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How To Get Free YouTube Subscribers (the Real Way)

Getting more free YouTube subscribers is the best way to maximize your organic reach on the second-largest website in the world.

Christina Newberry, Colleen Christison June 12, 2024
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Is your goal to make money on YouTube? Free YouTube subscribers are critical. Subscribers come with benefits you can cash in on, such as qualifying for the YouTube Partner Programme and earning ad revenue.

Beyond making money on YouTube, subscribers bump up your play counts, watch time, and engagement. These are all important signals to the YouTube algorithm and an indication that something you’re doing is working.

Find out how to get YouTube subscribers (for free!) using legitimate strategies to grow your channel.

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3 things you SHOULDN’T do to gain YouTube subscribers

Look, we understand the urge to cut corners with YouTube subscribers. We won’t shame you for wanting a wider audience—everyone does!

But we will burst your bubble: it ain’t gonna work. Do you think the video creators behind the world’s best YouTube channels are spending their time and money on shady growth schemes? Nope. They’re too busy making awesome videos and counting their money.

Below, we’ll tell you all about how to get subscribers on YouTube for free. In the meantime, here are three things you should avoid doing at all costs.

Engage with “free” YouTube subscription services

Nothing is really free. As the saying goes, if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product. With that in mind, let’s examine how “free” YouTube subscriber services work.

You earn your “free” subscribers by subscribing to and liking other channels, as instructed by the service. Most ask you to subscribe to 20 channels and like a certain number of YouTube videos. In return, 10 channels will subscribe to yours.

Essentially, you’re hiring yourself out as a one-person clickfarm. It’s similar to the time we tried Instagram engagement pods. And, believe us, it’s not the answer to how to get subs on YouTube.

Pay for subscribers

YouTube does not like it when people try to cheat their way to the top. It says so right in the Terms of Service. If YouTube catches you paying for subscribers, they will suspend or terminate your account. That means all of your hard work goes down the drain.

Even if you don’t get caught, buying YouTube subscribers still isn’t a good idea. They’ll either be bots or people who were financially motivated to subscribe. That will skew your metrics since they’re not actually interested in your content.

Be spammy

No one likes a Spam Lord. Excessively posting repetitive content that tries to convince people to subscribe to your channel will have the opposite effect.

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15 ways to get free YouTube subscribers

If you’re just starting out, look at our guide to creating a YouTube channel. You should have your channel’s basics in place before diving into the tips below.

These practices are the best way to grow your YouTube channel with organic subscribers. But don’t tackle them all at once. Try one of these tips for each new video you post, or implement one or two a week.

You can also watch the video below to get our top 7 tips on how to grow your YouTube following:

1. Ask your viewers to subscribe

It doesn’t get much easier than this.

Sometimes, your audience just needs to be reminded.

Does asking for the subscription seem too salesy to you? It can be if you ask too soon or too often. But a quick reminder to subscribe at the end of your video makes it easier for fans to keep up with your work.

Remember to demonstrate why your channel is worth subscribing to. Ask for the subscription only after you’ve provided new and useful information or made viewers laugh.

2. End your video by teasing what you’re working on next

Subscribing to a channel on YouTube is an act of anticipation. Viewers who’ve just seen what your brand is about are primed to want more if you’ve done your job right.

Hyping your next video and explaining why it’s not to be missed is the most organic way to encourage people to tap subscribe.

Of course, this requires having a good handle on your YouTube content schedule and knowing what’s coming next. (More on that soon.)

3. Verify your Google account

By default, all YouTube users can upload videos that are up to 15 minutes long. You’ll need to verify your account if you want to create content longer than that.

Since longer videos give you more options for the kinds of content you can create, this is an essential step for anyone who wants to build a professional channel.

Once you verify your account, you can upload videos up to 256GB or 12 hours long.

4. Interact with your audience and make friends (a.k.a. build community)

If you form relationships with your viewers, they’re more likely to want to keep watching your work. Respond to comments. Follow their channels back. Form a community of peers and promote each other, like Shine Theory in action.

A comment thread between Hootsuite Labs viewers and the channel.

Also, once you’re plugged in, your comments section will start to see some action, potentially providing you with feedback and ideas for your next video.

You can take advantage of this action by managing your YouTube presence using Hootsuite. Not only can you upload and schedule videos, but you can also add comment streams to your dashboard. That makes it easy to review, reply, and/or moderate comments on all your videos from one place.

5. Create effective channel branding

Channel branding is an important way to let viewers know who you are and what they can expect from your channel.

Banner art

Your YouTube banner welcomes everyone who clicks on your channel. Maybe they just watched a video and are looking for more. Maybe they’re a potential subscriber.

Make sure they know where they are and why they should stick around.

Your banner needs to be clean, on-brand, compelling, and—this is the fussy part—optimized for all devices. For instance, you don’t want important details covered up by your social media buttons.

Here’s the Hootsuite Labs desktop banner:

The Hootsuite Labs channel banner

…And you can see it’s optimized for mobile, too:

Hootsuite Labs mobile banner

Want to create your own YouTube channel art? We’ve got a guide for that, along with free templates with the most up-to-date dimensions.

Channel icon

Your channel icon is essentially your logo on YouTube. It appears on your channel page and anywhere you comment on YouTube. Make sure it clearly represents you and your brand and is easily recognizable even at a small size..

Channel description

This text appears on the About page of your channel on YouTube. You have up to 1,000 characters to describe your channel and let viewers know why they should subscribe.

We’ve got a full blog post on how to write effective YouTube descriptions to get you started.

6. Customize your video spotlights

YouTube’s customization settings allow you to make the most of the featured video space at the top of your channel page.

You can share a channel trailer for non-subscribers, introducing your brand. And you can show subscribers something different, since they already (presumably) know all about your brand.

custom video spotlights in youtube

Source: YouTube Studio

For non-subscribers, create a channel trailer that lets people know what they can expect from your channel and why they should subscribe. Here’s a great example from Shopify:

And here’s what it looks like on their channel:

Source: Shopify on YouTube

7. Brand your video thumbnails

A thumbnail is a 1280 x 720px still image that acts as a cover for your video. Think of it as a mini movie poster. It’s your first, best chance to persuade someone to click on your video. (Aside from your video titles, but more on those later.)

We’re not talking about getting YouTube views today (we’ve got a different post for that), so why bring this up here? Consistent, professional custom thumbnails are another component of your channel branding. They can help tell new viewers more about who you are as a video content creator.

Aim for consistent branding in all your thumbnails. Use the same font, the same color palette, or even the same frame composition.

Source: Hootsuite Labs

8. Use YouTube’s clickable subscription tools in your videos

The platform overlords know you’re wondering how to increase your number of subscribers on YouTube. That’s why YouTube offers several built-in clickable tools to help you convert video watchers to channel subscribers.

End screen

This is a still image at the end of your video where you can remind people to subscribe or insert another call to action before YouTube’s algorithm moves them to the next video. You can add an end screen to any video during the upload process as long as the video is more than 25 seconds long.

You can also go back and add end screens to existing videos, which can be a great way to start converting subscribers right away from your existing content.

To add an end screen to an existing video, click Content in the left menu of Creator Studio, then select the video to which you want to add an end screen. Click the End screen box on the right side of the screen and add a Subscribe element to your video.

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Brand watermark

This extra subscribe button will hover in the bottom right corner of your video. You can choose when the watermark appears.

To add the watermark, click Customization in the left menu of YouTube Studio, then select Branding. The watermark will now appear on all your videos.

Source: Hootsuite Labs on YouTube

9. Think in terms of playlists

Playlists are a great way to increase your YouTube channel’s watch time. Like a Netflix series, a YouTube playlist autoplays a set of videos in a set order. The viewer doesn’t have to actively click the next video. They just sit back and let the content play.

Think of each playlist as its own mini-channel or ongoing series. If someone watches a few videos in a row and enjoys them all, they’ve got plenty of reasons to subscribe for more. Hooking people in with a compelling series is a powerful answer to how to get free YouTube subscribers.

Source: The Specials on YouTube

Playlists appear, not surprisingly, in the Playlists tab of your channel.

You can also use playlists to…

10. Showcase your content strategically on your channel page

From the layout tab in YouTube Studio, you can add up to 12 sections to your channel homepage. Your layout’s default is four pre-populated sections:

  • Short videos,
  • Uploads,
  • Created playlists, and
  • Subscriptions you’ve made public.

You can edit these sections to customize your YouTube channel layout.

This lets you feature your best content up front so new visitors see your best creations as they contemplate subscribing.

You can also use sections to showcase the playlists you created in the last tip. Use playlists specifically targeted to various viewer needs to highlight the extensive value you provide right off the bat.

11. Publish on a consistent schedule

The unwritten rule of publishing on YouTube is one video a week to start, increasing to 3-4 per week as your channel grows.

The theory is that more videos = more watch time from viewers. However, prioritizing quantity over quality has drawbacks.

If your goal is to convert viewers to subscribers, you need to focus on quality first and consistency next. And, only once you have a solid reputation, then you focus on quantity.

If you upload videos consistently, then people know that more good content is coming, and they’re more likely to tap subscribe.

You can use a social media management platform (like Hootsuite!) to schedule your videos on YouTube for publishing later.

12. Bring your audience from other platforms to your YouTube channel

This means cross-promoting on X (formerly known as Twitter), Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and your website. Basically, wherever you have an existing community. This can be as simple as encouraging people to check out your YouTube channel in your Instagram bio. Or adding a video feed to your home page.

Posting a teaser of your latest video is another great way to draw people to your YouTube channel from other social accounts. Instagram Stories are ideally suited to this since you can offer a trailer or teaser of your video and point people there with a simple Swipe Up link.

If you tease videos on a regular schedule, people will start to anticipate your content. Once they’re anticipating your work, they’re primed to subscribe.

Pro tip: A social media scheduling tool like Hootsuite makes cross-promoting much easier. And we have a full guide to creating a social media content calendar.

13. Do your keyword research for titles, descriptions, and hashtags

Your titles, descriptions, script, and hashtags can all benefit from keyword research. The more optimized your content is for YouTube SEO, the better you’ll be found by interested viewers.

In the example below, you’ll see the longtail keyword circled in orange. Note how it shows up twice in the title and the description.

Source: YouTube

Not only will keyword research help you rank on YouTube’s algorithm, but it can also inform your content strategy. When you know what people are searching for, you know what kind of videos they want to see.

SEO (search engine optimization) tools like Google Keyword Planner can help you identify the words and phrases people use to find the information you’re providing. Your goal is to find topics in a sweet spot: lower competition scores but higher search volume.

This lets you avoid making videos that no one is searching for. Or videos with titles no one can find.

It will also help you avoid creating content on a highly competitive topic before you’re ready.

If you need help figuring out where to start with your keyword research, think about what kinds of search phrases you would use to search for content within your industry. Use YouTube’s search bar suggestions to see related search terms, too.

Once you start to build your channel, you can use YouTube Analytics to see which keywords are working to bring people to your videos. Look for trends that might guide the content you create in the future.

To access this information, click Analytics in the left menu of YouTube Studio. Click Traffic Source in the top menu, then click YouTube Search to see a list of the top search results driving viewers your way.

14. Pay attention to your data

Speaking of analytics, you can gain valuable insights from your data. Notably, you can learn where your target audience was when they subscribed to your channel through your YouTube analytics. These insights can show you where your YouTube strategy is strong.

Besides the data behind where viewers subscribe and your traffic sources, you will also want to pay attention to which videos are gaining the most views, especially from your existing subscribers. This will show you the content people are coming and staying for.

15. Collaborate with other creators

This goes all the way back to Tip #4: Build community. Use your connections to find other YouTube creators to collaborate with so you can leverage each other’s audiences. After all, your audience trusts your recommendations, and their audiences trust theirs.

Once you start to grow your subscriber count, you might find that your followers suggest potential collaborations. Until then, explore YouTube yourself to look for potential collaborators in your field. If you see someone who looks promising, reach out.

Shopify often uses their platform to uplift small businesses, like Hannah Perry. This helps to solidify Shopify’s brand reputation as a helper of small businesses and may attract other small business owners to subscribe to their channel.

Bonus: Download the free 30-day plan to grow your YouTube following fast, a daily workbook of challenges that will help you kickstart your Youtube channel growth and track your success. Get real results after one month.

How to see your YouTube subscribers

You can check your list of YouTube subscribers from your channel dashboard. Here’s where to find a full subscriber list:

1. In YouTube Studio, go to your channel dashboard and scroll down to the Recent Subscribers card. Click SEE ALL.

YouTube subscribers see all recent

Source: YouTube Studio

2. In the top right corner of the pop-up window, choose Lifetime from the dropdown menu.

lifetime subscribers list

Source: YouTube Studio

You can now click through your list of subscribers. You can choose to sort by subscriber count if you want to see the most subscribed YouTubers following you first.

If you only want to check on new subscribers, you can choose to see a list of people who have subscribed in the last 7, 28, 90, or 365 days.

Note that the list only includes users who have made their subscriptions public.

Grow your YouTube channel and audience faster with Hootsuite. It’s simple to manage and schedule YouTube videos as well as quickly publish your videos to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter—all from one dashboard. Try it free today.

Grow your YouTube channel faster with Hootsuite. Easily moderate comments, schedule video, and publish to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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By Christina Newberry

Christina Newberry is an award-winning writer and editor whose greatest passions include food, travel, urban gardening, and the Oxford comma—not necessarily in that order.

By Colleen Christison

Colleen Christison is a freelance copywriter, copy editor, and brand communications specialist. She spent the first six years of her career in award-winning agencies like Major Tom, writing for social media and websites and developing branding campaigns. Following her agency career, Colleen built her own writing practice, working with brands like Mission Hill Winery, The Prevail Project, and AntiSocial Media.

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