Lately, I learned an important lesson in the world of digital marketing. I learned that I absolutely love vlogging (much more than blogging). I sit in front of the computer an enormous amount of time, and I’m tired of typing. If I’m able to change my routine and spend less time with the computer (while gaining even better results), I need to make that change. Well, I found that very change in my transition from blogging to vlogging.
If you’ve followed the PPC Ian YouTube Channel, you have probably noticed the flurry of activity, ranging from my video about Investing $25 Per Month Commission Free to my Epic 50-Minute Video Interview with Rob Monster, CEO of DigitalTown. Simply put: I have an enormous passion for video right now, and have evolved my online presence to emphasize video. This doesn’t mean I have given up on blogging, it just means that I will emphasize vlogging a bit more in an effort to save my hands from typing while having a lot of fun. And, I believe I can add even greater value to all of you out there because there’s something unique about video that offers a truly unique way of communicating. It’s like having me right there with you!
I’m certainly no YouTube expert. My channel is just getting started, and I have just over 400 subscribers right now, a far cry from my personal goal of 100,000 subscribers. That being said, I have sure learned a lot over the last six months. Today, I want to share my tips on how to grow your YouTube channel if you are just getting started. Welcome to my Top 20 Tips for Starting Your YouTube Channel.
Tip 1: Consistency Is Key
If you are serious about your YouTube presence, make sure to upload a brand new video each and every week, at a very minimum. You have to be consistent. Your subscribers expect it, and I have heard that YouTube’s algorithm does as well.
Have a dormant YouTube account, one that has been neglected? It’s totally possible to revive your account by posting with consistency on a go-forward basis.
Bonus Tip: In the early days, aim to upload 2 or 3 high quality videos per week.
Tip 2: Invest In Video Gear
You can be a great YouTuber on a very scrappy budget. In fact, your smartphone should do just fine as your video camera (I film most of my videos on my iPhone). That said, some basic equipment is essential. I’m talking about a tripod, smartphone tripod adapter, lavalier microphone, and cable to connect your microphone to your iPhone. Since I film most of my videos outdoors, I rely on natural lighting and currently don’t own any lighting equipment. That being said, I have aspirations to develop a studio environment over time. I have achieved stellar results with the basics.
Bonus Tip: Do not film without these basics. I have attempted YouTube videos with just my phone and selfie stick. Those do not perform as well and can come across as unprofessional. If you go to my YouTube channel, and check out the older videos, you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. Basic equipment makes all the difference in the world and is table stakes for launching a successful channel.
Tip 3: Wait For The Right Lighting
This is a huge one. The lighting has to be just right. I personally film early mornings or late afternoons. I have a preference for cloudy days that still have a good amount of light coming through. I’ll film in the shade and make sure that equal light is coming from all directions so there are no shadows on my face. Moreover, it’s essential my camera is in the shade too.
Check out my personal YouTube and you’ll see that I’ve made every mistake it the book when it comes to lighting. It’s only recently that I’ve really acquired the skills to perfect lighting. It’s a skill that comes over time and takes practice. And, that’s ok, because I know I will continue to improve over time.
Here’s one of my videos with excellent lighting. I got up really early and filmed in the early morning hours with the sun behind the camera. Moreover, it was an overcast morning, my favorite outdoor filming conditions.
Here’s one of my videos with great quality content, but poor lighting. Notice how there is a shadow on my face and I’m hard to see in general. While I’m really hard to see, the surrounding grass is green and bright. I made a few mistakes here, especially filming in the middle of the day (with the sun overhead).
Tip 4: Don’t Underestimate YouTube SEO Basics
Many reading this blog are digital marketing professionals, so you know all about SEO. On YouTube, the same SEO basics apply. Make sure your title is eye-catching and descriptive. Maximize use of your description to truly explain what your video is all about. I love including bullet points that take the viewer step-by-step through the actual video they will see. Spend time on your keyword list. Leverage short, medium, and longer keywords to tell YouTube exactly what your video is all about. Leverage "head terms" and also "long tail keywords", just like PPC. Never rush to upload a video without investing the time in this final step.
Bonus Tip: I like to completely separate the activities of filming, editing, and uploading. This way, I give each activity the emphasis and time it deserves. Don’t rush the final step!
Tip 5: Create Captivating Thumbnails
I personally leverage Canva to design my video thumbnails. It’s essential to create custom thumbnails, ones that stand out and grab attention. A huge (and growing) percentage of your viewers are on mobile smartphones, and your thumbnail must be incredibly captivating, even on a very small screen.
Bonus Tips: Leverage filters (brightness and contrast) to make your thumbnail pop. I typically increase contrast by 30% these days, and brightness by 10% (although filters can vary). Make sure your text is easy to read. I like black text with a white box behind.
When you view my YouTube channel, you will notice that even my thumbnails have evolved over time. Here is a sample video where the thumbnail really pops thanks to my outfit (form fitting blue shirt from Lululemon, more on this under Tip 8 below), lighting conditions, and filters in Canva.
Tip 6: Generate Traffic Into YouTube
When you’re just getting started, your videos may not generate a lot of traffic organically on YouTube. Building a channel takes time and views are exponential in nature. To get the ball rolling, share your videos on your personal blog, social media, and even via email with friends (or your email list if you have one). Generating traffic into YouTube can get the ball rolling, and I’ve heard that YouTube greatly values this inbound traffic from a video scoring standpoint.
Tip 7: Script and Practice Your Videos
Before filming, I always jot down an outline of what I’m going to say in my notebook. And, I typically do a practice run before my real filming session. To maximize my time, I don’t really edit, other than adding some opening and closing effects. As such, I need to be comfortable filming a one-and-done session. With practice in front of the camera, this gets easier over time. I could never avoid editing without having my script and practice runs. In the end, this saves me a ton of time and makes the video flow really well. (I personally dislike it when videos have a ton of edits, as they can create a jumpy effect.)
Tip 8: Invest In Solid Color Clothes
Solid color clothes video so much better than complex patterns. They look so sharp and amazing. Additionally, I prefer clothes that are form-fitting as compared to relaxed fit. You want to look your personal best on camera.
Bonus Tip: Consider personal hygiene before filming. I typically floss, brush my teeth, and shave before filming.
Tip 9: Your Posture Is Critical
I have learned this one through trial and error. Never sit in a chair and slouch back when filming. This posture emphasizes your legs and stomach area, and minimizes your head. The wrong camera angle can make you look quite weird on the Internet, forever! I have found that a standing pose works well. I have also found that a sitting pose leaning forward works well. I always like to have the camera at a height slightly above my head looking down. That way, I’m always looking up and forward a bit into the camera. This creates emphasis on my face, and allows me to appear as my personal best. Of course, go to some of my older YouTube videos and you’ll see that I have learned these lessons via trial and error.
Bonus Tip: Try to look right into the camera, so you connect with your audience. You are speaking directly to people here, so you want to address them directly.
Tip 10: Pick A Role Model
YouTube has been around forever. There are thousands of mentors on YouTube who have been there and done that. Find your favorite channels and learn from the masters. I learn new skills each week thanks to the collaborative environment of content creators on YouTube.
Tip 11: Leverage iMovie
If you don’t have a Mac, you may want to buy one for your YouTube endeavors. iMove makes video editing a breeze. And, you can easily educate yourself on how to effectively leverage iMovie from, you guessed it, YouTube videos!
Bonus Tip: Consider investing in a really sharp logo for your opening sequence. I personally like to have a short teaser clip, followed by my opening sequence/slide, followed by my actual video. I believe a solid logo creates authority and trust with your audience.
Tip 12: Find Settings That Work (and Reuse Them)
Some backgrounds look better than others. Experiment with a variety of settings and find the ones that work the best. Then, get your money’s worth by reusing them over and over.
Bonus Tip: While some people are great at filming in very busy, public places, I have discovered that’s not my cup of tea. Find your own stride. When you’re first starting, odds are a more private setting will provide better results.
Tip 13: Smile
Make sure that you smile at the beginning and end of your video. It communicates positive to your audience, and makes it easier to edit out the content before and after your video (when you’re walking to and from the camera). Also, don’t forget to smile throughout your video and be happy. This is a fun process, and you want to uplift your audience.
Tip 14: Use The Right Camera On Your Phone
This tip is for those filming on their smartphone. Do not use the selfie camera. The selfie camera is typically of lower quality (fewer megapixels), and it’s just weird and ineffective filming a video when you can see yourself the entire time. Rather, use the main camera on your phone. It creates a more calming environment and your video quality will be superior.
Bonus Tip: Avoid a remote Bluetooth on/off camera switch. My process: I hit the record button, I make sure recording is working, I walk over to my stage and film, then I walk back to the camera and end recording when I’m done. This is so much easier than having a remote on/off switch that can easily fail.
Tip 15: Don’t Settle
You don’t want to take this tip too seriously because you’ll never get started. It’s impossible to have every video be the best work of your career. That being said, do not publish a video if you do not feel right about it, even if you invested significant time filming. I ran into this situation just today. I filmed a video yesterday, and contemplated running with it. I just couldn’t settle and re-filmed today. It made all the difference in the world, as the new version is one of my best productions yet. My first filming session acted as amazing practice. The second time around, things went really quickly and efficiently.
Tip 16: Test, But Find Your Niche
My YouTube channel has experimented with a variety of different videos and themes over the years. Some niches clearly resonate with viewers and others do not. Your first five or ten YouTube videos will be experiments. See which ones work and which ones don’t. Take that feedback to craft your channel. As you’re scaling, stay within your lane and double down on content that performs. Once your channel is larger (several thousand subscribers), I have heard that it’s ok to swim outside your lane a bit more, but those early days require focus.
Tip 17: Engage With Your Community
Your community is everything! Make sure to engage with your community and take questions from viewers. Some of my best videos are in response to outstanding questions from viewers. I attempt to respond to all comments (either in comments or video). The value my community brings to the table is substantial, and I’m forever grateful. I get especially excited when I see community members helping each other out, and answering each other’s questions. That’s what it’s all about!
Tip 18: Stay Focused
Building a successful YouTube channel requires persistence and dedication. In the early days, you may be uploading new videos every few days (like myself). To be successful on YouTube, you must really want it and you must stay focused. Don’t dilute yourself across too many projects. Once one’s YouTube channel reaches greater scale (such as 10,000+ subscribers), I have heard that the level of persistence can slow down a bit, and a one/two video per week schedule works just fine.
Tip 19: Don’t Worry About Your Statistics
One of the pitfalls off digital marketing is analysis paralysis. Us digital marketers (myself included) tend to get tied up in statistics. Unfortunately, when you first start your YouTube channel, your stats will not be very positive. There will be many ups and downs. If you have enabled monetization, revenue will be low. You may have surges in views followed by lulls. You are an entrepreneur and must treat YouTube as your business. Don’t give up, and don’t worry about the statistics. Keep your eye on your goal and just keep creating great content. Your will must be strong, and persistence is key.
Tip 20: Go For It
While this may seem overwhelming, it’s actually really easy once you get out there and learn on the job like I did (and continue to do). My parting tip is to go for it. You are going to have so much fun. Your quality will improve over time. It’s ok to look back at your early videos and see that you’ve come a long way. Trial, error, and iteration: That’s what it’s all about.
Thanks for reading and I hope you have enjoyed my tips, and YouTube videos too. Are you a YouTube creator? I’d love to hear your favorite tips.