This might be the craziest YouTube journey of all time.
June 15th, 2021. The YouTube Beluga Channel has less than 10,000 subs. And three months later?
September 9th, 2021. The channel hits 4M subs.
4 Million subscribers in three months. Yes, you just read that right. This kid in his bedroom who makes random Discord-related videos built one of the fastest-growing YouTube channels ever.
And he did it with about 50 videos. And then things snowballed pretty quick from there.
We’re going to break down the Beluga YouTube channel journey for you. As you’re about to find out, it wasn’t an accident. And you can learn from his three-step framework to grow your YouTube channel faster too.
The Beluga YouTube Channel: Background & Origins
So off the hop, we don’t know Beluga’s real name. He’s a notoriously private individual. And he likes to mess with his audience and give out fake information. So I’ll be referring to both the person and the channel as Beluga from here out on.
Beluga started his first YouTube channel named “Survival Mode” at the start of 2017. Remember this fact for later.
He then created another channel, “Explore Lucid Dreaming” in September 2017. This becomes Beluga’s main channel for the next 3+ years. And he builds it to 730K subs by the time he brings Survival Mode back from the dead and uploads its first video.
Just for fun, we’ll toss in the rest of Beluga’s channel listings; he also has Beluga Jr and possibly also Hecker (a popular and recurring character), although he claims it isn’t him.
Survival Mode’s Transformation
Survival Mode’s first video was posted in Feb 2021. Three months later, he released the channel’s third video, announcing that the channel’s name is changing to Beluga. And then things start to go a little crazy. The channel gained 800K subs by the time Beluga uploaded his 11th video in late June.
And the best part is, this was all planned. You see, up until around May 2021, Beluga was gaining about 800-1500 monthly subscribers. Then, June happened, and his traffic spiked to 28M views. The last video he uploaded in June, “Discord Ban Speedrun” got over 1M views in one hour. Wowzers.
Peak crazytown was three months from July to September 2021, when Beluga gained 4M subs and over 400M total video views. And it’s hard to say exactly how much money he earned, but I’ve seen estimates for his peak monthly income as high as $280,000. It seems more likely he now earns a pedestrian 30K per month as his activity has dropped off.
So what happened? What did Beluga do to game the system and capture unprecedented growth?
The Beluga Effect – And His Three-Step Framework
So Beluga, with his infamous Cat profile picture, suddenly started getting recommended all across YouTube. What makes it more interesting is the reasons for this sudden growth are very hard to identify. His thumbnails are often poorly cropped and blurry, and his videos are mainly just discord conversations with no voiceover.
I mean, sure, it’s funny, but how can a made-up discord conversation between two cats have 25 million views? What are we missing? What could Beluga possibly have discovered about YouTube in June that led to this growth?
Well, this guy is a lot smarter than it seems. In fact, Beluga has pretty much discovered the new blueprint for how to grow a YouTube channel. And he used a three-step system to beat the algorithm.
While his early days on YouTube seemed to lack direction as he made content on various topics, things changed once he switched his efforts to building Beluga.
An exciting nugget was hidden in his third video, where he announced the channel was changing its name from Survival Mode to Beluga.
The Foreshadowing Public Service Announcement
On the surface, it may look like a simple explanation of why he changed his name to Beluga. But within these 67 seconds, it became clear that he knew something that no one else did.
“I changed my channel name from Survival Mode to Beluga because I think it’s a better name.
And also, starting next week, I am going to post some of the best videos on the entire internet. I have some huge plans for the channel, and I really appreciate your support.
If this channel blows up in the future, you might want to like the video and comment now to prove you were here when it started.”
I mean, having confidence is one thing. But the way Beluga spoke here made it clear this wasn’t his first rodeo. Which takes us on to step number one in his system. You want a catalyst.
Step One: You Can Speed It Up With A Catalyst
Right now, many people say YouTube is too competitive, and there is some truth behind this. There have never been more creators competing for the same audience. But here’s the good thing – YouTube’s algorithm rewards excellent videos.
Now that might sound overly simple, but when you strip back all the noise, it aims to show intriguing and well-made videos to the right audience. As you may know, YouTube measures this with two main metrics.
Clickthrough rate – the percentage of people who click when shown your video
Average view duration – how long viewers watch your video for
Here’s the difficulty, though. How can YouTube tell if your video is good if no one sees it in the first place? It’s a chicken and egg scenario. Your first 1000 viewers are always the hardest to capture.
Some creators target YouTube search using relevant keywords. Some try to make videos about current trends hoping to ride the wave of popular content. And then there’s Beluga’s shortcut strategy. Use a growth catalyst.
Bring Your Audience To Work Day
You see, the truth is this wasn’t Beluga’s first channel. After growing his lucid dreaming channel to almost 1 million subscribers, Beluga wanted a new challenge. So he decided to go all in on cross-promotion to give his “new” channel a head start.
He mentioned and linked his new channel Survival Mode at every opportunity. He also made community posts about it and even funneled traffic to it through end screens.
So why was it so significant? Well, it was the spark that lit the fire. Now, YouTube had an audience to test his new videos with. They could show these viewers the videos, and if the clickthrough rate and average view duration were good, the algorithm would kick in and start pushing the videos to more people.
Oh, and I should probably mention. Beluga started driving traffic before he had even uploaded a single video. The end result? Survival Mode had 1000 subs on Feb. 25th, 2021 – the day before he uploaded his first video. This was his catalyst.
If a channel is set up correctly, an injection of people can lead to a snowball effect. But there’s a problem. You see, many people think getting a shout-out from a larger channel is like hitting the jackpot.
But if the content you’re making isn’t already optimized, it can have the opposite effect. So how did Beluga make videos that the algorithm loved? Well, that takes us on to step two.
Step Two: Get YouTube To Love You Long Time
Beluga became the session time king. We all know watch time is critical to grow on YouTube. So how can a guy who makes two- and three-minute videos get so much promotion? Well, that’s because Beluga makes binge-able loops of content.
The videos may be short, but the average session time is long. So what exactly is session time?
Session time is the total time a viewer stays on YouTube after clicking on one of your videos. Think about this from YouTube’s perspective. Let’s pretend the algorithm can only choose between two videos from different channels to serve up to a viewer.
It could show a ten-minute video where the average viewer tends to click off halfway through and leave the platform. This would result in five minutes of session time.
Or the algorithm could serve up a Beluga video. It’s only three minutes long, but most viewers tend to watch all the way through and then go on to watch a couple more. So if the average viewer sticks around for three full videos, it leads to a total session time of nine minutes or more.
Which one do you think YouTube prefers? YouTube prefers videos that keep viewers on platform and watching ads, aka earning YouTube money.
If your video gets clicked off and your viewers leave YouTube to do something else, you can bank on that video getting buried.
How Beluga YouTube Channel Keeps People Hanging Around
This is why the length is irrelevant if you can make videos people watch from start to finish. So how does Beluga do this? Let’s look at one of his videos, “Countries Portrayed by Discord,” and break it down. It’s only 3:53 long, and it’s racked up 11M views.
It’s one of his typical Discord conversation videos where he invents a fake conversation with a funny storyline. If you want to see and hear what I’m about to break down for yourself, give the video a quick watch first. Otherwise, read on.
The first thing to pay attention to is Beluga’s constant use of sound effects. The opening 10 seconds feature 11 different sound changes. The Discord pinging almost forces you to stay engaged. The explosion sound effects and music add variety, and the awkward pauses emphasize the humor.
It’s tough to feel bored with so much happening. A lot of creators focus all their attention on the visual edits and not enough on the sound.
Keep The Pace Up
Also, you might have noticed just how fast-paced the messages appear and disappear. See if you can follow the conversation without having to rewind. The pace is blistering.
Beluga mainly does this to keep the viewer as an active watcher. Beluga demands your full attention. You will miss vital context if you look away for even a second.
There’s also a bit of a sneakier reason he does this. The speed that messages go by means you’ll naturally have to pause and rewind a few times per video.
This can lead to retention spikes and count for a longer average view duration. But the real genius comes from Beluga’s storytelling. I know on the surface, he might not seem like the Shakespeare of our times, but check it out.
Each of his videos follows the same storytelling templates. A relatable situation is presented. The main characters clash, or there’s a misunderstanding. New characters enter the conversation. And then, the video builds toward a punchline.
For all his discord skits, the story is crafted to constantly give the viewer new stimulus. YouTube videos can’t just have a beginning, middle and end. These days there needs to be multiple moving parts.
All right. So everything we’ve discussed up until now is important, but something is missing. And it’s one of the biggest reasons Beluga gained 4 million subscribers in three months. Which takes us on to step three.
Step Three: Nothing Happens If Nobody Clicks
So what really allowed his channel to take off? Beluga discovered the ultimate title and thumbnail strategy.
And his formula is a blend of statements plus intrigue. His title sets up the video and states what it’s about. And his thumbnail creates intrigue by teasing a storyline.
It’s simple, but when combined, it sells the video to the viewer. Let’s start with a look at his titles.
Clear and Relatable Titles Get Clicked
Beluga always covers very relatable topics. His titles are very inclusive. For example, he might start a title with “when you….” He never writes a title that limits the video’s potential. Every single one, in theory, could appeal to millions of viewers.
His titles are also short and to the point. On average, Beluga’s titles are 33 characters long. For context, this is almost half the average title length on YouTube.
And this is actually a competitive advantage. Viewers can fully understand the concept of the video in just a glance because the whole title is visible.
Use Irregular Qualifiers
Another ingenious tactic is how often he uses random numbers in his titles. Case in point: Win Any Argument In 9.17 Seconds, and Discord Nitro Speedrun (97.1% Success).
This might seem random, but it’s very purposeful. They add an element of uniqueness to each title. For example, if he had said 10 seconds here, it wouldn’t stand out as much. It almost looks too perfect.
Give It The First Person Perspective
His thumbnail style also makes it look like he’s captured your own screen, making it feel personal and relatable.
Whether it’s your phone battery percentage or computer error messages, or the call display on your phone showing an unknown caller. And it all complements the broad appeal of his titles.
Build Intrigue With Open Loops
The real key, though, is how his thumbnails are always paused or cut off just before something happens. They leave you hanging with an unanswered story. So you need to click to get the reward.
A Homemade Feel To Stand Out
He also deliberately keeps his thumbnails amateur-looking. Even leaving in stuff like the typos and blur is all intentional.
Trust me, this guy knows enough Photoshop to make these images higher quality. But he chooses not to. He does this to stand out in a world of highly polished thumbnails. His videos stick out like a sore thumb, which is a strategy in itself.
They also add realism to the video. The best memes and viral videos always feel homemade.
He Asks You To Subscribe All The Time
And he keeps it really simple. Most YouTubers ask you to like, comment and subscribe in every video. But channel Beluga takes a page from Mr. Beasts’ playbook and has a simple homepage banner and tagline: Hello please subscribe. I love you.
It’s a simple and clear reminder. And who doesn’t want to feel loved?
Become The Next Beluga
Here’s a quick recap of Beluga’s three-step genius framework:
Use a Catalyst – cross-promote to feed early viewers in to see your content once your channel is optimized and ready. It can give you a big boost
Increase Session Time – get viewers to watch as long as possible. Make it interesting with sound effects, pacing and storytelling
Get The Click – Master titles and thumbnails to lure viewers in
Beluga used this framework to execute the perfect plan. I think if there’s one thing we can be sure of – this guy’s growth was far from an accident.
And who knows? Maybe there’s someone reading this right now who can learn from this story and grow even quicker.
For more tips and strategies to grow your YouTube channel faster, these reads are waiting for you next.