I’ve had a YouTube channel since 2009. But for most of that time, I didn’t really take this platform all that seriously.
That all changed in February 2018.
Since then, I’ve jumped into the deep end with YouTube, treating it like a primary platform for a lot of my content. In this post, I want to share with you why I made this big shift, and how it’s worked out so far.
YouTube From Scratch
Getting Serious About YouTube: The Experiment
In the time I’ve been in the YouTube game, I’ve scaled new heights … and occasionally fallen flat. Some of my videos have done very well, getting over 500,000 views. Others have barely made a mark.
Until recently, though, I didn’t consider YouTube one of my primary platforms. Instead, it was more of a repository, a place to publish when it made sense to make a video out of something. Pre-2018, I was using YouTube like a lot of other entrepreneurs who aren’t primarily focused on this channel for their business.
Mostly, I created the occasional tutorial or demo video for products I use and love. Sometimes I’d get even more serious about creating a video that would get a lot of attention, like my original How To Start a Podcast series, or my series on How to Start an Email List. They performed very well, but for whatever reason, I never paid much attention to YouTube as a strategic channel, as a place where I should be consistently uploading high-quality content.
But when I attended VidSummit in October 2017 (the same conference that birthed the idea of the SwitchPod), I realized I had a massive opportunity to publish content on a platform with millions and millions of viewers who had not yet come across my content or my brand.
After doing a little more research on YouTube, I saw that a number of people were creating content aimed at similar target markets to mine, but the videos themselves (in my humble opinion) were not up to par.
In a lot of cases, the content in these videos just wasn’t great. But more disturbingly, a lot people were using videos to lure people into buying things that promised more than they could deliver—trying to capture the attention of hopeful dreamers and leading them to purchase programs that, based on reviews I’ve read, were just NOT good. It was all about the money for these content creators.
I figured I could do better. I decided that I was going to get serious about YouTube. So in February 2018, my videographer, Caleb, and I decided to give it a shot for a solid year to see how it would go.
The Video Production Hamster Wheel
We started off hot, publishing about five videos a week for about two months in order to—per the advice of many other YouTubers—kick-start the channel. And it seemed to work. I started to pick up a lot more views than I’d ever had. I was growing at a rate of about 200 to 400 subscribers per day.
But five videos a week was really difficult to keep up with, and after the initial honeymoon period, we started to find ourselves trapped in a content-creation hamster wheel. We’d finish one video, then immediately need to figure out what we were going to be shooting about next.
When you find yourself stuck on the hamster wheel, what can often happen is the quality of the content begins to degrade. It also started to feel like I was fishing for topics because I was just publishing way too much.
Because of the hamster wheel, another important aspect of YouTube I failed to appreciate early on was the importance of community and engagement. I was recording so much that I didn't have a lot of time to connect with people. I did (what I thought was) my best by leaving comments on my videos and encouraging people to comment themselves, and even doing things like offering “pins” to anyone who commented within the first hour. But this was really as far as I went in terms of engaging with the YouTube community.
It wasn’t until later that I started to see the full “people potential” this channel offered (more on that in a minute).
On YouTube, Success Is Unpredictable
But it wasn’t all downside. Several of my videos did extremely well. There’s the one I published on February 27, 2018, called “How to Make Passive Income Online (3 Legit Models From Someone Who Made $5+ Million Online.”
As of this blog post, it has more than three quarters of a million views. Meanwhile, other videos that I spent just as much, if not even more time on, have fewer than ten thousand views under their belt. Some are below five thousand.
It's just the nature of the YouTube beast, and one of the most frustrating things about it. There’s simply no perfect formula to create videos that will be seen by lots of people. You can succeed with one video, then create another one using the same approach, and it’ll perform completely differently. You’re at the whim of the YouTube algorithm, and the unpredictable preferences of its viewers.
This is one of the hardest things about YouTube—but one of the cooler things too! Because at any moment, any one of your slow-moving videos could get picked up and begin to pop. For instance, one we recorded back in February 2018, “How to Record and Edit a Podcast on Audacity (Complete Tutorial),” recently started to pick up steam because of the interest in podcasting now, and just cracked over one hundred thousand views.
More Work Does Not Always Equal More Success on YouTube
There’s also a balance you need to find when it comes to how much work goes into making each video. Some of the videos I’ve recorded with other entrepreneurs are a case in point, like a series called “Tactics in a Tesla,” starting with Sean Cannell on March 13, 2018. I also recorded Tesla videos with people like Amy Landino, Roberto Blake, and several others.
A couple of those videos did well, but others didn’t. And they were pretty difficult to produce.
The videos were recorded inside my Tesla while I was driving and picking up interviewees. We used HERO cams, and it was a full production, much more so than most of the videos I recorded in my regular studio. For most of the Tesla videos, the added production hassle just didn’t pay off in terms of views.
YouTube Wants You to Double Down on What’s Working
The other big challenge I encountered was that it seemed like YouTube was essentially telling me what videos to create. I felt like the platform was trying to gradually constrict me into a niche where I’d only be talking about money and passive income.
A few videos in this general topic area, such as Nine Ways to Make Money Podcasting, How to Make Passive Income with Affiliate Marketing, and 9 Ways I Earn Passive Income Online (Different Business Models), have performed really well.
At the same time, some of the videos I made on other topics—videos I consider some of the more important and impactful ones I’ve done—fell flat. For example, there’s How To Prepare for Your Next Presentation, which I published in May 2018 and has just 2,755 views almost a year later. And The Million Dollar Tweet, in which I share eight crucial lessons to start and grow a successful business has just over 7,000 views more than a year after publishing. Or 9 Productivity Hacks Using Your iPhone (To Stay More Focused), with fewer than 7,000 views nearly 400 days later.
So, some videos have done well, and others have done poorly—and not the ones I would have expected.
YouTube Wants You to Keep People on YouTube
One of the benefits of this big YouTube push was it did get me to 100,000 subscribers in mid-2018, which was an awesome milestone. It earned me a silver YouTube button as an award and a thank-you. That was really cool.
But here’s the thing. In terms of actually building my business, focusing on YouTube didn’t do much. You see, one of the things about YouTube is that the platform rewards you for keeping people on YouTube—when your watch times are high, and you have people going from one video to another instead of leaving the site.
But if you want to use YouTube to grow your business off YouTube—by capturing people’s attention with videos then guiding them to your email list or your website—YouTube’s not going to be so happy with you. Now, there are exceptions, and it’s not impossible to grow your business AND increase views and subscribers at the same time. People like Sunny Lenarduzzi are great at this, and it’s something I’m still learning how to do.
But for the 2018 experiment, I focused on not sending people back to my website. Instead, I hoped this was something they’d do automatically. There were times when I’d link to a page on my site in the video description, or mention a resource on the site in the video itself, but I never went out of my way to get people to go from YouTube to SPI.com.
Because of that, YouTube hasn’t really helped me grow my business beyond building awareness of the SPI brand. Don’t get me wrong—that’s still really important. But on the website and even on my podcast, I'm starting to do a little bit more tracking, which allows me to understand more about what's going on.
My Big YouTube Experiment = A Big Bust? No Way!
My success with videos has been hit and miss. And I haven’t been able to use YouTube to build my business by sending people back to my site or my email list. So has this whole experiment been a net negative?
A couple of great things have happened for me in the past year thanks to being more active on YouTube.
First, creating YouTube videos has provided a great creative outlet. It’s allowed me to have fun with content creation again. It’s not that I wasn't having fun before, but the blog and podcasts have become a bit more of a machine. We’re always several months ahead on our content calendar, and producing each piece of content several weeks before it’s due to publish. Everything’s planned in advance and proceeds pretty much according to plan.
With YouTube, though, my creativity has opened up. It’s a visual content platform that gives us more leeway to be funny with the editing, the B-roll, and all the other elements that go into producing a video. With video, there are just a lot more options, a lot more to choose from when it comes to what you include in your video and how you try to tell a great story.
One video I had a lot of fun creating was Content Creation (5 “Sniper” Tools for Creating Winning Content), published last February. I used a Nerf gun to help me deliver the content in that particular video—check it out if you want to see what I’m talking about.
The other awesome thing about YouTube is that it’s made me much more connected to the YouTube community. I’ve met and talked to many other YouTubers since starting this experiment, and it’s great to feel a part of such a vibrant collection of people.
And even if not all of my videos have been a huge success in terms of view counts, people have been noticing what I’m doing on YouTube. When I went to the VidSummit and VidCon conferences in 2018, people actually asked me about my YouTube channel—which is something that had never happened before. Usually, when I go to shows, I get comments about my podcast, but last year I started getting noticed for my videos too.
What’s Next for Me on YouTube
I'm also starting to get into the behind-the-scenes world of YouTube’s analytics tools, which is pretty cool. YouTube provides a lot of great statistics to help you better understand your audience and how people are consuming your content. And tools like TubeBuddy and VidIQ have been essential for me as I learn more about what’s happening behind the scenes on YouTube.
One of the most interesting takeaways from this analysis so far has been that a lot of my passive income video content is recently being outdone, in terms of views and watch time, by my podcasting videos.
In fact, if you look up “how to start a podcast” on YouTube, my tutorial comes up as the number one result. That video alone has nearly 400,000 views, almost 100,000 more than the next most-watched video on that topic.
So what’s next for me on YouTube? Here’s what I’m going to do.
Now that I've experimented with YouTube for a year and have a better feel for the platform, I'm going to focus a little more on the podcasting front with my video content. This is a space that I feel nobody is really owning right now. I currently have the top podcasting videos on the topic, but in terms of a channel that's dedicated specifically to podcasting? Nobody’s claimed the top of that hill yet.
I’ve already refilmed some of my podcasting-related videos, like my podcasting tutorial and my review of the best podcast microphones.
My plan for 2019 is to take things a step further and niche down my YouTube channel to focus primarily on podcasting videos. This means more videos comparing and reviewing gear—not just microphones, but advanced stuff like acoustic panels. It means creating more videos that answer the various questions podcasters have about their craft, videos about monetizing podcasts, and a lot more. Plus, a lot of my business relates to teaching podcasting, so if this strategy is successful, it should help my bottom line too. Podcasting has been such a big part of my business, so connecting it to what I’m doing on YouTube is a natural fit.
So stay tuned for the next phase of my big YouTube experiment! I may stick with this plan if it helps me grow the channel as a whole—or I may decide it’s not working and bail out early—but for right now, doubling down on podcasting videos is what the signs are pointing me to do, and I’m excited about it.
Either way, I think I’m going to have a lot of fun with it.
So is YouTube even worth it anymore? Definitely. There’s still a lot of potential with video (and huge audiences!), and although I think the video space is pretty crowded compared to something like podcasting, if you can find your video niche and run with it, you can still make things work on YouTube in 2019.
And hey, if you haven’t subscribed to my YouTube channel yet, what are you waiting for? 🙂