“Please remember to give me a cheeky subscribe!”
“Don’t forget to SMASH that like button.”
“Thank you for subscribing if you already have, but if you haven’t… you know where that button is.”
Those phrases are a staple of YouTube videos. The last one was my own and was something I uttered at the start of every single video – until a few weeks ago when I decided to stop asking for people to subscribe to my channel.
I did this for two reasons. Firstly, I’d heard numerous YouTube experts suggest that it really doesn’t make any difference whatsoever and can, in fact, turn more people off than generate new subscribers. Secondly, it’s part of a drive to rid myself of stats addiction and focus on creating tighter, more valuable content.
This is what happens when you stop asking people to subscribe to your YouTube Channel.
My drive to reduce stat addiction
I revealed recently that I’ve decided to reduce the amount of time I spend checking my YouTube statistics and numbers. It really isn’t good for your mental health as a creator; continually peeping at those charts, bar graphs, and Top 10 lists makes you less productive and far more anxious.
It’s a tough habit to break. YouTube knows exactly what it’s doing, you see – the team behind the YouTube Studio app is a master at gamifying the experience of being a YouTuber.
How many subscribers have you got now? Where does your latest video rate right now compared to the previous ten videos? What about in ten minutes’ time? Will it have changed?
Exhausted? Me too.
Continually asking for new subscribers only adds fuel to the stat addiction fire. Why aren’t people subscribing when I ask them to? What more do I have to do?
For every video in which you desperately (it rarely comes across as anything but desperation, I’m afraid) ask for new subs, you’re giving yourself more reason to continually refresh that subscriber count in YouTube Studio.
Trust me – it’s not a nice place to be.
How I used to do it
There were two ways I’d ask people to subscribe to my YouTube channel during a video.
I’d start by asking them right after the hook (that’s the super short intro right at the start of my videos). It’s a pretty brutal approach, when you consider the flow:
Hook > Logo ident > SUBSCRIBE TO MY CHANNEL
Why should they? By that point, all I’ve given them is a cliff-hanger about what’s to come and a short, sharp dose of my branding. There is literally no reason for anyone to hit the subscribe button at that stage – it is asking far too much. I’m a stranger who needs to deliver on his promise before anything remotely resembling a connection can be developed.
The other way I’d ask for subscribers is via a lower-third graphic that would appear about halfway into the video or during what I assumed would be a particularly valuable section of content for the viewer. The idea was that the viewer would be so enamoured with what they’d just seen, that they’d only need a brief visual reminder to forever wed themselves to my channel.
This is, of course, utter tosh, and incredibly presumptuous. Lower thirds should always be used sparingly because they take the viewer’s focus away from the content above. Such graphical additions should, therefore, only be used to further illustrate a point or confirm the name of the person appearing on the screen.
So, what happens when you just stop employing both of these subscriber fishing tactics?
Good news! Without that initial bid for subscribers at the start of each video, my content immediately feels far tighter. Now, the flow looks like this:
Hook > Logo ident > Intro
The video simply continues naturally and at a pace that benefits the viewer. No demands are made of that person, and the delivery of value accelerates. What better way to hook a viewer in, keep them engaged, and tempt them to subscribe to your channel without ever muttering the ‘s’ word?
The answer to the question posed in the title of this blog post is pretty simple: nothing. When you stop asking for subscribers, your channel continues to grow at the same rate as before.
I tested this theory in a couple of videos where I reverted back to asking for subscribers, albeit in a slightly different way. Rather than hitting them squarely between the eyes after the logo ident, I waited until the end of the intro section before revealing that only 10% of viewers were subscribers. I’d seen other YouTubers employ this tactic, and it seemed a neat way of convincing regular viewers who weren’t subscribed to hit the button.
In reality, it sounds even more desperate than a standard subscription request. What if the 90% of people who aren’t subscribed don’t want to be subscribed? Perhaps they’re happy just to keep watching your videos without hitting that red button, thus adding to the far more important ‘watch time’ metric on your channel.
Why spoil that relationship by making them feel bad about not subscribing? Does it really matter? Sponsors might be attracted to vanity metrics such as subscriber counts, but once you start talking to them about watch time and retention, they become far more interested.
The stats tell their own story
It should be noted that I chose to conduct this experiment during the ‘tech slump’ that inevitably takes place before the spring. Beyond loose rumours, smaller product announcements, and accessory round-ups, there’s not much to talk about, and the niche subsequently takes a bit of an annual nosedive.
One might therefore assume that combining this lean period with a determination not to ask for new subscribers is akin to signing a death warrant for your channel. In reality, my stats tell a very different story.
Looking at the year-over-year subscriber stats for March and April (roughly the period during which I stopped asking for subscribers), the numbers are up for this year. In 2021, the channel picked up 5,939 subscribers over that two month period, versus 7,227 this year. So, it’s still growing, nicely.
The growth in views is even more impressive. During that two month period this year, my channel achieved 1,054,839 views, versus 465,385 in 2021. Watch time? That’s up, too – try 91,493 versus 42,914.
Doesn’t sound like a channel in decline because the YouTuber decided to stop asking for subscribers, eh?
Oh, and revenue was up by £2,000, as well.
My little experiment suggests that asking for subscribers has no measurable impact on channel growth. The rate at which your subscriber count increases depends on the type of content you’re publishing and how consistent you are in doing so.
I’m not going to ask for a ‘cheeky subscribe’ ever again – it is utterly pointless. Instead, I’m going to concentrate on the goal I set myself earlier this year – keep making stuff, and keep making it better. That’s all my audience wants. If they subscribe, it’s a welcome bonus.
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