Short answer: I don’t know, but I’m learning.
When Heath and I decided to start a Youtube channel, I didn’t think it would be that hard. After all I spend most of my time in Adobe Premiere editing videos anyway. Plus we already have plenty of people listening to the podcast, it’s like starting with a built-in audience! Can’t be that hard!
Ah, young naive Alyssa.
I’m seven months into our journey of learning Youtube and it has been a doozy.
I JUST learned this week how to build the correct size channel art for our Youtube page and honestly, they make that WAY more complicated than it should be, just sayin.
But back to building our channel.
I’ve almost given up on Youtube on about 17 different occasions. If you asked Heath, he’d say I’ve picked up a bad habit of threatening my computer that I’ll punch it in its stupid face if doesn’t listen to me (to no avail by the way).
Learning something new is hard in itself, but we’re also trying to figure out what people actually want to see from us and what would be best to do in a video versus a podcast or a blog. (Now that I write this, pretty sure we’re overthinking this whole thing.)
We’ve tried a handful of different styles in the 25 videos we’ve uploaded so far this year. We’ve explored National Parks and tried to be tour guides, we’ve attempted to give a real-life review of what it was like renting from Cruise America, we incidentally made a bunch of people cry watching my mom’s reaction to her grandson being born, and Heath tried to teach you how to install a Weboost cell booster.
These episodes have been filmed on the iPhone, on an awesome point-and-shoot Canon, and our heavy duty DSLR. We’ve shared 5 minute episodes, 10 minute episodes, and now our longest episode yet ringing in at 16 minutes, AKA a freaking long time to attempt holding someone’s attention.
In this episode, we wanted to try filming a full episode as if we were producing a short TV show about a week of our life. I’m not sure how I feel about it, other than the fact that it took me about 100 times longer to edit this episode than any previous episode! But as we’re trying to learn Youtube best practices and what our audience wants from us, we’re willing to try everything!
Please note how Heath says it’s early June when we filmed this. I’m so good at Youtube that I’m only two months behind 😝
What I’ve Learned So Far About How to Build a Youtube Channel
1. Create an engaging channel page.
Apparently your channel’s homepage is really important. I suppose that makes sense, just like how a website’s homepage and about page are always popular. But I assumed the most important place to get people to subscribe was on your individual videos, not your channel page.
This week someone set me straight, so I updated our totally boring channel page to make it look slightly more like we know what we’re doing. (Spoiler alert: I don’t.)
So until this week, we didn’t even have a photo of our RV on our page! Nor did we have a photo where you could actually see our faces. (Something else I’ve learned is that people want to see your face! People are only going to subscribe to your channel if they like you. So showing your likable face is very important).
I spent an hour updating ours and I like it so much better already, but we still need a better profile picture of Heath and I. Current one is way too dark. (Dark photos are a Youtube no-no as well. So many rules with Youtube, I KNOW.)
2. Add a watermark!
Our channel with no watermark: maybe 30 new subscribers a week.
Our channel with a watermark: 100+ subscribers a week
Now I can’t definitively say if this was because of the watermark or because we started strategizing with other Youtubers, started investing in better music, worked toward honing better story-telling skills, blah blah blah.
But I’m pretty sure it was all because of the little watermark.
Takes less than five minutes to add and totally worth it.
3. Treat your first year like a trial period.
When 2017 started, I committed to producing 50 episodes and if after 50 I didn’t like it, I would move onto the next thing. But I decided the behemoth of Youtube deserved a runway of at least 50 episodes.
Right now we are past the halfway point in the year, but I just produced my 25th video. I’m pretty far behind my schedule. It takes so much more time than I thought! Mostly because I’m constantly thinking what every other person thinks when they see themselves on camera:
- Is there something in my teeth?
- That shirt makes me look fat, note to self to burn it.
- Why didn’t I put on make up? Did I want to look like the bride of Frankenstein?
- What am I saying? Do I always talk so slow.
- I am an idiot.
To name a few.
I’m honestly not sure how I feel about Youtube. It depends on my mounting frustrating with figuring out the story of an episode.
This mindset of approaching these first 50 episodes as trial episodes where I’m still learning Youtube is key. It eliminates so much stress. If everyone hates a video or no one watches it, okay, awesome. Now I know what not to do. Time to try something new.
It also means we have a nice smaller stage for failing publicly.
4. Heath is obsessed with adding voiceover; I hate it.
Me: “What do you think of this episode?”
Heath: “You should add some voiceover.”
Me: “And say what?”
Heath: “I don’t know.”
-a conversation we have every week when I show Heath our latest vlog
Our commentary skills are far from where I want them to be, and as I’m editing, I see a lot of holes of things we should’ve said or should’ve filmed. Heath always says add voiceover, I say we should just learn to say these things in the moment while we’re filming.
Who’s right here? Probably me.
But I did add voiceover to the above episode to fill in the story better and set up what would happen in the video. You win this round, Heath.
5. Youtube likes these things:
Here’s the things that Youtube likes, based on what I’ve learned this year:
- When you publish consistently (at least once a week, even better if it’s the same day and time)
- When people watch at least 60% of your video
- Using good tags (and incorporating your main tag into the first paragraph of your video description)
- Bright colors and light cover photos!
6. Mostly, I’ve learned that I have a LOT to learn.
What I still haven’t learned about Youtube
1. Where and how do I share these videos?
You know who hates each other? Facebook and Youtube.
It’s like Cady versus Regina George.
Sharing Youtube videos on Facebook is not a great way to get views back to your Youtube…yet Facebook is the best social media (not counting email here) for sharing blogs and podcasts. Ugh.
Thus far to combat this, I’ve been sharing little outtakes or teaser clips on our Facebook page and linking back to the relating Youtube video in the description.
Last month, I shared these three teasers for our episode A Day at the KOA with Nate & Kara. As of writing this, that video has 1600 views, which is a little more than double our average views per video.
BUT Kara and Nate have 48K followers and linked back to our video, so I think more credit to the success of that video is due to them linking back to us than my little teasers. (According to what I’ve learned, cross-promoting with other Youtubers is an excellent way to grow your channel!)
The real thing I haven’t figured out though is what’s better for videos at all: Facebook or Youtube? Look at how many views these little videos earned after sharing them just once. They all have more views than our average video on Youtube, which we share on Youtube, via email, and on our website.
The obvious solution seems to be that we should publish all our videos on Facebook instead of Youtube, but according to friends, Facebook just loves videos under 59 seconds. No one is going to sit on Facebook for 16 minutes to watch our latest episode. There’s too many distractions around!
So this is one thing I’m still learning and have yet to figure out.
2. How do you monetize?
Heath and I agreed at the beginning of the year to not monetize any of our videos until we were confident that:
A) we would continue producing on Youtube and
B) we actually felt like our content was worthy of a “Skip this Ad in 5…4…” countdown.
This decision has probably kept us from making a whopping $10.
There is very little money to be made in Youtube ads. The running complaint by, well, everyone is that Youtube always changes the rules. Well Youtube runs Youtube, so they can do that.
I don’t think we’ll ever end up with ads, unless we end up with tens of thousands of subscribers.
Our friends have about 50K subscribers and get at least half a million views a month. They’re only making about $500/month in ad revenue. Now that sounds awesome, but when you consider how much work is actually going into making these videos, that is basically nothing.
Conversely, we made $100 in affiliate income from just one video on installing a WeBoost cell booster.
Moving forward, I think our plan to monetize Youtube (which we won’t focus on until 2018) will focus more on affiliates and selling our own products. That way we have more control over our earning potential.
One avenue we haven’t explored too much is “Sponsored Videos” where we would run an ad in the beginning of the video letting you know who sponsored this episode, just like we do on the podcast.
I’m not sure how I feel about these, but many travel vloggers say this is their #1 source of income from their channel. We may look into that in 2018, but for now we’re focusing on low-hanging fruit like convincing Busch Gardens to give us free press tickets to visit the park.
Totally worked by the way.
3. What do I want our Youtube channel to look like?
Yeah, no answer here.
Right now, our Youtube is a good way for readers to see us and get to know us better. Namely, a way for people to see more of me, since most people feel like they already know Heath pretty well from the podcast.
But just showing our personalities isn’t a real theme for a channel.
We’ve talked about sharing more about building a business, behind the scenes of what we’re working on, etc. I fall asleep just typing that. I want our Youtube to be funny, interesting, entertaining, and informative, if I have to choose a boring adjective.
This is something I’ll be working on figuring out as we film upcoming episodes. Right now I’ve got these puppies in the queue:
- Exploring Gettysburg National Military Park
- Top 5 Things to do in the Finger Lakes
- So, I’m running our business on my own now
- END OF LIFE (the video version of last week’s blog)
- And how much does it cost to drive our RV + tow car through tolls? Answer: All your money.
They clearly cover a wide range of topics, since I’m still learning the anatomy of a video and building our Youtube personas. Work in progress.
I wanted to share all of this with you all to give you an update of what I’ve been learning this year and to let anyone out there who is working on learning something that you are not alone. I’m trying to figure all this out too.