Until recently, YouTube was the Hollywood of social media sites. Although video content could certainly be found elsewhere, YouTube was the only social video platform most people could actually name. And just as Hollywood became a mecca for actors and actresses, YouTube attracted every aspiring star and director who couldn’t pull up stakes for southern California.
Since then, online video opportunities have exploded. Performance video has become big business, particularly on Facebook. Instagram influencers can comfortably net thousands for a 60-second product video. For creators whose followings skew toward teenagers, TikTok looks like a bright bet.
What if you’ve spent years building your YouTube audience, only to watch it slip away to other social video platforms? Why not join them?
Starting the Switch
If you see the writing on the wall, don’t suddenly abandon your most loyal viewers; change platforms slowly and steadily. After developing “starter” content on your new social platform of choice, use the following tactics to drive your YouTube fans to it.
1. Take advantage of descriptive text.
The best way to let your audience know you’re active on another platform might also be the simplest: Update the description below each of your YouTube videos to promote your off-site content. Because Instagram and TikTok links won’t show up in a standard Google search, it’s critical to provide URLs for web users trying to find your content.
Especially if you have years’ worth of YouTube videos to update, prioritize by traffic rather than total views. A now-forgotten video that once went viral is unlikely to reach many fans, but a new one that’s gaining steam still may. Remember, too, to choose links according to each YouTube video’s content. If your interests drifted over the years from hiking to whitewater rafting, keep that in mind when revising their descriptions. Context is critical when you’re trying to encourage click-throughs.
2. Trade mentions with other creators.
If you’re a veteran of social video, chances are high that you’ve built relationships with other influencers in your swim lane. Reach out to them: Are they trying to make a similar switch? Perhaps you’re working to build a Facebook following from YouTube, while they’re transitioning in the opposite direction.
Once you’ve found a fit, fight the temptation to be transactional. Instead, ask how you can be helpful: Would pointing your followers toward a certain clip of hers, like an introductory video, work best? Would the influencer prefer you plug her as a person? By tapping into the reciprocity principle, you motivate her to talk you up among her followers as well. And because authenticity shows, especially when it comes to video content, a help-first approach is much more likely to pay off.
3. Host cross-platform contests.
Mentions by other creators can rope in new viewers and give your content credibility, but they’re not the only growth tactic in town. On certain platforms, contests can be gold mines. On Instagram, for instance, accounts that run regular giveaways and contests grow 70% faster than those that don’t. The key is to use them across platforms: To compete, fans have to hop over to the one you’re trying to grow.
To host a contest, you need a game and a prize. What about a “Where’s Waldo?”-style scavenger hunt that requires viewers to spot small items in the background? How about a mystery, where each clip contains a hint that helps viewers answer a riddle? When it comes to prizes, don’t default to influencer swag or trinkets you can buy at discount chains: Give something unique and free that promotes engagement, like a meet-and-greet with you or an online serenade to the winner.
4. Give yourself a YouTube break.
What if you’re churning out more videos than ever, hosting contests, and trading mentions — yet you still can’t get diehards to use your new channel? Take a break from YouTube. Don’t go cold turkey without telling people, but make it clear that they’ll have to find your freshest content elsewhere.
Should you delete or hide your YouTube channel? Only if you have switched to a totally new subject area and are sure you’ll never go back. Not only do YouTube videos have a shelf life many times longer than content posted to Instagram or Facebook, but they make you more credible to influencer marketers you might want to work with. Even if your interests have changed, there’s no harm in telling people that.
These days, YouTube is far from the only social video platform. If you built your YouTube brand before platforms better suited to your audience and interests sprung up, there’s no shame in switching. Just be sure you bring your most loyal fans along for the ride.