The Complete Guide to Mastering YouTube’s Empathy Algorithm

The complete guide to mastering YouTube’s Empathy Algorithm



24 JUNE 2019 • 29 MIN READ

What’s Inside the Algorithm

But what I want to share with you isn’t just about growing a YouTube channel.

You see, there’s an important secret embedded in the depths of the algorithm — the value of which extends well beyond helping YouTube creators increase their channel views and subscribers.

It’s an insight so powerful that if entrepreneurs or business owners harnessed it, they would literally revolutionize their business.

That’s because the ideas captured by the algorithm result in a transformation of the relationship between businesses and prospects. If implemented, they would exponentially expand the customer base and drastically impact the overall health and longevity of their business.

Many people try to build a successful business without leveraging this algorithm. Doing this is like trying to get over a cold by taking Tylenol — you’ll mask the symptoms, but deep down you’ll still be sick.

I call these insights the Empathy Algorithm. Understanding what it means and putting it into operation could be the single most important thing any entrepreneur could do for themselves and their business.

The Impact of the Empathy Algorithm

Unconventional Discovery

April 11, 2013 was the day I uploaded my first video to YouTube for the channel I LoveBasketball TV.

I uploaded videos nonstop until January 2020 and the number of total views my videos have reached is over 200 million views.

None of the success I’ve had on YouTube would have been possible, however, if they hadn’t made a critical algorithm change in early 2014.

Back when I started, smaller channels like mine stood no chance against the bigger businesses in our markets. That’s because YouTube’s old algorithm favored view count.

Larger corporations were able to hack this algorithm by sending large amounts of traffic to their videos as soon as they were released. This would inflate the number of views, and YouTube would then rank them highest over all other videos in their category.

There was no way that little channels like mine could compete. That was the case — until YouTube announced their change.

YouTube said they would no longer focus on view count, but instead switch to using “Watch Time” as their measuring stick. Essentially, this meant that if people spent more time viewing your videos and your channel accumulated more hours of “eyes-on” watching, then YouTube would send you more traffic.

This changed the game for people like me, creating content-rich videos but whose channels had a limited number of viewers. Even though my videos were created with nothing more than an iPhone, I had a small but devoted following.

YouTube’s shift allowed entrepreneurs like me to compete for the very first time with larger businesses. Simply put, if you provided quality content on a consistent basis then you would get traffic because your Watch Time would outperform the generic videos that bigger companies usually uploaded.

YouTube was no longer for traffic competition but content competition.

YouTube's New Look

Here are some of the Suggested Videos showing up beside one of my videos. (Click on image to make it bigger.)
As soon as you go to, these are the videos YouTube recommends based on previous videos you’ve watched.

From a business perspective, it makes no sense for YouTube to encourage searching for videos. It’s much better from their vantage point to have you watching videos. In other words, the new algorithm was designed to do the searching for you.

Eyes on the Prize

The Golden Goose

Ethical Rabbit Holes

Overcoming the Roadblock

The problem I’ve found is that most entrepreneurs and business owners don’t know what their target market truly wants. 

Why Empathy is Misunderstood

A dynamic capacity that allows you to share experiences with others, feel concern, take the other’s perspective, and motivate a caring response. The full empathic circle leads to an empathic response: You go back out in the rain in reality and offer the unfortunate freezing person a warm raincoat and umbrella.

It must be the foundation of your business strategy. 

What's Good For The Heart is Good For Business

[U]nderstanding our emotional impact on others and making change as a result is more important to a successful business than it has ever been, correlating to growth, productivity, and earnings per employee.

So, Why Are There So Many Scrooges?

Ambition is usually selfish. It’s the search for what benefits me, makes me rich, and puts me on top of the world. 

Aspiration, on the other hand, is usually selfless. It’s the search for what can I create that can benefit others. 

Ambition makes us want power over others, while aspiration makes us want to empower others. While only a few can ever satisfy ambition, everyone is capable of fulfilling an aspiration.

As Charles Dickens said, “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” 

How the Empathy Algorithm Works

Click on image to make it bigger.
  1. Affinity Analysis — Measure influences that sway people one way or another, and assess what it is that people truly want.
  2. Creation Mastery — Become a solution creator and help solve the biggest problems that you find.
  3. Unforgettable Experiences — Build the journey you give your prospects and customers that keeps you coming back.
Now let’s dig in deeper to each of the three phases.

How the Empathy Algorithm Works

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” In phase two, you’ll chop down the trees that you prepared for in phase one — by formulating solutions to the problems based on the information you uncovered through your “sharp” research in phase one.

But one thing I’ve noticed in business is that people don’t know or understand their audience enough to do the thorough analysis that is needed. They go into the research with pre-determined ideas about what they’ll discover. As Stephen Covey has said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Phase 1 is a time to listen.

As I mentioned before, usually the focus is on the product or brand we are creating instead of the people we’re looking to help. But it can’t be like this. The audience must come first. Because no matter how great the product is, if we don’t have anyone to tell about it, then it’s useless.

The three buckets

As a former basketball player and coach, I’ve had lots of practice listening to what others are saying. In the online marketing and small business space, I’ve had to do much the same. But instead of viewing it as work, I see it as an opportunity to learn. I am always listening to fellow entrepreneurs, prospects, and customers. There’s no method of collecting data that can beat face-to-face interaction for granular detail, and the ability to pursue additional lines of inquiry when you discover something you didn’t know.

Of course, it’s good to collect what’s said in comments on your posts, but it’s also essential to research the posts and comments of people that do something similar to you. This is research, after all, and it’s going to take some effort to look for the data you need. Happily, the digital world is awash in feedback people leave on social media posts. Mine them for insights into the nature of the problem that you can solve.

The diamond in the rough. This will be the comment where someone pours their heart out and tells you what they need — and the solution you can provide. I’ve found these comments in all sorts of forums, but especially in the comments on blog articles and YouTube videos because they are not associated with a personal profile like Facebook — and people tend to be more likely to reveal their true feelings and insecurities on those forums without the fear of being judged.

This process of performing research, collecting data, and sifting through it to find diamonds was one of the ways I was able to significantly grow the YouTube channel. I would search competing channels’ videos that were based on the topics I knew my audience needed help with.

From there, I’d investigate the comment sections for common themes and note the pains they were going through. I’d then create the videos the audience was asking for, filling in the gaps of competitor channels with my own content.

  • What are your prospects and customers feeling?
  • What are they saying to themselves?
  • What are they saying to the public?
  • What are the themes running through all three buckets?

Phase 2: Creation Mastery

To pay or not to pay

Phase 3: Unforgettable Experiences

It’s the little things that count

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