Understanding Our Growth

Finding natural and sustained growth on YouTube, much like many other social media sites, is a struggle. As an amateur, you believe that there is an untapped audience just waiting on the other side of the screen for you. You are led to believe that as soon as you put out your content, a pre-built audience of fans will receive your video, will watch it completely, will like the video because they like you, will subscribe because they love you, and that they will share it with all of their friends online. But in reality, YouTube as a machine, the algorithm, and the audience are nowhere near as accommodating.

The journey of Oddities Observed so far is an interesting one, I feel. It grew from its original seed, it died due to neglect, it was watered and revived in a new format, it wilted in the shade, and now continues to grow once more as I dump fertilizer on it, hoping for a massive bloom. Yet this growth is not without cost and has been something of an unnatural process. What might have been a smooth elevation based on content and intrigue has had to become reliant on analytics, optimizations, and self-promotion.

Beyond the Myspace page of 2004 and the Facebook page in late 2017, the Oddities Observed YouTube page was created on October 20th, 2019. Before that time, 2-3 videos were already produced and had been posted on the Facebook page with a couple of hundred views. These videos were brought over to the new channel, uploaded over the next two weeks. The Helen’s Bridge video was being worked on for many weeks, finally releasing and uploading in March of 2020. However, due to the circumstances of my job and the complexities of the global pandemic, no more content would be made until October of 2020.

Here’s the strangest thing about our growth, Oddities Observed isn’t growing in the way that it SHOULD. If I look at my first 3 main videos, which I call the Big 3 (Biltmore, Grove Park, Helen’s Bridge), they skew the data in a way that doesn’t make sense at first. The Biltmore video has brought in roughly 12,000 views, Grove Park around 2,000, and Helen’s Bridge is over 5,000. These were produced between 1 and 1 ½ years ago, and they make up 83% of our total view count, which is currently around 23,000. 3 videos (2 of which were made with a lesser quality than I would have preferred) bring in a majority of the viewership. Each new video afterwards has had a spike in viewership after its debut, but within a week it drops to almost nothing. The Big 3 are the videos that consistently maintain the most views on an average weekly basis.

Let’s also look at watch hours. The channel sits at 1327 watch hours, and the Big 3 total 1236 of those hours, which is 93%! These videos are a bit longer than my newest videos, which is part of why they bring in extra time, and they have had a year to sit and be noticed, but the discrepancy of 93% is still significant when compared to the 13 other videos that have been produced since then as the channel grew its subscriber base. You would think it would go the other way, with more views coming to newer videos, leading to more subscribers in that direction.

Subscriber growth is also skewed in this manner. We see about 5-10 new subscribers per new video, within 1 week of its debut on average. With the Big 3, Grove Park was adequate at 14 new subscribers, Biltmore brought in 60, and Helen’s Bridge totaled 73 new subs. This is almost 50% of all subscribers to the channel. So what is happening here and is there much of a point in producing any new content?

Of course, the answer is yes. Firstly, any and all viewership helps, even if it isn’t significant in comparison to previous numbers. Every viewer matters to me and every new subscriber is important to me, so even if the growth is not meteoric, it is still meaningful. Secondly, it is important to feed into the channel new content and to demonstrate consistency in order for the algorithm to give Oddities Observed any level of preference or suggestibility in future searches. I can optimize each video and add in the best tags possible, but I have heard time and time again that consistency is also very important. Third, it may be a matter of perspective at this point in time, whereas recalculating the numbers 6 months to a year from now may provide a richer context from which to pull data.

So, what I see happening here is that my new content is bringing in newer viewership which translates to a few subscribers, and that accrues slowly. My current subscriber base checks in intermittently and watches more of the channel, supporting views and watch hours, again with a small but important accrual. All of the videos have been optimized to the best of my ability, making them easier to find in searches, which just pulls them up a little higher in rankings, which trickles in a few more views over time. These small stream of activity contribute to bringing attention to the channel itself, and then it is the Big 3 which capitalize on the hard work of the other 13+, and that’s where I tend to see the most growth.

When planning for 2021, I set a goal of getting to 300 subs by the end of the year, with a high-end goal of 500 by the end of the year. I hit this 300 sub milestone in only 4 months. Forecasting for the future you might expect me to be on track for 500, maybe even 600 by the conclusion of 2021. However, at this point, I expect my growth from 100 to 300 to have been faster than I expect to now go from 300 to 500 subscribers. I could be wrong, I hope I am wrong, but I have several reasons for this perspective.

I am finding new limitations to my work speed, which jeopardizes the ability to have a new video every week without fail. If I revert to a video every 2 weeks, which was my original goal, then momentum will be lost. I am also running into roadblocks when pushing through social medial (namely Reddit) on my own, navigating through a very foreign landscape for me. I have asked for assistance but have received little-to-none, and this social media is a resource that will eventually be tapped out. This will lose me an approachable avenue for self-promotion, leaving me strictly to the mercies of the YouTube algorithm.

In the landscape of YouTube, 310 subscribers is a tiny audience and does not yet have a self-sustaining community within its members. But to me, it has been a load of hard work that I am greatly proud of, and my subscribers are a growing group of people of whom I am thoroughly appreciative.

Interesting Note: While writing this blog, we grew to 311 subscribers! Every new sub is appreciated and celebrated!!!!