’ll often find that there are some people who leave comments for each and every video that you create.
Creating a community on YouTube isn’t something that’s necessarily easy. However, if you put the time and effort in, the results of building a community can be amazing.
Creating a connection with your audience is probably the most important aspect of building a YouTube community.
As you have seen, there are multiple ways that you can build connections. You don’t have to use these techniques all at once. But, they all deserve your attention, at some point or another.
One thing that you can never ignore, when it comes to building connections, however, is the importance of being authentic.
If you’re not authentic, people won’t connect with you, no matter what else you do – greatly increasing the difficulty of building a community.
Needless to say, the process of building a community will take time. But, if you take a look at the current results of other engaged communities, I’m sure that you’ll agree that the effort is worth it.
Do you have any tips to share when it comes to building a community using YouTube? Please let me know in the comments below.