The YouTube Journey: What have I learned so far?

YouTube like any other social media platform isn’t without its flaws, however it’s one of the most useful and diverse platforms. I’ve managed to fix things around the house and do general repairs on my car, in fact it doesn’t matter what you want to fix or make, there’s almost a ‘how to’ for everything or whatever the hobby, there’s a channel for it.

In the beginning

I’ve been on YouTube since 2006. I started posting random clips from nights out and football. It wasn’t until 2009 that I posted my first hill walking video, a basic photo reel of my hill walks for memories. Between 2010 and 2015 I dabbled a little more with making other videos from various hill walking and wild camping trips. Inspired by Murray’s channel; Scotland’s Mountains, in 2017 I started to take YouTube more seriously and created more content and invested time in how to grow my channel.

The first mistake I made was not creating a new channel when I started taking YouTube seriously, my channel URL has my old high school nickname ‘boably’ in it and I had a lot of random rubbish that wouldn’t interest outdoorsy types like myself. I’m stuck with boably, but I made the difficult choice of binning all the videos that didn’t relate to my niche of hiking and wild camping.

I now knew that I enjoyed film making, even running back for the camera numerous times a day. It was part of the process; I was more worried about annoying my walking buddies when I’d have to run back to retrieve the camera or ask them to wait while I set up the camera for us to walk into the frame. I enjoy the editing side too and get very immersed whilst editing videos, much to Nicola’s annoyance at times.

SnapShot.jpg
Retrieving the camera after recording some b-roll of us walking away.

Growing the channel

The views and subscribers just weren’t there though. YouTube is a lonely place when you have less than 200 subscribers, videos struggling to get into double figures and you’re relying on your Mum and girlfriend to watch, like and comment on your latest Spielberg esque masterpiece.

I researched how to grow your channel and stumbled across guys like Brian G Johnson and Nick Nimmin who have a plethora of videos on how to get views and subscribers. What I have noticed though is these guys do tend to regurgitate the advice after a while.

Fine tuning my channel with Brian and Nick’s advice, I soon started to see a modest growth in subscribers. I improved thumbnails, tweaked titles and used more searchable tags. I also engaged with comments by actually taking the time to reply. Ultimately, it’s easy to get wrapped up in trying to gain more views and subscribers, that you forget that in reality it’s the video that counts, if your video isn’t very good viewers are not going to come back, let alone subscribe to your channel.

Addiction and monetisation

YouTube like any other social media platform can become addictive. Notifications for likes, comments, views and new subscribers apparently release the dopamine chemical in your brain which makes you feel good, similar to eating, having sex, exercising, drinking or gambling. Much like a fruit machine, you want to feed the YouTube machine, not with coins but with fresh content.

When your channel reaches the magic 1000 subscriber mark and 4000 hours watch time you have the option to monetise your channel, which essentially means earning money from ad revenue. Many YouTubers are aware of this and push out content to feed the algorithms and get over the 1000/4000 hurdle.

My advice to anyone would be to NOT start a channel with the sole purpose of earning money, it is a long slow process and you’ll end up giving up. YouTube is a busy place these days with lots of channels to compete with, most niches are dominated by big established YouTubers. But don’t let that put you off, if you’re genuine and passionate about your niche then viewers will no doubt warm to you and you will get views and subscribers in time. It’s an endurance, not a sprint after all.

At times I have to remind myself that YouTube is a by-product of my main hobby, the great outdoors. I don’t live to work, I work to live and likewise I don’t hike to create content for YouTube, I’m on YouTube because I hike.

On occasions I’ve found myself wanting to go out for a hike purely just to get some fresh content out, this in my humble opinion isn’t right and will take the enjoyment out of a hobby I have so much passion for and this approach will have a limited shelf life, I will either burn out and give up YouTube or worse still end up hating the great outdoors.

It’s a fine balancing act, juggling your YouTube channel with a full-time job, a partner, children, friends and family, pets and so on. My advice is don’t let it take over, it’s better to post decent content you enjoy making rather than just making content to get the views and subscribers up.

Success

For the last 2-3 years I’ve learnt a lot about YouTube, but I’ve still got a long way to go. My advice so far is:

  • Make the best videos you can: Use the audience retention stats on your videos and aim to have an average audience retention of at least 50% by the end of the video. If your audience retention stats are really low, watch the parts of the video where viewers are dropping off. Lots of spikes in the graph would suggest viewers are skipping through your video. Let your friends or family watch them before posting and ask for honest feedback.
  • Once you’re happy with your videos, work on making your thumbnails eye catching. Shrink the thumbnail in Photoshop or similar so you can see how they will appear on mobile phones. Do not put text in the bottom righthand corner as the time stamp will cover the text. Again, you can check your stats to see how good your thumbnails are (Click-Through rate).
  • Optimise your title and tags so they are searchable. Try typing various terms into YouTube and Google to see what people are searching for.
My Post.jpg
Would you click on this thumbnail?
  • Always reply to comments and consider liking them, or even hitting love if they give you a nice comment or constructive feedback.
  • Engage with others by supporting their channel by watching, liking and commenting on their content, they’ll most likely return the favour, even some of the bigger channels.
  • Collaborate with other channels, by engaging with other channels in your niche you could build up friendships and this may open up opportunities to make collaborations with them.
  • Use other social media platforms to share your content. Facebook groups and Twitter are particularly good for this. Don’t annoy people by over posting or not engaging with other channels being shared on Facebook groups. Don’t lay it on thick on Twitter or Instagram either.
  • Whilst this may conflict with my advice above, the more videos you post the more your channel will grow. Find the right balance that suits you. Many say you need to post a new video at least once a week.
  • Reviews and how-to videos do well. If that’s your thing, look for gaps in YouTube for products that there are very few videos on. Make sure you’re knowledgeable about your subject otherwise your viewers will find out quickly and you’ll lose subscribers.
  • Look at the big channels in your niche for hints and tips (don’t copy them).
  • Don’t do it for the money, regard any money you make as a bonus and maybe in the future your channel will really take off.
  • Watch tutorials on: the video editing software you use, filming techniques and how to grow your channel.
Aud Ren
Audience retention stats for one of my videos.

Summarise

I hope you find this article useful, whilst some of it is down to my personal experience, I feel it is relavant in the current climate. But most of all it’s important you enjoy filming, editing and posting on YouTube. It’s a great experience, but like any other social media platform just try and not get swallowed up by the machine.

Incidently I could have done a YouTube video on this, but opted for a blog artcile instead. 🙂

It would be great if you’d consider checking out my channel at WalkWithWallace.

Cheers

Robin

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4 thoughts on “The YouTube Journey: What have I learned so far?

  1. A very good article Robin. There were many points there I resonated with and some new areas that illuminated me. Posting to mobile for example and the thumbnails. I’m on YouTube because I hike. That’s top rate mate. All the best. Mark

  2. Great article and great advice – much of which will also apply to just blogging. I have to admit to not paying much attention to likes as I know that I often leave a ‘like’ on my friends’ blogs when I can’t think of a comment just to let them know I visited and read it. I only really value comments personally – I always reply to them and always did from the start.

    I go on YouTube a lot but mostly for how-to videos (which like you say are really useful) and music. I’ve bought most of my albums in the last 10 years or so after first getting to like them on YouTube. I don’t have time to watch many videos though – not even on hillwalking – I only tend to watch the ones showing me something I want to see before I do it, e.g. Tower Ridge. Music you can just let play while you do everything else you have to do online…

    1. That’s very true. It applies to all platforms. I guess video editing is more labour intensive. Saying that I could spend hours writing too and picking pictures for the blog.
      YouTube has so much, that we won’t even scratch the surface.

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