Just the other day Zadi and I were walking up the stairs to our apartment here in Los Angeles and we looked at the shelf where the mail carrier leaves oversized mail. And on that shelf was a circular for a local retailer with t-shirts for sale. What was on those t-shirts, you might ask? Fred.
Nothing short of a YouTube phenomenon, Lucas Cruikshank, the creator and star of the Fred videos (link to the show site), crossed a milestone the other day when he signed up his one millionth subscriber to his YouTube channel. It's incredible when you think about it. Some things just take on a life of their own, and when you try to deconstruct why something caught fire and took off, it can help you understand what went right.
Make no mistake, Fred is not a result of a viral video or two. Every single one of his videos has millions of views, some of them as many as 20 million. Lucas makes consistent content that is absolutely perfect for the YouTube core audience, and not only that, you either love it or hate it. It's accessible, not too polished, and you know what? It's pretty damn funny. A perfect recipe to create an online sensation.
In this week's show, we ran down ten things you can do if you have a show on YouTube and want to attract subscribers. Here's the list we came up with:
1. Have something interesting to tell
There are a LOT of boring videos on the web. Try not to add to it. You might not always succeed, but try to think about what you're putting out there and whether it's adding something to the discourse, or whether it's entertaining.
2. Know your brand and package it correctly
"Branding" might sound pretty douchey, but it works. One of the reasons Felicia Day was so successful with The Guild so quickly is that she knew exactly what would be best for her. She cast herself as the quirky, insecure center of a show with crazy characters and created storylines with a huge built-in audience. Sometimes great branding happens seredipitously (I'll suggest Fred as an example), but you still have to have the right instincts for the way people perceive what you are doing.
3. Keep your videos short
The web is not TV. At least not yet.
4. Use good lighting and sound
Good sound is probably the most important part of making great video content on the web. You can get away with crappy lighting sometimes, but if you really want people to come back every time you put up something new, show them that you value you their time and their eyeballs and try to make your stuff look and sound as good as you can.
5. Collaborate with others who have similar fans & subscriber numbers
This is something that the YouTube crowd has done extremely well. Many of the videobloggers who built large followings from the early days of YouTube sought each other out and started collaborating on videos. When you put yours up, who does stuff like you? Reach out to them, ask them about doing a collaboration. This way viewers on both sides get exposed to the other, and hopefully also get to see something fun and creative. Win-win.
6. Interact with your viewers
One of the biggest mistakes video creators make is not using the web to interact with the people who watch their shows. This is what makes the web different (and better) than television. If you're just putting stuff out there and not talking to your audience and looking for ways to get them involved, you aren't offering anything more than TV already offers. And chances are you don't have TV budgets and staff to make content as good as they do, so what are you actually offering?
7. Post videos everywhere, not just YouTube
You never know where you'll find a fanbase. There are lots of video sites out there. None of them are as big as YouTube, but that can work to your advantage, too. It's easier to stand out on smaller sites.
8. Use social networks, like Twitter and Facebook
9. Be patient
You have to be prepared to make content consistently for a while to draw an audience. I don't mean weeks, either. Be prepared for the long-haul. Even if it takes a while for people to find you, when they do they will feel like they are discovering something new and pass it around to their friends. It's a marathon, not a sprint.
10. And yes, above all, have fun!
If you aren't having fun you'll burn out before you get an audience. Think Lucas is having fun making Fred videos? Sure looks that way. Fun is contagious.
So if you're making videos, how many things on that list are you doing right? Did I miss anything? Post your thoughts.