Zoe Sugg — better known on YouTube as Zoella — has been on the platform since 2009, emerging as one of the leading YouTubers in the beauty and fashion vertical. About to embark on her own Zoella Beauty line and publish her first novels, she has become well known off the platform, but remains hugely engaged with her core audience on her YouTube channel. Here we outline four key strategies that drove Zoella to her current level of success.
Engage fans with authentic, personable content
Collaborate on a regular basis with a wide range of creators
Use annotations wisely to keep viewers watching
Build a community for beauty lovers on YouTube
Share a slice of life for others to enjoy
Grow views, subscribers and watch-time
14.3 million average video views monthly
Over 5.8 million subscribers
83.6 million minutes average watch-time monthly
#1: Be authentic, accessible and approachable
Although Zoella's breakthrough success is more recent (going from one million subscribers to over five million in the past 12 months), she has spent several years honing her craft, building her audience and finding her voice on YouTube. From her first video showcasing the things in her bedroom, Zoella has not been afraid to invest time with regular uploads to find formats that work for her.
The majority of her YouTube videos fall into the traditional beauty, fashion and lifestyle formats. For her most dedicated audience, the MoreZoella vlogging channel gives a regular behind-the-scenes glimpse into her daily life.
As Zoella grew in confidence as a YouTuber, she began to tackle themes outside of the fashion and beauty genre. From the authentic, honest approach about her anxiety issues to the bloopers at the end of her videos, her candid approach has gained her a loyal fanbase who see many aspects of her life, both good and bad.
Zoella is in a constant dialogue with her fanbase. She regularly posts Q&As to her audience and answers comments on her videos. However, she remains accessible to new fans by taking the time to explain concepts to new viewers and empowers her community by asking them to support one another in comments if fans have questions or problems.
#2: Be a creator that collaborates
Many YouTubers use the power of collaborating with other creators in order for their content to be seen by different audiences, gaining subscribers, views and watch-time in the process. Zoella's collaboration strategy is baked into what she does. In 2014, Zoella has averaged one collaboration video a month.
In each of these videos Zoella was featured in a video on her collaborator's channel, with clear calls to action sending viewers to the other channel. Despite Zoella having a bigger subscriber base than everyone she has collaborated with, she still received a spike in subscribers for every one has done, demonstrating that collaborating with channels, however large or small, can help you reach a new audience.
Zoella has also taken part in a number of collaborations with brands, such as Very and Unilever, via their All Things Hair channel. These collaborations have been a natural fit with her content; not only are the videos authentic and engaging for her fans, they also help brands reach new, passionate audiences.
#3: Embrace off-platform
Zoella has recently embraced more traditional forms of media, notably making history in the UK by being the first YouTube cover girl for Company magazine. She's also appeared on popular UK TV Shows such as This Morning and Loose Women, as well as guesting on Dan and Phil's Radio 1 show. Being promoted on shows that appeal to her key demographic ensures she reaches an audience beyond the platform who are driven to view and subscribe to her channel.
#4: Realise the power of annotations
Zoella's engaged fanbase love watching her content, and by using YouTube features in an effective way she's driven huge amounts of watch-time just by clearly guiding her audience to other videos they might like to watch.
Using simple end cards linking to other videos, Zoella has achieved impressive average click-through rates of 11.3%, with some of her best performing end cards reaching click-through rates of 25%.
Zoella has built a huge, active fanbase on YouTube by creating authentic and engaging content that resonates with her audience. By working with others on the platform and by featuring on more traditional media outlets, she has grown this community further. Zoella is a natural YouTuber who has learnt how to build and sustain her following by encouraging further views of her content.