Graham Stephan has built one of the most popular personal finance channels on YouTube. His channel has millions of views.
As of June 2022, Graham Stephan currently has 3.85 million YouTube subscribers. And his videos frequently receive 350,000 – 700,000 views.
But how has Graham built such a strong following in what is a very competitive space?
I watch some of Graham’s videos myself and find them informative and usually engaging. This is undoubtedly one of the main reasons for his success on YouTube.
But in this article I’m going to focus on how his video titles have contributed to the success of the channel.
If you’ve seen Graham’s content before, you’re probably familiar with the sensationalist and sometimes clickbait video titles he uses.
Keep reading to find out exactly why these video titles are so powerful. Even if you’re not posting videos on YouTube, this information can be applied to writing headlines for blog posts, landing pages, Facebook Ads or email subject lines.
1. How I bought a Tesla for $78 Per Month
This is Graham’s most popular video, with over 8 million views.
A key reason for the success of this video is the use of “$78“.
Professional copywriters know that numbers have a powerful effect on people. Especially when there is a dollar sign in front of the number.
A number is easier for the human brain to process and we tend to be drawn to numbers more than words when reading.
Numbers can be even more compelling when they are very specific. If Graham had titled this video “How I bought a Tesla for $100 Per Month” the video probably would have received many fewer views.
A precise number is more believable. This is why you will see advertisers quote very precise numbers in their ads. For example…
A. Users save on average $47.51 per month when they switch to TruePhone
B. Users save on average $50 per month when they switch to TruePhone
Even though option B claims a higher dollar saving, option A is likely to be more compelling to a reader because it’s very specific. Option B could actually diminish credibility for an advertiser because it can sound like they have just made up a number.
Returning to Graham’s video, $78 is also effective because a $78 monthly payment is achievable for most of his viewers.
$78 is low enough to be at a point where it’s achievable. But it’s also high enough to be believable.
When Graham Stefan later posted a video titled “How I got a Tesla for free,” the video received less than 10% of the views of the original Tesla video.
Getting a Tesla for free isn’t believable for most viewers. They can’t imagine any way it could be possible to get a free Tesla and they will assume that it’s just a clickbait headline.
In another article, I discuss the psychology behind Alex Becker’s webinar titled $200 A Day Shopify Store. I suggested that $200 A Day would be a more effective title than $2000 A Day. Earning two thousand dollars per day from Shopify is too far fetched for most people.
- Use specific numbers in your titles.
- If you’re implying a desirable result for the viewer (eg. a Tesla for $78 per month), make it believable.
2. Meet The $250,000,000 man
This is Graham’s second most popular video by view count with over 5.1 million views.
The video title is effective for different reasons to the Tesla video…
However, it does share one thing in common with the Tesla video. And that is the use of a number.
Whether you’re writing a title for a YouTube video, a blog post headline or the headline for an ad, using numbers is extremely effective.
But aside from the big number, this video title is powerful because it elicits a lot of curiosity. A number of questions could come to mind when you read this title…
- Who is the $250,000,000 man?
- Is it someone I already know of?
- How did he make his money?
- Is that really him in the video thumbnail?
Once these questions enter your mind, it’s hard not to click on the video. You want answers. This is the power of curiosity.
Here is another example of a curiosity-provoking video title on Graham’s channel..
Given that both Graham Stefan and Robert Kiyosaki are in the personal finance space, most of his viewers will be familiar with Kiyosaki, the author of Rich Dad Poor Dad.
And this title will instantly raise a lot of questions…
- What does Graham think about Robert Kiyosaki?
- Is there something I need to know about Kiyosaki?
- Is Kiyosaki a fraud?
This combination of the video title, together with the thumbnail raises even more questions. The expression on Graham’s face will lead viewers to suspect that he is cynical of Kiyosaki.
If the viewer has read Rich Dad, Poor Dad and followed Kiyosaki’s teachings, they will be desperate to know what Graham is going to reveal.
- Use your video title to create curiosity.
3. The Largest Wealth Transfer Has Begun | How To NOT Lose Money
At the time of writing, this is Graham’s most recent video. In just 4 days, the video already has 541,102 views.
In recent months, the stock market has been falling rapidly. The S&P 500 is down 21.5% since the start of the year. While the NASDAQ has dropped 30% year to date. And cryptocurrencies have fared even worse.
Many economists and financial commentators are predicting that things will only get worse.
The result of this is high levels of fear.
Many of Graham’s subscribers have probably seen thousands wiped off their investment portfolios in recent months. And they’re fearful..
In the past month, Graham has been capitalizing on this fear in the market through his video titles…
The media and advertisers know that fear sells. Media outlets know that stories appealing to people’s fears will usually attract more attention than more positive stories.
People are naturally drawn to stories and headlines that play on their fears.
During times when fear levels are high – such as during a pandemic or a market crash, it presents an opportunity for the media, YouTubers and marketers to capture a lot of attention.
But when people are less fearful, these stories and videos will be less effective.
If we go back to 2021, when the stock market was reaching all time highs, you’ll see that Graham was posting a lot less fear based content..
This is similar to Covid related content in the media. When the pandemic first broke out in 2020, you couldn’t go five minutes without hearing a Covid story in the media.
Fear levels were at their peak and it was the perfect opportunity for media outlets to capture attention. But now in 2022, Covid stories won’t draw the same attention as they did two years ago because the market is not as fearful.
- Fear captures attention.
- Fear based video titles or headlines work best when the timing is right.
4. How To Retire In 10 Years (Starting With $0)
This video which has amassed over 700,000 views, follows a popular headline formula used by copywriters..
How to [achieve desired result] in [timeframe] even if [disadvantage].
Other examples of this formula include..
“How To Make The Most Delicious Pizza In 20 Minutes Without Flour”
“How To Gain 5 Pounds Of Muscle In One Month Even If You’re A Hardgainer”
“How To Fix Your iPhone In 5 Minutes Even If You Have No Technical Skills”
This formula is extremely effective whether used in a YouTube video, sales letter or blog post for various reasons…
Firstly it provides a clear benefit to the viewer or reader. In the case of Graham’s video, the benefit is retirement in 10 years.
For the average 20 – 30 year old watching Graham’s videos, that’s likely to be a compelling outcome.
Like with the first video, Graham once again uses a believable number in the title… If the video were titled “How To Retire In 6 Months,” it would probably receive a lot fewer views because that just sounds unrealistic.
But most people watching would feel that it is possible to retire in 10 years if they play their cards right.
Providing a time frame makes the title more compelling because people value their time. A title or headline promising fast results will usually capture more attention as long as it’s not unrealistic.
Summary & Recommendations
Keep in mind that many of Graham Stefan’s YouTube video titles are very clickbaity.
There can be a risk of overdoing clickbait titles in your videos. If viewers are lured in by the clickbait style title then quickly close the video, YouTube will detect this and penalize your videos through their algorithm.
Graham is able to get away with it because his videos are engaging and he generally provides high-quality content. So viewers will likely continue watching the video, even if the title was misleading.
If you enjoyed this post, check out my post analysing The Huff Post’s 20 Most Shared Headlines.