In a nutshell

  • MrBeast teaches us that thumbnails, titles and the first 30 seconds of a video are crucial to capturing viewer attention and driving engagement on YouTube.
  • Understanding and adapting to YouTube’s platform dynamics, including changes and analytics, can significantly influence a channel’s growth and viewer retention.
  • While drawing inspiration from successful creators like MrBeast is beneficial, it’s essential to prioritize originality, invest in content quality and consider the broader impact one can make using their platform.

With over 180 million subscribers, if you’ve heard of YouTube, you’ve likely heard of MrBeast (Jimmy Donaldson). It’s easy to dismiss the hype as just “Oh, big YouTuber gives away money for views,” but the success of the MrBeast channel goes much deeper than that. Let’s take a look at 10 lessons from MrBeast about building a YouTube empire.

1. Thumbnails and titles matter

Image courtesy: MrBeast

We’ve heard it before ad nauseam: If you want people to click on your video, you need a great thumbnail. This age-old YouTube advice still holds true. Thumbnails and titles matter.

In fact, in an H3H3 podcast, Jimmy suggested taking a snapshot of the YouTube homepage and then adding your own thumbnail. This will help you gauge the thumbnail’s appeal from a viewer’s perspective.

2. Go big on your intros

Just like the thumbnail and title, the first 30 seconds of your video are especially important to hooking viewers and drawing them in. In a recent interview with Colin and Samir, Jimmy compared it to being a salesperson for your own content. It’s only after you’ve convinced people to watch that you can go back to being a content creator.

3. Understand the platform

Our first two lessons from MrBeast lead directly into our third: Understand YouTube as a platform. This means diving deep into your video analytics to figure out what drives clicks, engagement and retention. Because the YouTube algorithm puts emphasis on watch time, viewer retention is an especially important metric. It’s clear from watching his videos that Jimmy puts a ton of thought into keeping viewers excited to the end.

4. Pay attention to platform changes

Understanding YouTube as a platform also means paying attention to platform changes. For example, videos now autoplay as you scroll through the YouTube mobile app. For MrBeast, this prompted a change in strategy. In the same Colin and Samir interview, Jimmy quips, “Thumbnails are irrelevant.” While the ultimate truth to this statement is debatable, the autoplay feature on the YouTube app does mean that the first few seconds of a video are at least as important as the thumbnail when it comes to attracting viewers.

5. Integrate sponsor ad reads

Sponsorships help YouTubers achieve more compared to relying on AdSense revenue alone. However, it’s common for viewers to skip through sponsored ad reads to get to the rest of the video. This drop in viewership makes the sponsored sections less valuable to advertisers, leading them to pay creators less. Plus, when viewers skip ad reads, the creator misses out on that watch time.

To solve this, MrBeast has developed a knack for keeping viewers engaged, even during sponsored messages. The trick? Don’t stop the content to insert an ad. Instead, Jimmy simply tells viewers about the sponsor right in the middle of the action. Viewers stay engaged and watching, advertisers get more eyes on their product and MrBeast makes more money. It’s a win-win-win.

6. Find a successful video format and run with it

Browsing the MrBeast YouTube channel, you’ll notice that he isn’t afraid to riff on a successful video concept. For example, take MrBeast’s “$1 vs. [A lot of money]” series. Making several videos in the same format gives viewers who connect with that format a reason to binge-watch more of your content. As a bonus, each video in the same format gives you another chance to hone and refine the most engaging elements, leading to better content overall.

7. Keep it fresh and original

At the same time, you also need to find ways to keep your content fresh and original. This is what prevents your content from becoming stale. This can sometimes mean trying things you’ve never done before and figuring it out as you go.

If you’re not sure if an idea will work with your audience, you can always test it. For example, Jimmy wasn’t sure if viewers would understand the concept for one of his more complex game show challenges. To ease his mind, he took the edited clip and showed it to a bunch of people, asking if they could follow the storyline. Turns out, people got it. That was just the reassurance Jimmy needed to move forward and post the video online.

8. Prioritize quality

Image courtesy: MrBeast

No matter what type of video you make, prioritize quality — even if it takes extra time and resources. MrBeast is known to invest millions into just one video. In fact, he once invested $1 million into a video he didn’t even post; he felt it wasn’t good enough. Obviously, though, he didn’t start off with millions of dollars at his disposal. In the beginning, the only things he had to invest were time and effort.

In order to grow, you need to invest in your content — whether that’s time, effort or dollar bills. If you do it right, you’ll get a substantial return. As Jimmy puts it, “My personality, my soul, my being is making the best videos possible,” and that’s why he is able to make content he has become known for. At the same time, he admits that this isn’t healthy or sustainable for most people. So, invest what you can, but also understand your own limits.

9. Build your team

When facing your own limits, one way to expand your channel’s capacity is to hire help. It takes a village to make big content, and you best believe that MrBeast has a massive team of talented people helping him. Having a team you trust helps protect the consistency and quality of your content. It also lets you accomplish more without burning yourself out.

10. Venture into other capitals

These days, the MrBeast brand extends far beyond YouTube. Of course, Jimmy leverages other social media platforms to promote his content, but he’s also involved in standalone businesses like Beast Burger and his chocolate brand, Feastables. These offline businesses help bring in both extra revenue and new viewers.

Extra credit: Give back

Finally, MrBeast has generated a lot of interest for his channel through his work as a philanthropist. For example, Beast Philanthropy is on a mission to end hunger by building food pantries across the U.S. Other efforts, Team Seas and Team Trees activated huge communities to confront some of the toughest environmental challenges. And that’s all in addition to the hundreds of individual lives MrBeast has impacted through cash giveaways on YouTube. We don’t recommend giving away money just to attract views but do think about how you can leverage your platform and resources as a YouTube creator for good.

How not to be like MrBeast

Plenty of people on YouTube copy and paste the MrBeast formula for their own videos — some going so far as to literally photoshop their faces into MrBeast thumbnails. However, there’s a difference between copying MrBeast and drawing inspiration from his success. The biggest lesson we can take from MrBeast is to be passionate and intentional about the content we make and to make that content our own.