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Episode 6: Engaging With Your YouTube Audience

If you’re managing a YouTube channel, then someone, somewhere, at some point, will ask the inevitable: How are you growing your audience?

Engaging with your community is one of the best ways to grow your channel. It might not be the most direct way, but it's the best way to build loyalty and to help foster word of mouth.


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Episode Transcription

Hi. I’m Matt Brown from HubSpot, and this is Skill Up. The show where you’ll learn how to take your sales, marketing, and service skills to the next level.

If you’re managing a YouTube channel, someone, somewhere, at some point, will ask the inevitable: How are you growing your audience? Now, fictional pseudo-Jersey, 80s NY accent man is right to ask.

One of the best things you can do is create a loyal audience of people for your channel. You’ll also want word of mouth to spread to even more people. And the fastest way to your audience’s heart? Responding to their comments and questions.

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Recognizing your audience helps build brand affinity -- a shared set of values between your brand and your audience. This, in turn, creates a whole host of heart emojis 'til the end of time.

You also want a lot of engagement on your videos because, as we’ve laid out in previous episodes, that's all part of the algorithm. You wanna strike a good balance between views, likes, and engagement. That way you can boost your videos in the ranking.

And if we’re talking about engagement, then we’re talking about comments. Managing the right relationship will create lifelong customers and fans.

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The first thing you’ll need to do is head over to your community settings page on YouTube. This may look different depending on whether you've enabled creator studio beta or not.

On your community settings page, you can do a couple of things. You can add individuals to help you moderate your community page. You can approve users so that their comments will be automatically approved -- this is great if you have fans you know and trust.

And for all those troll people, you have hidden users. When someone is hidden, their comments won’t show up on your channel. This is a great middle ground for those you don't want to outright ban, but just don't want their comments showing up. You can always hide users directly from the comments on the video itself.

You can also block specific words from showing up in comments. So if you upload a list of words like [bleep] or [bleep] or even [bleep], this setting allows comments with those words to be automatically flagged for review.

You can also block posts with links and hashtags before they’re even posted.

Recently, YouTube even added a newer setting that lets you automatically flag messages that might be deemed problematic.

You can moderate comments directly on the video comments themselves, or you can go into the community section of the creator studio and moderate comments there. Personal tip, the community section is the better option. You can see all of the comments in one place, including the ones flagged for review. You can also see who all your subscribers are and how many people follow their channels.

When you're looking at the published comments section in this area, you'll see the most recent comments first. This is where you can hide users, automatically approve them, delete comments, report spam, and search for user comments.

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Ok, so, naturally, let’s ask the question that’s on your mind: Was Cats really that bad of a movie? Oh, wait, that just me? Ah, got it. Yea, how much moderation should you do?

The answer depends on the number of people engaging with your channel. If you have a really active community, or you see your employees are responding, you can choose to make them moderators. Not a bad idea.

If you don't have all that many people coming to the channel, then it's especially important for you to be able to respond as quickly as possible and to all the ones that do.

Once that great deluge of comments starts rolling in, you might need to start peeling back on the amount you respond to and the timeliness of it all. But hey, these are good problems to have.

Now, ideal world, you’d hire a monitor to manage all the comments. But for a small business, that’s not exactly a reasonable hire.

So you’ll wanna dip in and answer specific questions, rather than respond to every single thing people are saying. It's important to pay attention to what's being said, it's helpful if you’re at the very least engaging in some way. Others can see you’re there, listening, and paying attention to what your fans and followers are saying.

But there's one thing that you should know about comments. YouTube’s cracking down on videos that have inappropriate content or inappropriate comments. For those looking to monetize their channel, it may be the thing that holds you back from getting there.

That means you need to be monitoring and removing comments that could be offensive, vulgar, and divisive.

For those comments that are top shelf, great stuff, coupe glass worthy copy, you can go ahead and award hearts, which helps reward people for their contributions. The commenter will receive a notification that you hearted their comment. Quick note, hearts are different from likes. Only YouTube creators can heart a comment. Other commenters can only like or dislike.

A feature yours truly makes heart eyes about in his spare time is the ability to pin comments at the top of the feed. This helps set the tone for the general conversation, and it rewards your most loyal commenters. You can also use it to highlight an answer to a question that's being asked over and over.

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I wanna use this last segment to bring it back to Trolls. YouTube comments might as well be a series of dank bridge underpasses because the platform’s known for trolls. So, should you ban ‘em outright?

YouTube expert and content creator Nick Nimmin has some advice.

[NIMMIN: When it comes to banning people on YouTube compared to other platforms? I think that. On YouTube and all the platforms when people get banned and or they get, they get their comments, deleted people look at that as censorship, but.

On the flip side of that, if somebody is there and they're saying, you know, profane things or they're attacking the brand or something like that, personally, I still think that it's worth it to delete that person, even if it means that you might catch some heat on the back end because at the end of the day, that heat that you're getting might bring more attention to the brand.

But, uh, but ultimately though, it's just having those negative, those negative people. Like one thing that I always like to encourage people to do is. You know, if you do have a bunch of trolls in your comments, then what happens is it makes it easy for other people to also troll in your comments. But if you keep your comments clean, then it encourages people to be clean and your comments as well.

It encourages people to be encouraging or helpful or whatever it happens to be in your comments. But as soon as you start letting those people come in to pollute everything, Then all of the other people that come in and they see that you allow that type of thing, then you're also giving them permission to do this.]

When in doubt, you can always disable comments. But you really should only use this when things start going off the rails. You’ll also want a good PR crisis comms strategy in that case too. But that’s another season of Skill Up.

I also asked Amy Landino of AmyTV what she thinks about turning off comments.

[LANDINO: I just can't think of a single reason why you would turn comments off. I can't. I know that's probably idealistic of me and I really have a great problem with having a very happy audience.

But if a company finds they're in a situation where they might want to turn comments off on one video, Then it's probably something that they should have considered before that video was even created or territory. They maybe shouldn't have entered at all. If the mindset is we're turning off comments on all videos, then just stop making videos.

Because truly if you're not listening and you're not, at least listening response is your policy, but if you're not at least listening to the audience, you're never going to know what they actually want from you.]

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So the recap. Engaging with your community is one of the best ways to grow your channel. It might not be the most direct way, but it's the best way to build loyalty and to help foster word of mouth.

To answer those questions, talk to your fans. You have plenty of tools at your disposal to find a workflow that works for you. But if things get hairy, hide or block user comments.

Next episode, we’ll talk about how to get more views and subscriptions for your channel. No, the answer’s not buying up a bunch of bots. See you there.

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