I made a channel, bookishpixie, just for that vlog, and then thought, what the hell? I'll just keep doing this.
So I did. And to be honest, I wasn't really expecting all that much in terms of subscribers—I figured there probably weren't that many writers on YouTube, right? It just seemed so different from the written media I was used to seeing writers interact on, and I knew of only a couple writing-related channels, so I figured there probably just wasn't much a demand for it.
Wellllll I was wrong. So wrong.
Turns out, there are a lot of writers and people interested in publishing on YouTube—and I have to say, the writerly community there has been one of the most supportive and welcoming I've ever seen.
So how do you vlog and build a community on YouTube? It's not as difficult as you might think.
- Decide on a topic. Like blogging, this is easily the hardest step—figuring out what to vlog about. Luckily, I have nine times as many blog posts as I do vlogs, so if I ever really get stuck, I sometimes go through my archives and pick a topic I've blogged about but haven't vlogged about. Because while some of my YouTube audience has peeked over at my blog, a lot haven't, and even though I share my vlogs on the blog here too, I am more than well aware that most of you haven't read all 900+ posts, so reviving a topic here and there can be helpful for everyone.
- Bullet points. While some YouTubers rely on a script, I personally prefer to just jot down a few bullet points of the main things I'm going to cover, then improvise everything in between. This helps because I never sound stilted or get stuck trying to remember the exact phrasing of my script, and it also keeps things flexible. (Note: I use this same approach for speeches, too! Bullet points are so much easier to remember than line by line scripts.)
- Film! There's actually a lot that goes into this step—setting up lighting, figuring out where to put the camera, resetting the white balance and exposure on the camera every time I turn it on, etc. I have an advantage here in that I went to school for film for three years, so I know the basics in camera prep, but I'm also missing a lot of the professional gear I had access to in film classes way back when, so...maybe one day. Now I have most everything set up the way I want it all week so all I have to do is turn on the lights and camera when I'm ready to go.
- Edit. I have a Mac, so I use iMovie to edit all of my vlogs. Generally, I split up the vlog editing over three days (Thursday-Saturday). Day one: importing and cutting out the pauses and obvious mess ups (I do one long take instead of multiple takes, so this means when I mess up when I'm speaking I just stop and restart. During this step, I remove the in-between silences and frustrated outtakes). Day two: choosing the best takes/deleting duplicate takes (I repeat everything three times ish when vlogging) until I have the basic vlog. Day three: detailing (trimming clips, adding text when needed, cutting more if the vlog is too long, etc.) Note: I personally try to keep vlogs four minutes or under whenever possible, because too much longer than that and people start to lose interest.
- Upload to YouTube. This is actually multiple steps—the uploading itself, creating the title picture that will be the still when the vlog isn't playing, filling out the description for the vlog, and writing out the captions. I usually do this on Mondays.
So those are the basics for getting the vlog up. In terms of growing your channel, the main steps I've relied on are basically the same as growing any other social media account.
- Consistent posting. I decided from the start I'd do one vlog a week (Tuesdays). Vlogs are a lot of work, so the weekly post works well for me because it doesn't add too much work to my already packed social media schedule. The reason consistency is so important, however, is because the more consistently you post, the better your audience will know to come back. Plus it shows your audience that you're committed and aren't going to just drop off the face of the internet.
- Pay attention to your community (answer the comments). I can't tell you how many times I've had commenters say how nice it is to hear back from me, because most of the channels they comment on never get responses from the creators. While answering *all* the comments may one day be unfeasible (if the channel gets too big, for example), it's good to show your community that you're involved and listening to what they say. I'm not always able to answer channel comments quickly, but I do try to make sure I get to as many of them as I can.
- Cross-post. Cross-posting whenever possible is sooooo helpful. I cross-post all of my vlogs to the blog here (which then links to my Twitter), tumblr, and Facebook. Cross-posting is a great way to get discovered and spread your creation around—you never know when a tweet or tumblr post will go viral and get you a host of new subscribers, even months after you posted.
So those are my YouTube channel-building tips! I definitely recommend vlogging if it's something you think you could consistently do—it's been a great experience for me even though I was *completely* terrified of the camera when I started, and has not only helped in terms of getting the word out for my blog and book, but has also made me way more confident when public speaking. Bonus! :)
Have you ever considered vlogging?
Curious about what goes into running a YouTube channel? @Ava_Jae breaks down some steps and tips. (Click to tweet)