40k to 4 Million Views! Boost YOUR YouTube Video Views (Case Study)

Boost Nonprofit Video ViewsGuest blogger Mark Horvath founded and leads Invisible People. Today he shares how to boost your YouTube views from meh to magnificent.  BTW, Mark’s video version of this post features bonus tips not found here! Here’s Mark…

I was thrilled with the performance of Invisible People’s YouTube channel for the last few years. With a focus on homelessness education, an average of 40,000 monthly views was fantastic, or so I thought.

That changed after we joined Patreon a few months back and I started to pay more attention to YouTube. The lightbulb went off when I typed “homeless” into the YouTube search bar. Invisible People undoubtedly has more videos from homeless people than any other content creator. All that came up was prank videos and other awful content that was so far from the truth about homelessness. None of our videos were showing in search with the keyword “homeless.” I knew I had to fix this, and here’s how:

Here’s what I know. For success on YouTube, you need to produce quality content that your audience actually wants to watch. This is above everything else. Then comes your video title and thumbnail – these are extremely important if you want your videos to get noticed. Next step, add a description and the proper tags to help YouTube’s algorithm feed your videos to the right folks.

Thanks to Roberto Blake, I also learned about TubeBuddy, a browser plugin for YouTube channels that I highly recommend. TubeBuddy has more features than I have time to figure out, but it’s suggested and explore tags feature will pay for itself!

Reaching Millions
Inspired and armed with TubeBuddy, I began implementing changes to my existing catalog of 876 YouTube videos. I updated 20 videos every morning while drinking my first cups of coffee. If I had a moment of time throughout the day, I would update more.

It took YouTube’s algorithm a few weeks to catch up to my changes, but the results have been dramatic. From 40,000 views every month to now more than 4 million views every month! And that isn’t even the most amazing part. Our average view duration is 2:41 – almost 3 minutes! That means more than four million people watch at least 3 minutes of our videos EVERY MONTH!

Our channel has generated high views before, but traffic was always just a temporary spike after a media hit. The biggest was on August 22, 2010. YouTube allowed Invisible People to curate the content for their homepage on that day. Approximately 1.6 million people had a positive interaction with homelessness that day, people who may never have rolled down their window at an exit ramp to ask a homeless person their story.

With the changes I implemented, we now reach millions of people every month instead of just once in a while.

Put in the Effort
The irony is the changes that influenced this dramatic growth are techniques I’ve been telling other nonprofits to do for years.

Nonprofits (and I am sure for-profits too) often upload a video and put zero effort into the title, thumbnail, description, and tags. Many will spend thousands of dollars on producing a video yet do little to make sure people find the video online.

In my defense, I always used descriptions and tags. However, my video title was the homeless person’s first name. Our very first website played off “Homelessness has a name,” and there was a flash element that brought attention to the first name. Even the current site uses the first name in the treatment. Although I preach to nonprofits about the importance of titles, Invisible People only had a first name.

Last year I was commissioned to produce videos for a large nonprofit. It was a very challenging project and a lot of work. The videos ended up being powerful testimonies of their work, but no one sees them.

I suggested to them several times the importance of writing an engaging title and description and using tags. I even provided the nonprofit with several versions of custom thumbnails to use. The nonprofit did not use a good title or description nor did they use the thumbnails I created. Each video has around 100 views after being online for almost a year!

The Secrets to YouTube Growth
There is a false belief that videos must be short to keep a viewer’s attention. On the contrary! These days, people will burst their bladder binge-watching video content. If you look at all the successful YouTubers, their content is between 10 and 30 minutes. This is important for two reasons:

1) Nonprofits need to produce content that engages people and guides them through a storyline. Forget about the length; create videos for the story.

2) Watch time: the amount of time a viewer spends on a video has the greatest influence in YouTube’s algorithm deciding whether it’s popular or not.

The secret to YouTube growth is no secret. You just have to put in a little effort. OK, a lot of effort, but it’s worth it!

Invisible People’s focus is education and awareness, so the added growth increases impact. However, online donations have also increased behind the scenes. In June, Invisible People received more funding from private donors than we have in the last five years combined!

A Final Note
In my research to improve, I ran across a few YouTubers who had a dramatic influence on me. Roberto Blake’s channel got me thinking differently about creativity, production, and distribution. Derral Eves’s channel started me thinking about the mechanics behind the YouTube algorithm. Sara Dietschy’s channel gave me the inspiration to start vlogging.

Vlogging has helped to bring people along with me as I travel working to end homelessness. I am still experimenting with a format, but I have come to believe the YouTube and vlogging is always a work in progress. You can see some of my recent vlogs here

Mark Horvath has more than 30 years of leadership and marketing experience and a vast knowledge of homelessness, including lived experience. As an award-winning television and multimedia producer, Mark’s original expertise was in response television. Today, Mark is known for his work in transmedia storytelling, social media, cause marketing and content marketing. Mark is the founder of Invisible People, a unique digital storytelling organization that uses video and social media to change the story of homelessness and gives a voice to those who are too often overlooked. He is an internationally recognized activist and ambassador for the millions of individuals and families who reside in shelters, motels, tents along the streets and under highway bridges across the country.

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