I have been stuck at under 400 subscriptions on my YouTube channel for the past 11 years no matter what I have tried and I'm still very thankful, but I also feel a "glass ceiling" constantly by not having the account features that other accounts (that are over 1,000 subs) get on YouTube. Some of those same advanced account features would be EXACTLY what would help to grow my audience on the platform, making the situation even more frustrating to me daily. I know many others feel this same pain because we pour our lives into our work, and we've also poured life into being a part of building many platforms like YouTube for many years as well. 400 subscribers for 11 years of work would probably seem like failure to most other artists, but the truth is that, for many years, I didn't need dedicated followers to have my content seen by others, so I didn't spend time building followers...
Heck, I figured I was building a solid organic audience through my work anyway, until I noticed the views on all of my posts were rapidly shrinking during the pandemic.
I've given up a thousand times in my life on caring about social media growth but never stopped caring about career success.
Now YouTube views overall for many people are declining for many creators that work extremely hard on their craft like me, which might be signalling an end to our ability to find (natural) organic visibility on YouTube. Creators and artists should never be forced to put their entire volume of work online for months, years, and even a lifetime before it can succeed... The state of modern art and content is in turmoil if you view YouTube creator forums like I do, there are endless rants, questions, and angry posts from artists that feel cheated by modern social platforms because after many years of free labor and promotion of those platforms, they haven't achieved much organic growth at all, much less an ability to support themselves for their hard work. Many social platforms are reducing the ability for creators to be visible and to grow in hopes of encouraging them to pay for advertising.
I never wanted to buy an already monetized account in a dark alley, nor pay for bootleg followers, and I never have. I always want to be authentic as a creator, and to grow naturally to achieve artistic integrity, but we need to admit that that dream of being found online or "discovered" based on someone viewing your work on social platforms has long been dead for a while now. Yes, organic growth is dead (Well... maybe not dead yet, on new platforms like TikTok for the next few weeks, but DEAD pretty much everywhere else that's popular). Now you need to bake the cake and pay the supermarket before it ever gets placed on a shelf for customers to buy it.
It's important for everyone to just acknowledge the truth that in reality now, most artists and companies have to pay (a lot of money at that too) just to get a following, to have their content seen, and especially before they can earn money on platforms like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook etc. Overall, creators would probably pay a lot less if they just came out and charged us an annual fee. Platforms are fearful of charging membership fees out of concern for giving up the illusion of providing a "free service" which is how they managed to develop their huge user bases, but truth matters.
If I for one knew the price I had to pay to get to the point where I could normally be seen (like I used to before algorithmic sieges) then I could at least retire my channel or work to build the funding to get to that point, rather than wasting my good years thinking that learning SEO tips, spending a lifetime on the platform, and updating my thumbnails is going to get me from no views to even 1,000 without paying for ads in blood.
We also need to admit another real truth; a lot of the accounts on social sites that we see posting with thousands and millions of followers are either established from long ago (back when things were organic) or applying "black magic" to gain traction. Many recently launched channels and many newly "grown" accounts are either purchased artificially or built by artificial means (e.g. bots)... Fair enough, not downing black hat methods because times are complex, but that kind of requirement for growth backfires a lot if accounts get shut down, and can seriously harm the reputation of anyone who wants to be held accountable for their work. Even artificial success is costly, and it doesn't have any reassurance of working, most times leaving real natural engagement off the table, and worst of all is that there is no feedback for your products, just a possible revenue stream. We could also talk about how little creators get paid once they pass the threshold of visibility, but that's an entirely different mountain to climb...
Costs placed upon hard working and dedicated creators are likely already at an all time high. On YouTube alone (before you even publish anything) you need to buy gear for making quality videos, you need to work many hours at building and promoting your online presence, tons of hours editing, and you need to pay for promotion before you even get a chance at earning anything or having your content seen for that matter. Posting links (in free places) to content is rather futile now because of the sheer volume of link posts, and flooded by bots and others working to get to the top of the view pile... It's pretty much a total "crabs in a barrel" situation to promote individually when you have little money and time. Many key places where promotion could be conducted for free frown upon the practice, because they are used to seeing posts from popular sources only, and from corporate parties that have already huge followings, something that independent creators can't easily replicate nor afford.
If you're rich, good for you... You can simply pay for someone to promote you, or run endless promotional campaigns, casually fool around with artistic failure for months, or just meet with Google and give them a stack of cash which will put yourself in front of everyone and their momma as your views $oar.
It wasn't always like this, I remember when my friends could see most if not all of what I posted every time... On Myspace.
YouTube's threshold now for who "wins" and who is seen constantly changes even possibly by the minute... Most of the time NOT I THE FAVOR OF INDEPENDENT CREATORS UNFORTUNATELY. YouTube now can easily work as a gatekeeper to who becomes popular and who doesn't IN ANY INDUSTRY WORLDWIDE.
I understand YouTube's perspective on this to an extent, because they do need to manage content moderation; they pay tremendous hosting, staff, and many other operation-related bills, but now that YouTube dominates pretty much all other Internet video services, there's also a higher calling for them to be fair and transparent about how things work on YouTube to creators that supply content in hopes of being seen/heard. If YouTube didn't have the sheer volume of content that independent creators provide, I'm sure YouTube would be a bit less useful to it's user base (to say the least), and that they'd lose quite a bit of content, users, and revenue as a result of taking Independent creators for granted all these years.
Youtube can create better taxonomy-based content view pages, they can make tags work properly again, they can highlight more creators every day by adding genre-specific charts, and there are many more things they can do instead of having everyone grind out blood just to receive 10 video views and then give up on their dreams. They were supposed to make our lives easier and more connected, but right now the process is hard, costly, and very low-reward for everyone who is working from the ground up.
Constant changes in platform algorithms combined with the hordes of desperate people trying to provide advice on how to succeed on youtube basically invalidate most of the advice given on how to succeed. The bar for being visible constantly moves with each update, yet somehow certain people and companies are clued into how to gain views early every time the algorithms change... Celebrities and companies literally get BILLIONS of views on YouTube while most hard working small creators max out in the thousands, there is definitely some parallels with current wealth inequality going on now on these platforms, and it's not because of a bad choice in post thumbnails.
This guy (Social Video Plaza) (No Affiliation) gives the most accurate description of how complex and limiting the algorithms are engineered to be in my opinion (The guy is not associated in any way with me, I waded through a lot of terribly inaccurate content to find this, and his views are criminally low on YouTube for all the content he's posted thus far at this point as more weight to my argument). -
It's disheartening to think that when you post things that you've worked hard on now, even the people (following us for our updates, who want to see our work) often never get a chance to before their attention is diverted to things that make more profit for others; Social sites like YouTube give us the impression that they care about our work and that we should continue working for free in hopes of virtual success. Our individual time as creators (as things currently are) could be spent better in other ways than on platforms that don't evolve. We would still likely find use for and support YouTube when we feel the need to watch corporately sponsored content rather than trying to be a part of the platform's success if most of us just knew the real truth... Perhaps there are simply "too many creators" for many to rise to the top in reality, but I'd rather see the bowl of spaghetti (properly meta tagged of course) and vote my way out of it instead of seeing the same artists topping view charts every day... How about yall?
This post is not meant to be a complaint, I personally love having YouTube as one giant resource for everything video related, and love that I can host my videos there too and share links, but we've really got to stop the flood of inaccurate, overly positive, and generic "YouTube success" and "Get more followers" advice.
If organic growth is truly dead, like I think it is, and if things stay (deceptively) that way on platforms, stop wasting your time building those platforms up and tell the (shrinking) audience you have to migrate to your new personal web site instead. You can build that new web site with all of the wasted time and money you'll save in years to come.
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