How To YouTube #2
When you're first starting out on YouTube, it's easy to fall into the trap of believing subscribers will roll in from the get-go. Heck, when I started out, I was convinced I would have 1,000 subs by the end of the year. And a million subs within a few years, tops. It just seemed like that was how it worked.
Three years later, I've still got a ways to go to meet that goal of 1,000 subscribers. But don't let that dishearten you. I may have "failed," but I only failed because I had the wrong mindset.
You see, falling into the elusive gold-embossed trap of "1 million subs" is really easy. We think number of subs equals success. Worse, we think "1 million subs" is the only goal.
But what does 1 million subs really mean?
1 million subs could mean a lot of things.
It could mean 50% of them are active subs, or only 25%.
It could mean my average view duration is 2 mins, when most of my videos are at least 10 mins long, or perhaps my average view duration is 2 mins and all of my videos are 2-3 mins long.
It could mean I get an average of 10,000 views on my videos, or maybe an average of 2 million.
1 million subs really doesn't mean anything, in the end. It doesn't mean you're "famous." It doesn't mean you aren't "famous" either.
The bottom line: Subscriber count can be part of your YouTube goal, but it shouldn't be all of it.
But if subs aren't the goal, then what is?
Some better metrics for success are watch time and view duration. You may even measure success based on engagement (likes, comments, and/or shares). But the best way to measure success is a combination of metrics that best represent your vision.
Consider these questions:
1. What are you trying to accomplish?
Do you want to engage people in discussions about a specific topic? Do you want others to share their stories too? Are you trying to relate to people? Do you want to make people smile? Are you trying to go viral? Are you trying to build a community?
Whenever you post a video, think about why you're posting it. What do you hope to gain from posting it?
This isn't exactly your YouTube goal, but it's your motivation, and it will affect which metrics you choose to measure your success by, based on which metrics motivate you most.
2. Given the opportunity and resources, how would you choose to monetize your channel?
Regardless of whether you'd want to monetize or not, if you had the resources and opportunity to do so, how would you do it? Consider brand deals, sponsorships, merchandising, Patreon, a blog, etc. Also consider which brands you would work with, if relevant.
While it might be too early to implement any of these ideas, it's good to use these considerations to help you determine the direction of your channel... and thus, your goal and vision.
3. Is money even a factor?
Do you even want to monetize the channel? "Yes" means some of your goals will eventually lead towards monetization in some form, and it also means you'll need a bit more of a business mindset. "No" means you have some flexibility.
4. When envisioning the perfect channel, what do you envision?
Consider things like how your channel page would present itself (banner, thumbnails, playlists, trailer), how many views your videos would have, your sub count, the average number of comments, whatever comes to mind when you envision your channel.
5. What other social media do you or would you use, and for what purpose?
Would you post videos elsewhere, like on Facebook or Instagram? Would they be snippets of your main channel videos, or separate content entirely? Would you use your social media to engage in discussions, make announcements, connect with viewers, make funny observations, post funny things, etc?
6. How will viewers react?
Will they feel sentimental and emotional? Will they feel enraged and rant to their friends? Will they laugh and share with their friends and family? Will they be shocked? Will they try to imitate what you're doing? Will they immediately subscribe and ring that notification bell because they can't possibly miss out on the next installment in the series? Will they sneak it in during their work breaks, or will they prep with a blanket and popcorn and sit back and enjoy the experience? What will they do?
You can't expect every reaction you might get, but you can elicit certain reactions. What are you trying to make your audience do or feel?
Consider these 6 questions. Then ask yourself...
What is my YouTube vision?
Your vision should be a combination of what you want to accomplish, how you want to profit from it (if at all), what your channel will look like, how you will round out the user experience outside of YouTube, and how you want the audience to react.
Imagine it in your head. Imagine every aspect, from the videos to the branding to the audience to the money. Visualize it. Write this down. It can be a couple sentences. It can be a paragraph. Just write it down. Draw it, diagram it, Etch A Sketch it, whatever gets your vision across. Make it something tangible. Hang it up in your room, or tape it to your desk or your mirror so you'll always see it.
There, now you have a vision. This is what's motivating you. This is what you want.
Now, how will you get what you want?
That's where goals come in.
What are my YouTube goals?
Finally we're here. We've already established that "I want 1 million subs" isn't a goal. It can be part of your vision, but it isn't a goal. So then, what is your goal?
In some ways, your vision is a rose-colored, bedazzled version of your goal. It's the ultimate dream. It's technically achievable (hopefully), but it's way up there. On a diagram, it's at the very top, the head honcho, to which all other goals and steps are connected.
Consider: "A well-known YouTuber with a community, subscribers and non-subscribers alike, that actively discuss topics with each other and me, and feel inspired by my content. I am actively engaging my audience on Twitter with hashtags and replying to their questions and comments, and they are excited to be engaging with me. I do meet-ups regularly, and surprise my fans whenever possible. I earn enough money to live comfortably in LA in my own place, through stage tours, branded merchandise like t-shirts and hats, and some sponsorships with brands that I think would actually be useful to my late teen/young adult audience. I am eventually able to purchase a home which I call 'YouTopia,' a dedicated hangout spot for small creators to collaborate, network, create videos, and relax."
Technically achievable, yes. Highly difficult, also yes.
So where do you begin?
1. Create milestones. These are your steps to success.
For example, using the example above, perhaps the first milestone is getting approved for monetization.
The important thing is to identify a goal that is within reach. The goal could have several items under it. In this example, I'd have to hit 1,000 subs AND get 4,000 hours in watch time AND then get approved for monetization.
The best milestones have branches leading to smaller goals. Hitting 1,000 subs is a reason to celebrate, but it's only one branch, one step, towards the overarching goal, the milestone.
And on that note...
2. The more you can breakdown your larger vision, the better off you will be.
100 subs? That's one goal checked off.
10,000 lifetime views? Another goal.
100 comments on one video? Check.
Make little goals like these. Then, when you hit them, aim a bit higher. It's like beating a personal best. Why stop at running a mile in 6 mins when you can aim for 5 mins? Hit the first goal, then go for the second one. Never stop challenging yourself.
BUT, always keep the next goal within reach. If it's too lofty before you've had a chance to grow, you'll only ever see it as something that's too far away instead of something that's doable.
3. Assess how to hit your goal.
This is where the money is. You can say you want something, you can make milestones to mark your progress, but how do you expect to run the mile if you don't know how to put one foot in front of the other?
Let's use the same example as above, aiming for monetization on YouTube. How do I achieve this? How do I hit the requirements for monetization?
Well, first off, assess where you are right now and what you're doing. For example...
I post consistently for a month and then disappear for two months. My thumbnails are all over the place. My banner doesn't really reflect my content or tell my audience what they're getting into. I don't do calls to action very often. My content itself is a bit scattered in topic.
However, I'm getting my friends and family on Facebook and Twitter to click on my videos regularly. I'm getting decent engagement on most of my videos despite the view count, primarily because I connected with many YouTubers and they support me. My editing style and comedic timing are good. These are good things that I should continue encouraging.
Now that you've identified things you do well and things that can be improved, think of what you need to do to encourage the good stuff and improve the rest.
I need to post more consistently. Once a week, no ifs, ands or buts. I will have my YouTube friends hold me accountable by telling them to bug me if I don't.
I need to reevaluate my brand and make a new banner and thumbnail template. If I'm unsure, I'll ask someone for advice. I'll learn the basics of how to design, pay someone to design for me, or find a friend who will do it for free.
I'll have more call to actions in my videos, at the beginning and at the end, encouraging people to like, comment, and subscribe.
I'll edit my content more tightly so viewers are more inclined to watch.
I'll encourage friends and family to share so I can get more eyes on my content. Most probably won't, but some might.
I'll plan some collabs with other YouTubers. They all live far away, so we'll plan one remotely. It's tough, but doable. These will drive our audiences to each other.
To make the process easier, I'll pre-record videos the week or so before they're scheduled so I'm not rushed to film or edit.
I will write down a monthly plan for all of my content for the month, including blog posts and non-YouTube social media posts if relevant
And suddenly...I have a solid PLAN.
Goals are all well and good, but plans are what make things happen. You can't count on getting lucky. Most of the time, these things require discipline and a PLAN.
Any other tips for people trying to make their YouTube dreams come true? Let me know in the comments below!