Once upon a time, in a small city in Canada there was a young boy who could really sing. In another place in time, he would have gone through years of struggling and frustration to be discovered. This young boy posted videos on YouTube and was discovered by a talent agent. His name is Justin Bieber.
There have been hundreds of YouTube sensations from singing stars to political pundits to Chinese language teachers who have not only generated millions of followers, but some have also produced significant salaries.
Personal and Powerful Points
YouTube and other video sites have created an opportunity that can help you propel an idea, cause or hobby into the web-o-sphere and give you a world-wide stage.
The first place to start is not the YouTube upload button, but your mind. You need to have a strong personal or powerful point that you want to get across before you embark on this journey. You must begin with a purpose.
Successful bloggers have always had a clear definition or provocative theme driving their efforts. If you want to cook, make your videos relate to cooking and to those who have that same interest. If it’s comedy, then focus on being funny.
The Name Game
The first thing you need to do is pick a name for your on-Web identity. Being Bob3624 when you want to be known as the guy who fixes cars is not as good as CarManBob or GreaseMonkey4U. A good name will help people find you.
We highly recommend that you check out the United States Patent and Trademark Office at www.uspto.gov and search trademarks before you start. Their “patent process” section is very informative and you can apply without an attorney.
Unique names tend to be easier to gain a trademark for. The fee for trademark application is currently between $300-400, but if you face a challenge by a claimant and have to hire an attorney, it could cost you a couple thousand dollars to acquire your trademark. Once it is registered, you get to put the ® symbol by your name.
Make sure that everywhere you travel, you use the same name: Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or other sites that let you share videos. The more consistent you are, the greater your potential of gaining traction in the battle for views and Internet search results.
The Gift of YouTube: Repurposing
YouTube may be free but you still need to know the rules, policies and protocols. There was a very successful YouTube channel that featured a character with very funny “stream of consciousness” raps. She was really gaining a following until one of the TV networks noticed that in the background her TV was playing one of their shows. Her videos were taken down due to copyright violation.
Remember, you cannot edit a video once you’ve uploaded it. You can delete a mistake and upload a new version, but the link to the deleted video will take your viewers to a message that says you deleted it. Before you hit the upload button, make sure the video is the final version.
YouTube policies motivate you to produce original content, which is what you want to do. And for this trade-off, you get to stream your work to the world for free.
Building a Brand
YouTube provides what they call, My Channel, where you can dress up a page with your colors, logos and themes. This page has a Web address which you can distribute to potential viewers. This is a simple way to get started, but most content creators also have a branded website of their own.
A website gives you more flexibility and the potential for revenue. You simply repurpose your videos from YouTube by pasting the embedded code that they provide from the individual video page in the Video Manager section. Keep in mind that if your video is public, anyone can also repurpose your video. But that is not bad; your view count will include hits from any site that runs your video.
It is important to take some time to write good content captions and add key words that help people find your videos. And titles are very important. For example, we know of one successful content creator who puts the name of his channel first in every title, so that when someone searches on YouTube or Google, all his videos come up.
Creating a Fanbase
When you first start out, you get excited about telling all your friends at work or in your dorm, but you’ll need more than them to make your mark. You’ll need to use the power of the Internet.
One of the advantages of having your own website is that you can create a Contact Us page where you gather fans and email addresses for use in a database. Once you start to garner a good following, you should consider using some of the reasonably-priced marketers like Constant Contact or ContactMe to help you manage your memberships.
You should be posting videos regularly every week and mail alerts to viewers. Include some text to get them excited about your latest work, and of course, a link to the video.
A fanbase needs to be “fanned” because like that camp fire, without more wood (new videos) and some heat (email blasts and alerts) your flame will go out. Your mantra should be: Share, Share, and Share.
Content is King
We all tend to get sucked into reading stats and trying to understand the numbers. Google Analytics is easy to deploy and shows the numbers of page views, location of viewers, unique visitors, bounce rate and new visits – but when you are starting out, those aren’t important. You should focus on content.
Just like in Field of Dreams with the famous line, “If you build it, they will come,” there is good advice.
When you get done with your video, ask yourself, is this something that your fanbase will want to watch? If you do videos on woodworking and that is what you are known for, why slip in a video on cooking? Write down a short description of your audience and keep it near your monitor. Always aim to please the target.
Plan ahead, write a script and then edit. Cut out the stuff that doesn’t matter before you shoot. Your workflow will be enhanced by creating a script that is camera-ready.
Buying and Selling
If after a few years you’ve plateaued, it might be time to take the plunge and buy ads to promote your site.
There are many people who scout out new sites on YouTube and will offer you ways to build an audience. Advice: Beware. The SEO (Search Engine Optimization) game has created its own cottage industry and there are some nefarious characters out there.
There are very powerful, credible ways to gain more viewers. Google AdWords, Yahoo! Bing Network and Facebook are just a few who deliver the goods.
First, create a budget and stick to it. These services work by showing an ad you’ve created when people search on subjects or key words you’ve submitted. Each click is a bid against other advertisers also attempting to gain placement on the result page. If you bid 25 cents a click on key words, like “funny videos,” you are up against some heavy players who might be bidding $2.25 a click for that same phrase.
Once you’re established and have a sizable audience, you may want to put ads on your website, or have ads appear over the lower part of the frame. Some ad networks provide what are called pre-roll ads that appear before your video runs.
After you’re accepted into the AdSense program from Google, your videos will be vigorously scrutinized for copyright violations and content policies. Google wants to protect its ad programs and thus the rules. They don’t want to do business with hack sites that are simply running ads without content, or sites that attempt to boost a third-party’s Web search score.
It is difficult to say how many dollars you will make from your ads, but there is a relationship between how many dollars you spend on your search engine ads and the cents you make on your site ads.
Manage Your Expectations
Every once in a while, it is good to think back to why you started your site. If you just wanted to have fun, are you still having fun? If you wanted to be motivated to learn a software editing program, did you learn it?
According to YouTube, there are 72 hours of video being uploaded every minute with more than four billion hours viewed per month. You have lots of competition, but that shouldn’t bother you. It’s still free to upload.
The key to developing and managing a YouTube following is to be true to your brand, your cause and your viewpoint. Don’t try to change to “make it big.”
If you have dozens of loyal viewers or millions of followers, then you are entertaining, enlightening or elevating another human being, if just for a few minutes, you are accomplishing something great. Smile, you are on YouTube.
10 Steps to a Great Two-Minute Movie
1. Aim for two-minutes. The attention span of the YouTube viewer is not very long; some people won’t even hit the play button on a long video that keeps them away from social media.
2. Work on your “coverage.” Make sure you have long, medium and closeup shots of each actor so that you can creatively edit your video. The fewer the cuts, the longer a video will seem.
3. Try a fade-in to start your video. It gives it a cinematic touch and eliminates a missed start during slow streaming.
4. Use the first five to eight seconds to present a title or perhaps your brand logo. A good title can set the stage and create instant interest.
5. Be consistent with theme music. Use the same music to open your show. Remember that song that opened the Sopranos? What a great mnemonic.
6. Make sure your website location or name gets some exposure in your video. Some people like to put a small, low-opacity “bug,” or watermark, on the lower right or left of the frame. A logo backdrop is effective too.
7. Every video should tell a story with a beginning, middle and an end. Make sure that every shot, scene or sequence moves the story forward. If you show a barn, the next shot should show what’s in the barn.
8. Using subtitles can be effective for videos that teach, news-oriented shows, people with thick accents or music videos (sing-a-long). Don’t over-use them.
9. Avoid product placement, unless they are part of the plot or storyline. Unfortunately, a product image that pops up in the middle of a story, without a purpose, can hijack the viewer’s mind.
10. Make sure your website address or site name comes up at the end. Give the viewers a way to find all your videos. Leave a second or two of dead air (time without content) and fade-out at the end of the video. YouTube at times, cuts off the last second of audio if it runs to the end of the file.
Dwight Douglas is a VP of Marketing for a major broadcast software company by day, and producer of short comedy videos by night.