At Vimeo OTT we see time and time again that publishers who build their audiences early are the most successful. The tactics your channel uses to gain subscribers and build an audience should be unique to your brand and content offerings, but there are some tactics you can utilize to increase awareness early on. Building and nurturing an audience on YouTube, social media, or other platforms prior to a subscription launch will increase interest and ensure your launch is successful. Here are some tips to help you get a head start with pre-launch subscriber building.

1. Promote your site plans on social media

Use your social feeds wisely. Link to your site in your Twitter and Facebook bios, so you can establish credibility and build a baseline awareness with your social fans. This will come in handy when your launch date approaches because you have the ability to build an audience that may turn into subscribers. In the meantime, you can start building momentum and engaging with fans.

Make your social accounts visible on your website. By connecting your channels, you can begin to build a consistent audience across all platforms. This will also help you post-launch, as customers will be able to spread the word about subscribing to your network. Word of mouth is a powerful tool for gaining new subscribers as well. 

And don’t forget to incorporate videos into your social strategy. Videos engage and convert more than static posts, which is why it’s wise to have your trailer embedded everywhere.

We’ve also found that traffic from YouTube tends to convert 2X better than traffic from Facebook or Twitter. So make sure that your channel is easily discoverable from your YouTube channel. Use cards to link fans back to your site. Don’t forget to put your trailer on Vimeo and your social accounts, too.

2. Rally your base with email

MHz Choice OTT email example

If you have a blog or website people have been signing up for, you’ll already have an email list of followers and potential subscribers to market to.

MHz Choice, a subscription service that licenses European series to expats in the US and Canada, does this well. Not only have they historically sent newsletters to their subscribers where they highlight and link to new and popular content on their site, but they are also taking advantage of the increased interest in streamed content.

“Like a lot of streaming services right now, we’re seeing a significant spike across just about every metric you can think of — web traffic, hours viewed, engagement and new trials — all up double digits. I’m focusing a lot more on promoting catalog content to help our subscribers discover programs that may be several years old but that is ‘new’ to them.”

Jason Connolly

VP of Creative and Marketing at MHz Choice

MHz can gain subscribers and build an audience by providing a direct CTA from these emails, allowing their audience to start watching content right away.

Regular email newsletters are a great way to keep current subscribers watching and to hook casual fans into subscribing to your service:

  • Pre-launch: You can start sending that list updates to let them know when your subscription service is available. 
  • Ongoing: Use a weekly newsletter to inform fans when there are updates or new content available on your network.

Don’t feel like you have to limit your updates to just your subscription channel. Let fans know about new releases on your free platforms, upcoming live events, or promotions. Building an audience isn’t only about conversions, it’s about creating relationships with prospects who may be interested in subscribing at some point in the future.

3. Utilize site forums

Vimeo OTT includes the ability to set up website forums, which provide you an opportunity to connect with your fans even before your subscription launches. You can start threads around production updates, promotions, or fun topics related to your content. It’s a way to engage in conversation with your fans and keep them coming back to your site, and also provides an extra content opportunity for them to interact with. 

Once you’ve launched you can set up private boards. These discussions can only be accessed by subscribers and is another perk to joining your channel’s community of subscribers.

If your audience has similar interests (and they likely will because they’re interested in your specific channel) set up a forum that allows them to connect about them. Fitness channels can utilize forums to understand the kinds of content their audience is looking for, while entertainment channels can see if users prefer one genre of content over another. The possibilities for building an audience and community are endless. 

4. Send out promo codes

If you are getting ready to launch a subscription, set up a special promo code for your existing followers. Send it out once your subscription is available. This allows your fans to receive a temporary discount for trying out your subscription. Remember when we talked about building up followers on social? You can create special promo codes for audiences on specific platforms as a way to reward them for following you from day one.

Look to Criterion Collection for an example of this strategy in action. They announced in February that they’d be launching in April. They messaged their fans that if they signed up pre launch they’d be locked into a lower monthly or annual price as long as their subscription remained active. They released a film every week during this pre-launch period so early adopters could subscribe and start enjoying content right away.  

Black&Sexy had a similar tactic. They had their network set at a lower price during the first week of their launch so they could gain subscribers by leveraging their YouTube fans who wanted to take advantage of the savings.

5. Build a video business

Keri Croft, co-founder of System of Strength, said that in order to build a successful video business, you have to focus on that “thing” you’re passionate about and makes you different. That will drive everything else. How you gain subscribers and build your audience should be unique to your offerings and content. 

If you are thinking about starting your own SVOD, head to our resources page for more tips and inspiration before your subscription launch.