How To Get 1,700,000 Youtube Subscribers

Let me introduce you to Maangchi.

Maangchi is a little Korean woman with a warm, husky voice. She’s a YouTube star and maven of Korean cuisine. I myself fell in love with her penchant for hot pink lipstick and fascinators, her way of wielding a killer cleaver, and of course, her recipes. In fact, so enamoured of her recipes was I, that it took me a while to see what was behind them.

You see, Maangchi isn’t just a cook. She’s actually a freakin’ content genius.

Currently courting 1,700,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel, countless visitors to her bulging site, and thousands of active users in her forums, Maanchi isn’t someone to take lightly (fascinators notwithstanding). That kind of pull and longevity – her channel celebrates 10 years this year – takes some serious contenting chops.

Success leaves clues, as they say, and at her most recent Google Talk, Maanchi dropped a whole mess of them. Google says this talk “provides a crash course in authentic Korean home cooking” but it’s actually a crash course in how to do content properly and be wildly successful at it.

If you want to create amazing content that has your clients or customers hungering for more, follow her recipe. She won’t let you down.


1: Do what you know (17:40)

“Write what you know” is a hairy old chestnut, but it actually comes into its own with your content. Whether you’re writing it, filming it, recording it, or otherwise manifesting the hell out it, it needs to be based on what you intimately know as an expert in your field. And it makes sense: people come to you because of what you can brilliantly do, which is a byproduct of what you intimately know, and your content is an extension of that.

When doing content, you should do what you know – and do it generously – because your clients or customers are desperate for your knowledge. In return for this act of generosity, they will reward you with more business, more loyalty, and more trust. As icing on that hunk of cake, they will also come to consider you an authority, or a thought leader. (These terms, by the way, can only be bestowed upon you. You cannot claim them for yourself without someone, somewhere, sniggering.)

Maangchi started sharing her recipes with the world because someone told her that she was great at Korean cuisine. What are you great at? How can you communicate that as part of your content?


2: Don’t run out of content (18:00)

Content works, but content is hard. This is because if it’s going to work it needs to be a) great, and b) regular and consistent. Stats from CMI tell us that it takes 15 to 18 months from the point you begin doing content, to the point where your content literally pays off in actual coin of the realm.

Do you have enough content, or ideas for content, to do you day after day, week after week, month after month, for up to 18 months? Like, really?

For most people who attempt content marketing holus-bolus, it’s only a matter of (brief) time before their content becomes spasmodic, and then sputters to a halt.

The first way to ensure you don’t run out of content is the obvious one: you need a strategy and a plan. That’s it. It’s the best way to keep up with content marketing’s hungry demands.

The second way is one that I’ve written about before, and one that every editor and publisher is familiar with: your content has to be incredibly specific. General content is fine for periodic sharing, but for the consistently-good-and-good-and-consistent content, you need to get as specific as you possibly can. If Maangchi had set out to do vids on the theme of Korean cuisine as a whole, she might have had enough for a few, albeit informative, videos. But because she’s filming recipes, which are highly specific, she will never, ever run out of content.

Make your content highly specific, and you won’t run out of content either.


3: Begin anyway (18:25)

We all want our content to be perfect. Guess what? It isn’t, and it probably never will be. You need to begin it anyway.

Style, voice, themes, and messaging can’t be prescribed and then executed perfectly. This is because the act of creation is in itself a kind of searching. The more you create, the more you discover, improve, and evolve. In other words: the only way to do content is to do content.

Or perhaps, like Maangchi, you’re willing to embrace the uncertainty of creativity but don’t have the proper gear. I get it, and I sympathise: I want you to shoot on great cameras and record on great audio equipment, too. But guess what? The gear you want will probably be obsolete tomorrow, or the week after, or the month after. So begin with what you’ve got. You can upgrade as you go (and yes – you should upgrade, but that’s a blog for another time).

Commit, and do. Perfection only comes with practice.


4: Get a home on the Internet (22:20)

If you’ve worked with the original Mad Scientist, Ian, and I hope you have by now, you’ll have heard him say how important it is to own your digital real estate, and how absolutely vital it is to put your content on there. Maangchi would agree with him. Almost from the get-go, she knew that after they watched a video on YouTube, a good portion of the audience would want more: more direction, perhaps, or precise quantities, or the same information presented in a different way.

Your audience – your market – needs someplace to go. That means your own, registered website. On your website, you have ultimate control over how they experience your content. You can take care of these people in every possible way. And you can easily direct them where to go when they’re ready for your services. Your website is your most valuable digital asset.

Social media might be important, but it doesn’t belong to you. Social media’s main interest is itself – not you, not your business. Use it, yes, but treat it as your distributor, not your publisher. You are the publisher in the content marketing scenario.

Mad Scientist_Violeta Balhas_Content

5: Create a community (23:00)

Powerful is the business that can create and nurture a community. Businesses that are actively engaged attract more of today’s most valuable currency, trust, and are able to get up close and personal with the most important people: the clients or customers.

This is great, but communities also have huge content marketing benefits. Not only do communities make your content into a dynamic, ever-evolving construct as they discuss and share it, but when you host your community on your website, they also provide you with the easiest solution to your biggest content marketing problem.

Let’s back up a bit. The reason you need to create and publish great content consistently and regularly is because of Google’s favourite F-word: freshness. If you do as Maangchi did and say, set up a forum on your site, forum participants will constantly provide fresh content by asking and answering questions, engaging in lively discussion, sharing tips, and generally being cool to each other. A little judicious moderation aside, that’s as easy as content gets.


6: Learn from your audience (27:00)

Maangchi’s engagement with her audience means that they are giving her something else other than the adulation and income she deserves: ideas for more content! And not just any content: the content they really want.

When you create your content, who are you doing it for? Your audience and market, or yourself? Seriously. Because it’s one thing to pat yourself on the back when you have friends and cronies telling you how inspiring you are for writing about your blindfolded hike up Mount Kilimanjaro, and another thing altogether to have someone say, “I was really impressed with that piece you wrote about hiring sales staff. Can I make an appointment with you so we can talk about working together?”

Listen to what the people around you are saying. Listen to what makes them happy, but mostly, listen to their questions, whines, and whinges. You have the solutions they want. Put them into your content.


7: Don’t lead with the book (30:00)

Books – almost all of them self-published – have become the marketing tactic du jour, with a bunch of self-styled gurus selling too many people on the idea that books are necessary for establishing you as an authority. It’s not about the book sales, of which there’s bound to be almost none, but about your positioning.

At least, that’s the idea. The fact, however, is this:

The flood of crap books by a flood of people who actually know very little, unleashed upon the most sophisticated market in the history of the world, means that your book will most likely languish, along with your position as an authority, or a thought leader, or whatever you’d like to be.


Unless you first prove yourself as someone who knows a hell of a lot (through your business, and your content).

Unless you first build up a loyal market and audience over the long term (through your business, and your content).

Which is how Maangchi’s cookbook has sold a vast number of copies and cemented her position. Which is how Maangchi is now known as the “Korean Julia Child“, Which is how if you Google “Korean recipes”, her site is the second or third hit you’ll get. Which is how she got 1,700,000 YouTube subscribers.

You can, too. Get cooking.


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