All the big YouTube creators have a set of skills in common. In this week's TubeTalk podcast we talk with entrepreneur Brian G Johnson about what it takes to succeed on the platform.
Let me ask you this question. If you look at your YouTube channel, are you as good or better than the top 1% of YouTubers out there? Sadly, for most of us, the answer is no, and yet we expect the same results that they get - the same number of subs, and the same number of views.
Of course, those big numbers are simply unrealistic for many small YouTube channels. So, do we just give up? Do we lose all hope, or is there a light at the end of the tunnel? Today we're going to get real, but we've also got some real practical answers of what you need to do.
This week's episode of TubeTalk, the YouTubers podcast, is all about understanding what you're doing right and what you're doing wrong and developing the three big skills that anyone serious about YouTube needs. I’m joined by Brian G. Johnson, a passionate entrepreneur whose mission is to help others to not just share their message, but to amplify it by leveraging the power of video.
In this podcast you will learn the major skills you need to compete with the most successful YouTube channels:
#1 How to strive to become the resource for your audience on a given topic
#2 How to gauge the passion of your audience for that topic so they keep coming back for more
#3 How to learn from (but not copy) successful YouTube channels in your niche
As one of the most motivational creators in the business, Brian is an expert at guiding YouTubers to their best potential. You can follow him on YouTube at BryanGJohsonTV or on Twitter, or his website.
3 Skills Every Creator Needs to Get More Views on YouTube: Full Transcript
Liron Segev: Welcome to TubeTalk Brian
Brian G Johnson: YouTube is so amazing, it's really challenging, but I'm confident that in the next few minutes, we can talk and share some ideas that can help people really move the needle on their YouTube channel.
LS: And that's what we're all about here on Tube Talk. There's so many of us that are struggling. We're kind of trying to find our focus, trying to find our footing, and there are still YouTubers with millions of subscribers and we're having the same conversations with them because they're also still struggling. Are we going to struggle for ever?
BGJ: We all have this opportunity to decide that we're going to move forward and get really tremendous results with our YouTube channel. It's not always easy, it doesn't always happen on our timeline, however, when you decide that you're going to move forward, and you're going to do the thing that you want to do, I guarantee you from that moment on you're going to be just a little bit closer to achieving the results you're after.
The first step is to decide it shall be. Stake your claim and make it happen. The second part is to start acting like your life depended on it. And that doesn't mean simply uploading videos. And if we look at the results, statistically speaking, so many YouTubers upload video after video, but they have zero results. Stagnant channel growth. They actually lose subscribers, struggle with ranks, struggle to show up in suggested, nothing seems to work.
LS: So, is this because we're just a slave to the YouTube algorithm, and it doesn't matter what we do? Or are we just doing the wrong things?
BGJ: Well, at the end of the day, there's no question that as YouTubers, we watch the very best YouTubers on the planet. We get accustomed to those kinds of results. And I think the sooner we can really understand, on a deep level, that the YouTube algorithm does follows the audience. And when we get in tune with what our audience is, we're going to have just a little bit better of a chance to move forward and really generate the results. So as we move forward, I think it's really important we talk about what the audience is and then break down some tactical elements that I've leveraged, steps to really improve my results.
LS: Well, you've opened this door, we're going to walk through it. Where do we begin?
BGJ: So, first off, I think it's so very important to really embrace the idea of testing. And I want to ask you, the viewer, right now, can you really tell me that you're really testing your thumbnail? Do your thumbnails look different? Are they based on the different colors? Are they based on with a picture of you in them or not? Do you make thumbnails that are exciting or how is it that you're really changing up the game? And I think this is something we can hear, but oftentimes we struggle to really implement and change things up. And the first thing I want to share Liron is, it's just so very important that we do make considerable changes to what we do day to day, and we experiment.
LS: So is experimenting actually healthy for your channel?
BGJ: If you're not growing, what's the worst that could happen? Nothing. You already have nothing. You may say but I've got a couple of subscribers and they really like what I'm doing. Well, if you want to grow to 100 thousand subscribers, but you're being held captive by two people that love your content, you're doing yourself and the audience you want to obtain, a disservice. So it's really important just to say hey, you know, I'm going to mix it up, I'm going to try some different things.
LS: So many people say exactly what you've just said. I've got a handful of people, they love my content, I'm just going to do more for them. Well, that's fine, but then that's your channel for five people.
BGJ: When you decide the thing that you really want is growth, then you have to start making growth decisions. One of the things I did was, I took a break for a few months. And I came back in January, and I really tried to change things up with my thumbnails, and I can look at my thumbnails today in the middle of May, and I've literally come up with about four very, very different designs.
Some of the times, I've got my face in the thumbnails. Other times, I don't. Some of the times, I'm using yellow and red, other times I use green and really a dark kind of inky blue-black. And again, the reason I'm doing this is because number one, I think when you really deliver on what the audience loves, when it's about them, you don't have to worry about, well I've got a brand, and my color's orange. Well, okay great. But if you've got nothing, maybe it's okay to experiment. Maybe you don't have to held captive again by branding. Or, I use this font, or but this is how I do it. And this kind of thinking has really allowed me to uncover some new styles that are still a part of my brand. No one said, oh, you lost your brand.
LS: I love your thumbnails. When I see your thumbnails, I don't even have to read the text, I can see that illuminous green coming at me a mile away. I know that's your video instantly, and I make that connection. As the famous saying goes, if you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten. So, if you're always going to do what you did yesterday, well don't expect different results today.
BGJ: And this is where we're talking about experimenting. So, here's what's up, I came back from a long break. It was January, I was excited to hit it, and the thing I did was I really tried things that were new, and they were different. And that's, as a human being, it's hard to push the envelope like that. It's hard to push the needle to go outside of the things we've gotten accustomed to, but it's just really important to do that. And I would encourage you, go to my channel and look at how I've really varied my thumbnails, and my style over time. And it's not just the thumbnails, Liron, but I've changed up a lot of my content over the last three years. And it's allowed me to reach new levels and whatnot. So these are some of the things that you can think about.
LS: And it was a conscious decision. It was more, I'm going to do this test, I'm looking for a result. It's either going to succeed or fail, but then I will learn and then apply those learnings to the next test that I run. Where so many people are just afraid to take that first step, what happens if it fails? That's okay. It's okay to fail. Fail quickly, learn fast, don't rinse and repeat.
BGJ: Yeah. 100%, and furthermore, if you're not really getting the kind of results that you're striving to get, and it doesn't work out, you're in the same spot. To me that's not a failure, you're still at zero. You're not at negative 100, you're at zero. You're just not at 100 yet. You're trying to get to 100. Well, you're still at zero, you didn't lose anything. What you found out was, well, that didn't work right now, today. But I'm going to keep moving forward.
LS: Okay. Perfect. So now, I'm going to run my experiments, I'm going to try a couple of things, now that I've learned from them, what else do I do?
BGJ: So, the first thing I would say is when we try things, to really give it a good shot and if you're going to start testing out your thumbnails, try a lot of different various thumbnails, for example. And don't think that a lot of times what I hear from YouTubers that are struggling, is the classic, oh I tried that and it didn't work. Remember, I'm striving to gain the skills needed to move myself to the next level. And the thing I think about today is, in order to grow, I need to become the YouTuber that can drive the results that I'm not today. I've got to evolve and grow and I've got to gain those skills.
And when I look at my channel from when I started to where I'm at now, I did that. I evolved, I grew, my editing got better, my delivery on camera, it got better. My thumbnails got better. And I don't say this because I like what I do, the audience tells me, when I look at my analytics and I see the numbers going up. That's how I know that I'm making improvements to my channel. Because I don't get to decide, it's not about me.
LS: It's a skill. It's a skill like every other skill in the world. Nobody was born knowing how to do maths and English and writing. You learn. But you develop over time. Just like every skill. All right. So what else can we do?
BGJ: So, we talked about thumbnails. The other thing I want to say is, really be perceptive to the topics that you could be covering, and furthermore, how you're going to cover the topics.
LS: Okay, so let's delve into that. So are we talking about trending topics? Are we talking about leveraging what everybody else is talking about? If it doesn't fit my channel, should I do it anyway?
BGJ: Yes, yes, yes. For me, again, and it really goes back to, who's it about? It's about the audience. So, I asked myself, okay, it's about the audience, what is the video that they have to click on? They might not even want to click on it, but what do they have to click on? So, a great example for me is this thing about Article 13 came out. And Article 13 is this law that's basically been passed into European Union kind of thing, they passed it. And it can and has the potential to change how YouTube works when it comes to things like common creatives, memes and whatnot.
And I kept seeing status updates from YouTube. I log into the creator studio, and I kept seeing Article 13, Article 13, and I kind of thought to myself you know, my audience, whether they even know it or not, on a subconscious level, they keep seeing stuff about Article 13. So, I made a video about that because I felt like that would be something they would have to click on. And it really worked. And the other thing I would say is, you mentioned trending topics. Again, Article 13 was, it just got passed into law. So I hopped on that trend.
But at the same time, it's like, I'm going to cover the evergreen content that viewers like you right now listening, want to hear. How can I grow? How can I get more views? How can I get more subscribers? But how you execute on those things will determine just how well your video performs. It's not just, well I tried that and I made that video, but I saw the topic and then I worked hard to create a title and a thumbnail that really compels the viewer to click and so on.
LS: This philosophy, would this apply across all channels?
BGJ: Again, I always start with, what does my audience want? Right? So everything is the audience.
LS: Back to the audience.
BGJ: We're going to talk about the audience for 30 minutes. Because you can't make any money until you win the trust of the audience. And to do that, you've got to really give them stuff that matters to them. So how can you move forward and really get those results, push the needle. Everything that I do, I'm asking myself, is this the video they have to watch? Are they interested in this video? And if you're like, well I'm just getting started, I don't know how to choose my audience. The thing you want to do is you really want to stop and say, what is my channel about? What is it going to evolve into? And I always like to use the phrase, become an important resource.
LS: Become an important resource. So something that your audience knows to expect and rely on you for, and therefore you're going to be part of their must click, their ritual almost, you're part of their lives now.
BGJ: Yeah, exactly. When you start thinking about my job is to become an important resource, I guess it's words with r, tongue twisters today. As we move forward, just really thinking about, what is it that the audience is going to click on. What they're going to get excited about and so on.
LS: We don't spend enough time actually understanding this and actually delving back into the analytics and seeing what's working vs what isn't.
BGJ: Right. Yeah and I think this is the talk and decision and the pondering that you've got to do with yourself. And you've got to really decide what do I value? And here's what I would say is, when you stop and you say what do I value? And what are the things that I really want? And then you own that, and you're like, if you really want to grow, you may not be able to do all the things that you want. But what's really cool is over time, you get more and more leeway because your audience gets to know, I can trust you.
LS: Okay, so it's building that trust, building that authority, providing value. The commodity that we're trading in at the moment is information and attention, and you've got to spend time building that. And what a lot of people, I think, do is they simply see what's working for these really massive YouTubers. The Casey Neistats of the world and the Peter McKinnons of the world. And they go, I'm doing exactly the same, how come I'm not winning?
BGJ: For about 16 reasons. A couple ideas are, number one is you're looking at a channel that is mature and has earned the trust of the audience. And you're comparing it to your channel that you just got started three months ago or six months ago. And you're not building that thing yet. If you go back and you look at PewDiePie's channel, you see two or three videos on different subjects and then it's video, after video, after video, after video on the same game, called Amnesia.
So think about this, if you're a gamer and you're really excited and you're into a game called Amnesia and you're really taken up by it and you want to research and you want to watch and listen and hear reports about the game and updates and what not, well there was PewDiePie doing game plays and just really sharing this experience of this game that so many people loved. And when you do that, what you do is you make it easy for a group of people to get excited about you and then they're going to know and watch, and get to like you over time. And that leads to that trust. So again, PewDiePie, had a niche when he started and he did the very thing that we've been talking about in this podcast. And that's undeniable. You go to his channel, you sort by date, you find the oldest stuff and it's that Amnesia, Amnesia, Amnesia.
LS: He had his focus. He saw that it was working, his audience responded and he just doubled down. He went all in on those topics, he became the authority on that topic. YouTube must have loved him for that topic. He became the guy, he became the channel.
BGJ: He was, exactly, he really dived into that kind of horror game play, horror games and what not. And I think he's sort of branching out into other similar games, so obviously if you're interested in one game and there's another game that's like it, you're going to be more likely to continue to watch, and his audience evolved. And then he got to a point where he was so big and he had such a loyal fan base that when he began to pivot, he had the thing that most YouTubers don't which was again, that dedicated audience that really digs what he does.
LS: Do you find there's a difference between kind of utility, how-to channels versus entertainment channels?
BGJ: Yeah I think there is. But what's really interesting is often times, you can bridge the gap. There's a lot of similarities that you can leverage. A utility channel over time can become more, not necessarily an entertainment channel, but people get to know, like and trust the person behind the channel. It really just depends on how much people connect with an individual YouTuber and the commonalities that they share.
LS: That makes sense. On my YouTube channel, I'm all about gadgets and technology and new phones. But a lot of people come there for the how-tos. So, top 10 tips on how to use the new Galaxy phone. I'm routing those trends, I'm enjoying those.
BGJ: Yeah. So for me, the thing I think about as far as it's an entertainment channel or resource channel, is I think about what is the passion level behind the person and the thing that they're looking at? So how passionate are people about unclogging their toilet? Zero. There's zero passion. I am interested in becoming vegan. I'm really curious about veganism. How much passion do I have about veganism? Well, I'm really interested, but it's a big thing. I better read a lot of books or possibly watch a lot of YouTube videos to try to uncover the mystery that is veganism. You know?
And these are the things that when you start to ask yourself, can I build a channel around this kind of topic? Well, tech really works well because people that love gadgets and tech, they like gadgets and tech for years and years and they keep upgrading and there's always new tech. New is a big deal, right? New is something that people really gravitate towards. So tech vloggers or tech YouTubers, they have an opportunity to really leverage that thing. So that's the thing that I always think, and I share with my clients is, what is the passion level behind the niche that you're thinking about going into? And if it's nil, we've got to really be careful because you might have one or two videos that do well, but are you going to have a lot of videos that do well? Maybe not.
LS: Down to the creator at the end of the day. It's down to how you bring it.
BGJ: Yeah, right. And this is a really great point is having that personality and what not, and bringing something else to the mix. One of the things that's so important - and I chose those words really carefully - is that it's not about being the best, and I think the reason why is because becoming the best is really challenging. There's only one the best. You can only compete and be the best for so long. But if you become an important resource in a topic or a niche that people are really passionate about, you really start to set yourself up for success.
LS: And again, it's down to the audience. It's down to them at the end of the day, you're serving their needs, their requirements, their searches. You're going to be the go-to person.
BGJ: Yeah, absolutely Liron. The other thing I want to share with this is, as you move forward, when you start to think about all of these things, so it's like, I'm going to make a decision on the focus of the channel, how can I ensure that success?
#1 Strive to become an important resource.
#2 Gauge the passion. The more passion, the more likely the audience is going to continue to watch the kind of content you're going to make.
#3 Start uncovering and researching other channels that have succeeded building the thing that you want to build. It doesn't mean you need to build something exactly the same, but find out what other channels that have succeeded on a high level.
And when you start thinking about all of these things, you start making decisions based on big picture thinking. You're really stacking the deck in your favor. I think so many people get mixed up in the wrong stuff. For example, YouTube tags is a really strong example because the amount of weight that tags carry, how important are they to YouTube, when you publish your video?
Well, the honest truth is, they're not very important because the audience doesn't care. And the one thing you can always do is you can say, what are the things about a video that really matter to an audience? And when you do that, they've got to really like the content. And if they really like the content, they're going to watch the content. You're going to have better watch time metrics, average view duration, audience retention, watch time per impression, all the stuff you hear, the kind of phrase-y stuff that makes up the industry. Well, that starts panning out for you and you have great metrics because people love your videos.
So, I think when you really start understanding that, the easy button is the title. The easy thing is the keyword and they're super, super important, but we've got to focus and prioritize our efforts to what really is most important. And the elephant in the room, and I kind of started my talk today about this, was your individual delivery on camera or lack thereof, and you might be thinking, well I'm not on camera. Well, how is your voiceover? If your voiceover sucks, you lost. I mean, I hate to be that harsh about it, but at the end of the day, what really matters is to keep viewers watching. And nobody watches videos they don't dig.
And that means you've got to really have a structured video. You've got to know what you're going to cover. And you've got to deliver that content in a way that's compelling and engaging. Then you've got to spend the time to edit. You look at Peter McKinnon and Casey Neistat and those guys have got some pretty dope editing. Come on kids, I mean, you can feel me now, that's the truth. So, when you start getting really honest about what you're asking for, you're asking to be in the top 1% of YouTubers. Which means you've got to beat out 99% of all other YouTubers, that's a big ask. And you've got to work hard to prioritize your efforts, focus on what matters, build the thumbnails, blah, blah blah. You've heard it a million times.
LS: The one thing I really wish people would get to see is events like this, especially the family vlogging events. And the reason for it is because all you see is kids walking around here, with their cameras pointing at themselves, vlogging, and they love it. People here have shot seven, eight videos a day so far. Because they're that passionate. They know their audience wants this stuff. And they're able to deliver. Just look around these rooms, and look around the pool and look around the restaurants, all you see are these kids delivering again and again, and there's nothing half-assed about it.
BGJ: It's incredible, right? And having that passion and really doing the thing at a level that is kind of past the weekend warrior. A lot of us are not full time, a lot of us having working jobs, but when we look at success, when we look at what we want, almost always it's YouTubers that have been playing the game for a long time. And having that passion to sustain us for a long time, and being able to do those things is really, really important because this is not a one hit wonder. This is not an overnight success. It happens, but when you focus on that, and when it's the algorithms fault, and why isn't it me? The fact of the matter is, you'll find far, far more often, it's the people in the game playing it at the highest level have published hundreds and hundreds of videos. And they've been at it, and their skill sets are very high.
LS: And when you're honest with yourself, is your video really that much better than the person you're trying to beat out, so to speak? And in most cases, it really isn't. And unfortunately, that's just the reality.
BGJ: And the thing about it is, we all have an opportunity to frame things in a way that makes us really fun and really exciting. I think when we get unrealistic with where we want to go, when we come to the game, I think I mentioned this earlier, nobody's watching bad YouTubers. Think about this. The people that you dig, they're good. They're good on camera. They tell an engaging story. They cover tech in a way that's very thorough. They do their homework.
And when you start getting used to that, as far as their results, you're in really dangerous water because you're getting started, or you're not really putting in the effort or the passion level behind it. And you can really derail yourself and get disappointed. But when you're like, hey I'm just getting started, and I've got a lot to learn. I barely know how this camera works, but it looks a lot of fun. And you know, I'm going to give it a really good go. I'm going to publish 100 videos, I'm not going to look back. Yes, I want to grow. Yes, I'm going to expect those results, but I'm not going to expect them in a way that it breaks me.
And when you get to that point, the journey can be very rewarding. And the thing that I notice is people don't fail. People don't fail at YouTube. What happens is they give up on the dream and, or, they just kind of dial it in. But when you have the opportunity to really add that passion that you're talking about, when you show up and you try to make the best video on the topic of the new iPhone, or the camera quality of the iPhone, or this new diet that people are, it's just a big trend and this diet is amazing. And when you do a little extra work, people will notice and if you attack YouTube in that manner, one day a video's going to connect. And then at that point, you're going to know that you know what, this is possible.
LS: But don't expect it day zero, and certainly don't expect it to happen by miracle. You've got to be very, very specific, and very focused on your attention and what you're doing. Major businesses didn't happen overnight because they happened to be in the right location. They happen through sheer work determination, lots of failures, lots of adjustments and then doing more of it when they find the thing that they click with and that really, really works. So those are some really, really great, great advice. What's got you really excited at the moment?
BGJ: My next video.
LS: See, look how focused that was.
BGJ: Yeah, so I've always got a bunch of videos rattling around in my brain. Sometimes I think about them for a few months and start to work on it, and then I edit and I publish. And I have one that I feel has the opportunity to really connect with the audience. And what's interesting is I've built it around the topic and the title, and then the thumbnail. And once I had that in line, I made the thumbnail first, and I got the topic. And then I started really looking at the content. And I started going through you know, did I hit all the elements?
Well, the thumbnail, I know that thumbnail converts, because I've got thumbnails that are converting, it's the same style. Okay, check. How about the title? Yep, I've published videos, get a lot of clicks, the audience is very excited. Okay, check. Again, check. Well, how about the content? Okay, great. What am I going to cover? What are the points I'm going to make in the video? And these are the things I've been working on. And structuring my videos in this way has really allowed me to ultimately publish more videos that drive more views.
Because I'm building it around the most important parts like click through rate. We're hearing so much about click through rate, so if that's the thing that's important, maybe I should focus on achieving a high score with that, which means great title, great thumbnail. And once I have those in place, start building the video, scripting the video, bullet points, and so on. Again, I think that's the passion that you mentioned, it's so important. And I love the game. And Liron, the truth of the matter is, I'm going to publish this video and I'm going to give myself 50/50.
It might work, I might publish a video that drives a thousand views a day, or not. And you know what, either way, it's going to be great because I know that I'm going to publish another video that drives at least a thousand views a day. And I'm confident I can do that because I've gotten to where I am because I've continued to move forward and tried to focus on, again, not how do I get subs. If you're just asking how do I get subs, you never really get to the heart of the matter which is, I've got to gain the skills needed. I've got to become the YouTuber that I have to become in order to drive the views, gain the subscribers and grow my channel. And then show up and talk at these events, and hang out and have the brand deals, and make the money and enjoy the lifestyle that I desired years ago. And I've worked hard to make that happen. So, that's the thing I would really share with people that it's so important to focus on.
LS: It's funny how it's a mindset thing where so many people want those subscriber numbers, and that's the only thing that they're focused on. Versus, let me do a video course, let me do a better editing course, let me buy some better software. Let me improve my skills, because those are transferable. Those are something I can improve on, those are the kind of things that are going to really elevate me to the level, and then the subs will come. And then the views will come.
BGJ: 100% yeah, you really hit the nail on the head. Slowing down enough to say, okay, I've really got to focus on the elements of a video. So, you mentioned video editing, I've got to edit the video. And my thumbnail has to be on point. And how I speak to the camera, how I deliver, how engaging my video actually is. These are all elements, and if the elements are bad, the video is bad. And the results you get are, again, bad. Which sucks, but you can't get blood from a rock. It is what it is. And the sooner you get to focusing on what matters, the sooner you get like, views are great, I want more. But I've got to focus on this thumbnail game because that can really have a big impact.
LS: Absolutely. And we can see, I mean, we've both been doing this for a very long time. You can see a channel and you can instantly see just from the thumbnail alone, someone who understands it, and someone who doesn't. Someone who's just taken a screen grab, because it was an afterthought, versus someone who's shot 20, 30 different thumbnails until they got the right one. And that's the difference between someone who's got the skills and someone who's just trying to hack the algorithm again.
BGJ: Yeah, absolutely. And Liron, I think as we kind of wrap up here, one of the things I want to share is if you're just getting started, if this seems overwhelming to you, at the end of the day, it's your job to upload videos. And one of the things you can do no matter how new you are, no matter how overwhelmed you may feel, is you can break it down. You can keep it simple, and you can upload, and you can know hey, I've got to figure out that niche thing. Hey you know what, I've really got to figure out those thumbnails. But I'm trying to learn editing, and the editing has got me stressed. And the lighting is really overwhelming. So right now, what I'm going to do, is I'm going to work on my lighting.
I'm going to focus on my lighting and I'm not going to worry about all the things until I get my lighting solved. And at that point, once I start understanding proper lighting, then maybe I'm going to go on and improve my audio. Or improve my thumbnails. And when you do that, what happens is you really start to leapfrog your skill sets. Because you're focused on one thing.
I see so many people that are like, I'm so overwhelmed, there's so many things, I don't know where to start. And they never start on anything. They have zero focus. And because of that, unfortunately, they don't drive the views.
LS: Or evolve. And that's why they attend every convention, they're constantly in research mode and they never actually take the second step. Going from zero to one is harder than going from one to two. You've got to actually make that happen.
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Liron Segev, aka TheTechieGuy, is the Director of Customer Success at vidIQ, an internationally celebrated Digital YouTube Strategist working with some of the largest brands and YouTube influencers in the world. Over the past 20+ years, his work has taken him to South Africa, the UK and the US where he frequently speaks at conferences and provides expert tech commentary for various print publications, radio, and TV while actively running his Tech Blog.