Where would we be without YouTube? For 15 years the vast video-sharing service has kept us sufficiently entertained, educated and bemused. Whether it’s distracting the kids with a Peppa Pig clip, watching Star Wars fans hyperventilate over a new trailer, learning how to make a soufflé, or getting Baby Shark stuck on a loop in your brain, YouTube is an integral part of our lives.
It’s also created a new breed of celebrity, known as the ‘YouTuber’, whose profound influence on millions of followers has also netted them millions from corporate sponsorship and product placement.
With a global reach and over 1.9 billion people logging into YouTube every month, why wouldn’t you want to get onboard, especially if you have a talent, ability, or simply wisdom to impart that the world could benefit from. But how do you put yourself out there and establish a recognisable and popular presence amongst the squillions of other content creators?
Consider what you know and have to offer. Even though thousands of other YouTube channels may be on the same wavelength, there’s always room for a unique and engaging new voice. Specific topics and niches will help make your content easier to find in a search – if you intend to review movies, focus on your favourite genre, or if grooming dogs is your forte, pick a particular breed. Choose a field you know and love and your passion will be reflected in the content you’re creating. Just be yourself and your infectious enthusiasm for the subject will endear you to a like-minded audience.
Research the market to discover if your chosen topic/niche is viable or over-saturated. Check out the competition, learn as much as you can, and most importantly, know what your audience wants. With over 400 hours of video content uploaded to YouTube every minute, you want to stand out in the crowd. Establish a signature style that viewers will recognise and want to engage with on a regular basis, and provide them with content they won’t find elsewhere.
You don’t need the filmmaking skills of Martin Scorsese when it comes to shooting your video – rudimentary clips can be just as popular as professionally produced ones. Approach the process as if you were making a short film; set a budget, determine the location, framing, visual style, tone, and key points you wish to convey. Don’t be afraid to improvise; spontaneous and humorous delivery can be more endearing than scripted content. The optimal running time of your video should be around 10 to 15 minutes.
Production values will of course depend on your familiarity with video equipment. Unless you intend to shoot Uluru John Ford-style, an affordable point-and-shoot camera, microphone and light will do the job for starters, and you can always upgrade later.
Always shoot more than you need and consider multiple takes and camera positions to provide more options when cutting it all together. Editing software to assemble your final cut can be found on most computers and laptops, and there are also free apps available. Always be aware of copyright when it comes to scoring your video – the Jaws theme might be the perfect accompaniment for that beach vacation footage, but you’ll be in hot water if you use it. Fortunately, YouTube offers an audio library of copyright-free music and sound effects to enhance your video.
This part is easy. You’ll need a Google Account, a catchy name for your channel, and of course you must be 13 years and over to create an account. Then simply head to YouTube and follow the set-up prompts. You should also familiarise yourself with YouTube’s Terms of Service and Community Guidelines (this is a must!) as well as account settings that control privacy, notifications and links to your social media accounts.
Create an impactful banner, icon or logo that conveys what your channel is all about at a glance. A detailed description of the type of content you’re offering is also important; choose keywords that will optimise search results and consequently boost views – a self-explanatory channel name will make you easier to find. You may also want to create a trailer to introduce what you’re all about and invite subscribers. Be creative with video thumbnails, too, and make sure they accurately represent the content of the video – nobody likes clickbait. Most importantly, be regular and consistent when posting so your audience knows when the latest video will drop. Once you’re up and running, use YouTube analytics to determine which videos are the most popular with your audience. Make a note of the elements that work best, rinse and repeat.
A strong social media presence will further facilitate engagement with your followers and assist in recruiting new subscribers. Seek out demographics that follow similar content and engage and collaborate with this online community – share ideas, discover what’s hot and what’s not, and tailor your content accordingly.
If taking the first steps towards your fledgling channel still feels a little overwhelming, YouTube’s Creator Academy has channels dedicated to the foundations of content creation where you can learn from the experts. Choose the courses and/or lessons that best suit your requirements, dive in with confidence, creativity and passion, and forge your own identity.
The visual equivalent of a written blog, a three-minute video can be worth thousands of words. From moving house to preparing for parenthood, or documenting an overseas holiday, a Vlog is essentially a video diary that can connect you to an audience on a more personal level, providing a candid and intimate insight into your life. Your passions and experiences can be a positive influence on others, and also help to take the guesswork out of a similar project or endeavour.
A live broadcast offers an additional opportunity to engage your audience with in-the-moment content. Whether you’re at Comic-Con, a conference, the football, or hiking the Inca Trail, YouTube Live can help you reach an audience in real time. Beginners can use a webcam or mobile phone to broadcast, however streaming from a mobile device requires you have at least 1,000 subscribers.
Successful YouTube influencers with a multitude of followers can be a corporate sponsor’s best friend, although don’t expect immediate fame and fortune – even PewDiePie had to do a lot of hard work to reap the financial benefits. Once you have engaged an audience and are growing a community, there are a number of ways to generate revenue from advertising and other sources. The YouTube Partner Program assists creators to monetise their channels if the content is eligible and meets the following criteria: a minimum of 4,000 watch hours over the past 12 months and 1,000 subscribers.