I have spent more than 20h analyzing both PewDiePie and MrBeast, the two most dominant creators on YouTube. These guys are absolute masters at capturing attention and engaging their communities.
Here is what I learned.
The YouTube algorithm sets the rules of the game, and gives us the two main success metrics we need to optimize: Click-Through Rate (CTR) and watch time.
The CTR is the number of times your video is clicked on divided by the number of times your thumbnail is seen. The watch time is the average amount of time viewers spent on your video.
First, the CTR.
To increase the CTR of a video, you have tweak the thumbnail or the title. This is what will influences if a person clicks on it or not.
Both PewDiePie and MrBeast have extremely catchy thumbnails that pick your curiosity. They spend a lot of time on it, sometimes hours to find the right one. They use a very large array of emotions, and have this home-made style which makes it more authentic. These thumbnails tell a **mini story**. This part is important. It means that even if you don’t watch the video, just looking at the thumbnail creates a reaction from you. I often smile when I see a PewDiePie thumbnail and I am curious when I see one from MrBeast.
If you combine that with a title that creates an intrigue, an unanswered question, it becomes very hard to resists, you want to know what happens next. So you click.
Next, comes the watch time.
This is about how you structure the video itself.
MrBeast and PewDiePie always start with a strong hook, this is what makes you want to watch the video, it’s why you want to see what happens next. Here I have to say that MrBeast has probably mastered this skill the best on YouTube. His hook literally hooks you, it’s a big “WOW moment” that sets the intrigue.
For example, a Lamborghini race where the winner keeps the Lamborghini. It’s a challenge that will only be solved at the end of the video. The stakes keep getting bigger and bigger until the climax, the end of the video where you have the payoff. It’s a strong retention tactic.
Now, these are the techniques used to convince someone to watch your video.
But that alone isn’t enough, to grow your brand you also want viewers to join your army.
The same way a business want you to use their product and do more than the basic functionalities, so do YouTubers want you to do more than just watching. Engagement is one of the most effective ways to drive brand loyalty.
I have identified 4 pillars that both PewDiePie and MrBeast use to recruit, retain and expand their follower base.
Pillar 1: Make them participate
PewDiePie engages a lot with his fans on YouTube, and stays very close to them. He reads a lot of the comments, mentions them in his videos and takes recommendations into account, like which game he should play next. He also does live streams where he interacts with his audience.
When you have a very creative and vibrant community, you just need to listen to them, because they will help you grow. PewDiePie leverages on that brilliantly.
MrBeast goes even further and directly flies his subscribers to feature them in his videos. He spends a lot of money on his fans. In one of his latest videos, he gave one of his subscribers the choice between getting a Lamborghini or a house.
Another way to increase participation is to start a common project with your followers. Something cool that both PewDiePie and MrBeast did is that they raised millions of dollars for charity using their platform. MrBeast and his army even recently launched a big campaign to plant 20M trees, and received donations from the likes of Elon Musk.
Pillar 2: Build loyalty
Loyalty comes from trust, and trust comes from being authentic and delivering quality for a consistent amount of time. YouTubers often like to give a name to their community to create a sense of belonging. A loyal audience gives you a huge amount of power because you can activate it to reach a specific objective, like help you grow your brand, buy your product or even protect you from an “enemy”.
This happened to PewDiePie during the battle with T-Series, an Indian media company, for the number 1 spot on YouTube. It became a worldwide phenomenon, and his army was there all the way to support him for months in this war.
Creating an enemy is actually an extremely powerful way to rally your troops, it’s in our human tribal nature to come together to defeat an enemy. But not everyone can orchestrate such an epic event that lasts months, especially given the fact that T-Series mostly ignored PewDiePie, so he created the biggest clash in the history of YouTube, and maybe even of the internet, by himself. That takes a lot of skills, and that takes a loyal fan-base. The genius of PewDiePie was to create a narrative of a gigantic war, and because he already used to call his subscribers his “Bro Army”, this was a perfect fit. The result: he gained 30M subscribers in 8 months.
Pillar 3: Call to action
You see so many YouTubers asking you to like, comment and subscribe at the end of their videos. PewDiePie and MrBeast are no exceptions. Sometimes they even ask much more than the average YouTuber. However, the way they do it is what is interesting. They built a unique relationship with their fans and because they are entertainment channels, they often use humor to convince you to subscribe.
For example, in nearly every single video, MrBeast leaves an original pinned comment asking people to subscribe! And these comments don’t go unnoticed, look at the engagement. Hundreds of replies and thousands of likes.
Pillar 4: Engage beyond YouTube
Even though YouTube is their primary source of activity, both of them understood the importance of building multiple streams of traffic. It’s similar to why people build multiple streams of income. It increases your wealth, and if one day one of the streams break, you still have multiple others to back it up.
PewDiePie has an incredibly engaged community on Reddit. He has one of the most active subreddits, with more than 3M subscribers there. His fans create memes every day and he regularly reviews them in videos and gives them shoutouts. That’s how he keeps the community alive. He empowers them to continue.
I was actually very surprised to discover that this culture of user-generated content for PewDiePie started a long time ago, pretty much since the beginning of his channel. I rolled back the web to find an [old deviantArt group](https://web.archive.org/web/20120119113902/http://pewdiepie-fan-club.deviantart.com/) that he linked in his YouTube description back in November 2011 when he had a bit more than 50k subscribers. People would create fan arts of him and post it there. Organic user-generated content is one of the hardest cultures to establish with your users, but it’s also one of the most powerful marketing strategies in my opinion.
MrBeast takes a different approach. He engages his followers beyond YouTube by giving them ways to participate. He often creates random challenges, like this one on TikTok where he asked people to guess how many jelly beans there were in that jar. He got close to 1M comments.
On Twitter, he can do something like giving $10k to random people who retweet one of his tweets. People get obsessed with this sort of stuff. MrBeast is like a lottery, both financially and from an entertainment perspective.
He recently went a step beyond, and launched a nation-wide contest called “Finger on the app” where he gave $25k to the last person who would keep their finger on the phone. More than a million people participated.
These are the lessons I was able to extract from both of them! Hope you can find this helpful. At the end of the day, no matter which project we are working on, we are all trying to capture someone’s attention. That’s why I love analyzing how experts of this game are doing it. I believe this skill is the ultimate super power to master in our age.
If you enjoyed this, maybe you will be interested in [my YouTube channel](https://www.youtube.com/c/ZaurbekStark).
I make breakdowns like this one in an exciting video format. I spend around 50h per video, I am trying to bring something that doesn’t quite exist on YouTube yet 🙂