I recently had the pleasure of meeting and speaking to Kelly Porter and Nick Johnson. They just launched their YouTube channel, Sailing Satori, and so far it’s been a tremendous success. With over 65k views and 4.7k subscribers after only three videos, they are crushing it.
Here’s the trailer video for their channel:
So how are they doing it? In this case study, I’ll break it down for you, step-by-step.
But first, you should know that neither Kelly nor Nick are digital marketers. They’re not social media experts. They took some basic advice from some very smart people and ran with it.
You may have ideas on what they could have done differently or better – there’s a comment section for that stuff – but the point is they did something.
I recently heard some killer advice from Nicolas Cole on an episode of John Lee Dumas’ Entrepreneur on Fire podcast. Nicolas said, “You can’t steer a stationary ship.” I LOVE that and it’s a perfect description of Nick’s and Kelly’s attitudes.'You can't steer a stationary ship.' Lessons from a YouTube case study.Click To Tweet
If you take only one thing away from this post, please make it this: imperfect action beats perfect inaction every time. Nick and Kelly had an idea and acted quick.
Now that their ship is sailing (pun totally intended), they can steer it.
There’s no shortage of people who have ideas like Nick’s and Kelly’s. Sadly, at this point, most would still be planning a huge list of video ideas, researching the right equipment, brainstorming the perfect name for their channel, etc. Basically, everything except getting started.
Kudos to Kelly and Nick for jumping in and just doing it! When I spoke to them, they seemed almost embarrassed that they don’t have a super detailed plan to move forward. That made me chuckle a little on the inside. The important thing is, they have a plan (even if it’s a basic one) and they’re moving.
In fact, having a looser plan is almost certainly an advantage. If necessary, it will be easier for them to pivot into new directions as they learn more and grow their YouTube channel. Some ideas will be huge successes and some will fall flat. That’s okay.
The important thing is to get out there and move, test, break stuff, find out what works and then do more of that.
With that said, let’s look at what Nick and Kelly did…
Generating Buzz Before Launching the YouTube Channel
Kelly and Nick started building their audience months before they were ready to launch their YouTube channel. Smart stuff.
They knew the topic of the channel – chronicling their ambition to sail around the world – but little else. Still, that was plenty to start finding their audience on platforms other than YouTube.
Kelly and Nick started with Instagram and Facebook.
Building an Instagram Audience
Even though they weren’t ready to start filming, they did have a boat and the cameras on their smart phones. With the help of a few free tools, that’s all they needed to get started growing their Instagram following.
Kelly and Nick used a follow-first strategy to build their Instagram following – meaning they would follow their target audience in hopes they would follow back. If not, they unfollowed them the next day.
They found other sailing accounts with at least 20k followers and followed their followers. Next, they used an app called Followers Pro to unfollow the accounts that did not follow back.
Their strategy was to alternate days of following and unfollowing.
One day they would follow around 300 accounts, making sure to only follow 50-75 accounts per hour. More than that may raise a red flag with Instagram and ding your account.
Then the next day, they used the Followers app to unfollow the accounts that didn’t follow back.
They used this strategy to grow to 2k followers, then let the account grow organically. As of this writing they’re up to over 2.3k followers and still growing.
Posting on Instagram
For their posting strategy, Nick and Kelly shared a photo or video at least once a day. As you may have noticed, Kelly is, let’s just say, easy on the eyes. That, coupled with the beautiful scenery of a sail boat lifestyle, makes it easy to produce plenty of great visual content for Instagram.
And, hey, let’s give some props to Nick too. He can obviously rock a Speedo.
Hashtags play a huge part in any Instagram marketing campaign. Nick and Kelly used an app called HashMe to easily find relevant hashtags to include in their posts.
I had never heard of it before, but HashMe is a sweet app. You simply type in your subject and it produces the top hashtags related to it. It automatically highlights the top 30.
You can tap off any hashtags you don’t want and tap on others until you’ve got your list. At that point, you can copy all the hashtags with a single tap and then paste them into your Instagram post. This is an awesome time-saver for all you Instagramers out there.
When posting, they put one or two hashtags in the post description and the rest in a comment immediately after posting.
Finally, when the YouTube channel was live, they put a link to it in their bio and directed people to it in their posts.
Building a Facebook Audience
Like most, Nick and Kelly started growing their Facebook fans by inviting friends and family to like the page.
Sidebar: for a lot of businesses, I would not recommend this strategy. If you know your friends and family are interested in your niche, go for it. But if you have a page about something that most of your friends and family aren’t interested in, don’t invite them to like it.
The reason I say this is because they’ll typically like your page as a favor to you, but never engage with any posts. Facebook interprets the lack of engagement as a signal that your content is not interesting and will limit your organic reach.
However, for Nick and Kelly, this worked well because their friends and family are interested in their adventures on the high seas.
Next, they leveraged their personal accounts to share their page posts in Facebook sailing groups.
Tapping into Facebook Groups
Facebook groups are hot. Done right, groups are a great way to get exposure for your page’s content.
Nick and Kelly joined several sailing groups with their personal Facebook accounts. When appropriate, they shared posts from their Sailing Satori page to the groups. This got them a lot more page likes.
A quick word on Facebook groups: each group is different and they all have their own rules and guidelines for what’s appropriate to post. Many don’t allow self-promotion and are highly moderated, so make sure you know what’s okay before posting.
If you’re not sure, ask the admin of the group if what you have in mind is acceptable. It’s easy to break the rules and get booted from a group.
In fact, the post below got Nick temporarily removed from a group. (I think it’s awesome, but apparently some members and the admins did not.)
He did get back into that group, but that’s rare. Once you’re gone from a group, you’re usually gone for good.
Once they launched their YouTube channel and posted their trailer on YouTube, they shared it to groups. Results = awesome.
After the YouTube Channel Launch
Once they had their first video shot and edited, Nick and Kelly focused on optimizing their videos for the best results on YouTube.
Optimizing YouTube Videos
As stated, Nick and Kelly are not professional marketers or YouTubers (yet). So, when it came to optimizing their YouTube channel, they researched what they needed (title, tags, description, etc.) and copied what other popular sailing channels are doing.
When in doubt, it’s never a bad idea to stand on the shoulders of giants.
One cool tool they used is VidIQ, a browser extension that displays info next to YouTube videos.
Using VidIQ, they found and copied what other channels are using for their video tags and channel tags.
In the videos’ descriptions, they included links to their Sailing Satori website, social media accounts, and an offer for DIY boat tips to build their email list.
For an in-depth guide on YouTube optimization, check out this post from Brian Dean of Backlinko on how to optimize a YouTube channel for SEO.
Driving Traffic to the YouTube Channel
Once the Sailing Satori YouTube channel launched, Nick and Kelly promoted it to their Facebook and Instagram accounts.
Initially, the overwhelming majority of their views came from Facebook. Instagram, not so much. A little surprising, but numbers don’t lie.
When they shared, they linked to their YouTube channel and added “?sub_confirmation=1” to the URL. Adding that displays a pop up when the page loads so people can easily subscribe to their channel.
With over 4.7k subscribers at the time of this writing, I’d say that had some impact.
Interestingly, as time passed, YouTube itself became the number one driver of views to the videos through searches and suggested videos.
While we can’t know for sure exactly how they’re doing so well in search and suggested videos, we can make some educated guesses.
I think one major factor is that they built an audience first, so as soon as the first video went live it got views, thumbs up and comments immediately. Social signals like those usually result in a platform – YouTube in this case – to display the content to more users.
Remember that YouTube is a business and its viewers are the customers. They want to serve up the best possible product when suggesting videos to keep people on the site. If people are telling YouTube a video is appealing by watching, clicking the thumbs up, and commenting, it stands to reason that they’ll suggest it more.
Considering that, Nick and Kelly also make sure to reply to every comment to encourage more engagement on their videos.
As you can see, despite not knowing everything and sometimes feeling overwhelmed, Nick and Kelly already have an awesome start on their YouTube channel.
Yes, they’re still learning the ropes, but look them up a year from now. I’ll bet dollars to donuts they’ll have one of the top sailing YouTube channels on the site.
And that’s really the point. If you’re thinking about doing something, think about where you’ll be in one year if you just get started today. You don’t have to know everything. You’ll learn as you go, and that’s really the best way.
I find that Mark Twain usually says it best so let’s finish with some parting word from him: “Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.”