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20,000 YouTube Subscribers: Success or Failure?

What we (It’s Just Cricket) are perhaps best known for is our YouTube channel.  You don’t get the nickname “YouTube celebrity” for nothing! Rarely does a customer walk into our showroom without referencing at least one of our videos during conversation.  I have regularly been asked to appear in selfies with customers and on occasion even recognised on the street by strangers who claim to watch all our videos.  Earlier this week, our channel reached a significant milestone: 20,000 subscribers.  Not only did this seem like a major number to pass, it also made me check up on our competitor “Youtubers” and I found that our channel had, comfortably, more subscribers than any other cricket retailer YouTube channel worldwide.  Sure, there are bigger channels out there in the world of cricket, but no others from specialist retailers of cricket equipment.  In fact, none of our competitors even had close to 20,000.  At time of writing, we are in the lead by over 6000 subscribers.  I genuinely did not know this until I checked earlier this week and it was certainly a proud moment and something I felt some initial excitement about.  Then reality kicked in and I wondered if it was any sort of achievement after all…

On the surface, 20,000 seems like a very large number – nearly enough to fill our local international cricket ground, The Kia Oval.  It is also more than our Facebook and Twitter following combined, so clearly of all the social media we use, we seem to be doing the best job with our content on YouTube.  What started out as only product review videos has evolved into a diverse catalogue, which also includes “How to” videos, nets battles, “top 5 bats in our store”, “question of the week” and even some comedic material and behind the scenes factory tours.

Seemingly the most popular aspect of our video reviews has been our refreshing honesty.  We are not afraid to criticise products, even if we have to sell them! Whilst this does occasionally put us in the bad books of some suppliers, it has built a lot of trust amongst customers, and is a major reason why our Trustpilot rating has been so consistently high over the years.  First and foremost, we are not purely trying to sell through our channel.  The reviews are more for information, ensuring that the customer has access to the best information possible about each product, without necessarily having to come into the store to see them in the flesh.

I also think the fact that we have multiple reviewers, or hosts, across the videos gives us a unique perspective that sets us apart from the other cricket shops’ channels.  If a viewer doesn’t connect with me, he or she might do so with Amos or Chris and vice versa, and since each reviewer is very individual in his approach, with each one showcasing different knowledge and abilities in front of the camera, it seems to help keep the content fresh, which otherwise could become very repetitive.  I think the viewers like this and the feedback they post is consistently good.  I have lost count of the amount of times I have read phrases like “love your honesty”, “best cricket bat reviews on YouTube”, “keep up the good work” etc. in the comments section.

We have also received some comments from the same types of “fan” (despite being a so-called YouTube celebrity, I feel awkward using that word without inverted commas!) which I found intriguing, like “you deserve more subscribers”, “can’t believe you only have 20,000 subscribers”.  However, cricket is such a niche market, so it is tough to build traction on YouTube and grow a subscriber base regardless of critical acclaim.  To that end, I never expected any of our videos to go viral, and it is unlikely that any of them ever will (unless we drastically change our content!) However, I still find it a little unusual that, of the 1200+ videos we have posted over the past six years, not one of them has had more than 180,000 views.  So, despite an awful lot of attempts, and over 20,000 subscribers, we have never even come close to the magical million views mark, let alone going viral.  In fact, only 54 of those 1200+ videos actually have more views than our subscriber number, which proves that most of those subscribers don’t watch much anyway!

The 1200 videos number is also significant because it means that we have posted far more content than any of our competitors, so when we say that we have more subscribers than them, it is actually an unfair comparison, as we have such a massive head start and indeed began uploading videos earlier than most of them.  Still, surely because we have accrued such a large following, it must have helped the business, right? Wrong! Despite gaining many more subscribers in 2017 than any other year, this was actually our worst year of sales since 2013, so there appears to be no correlation between our YouTube development and our business growth.  I suspect that many potential customers are watching our reviews to help them decide what to buy, but not where to buy it from. Perhaps the time spent shooting all these videos has taken our eye off the ball and for that we can only blame ourselves, so we decided to monetize the channel recently to minimise the risk.

Don’t get me wrong, I love filming YouTube videos.  They are a lot of fun and it is very rewarding when viewers tell us that our content helped them.  We will most likely continue to do them, but despite our deliberately economical and efficient filming methods (most videos shot in one long take on a smartphone, with no editing) the time investment is significant and an argument could be made that our time is better spent doing other things unless it helps It’s Just Cricket grow as a company.  After all, unlike many other Youtubers, we are not hobbyists.  It is serious business for us – our livelihood.  Hopefully this post is of some use to anyone considering setting up a YouTube channel in a specialist field.  Maybe we should have focused on cute videos of our pets instead! 🙂

#supportthevideos #pleasesubscribe

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