This has got to be my most commonly asked question on Instagram. “Have you any tips for starting vlogging” “How can I improve my YouTube channel”. So I thought I would make a blog with everything that I’ve learned over the last 5 years I’ve spent on YouTube!
Catching the Eye
The first step to gaining followers is to get people’s attention. With YouTube, that is mainly done with an attractive thumbnail and title. Many of your initial viewers will find your channel via the recommended videos tab, but you need to remember that your video is competing against the other videos listed on the page. What kind of video would you yourself click on? That is an important question to ask yourself. It is not very hard to create an eye-catching thumbnail, I do it easily using free apps on my phone. I use the app ‘VSCO’ to edit the photos that I will use in the thumbnail, then ‘Moldiv’ to create a collage if there is more than one photo and finally ‘Phonto’ to add text and other icons. All of these apps are free in the App Store so there’s no excuse! I also use ‘Moldiv’ to make the thumbnail the correct size for YouTube and to prevent anything being cropped out. In ‘Frame Adjust’, set the ratio to 16:9 and you will also need to ensure the finished thumbnail is less than 2MB. The images used should be exciting but also accurately represent the topic of the video (no clickbaiting here!). The title should be short (often some of the title is cut off if it is too long and the viewer miss out on the topic of the video) and intriguing. Again, ask yourself, would I click on this video title? Have a look at the two thumbnails below. One is the automatically generated thumbnail that youtube gives you, and the other is one created quickly using the apps listed above. Which would you click on?
Now They’re Caught, Keep them There
So some random person on the internet has clicked on your video, now your next challenge is to keep them watching your video and to hit the subscribe button. As funny as it sounds, you need your audience to care about you. I wouldn’t watch a video of a random horse and rider trotting around and jumping for 5 minutes straight (well I probably would, but that’s because I’m really obsessed). However, if you introduce yourself and your horse, tell me your goals for that day’s training, talk through your ride and let me know how it went and how you felt… Well now I want to keep watching and follow your journey! You need to remember that your audience are random people who don’t know you from a bar of soap, you need to be personable and relatable (I’ve practiced really hard at this, and so far, no one has realised I’m actually a robot…). Another good idea is to end the video by talking about your plans for the next few days and what your next video will be about, this will keep people excited for new videos.
Do You Need Fancy Equipment?
The short answer is no. I was into photography before I was into YouTube videos, so I’m lucky to have a nice camera that I can take photos and videos with. Realistically though, I’m not usually bothered lugging my DSLR camera down to the yard and setting it up for my dad, who’s knowledge of cameras begins with the ‘start recording’ button, and ends with the ‘stop recording’ button (fyi, they’re the same button). The vast majority of my videos, especially the vlogs, are filmed on my iPhone. It’s small, and handy to carry around and take out when needed. Occasionally I will use my Nikon to film and boy is there a difference in quality, but as long as your phone camera doesn’t have the quality of a potato, it’ll probably do the job! Even more important than the camera, is the lighting. If your filming in a dark stable with no light on, then the quality will be grainy and dull. Ideally try to film on sunny days (if you live in Ireland like I do, replace “sunny days” with “any time it’s not raining”). If you are lucky enough to be in the position to own a nice camera, it can definitely put your videos a step above the rest. An excellent example of this is the channel ‘This Esme’. Esme’s videos are excellent quality and it’s obvious that she puts thought into the angle and lighting of every clip. There is certainly a lot to be learned from watching her videos!
Confidence when Vlogging
Okay, so the internet can be a scary place.. but you know what’s even scarier? People in real life finding your YouTube channel! This fear stopped me from vlogging for such a long time, and when I finally mustered the courage, I wanted to crawl into a hole and die every time someone mentioned it to me. Obviously times have changed since then, but I still get embarrassed at the thought of my classmates watching my vlogs or even reading this blog! Especially in secondary school (high school for the americans out there), it’s so hard to ignore what other people think about you. Maybe you guys are made of tougher stuff than I was, but I cared so much about other people’s opinions when I was younger. I hope you will trust me when I say this though; your real friends will support you, and those who mock you.. well you won’t spare them a single thought in a few years time. Life’s too short to worry about what other people think! If you’re under 18, then ask your parents if its okay for you to make videos first (my parents didn’t let me make a YouTube account for ages!), and if you get the go ahead, then have fun with it! In fact, lots of my friends actually thought my channel was pretty cool, and some non-equestrian people actually watched it to learn more about horses when we had a horse handling exam coming up for college. When you’re vlogging, pretend you’re sending a video message to a friend. Relax and speak as you normally would, you can always edit out any “uums” or sentences that don’t quite make sense (you don’t even want to know how many half sentences I have to edit out because I just didn’t finish them!). Try not to ramble too much, and include plenty of riding footage or time lapses of grooming and tacking up.
The Big Don’ts
Commenting on other people’s accounts can be a way to get your name out there a bit, but for the love of god, don’t write a nice comment and then end it with “will you check out my channel please!”. Doing that completely negates the lovely comment you just wrote, because it will seem like you only wrote it so you could advertise yourself. Personally, I find it quite rude and I am stubborn enough not to subscribe to someone just because they asked me to! (yes, I’m petty). Asking for a “follow for follow” is another thing I just do not get. I will follow you if I like your account and I do not expect you to follow me back. Alternatively, I only want you to follow me if you genuinely like my content, not because it was some sort of trade. Maybe this works for some people, but I think that the followers you want, are those who are actually interested in your content and didn’t just follow you because of a deal they made.
I hope you were able to pick up some tips from this blog post! If you have any specific questions, then leave them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them. I’m also planning on doing a blog post on monetisation and sponsorship so if you have any questions related to that topic, then add them to the comments too. And finally, best of luck with your YouTube venture, and have fun!