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I suspect a lot of people, entrepreneurs or not, started out on YouTube like I did: with a channel that
stayed relatively inactive. Now my company recently surpassed 1 million subscribers since I started — still a bit unsure of what I was doing — in 2016. I would be delighted to double that and reach 2 million
subscribers in the next two years. It’s doable: More than 2.5 billion users log on to the platform each
Do I have a big secret? No. I learned along the way, and the great thing about YouTube is that if you
follow a few simple steps, it soon does a lot of work for you. Here are some simple and concrete things to get started on building and growing your brand with this influential medium.
1. Use your expertise to carve your niche — and stick with it
This may seem obvious, but it’s important as you’re starting your brand build. As an entrepreneur, your niche may be obvious, but for others — as with some service consultants, for example — you may be tempted to drift outside of a lane of expertise or unsure of what specific proficiency you have where you can elevate above others.
Pay attention to what people are drawn to in individual conversations; in my case, I was in academia and conversations with a marketing colleague convinced me I had a niche that would showcase my brand.
2. Work with people with different skill sets
Just as important as knowing your expertise is knowing what’s not in your wheelhouse and finding someone who can help you. Many entrepreneurs are visionaries. Maybe some are also businesspeople, but that wasn’t me, and I recognized that — so I partnered with that marketing colleague, who also had experience as a business owner.
3. Speak your audience’s language
This is a fundamental rule of public speaking, but that may not be something you’ve done with great frequency. I was used to standing in front of an audience daily, but those were erudite discussions — not interpersonal conversations.
To my YouTube listeners, I came off as rather pedantic and worse, they didn’t know what I was talking about! It doesn’t mean your listeners aren’t educated or smart, but people come from different backgrounds so you need to boil your arguments down in simple terms that a broad audience can understand. This is particularly important for those from specialized fields rife with industry-specific language, such as engineering and law, for example. The good news is if you mistakenly fall back to your “old” way of talking, your audience will give you feedback. Don’t be defensive or offended by it — take it, learn and do better (and practice).
4. Learn how YouTube works
The beauty of YouTube is that if you keep churning out content, the platform figures out what niche you’re in and finds your audience for you.
The more you use it, the more it accommodates you to get you in front of an audience based on their user profile, which is why identifying and staying in your niche is so important. Expect a learning process; I read a lot of articles about YouTube’s algorithm in the early weeks.
5. Don’t reinvent what works
This is simply an iteration of “don’t reinvent the wheel,” but when growing your brand on YouTube, it’s pivotal — and easy.
Very simply, get your competitors (I like to call them colleagues) to help you. Watch what they are doing and review the analytics to determine what’s working for them, what topics users respond to and any patterns. Look at the comments to generate different ideas and content. Then develop your own unique content (which is very important, of course) for your videos, but with similar keywords, titles, thumbnails and things like that to trigger the algorithm. In a sense, you’re letting those colleagues do the beta testing for you.
6. Get to monetization
After you get just 1,000 subscribers on YouTube, you can register for their Google Ads partnership program and can start generating revenue running Google Ads. YouTube also recently added Channel Memberships your followers can join and support you, with tiers beginning at $4.99/month and up. Consider writing a book and promoting them for purchase on YouTube and your blog, if you have one. Then delve into merchandising.
YouTube is a great way to start but incorporate other platforms — from social media to
specially created websites — to leverage and boost your content for greater brand-building power.
8. Understand parasocial relationships
Parasocial relationships are formed when a viewer or user connects with an influencer or public figure. In the case of branding and YouTube, it can create more loyal brand followers through intimacy by creating special, premium “insider clubs” that grant your users additional access. You can host smaller, exclusive, live discussions on a regular basis. You may have tiers within those models; the more access they want, the more they pay.
There has never been a better time to carve out your own path and use YouTube to build your brand.
We’re a networked society with a wide online ecology, and it is linking our daily lives with others: our
audiences and our customers. Find and stick to your niche, find your voice, practice being conversational and learn from others, and you’ll find success at using this platform to build and scale your brand.