For the last few years, I was thrilled with the performance of Invisible People’s YouTube channel. With a focus on homelessness education, an average of 40,000 monthly views was a miracle, or so I thought.
After joining Patreon [ a few months back, I began paying more attention to YouTube. The lightbulb really went off when I typed “homeless” into the YouTube search bar. All that came up was prank videos and other awful content so far from the truth about homelessness.
Invisible People undoubtedly has more videos from homeless people than any other content creator. Yet none of my videos were showing in search with the keyword “homeless.” That was a problem!
Inspired and armed with TubeBuddy [ I began implementing changes to my existing catalog of 876 YouTube videos. I updated 20 videos every morning while drinking my first cups of coffee. If I had a moment of time throughout the day, I would update more.
It took YouTube’s algorithm a few weeks to catchup to my changes, but the results have been dramatic. From 40,000 views every month to now more than 4 million views every month! And that isn’t even the most amazing part. Our average view duration is 2:41 – almost 3 minutes! That means more than four million people watch at least 3 minutes of our videos EVERY MONTH!
Our channel has generated high views before, but traffic was always just a spike after a media hit. The biggest was on August 22, 2010. YouTube allowed Invisible People to curate the content for their homepage on that day. Approximately 1.6 million people had a positive interaction with homelessness that day, people who may never have rolled down their window at an exit ramp to ask a homeless person their story.
With the changes I implemented, we now reach millions of people every month instead of just an occasional spike.
Put in the Effort
The irony is the changes that influenced this dramatic growth are things I have been telling other nonprofits to do for years.
Here’s what I know. For success on YouTube, you need to produce quality content that your audience actually wants to watch. This is above everything else. Then comes your video title and thumbnail – these are extremely important if you want your videos to get noticed. Next step, add a description and the proper tags to help YouTube’s algorithm feed your videos to the right folks.
Nonprofits (and I am sure for-profits too) often upload a video and put zero effort into the title, thumbnail, description, and tags. Many will spend thousands of dollars on producing a video yet do little to make sure people find the video online.
The secret to YouTube growth is really no secret. You just have to put in a little effort in. OK, a lot of effort, but it’s worth it!
Invisible People’s focus is education and awareness, so the added growth increases impact. However, online donations have also increased behind the scenes. In June, Invisible People received more funding from private donors than we have in the last five years combined!
A Final Note
In my research to improve, I ran across a few YouTubers that had a dramatic influence on me. Roberto Blake’s channel [ got me thinking differently about creativity, production, and distribution. Derral Eves’s channel [ started me thinking about the mechanics behind the YouTube algorithm. Sara Dietschy’s channel [ gave me the inspiration to start vlogging.
Vlogging has helped to bring people along with me as I travel working to end homelessness. I am still experimenting with a format, but I have come to believe the YouTube and vlogging is always a work in progress. You can see some of my recent vlogs here [
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Invisible People goes beyond the rhetoric, statistics, political debates, and limitations of social services to examine poverty in America via a medium that audiences of all ages can understand, and can’t ignore.
Invisible People is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the way we think about people experiencing homelessness.