YouTube has now been in the spotlight of video entertainment for the better part of a decade, and the platform that started as a mass destination for generation-defining pop culture has now evolved into an exciting global entertainment industry. Still on everyone's mind however, is the unprecedented shift of power to the content creator.
Viewers are entertainers, entertainers are viewers, and the door is wide open for millions of talented content creators. The problem? Many don't know how to harness the opportunity.
Having been involved in this industry for years, I've closely watched plenty of YouTubers as they rose through the ranks of popularity. Everyone has their own tricks of the trade when it comes to success, but there are some definitive gems that you can draw from as you look to grow your audience.
Treat your channel like a business
Entrepreneurship looks vastly different than it did even five years ago, and the most successful YouTubers are finding real value in treating their channels like the financial opportunities that they are.
This means that it's important to find your niche, build your vision, research your competitors, and craft a brand that is geared to stand out from the crowd. The more thought that goes into your channel and its content, the better. Remember that there will inevitably be some trial-and-error as you progress, and learning from your mistakes is an essential element of building that all-important brand identity.
Heavily tied into this process is constantly relating to your current viewers while actively seeking new ones. It can be a tough balance, but those who find the right formula tend to be rewarded handsomely in subscribers and engagement. Bring your fans to your social media pages, engage with them whenever you can, embed your videos wherever appropriate and build hype about anything you think they might find exciting.
As a rule of thumb, think intensely about what your viewers want as you strategize, schedule, and create your content. Be hilarious, be insightful, be original, and get them talking.
Get found with the right tools
Despite its many nuances, YouTube is a search platform at its core and there are some proven tools for SEO you can take advantage of. The most stand-out method in my mind is to ensure that your keywords best represent the search terms of your potential fans. Keywords often seem like a tedious extra task, but most big channels optimize every video and I see them reap the rewards in droves. I can't stress this importance enough, and although you can see some success doing them manually, the right keyword optimization tool saves you a huge amount of time and potential headaches.
Now that you're popping up on more searches, it's time to be as clickable as possible, and this is where most channels fall short. Keywords, while useful, don't stand alone and are best paired with relevant video titles that grab the attention of your potential viewers -- they need to be catchy! Making that headline appealing is an art form in itself, but being conscious about your viewers' reactions will help you hone your title-writing skills as time goes on.
Finally, and this is also crucially important to click-ability, be sure to pair your content with an appealing thumbnail that best represents each video and also embodies the brand that you've crafted. Again, look at what your competitors are doing and make sure that you stand out from them visually on a search. Especially with game content, default thumbnails tend to be irreconcilably similar to competitor content, so a custom thumbnail goes a long way in ensuring that your channel gets noticed. With the right tools, this can also be a quick and easy job that has huge potential returns.
An effective and efficient content creator will look at an upload as a four-step process:
1) Create appealing original content
2) Optimize keywords to show up on more searches
3) Be click-worthy on that search list with an appealing thumbnail and title
4) Engage with your viewers so they'll be naturally drawn to your next video
Eyes open and an ear to the ground
Being in one of the fastest-moving industries in the world, opportunities come out of nowhere and are only available for a few moments before they're old news. Just like any business, it's always a good practice to stay informed.
Be as vigilant as you can about industry news and don't just read the articles; really try to digest what they mean to you and your channel. Whether it relates to YouTube in general or directly to your content vertical, there's always something to draw from if you are a conscious reader. The more information you have, the better you can plan your content and strategize the growth of your channel.
Then, once you're done with the news, go deeper. Find a favorite blog, scour an active content creator forum or two, and learn a little bit about perfecting your business. True entrepreneurs continue to find ways to improve themselves and what they do. Luckily for most content creators on YouTube, 'who you are' and 'what you do' are often one and the same.
For many, getting into these habits is the easy part; they turn into a second nature. The conscious and often most difficult part is finding out what to try next.
Lewis Ball is EVP Operations at BroadbandTV.
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