Tips for the aspiring YouTuber to get those all-important views

With over 1 billion videos being watched on the platform every single day, YouTube has firmly established itself as the place to watch videos online. By Google’s own estimate, over 1.9 Billion people use the platform, meaning that nowhere else is there a larger audience for audio-visual content, of every conceivable kind.

From product reviews to video how tos, comedy skits to make-up tips, clips of cats to gaming mishaps, the sheer variety of what you can watch on YouTube is staggering, leaving many newcomers to the platform wondering - how are you supposed to stand out among the 500 hours of video content that is uploaded every minute?

According to research into the pain points of YouTube creators, commissioned by commercial music licensing company Lickd, 62% of creators believe that originality is the greatest factor in producing great content and in generating followers. But having an original idea is actually one of the easiest parts of creating a successful video, it is making that idea a reality that can be hard work. Thankfully there are some things that the aspiring YouTuber can do to, at the very least, give themselves a fighting chance of getting those all-important views.

1. Sound is crucial

This doesn’t just mean picking the right soundtrack for your video, it means making sure that your audio quality is up to standard. The big “pivot to video” that started in 2015 is still changing the way people and organisations engage with audiences worldwide, and the audio component of this cannot be overlooked.

Viewers can forgive poor quality visuals if a channel is putting out engaging original content, but audio that is too loud or too quiet, too scratchy or too low quality will turn people off a video faster than anything.

There are a lot of tips out there for creating the best quality audio with whatever equipment you have to hand (so that you don’t have to set up your own soundstage), most of which rightly focus on eliminating background noise and making sure that your voice is being heard clearly. And while no-one enjoys listening to their own voice being played back to them, it is a vital step in making sure that you’re communicating in the way that you want to.

Then of course there is music. Music is an incredible tool for setting the mood in any video - just listening to the same video with music and without easily demonstrates that. It is also an often-overlooked tool for self-branding. Just as logos, colors, fonts and styles all contribute to a strong identity for an individual YouTuber or channel, sound does too.

The right track can elevate a good video to a great video, but it is important to be aware of YouTube’s rules around copyright - this means that if you are caught using music you do not have permission to use, your video can be demonitised, or even taken down. Royalty free music libraries can be small and limiting, but thankfully many commercial tracks are now available for licencing affordably without the risk of copyright claims, allowing YouTubers to legally use the music they love.

2. Plan out your video

Know what you want to say, and how you want to say it. Are you looking to entertain? To educate? To convince? Different audiences respond to different tones, formats, and sounds, so make sure you do your research on what has been said or done before to give yourself the best chance of cutting through to the right people from the very beginning.

Once you have an idea of what you’re trying to do, start planning how your video will fit together. This doesn’t necessarily mean having a fully prepared script, it means more sketching out what to say. Otherwise you run the risk of blabbering, repeating yourself or accidentally overdoing it with filler words. Too many ‘umms’ ‘erms’ and ‘likes’ will see people click away no matter how good a point you are making.

While you can start making low intensity formats like vlogs with just a few talking points, longer videos and those that have a more professional feel will almost always turn out better with a full script or production plan. This can be a time-consuming task, but you’ll be surprised by how often laying everything out in detail can cause you to refine your points and improve how you communicate with your audience.

3. Use quality kit to film and good editing software

For better or worse, gone are the days of just being able to point a camera phone at yourself and generate a YouTube following. While the occasional low budget video speaking to viewers directly can be a great way to build a more intimate fanbase, the overall production quality of most successful videos on YouTube has been steadily rising since the platform’s creation.

This means that audiences now have a certain expectation of quality that cannot be ignored for long. Even the lowest effort/low budget YouTubers which find success, update their quality eventually. No matter what type of video you are making, video production skills are key. Even if you’re creating a video that mostly uses footage that you haven’t shot yourself, such as from a video game, movie, etc, you will need to have a grasp on how to edit both the visual and audio components of your video.

This can be something as simple as removing background audio from content you are including for visual only purposes or adjusting your soundtrack to sync up with what you are trying to say. No matter how perfect the song you’ve chosen is, no-one wants to watch a video where the backing track is louder than the spoken audio, or when your voice is out of sync with what is on screen.

Don’t get too bogged down in the technical details right off the bat. Trying to absorb everything there is to know about editing software, camera specifications and audio quality when starting out is not as important as the content itself. Even though shooting in 4K is nice in theory, the vast majority of users still consume video at 1080p or below. Only once you’ve got a handle on the basics do you need to explore more in-depth things like shutter speeds and color profiles.

4. Understand your audience

Tone of voice, video thumbnails, and visual style can have a huge impact on how your target audience perceives your videos. If you’re trying to promote a clothing line to young women, then vlogging might make sense, as this format resonates particularly well with them. But if you’re trying to build an audience for your gaming channel, you will need a wildly different approach.

Don’t be afraid to look at other creators, or to look at some of the hard data that YouTube itself puts out to get a handle on what works for which audience. For example, 75% of adults turn to the platform purely for nostalgia rather than tutorials or current events.

Even video length can drastically affect how you are seen. YouTube used to rank videos based on views and likes. But the platform changed its algorithm to reward videos that help keep the viewers spending more time on the platform. For users, this means that longer videos get better treatment. The ‘ideal’ length still varies across different audiences and so it doesn’t mean you should create longer videos just for the sake of gaming the algorithm. Making sure your content relevant, informative and unique is far more important.

Your understanding of your audience will be built up over time as you get feedback on what people like and dislike about your videos. YouTube’s ability to see demographics of who has viewed your video unlocks a lot of possibilities for recalibrating your approach to better engage with your audience.

5. Learn how to market your content

Unfortunately there is no magic formula for how to grow a YouTube channel, and even creators themselves are largely divided on best practices. 39% cite word of mouth as the best strategy to grow their audience, 22% think that you need to follow a popular trend to appeal, whereas only 19% think you need to create content that is nostalgic.

Photo: SOPA Images / Getty Images

While organic growth is the dream, most successful YouTubers have got to where they are today with collaborations, brand building and no small amount of self-promotion. Even if you’re creating corporate marketing material or other ‘drier’ videos, you can amplify your reach with a cohesive brand conscious approach to your videos.

Beyond just asking people to like, comment and subscribe, there is a lot you can do to boost yourself up the YouTube rankings. For example, find out what keywords are relevant to what you are talking about, which have the most utility, and tag your videos accordingly. This will help your videos show up where you want them to. To reinforce this, create series and related videos around those keywords and include them in curated playlists to keep people viewing your content for longer.

Then of course there is the most useful way of increasing your reach, SEO. SEO optimisation for YouTube isn’t as complex as it is for Google but, just like Google search, YouTube has its own search algorithm that you can use to get YouTube to promote your channel without cost.

Unfortunately, YouTube doesn’t tell us what the factors are for how it ranks its videos, but extensive tests by search engine specialists have, over time, given us an idea of what determines which channels and videos appear higher. Title tags, how well you retain your audience, numbers or comments, number of likes, number of subscribers earned after watching each video all factor in to how YouTube pushes your channel up its search pages. While you don’t have to dive deep into this when you’re just starting out, it is important to keep in mind if you want to seriously grow your channel.

Once you’ve thought up, recorded, edited and uploaded your first video, then congratulations! You’ve taken your first steps towards becoming a fully-fledged YouTuber. The next step is to come up with a new idea and do it all again. Getting better at planning, editing and creating in general is a pleasure in its own right, as it allows you to experiment with new visuals, sounds and formats to grow your channel and engage with the weird and wonderful YouTube community. Just remember to consider your audience, upload often, and keep on the right side of YouTube’s copyright rules and you too could find YouTube success.

This story was written by Paul Sampson, CEO, Lickd.

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