How I Increased Engagement on YouTube

What a beggar taught me about behavioural science

In his book, One Plus One Equals Three, Dave Trott tells the story of a beggar who understood the power of behavioural science and used this knowledge to his advantage.

Unlike many other beggars, he didn't just put out a basket in front of him to collect money with a message requesting donations. Instead, he put several baskets out, with the name of a different religion written on each one. Then he wrote on some cardboard, "Which religion cares the most about the homeless?"

He utilised the competitive nature of humans wanting to show how compassionate their religious group is. Each group’s compassion was displayed publicly by the total in their respective baskets. People walking past and seeing their religion’s donations (or lack thereof) may be more motivated to add to the tally and show that their religion is more compassionate.

How does this story help a YouTube creator?

I used that same competitive spirit to increase viewer and subscriber engagement on my channel, The Art of Improvement.

YouTube analytics provides insights on various demographics. Viewers are classified by age, gender, geographical location and much more. Many people are proud of the country they are from. For this reason, I decided to use location in the same way that the beggar used religion. Instead of using compassion to generate charity, I’ll use patriotism to generate votes, likes and comments.

I asked the following question in a poll:

Which country has the most interactive Art of Improvement viewers? Vote for your nation below.

Polling question
The question I asked my viewers

YouTube limits the number of possible options a viewer can choose to five. I used the analytics to find out the four countries that had the highest number of viewers of my videos. I then added a fifth ‘Other’ option, inviting viewers from other countries to also state where they’re from in the comments below.

The response from the viewers? Within hours it became my most popular poll in terms of engagement, receiving the largest amount of votes in any poll I’ve created. It has eclipsed my previous best performing poll with a 306% increase in votes (6.1k Vs 1.5k) and a huge 1600% growth in comments (425 Vs 25).

Polling results
Voting results after only four days

Each person that took part wanted to support their nation. They could show their support publicly by voting and commenting. Everyone else could also see who is winning in the poll at any point.

I created a spirit of competitive patriotism.

This is a strategy that I can use anywhere there is an audience, not just on YouTube. The important aspect I focused on is what the audience wanted rather than what I wanted. I had to persuade the audience to do what I wanted by giving them a compelling reason to do it.

I asked the question because I wanted more engagement from viewers. The viewers wanted their country to be seen as better than others. By concentrating on the audience and appealing to their patriotism, I got what I wanted. I increased audience engagement with competitiveness.


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25 January, 2020 by Adam Holownia