Did you know there are three main laws of YouTube success? Find our what they are in this week's TubeTalk podcast with special guest Sean Cannell.
Finding success on YouTube can be very, very difficult and exceptionally frustrating. But when you consult with hundreds, if not thousands, of YouTube channels, you tend to pick up some patterns of channels that are set up for success and what they did right to get there.
On today's episode of TubeTalk, we dive into three levels of YouTube success with Sean Cannell. Sean doesn't just simply have one YouTube channel; he has Video Influencers with nearly 500,000 subscribers, Think Media with 830,000 subscribers, and you know what? Just for fun, throw in his personal YouTube channel with about 100,000 subscribers. He also coauthored one of my favorite YouTube books, which is YouTube Secrets. He has years of experience, lots of consulting, and lots of brand experience. In this podcast you will learn:
Why the best time to start a YouTube channel is right now
Why the first law of YouTube success is research before you press record!
Why ranking your video content is crucial to success
How to generate reocurring revenue
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Liron Segev: Sean, thank you for being here on TubeTalk
Sean Cannell: Man, after that introduction, I don't even know who you're talking about. I'm tired after that introduction. That sounds exhausting.
Liron Segev: I do not know how you do it, and on top of which, you have an event that you run. Sean, what's got you ridiculously excited about this YouTube world that you're in?
Sean Cannell: You know, I don't think my excitement for YouTube has changed ever since I first discovered its power and its potential. I am empathetic to the fact that there's demonetization and whole channels dealing with, whether it's copyright issues or the community guidelines shifting, but all that to say, I think it's important we never forget that YouTube is a free platform that I know I didn't create the internet, I didn't create YouTube, and yet, it's changed so many of our lives. It's changed my life and people listening right now. I just have immense gratitude.
I know Susan (Wojcicki) didn't start the company, but if I ever see her, I want to hug her and give her flowers as well as the whole team because YouTube is just this amazing place. It's not problem-free, but it has so much potential, and that potential still exists at such a major level right now.
Liron Segev: Let's rewind the clock a little. Tell me about the time you decided that look, YouTube is for you. What happened? What were you doing at the time when you saw this amazing potential?
Sean Cannell: Well, I'll go just a few clicks before that. That was when I got into video. I started video in 2003 just because I was volunteering at my local youth group in my small town, Marysville, Washington, an hour north of Seattle. I picked up a video camera and Adobe Premiere and I started making these weekly video announcements. They were terrible. We always say your first videos are your worst videos. I know every creator can relate to that, but think about what a blessing it was that I was actually putting out these videos that were playing Wednesday night at youth group, and they weren't even posted online yet. I was cutting my teeth. I was getting through that season of suck. I sometimes say, as I walk through the season of suck, I will fear no evil because you kind of go through the season of suck.
I got started in video, and then fast-forward a couple of years, the first YouTube channel I actually worked on was my church's. Now, this is actually shocking because churches are usually years behind, sometimes a decade behind, but yet, for whatever reason, in our small town, our pastor was pretty progressive. Twitter came out, YouTube came out in 2005, but he wanted to start a channel. So in 2007, I'm uploading videos. There's 15-minutes time limits, so we're turning everything into two and three-parts and trying to figure out thumbnails and titles and all that stuff. I didn't know anything, but think about how early that was.
So by 2009, I started a business called Clear Vision Media, and started helping businesses build websites. I did video production for them. Started working with authors and speakers. In fact, that's when I met Benji Travis, the co-author of YouTube Secrets, at the YMCA in our small town. We started to connect. He said, "Hey, my wife's this famous ..." Famous? He's like, "My wife's got like 150,000 YouTube subscribers." I was like, "You're a liar." I didn't say that, but I'm thinking it. Not in our small town. What are you saying, bro? But then I went home. I was like, "What the heck?"
Early on, we actually worked together. I was a videographer for them and doing video production way back in 2009, 2010. That's how I kind of got into YouTube. All the way in 2007, once I started watching some of the early YouTubers, Julian Smith ... Come on, remember the Malk video? Some of that stuff. Early guys. I was so excited about the platform. I didn't know what I was going to do or what the future held specifically; I just knew, man, I see something happening here. I am passionate about it. This seems so powerful.
And now years later, that has come true. That's not just financial or business. I mean, friendships, relationships. Our relationship, us being at events together.
Liron Segev: And it's international. Go to sleep at night here in the States, and wake up in the morning, and there's 100 comments on your videos from people who've just woken up on the other side of the globe, loving your content, want to engage with you, felt the need to leave a comment on your video. Are you finding that today people starting out have it much easier or is it maybe just very different today to when you got started?
Sean Cannell: My answer here is kind of unique. I think it's equal and here's why: I think that, for me of course, I had the early adopter advantage because I got into YouTube years ago, but I also had a lot of disadvantages. There wasn't channels like Video Influencers or Think Media, so we were completely just trying to figure it out - testing, experimenting, wandering through the desert, making mistakes, trying to figure it all out.
And on top of that, even the technology was significantly harder. Now we're talking dual pixel auto focus, tap your face, all these things that are so much ... I mean, people trip these days. They're like, "I can't believe the camera doesn't have IBIS. I can't believe it doesn't even have auto-focus." I'm like, "Bro, that's new. Those things are just a few years old." We had to manually focus our cameras and guess what? Just take the extra time to do it.
I think that it's equal because while being an early adopter is easy with less competition or easier, there's still so much to learn. Now you flip it, you can learn faster, you can skip whole skillsets. Editing is speeding up. Even the production, renders, exports, all of that's speeding up. You've got better information, you've got proven roadmaps from people that have gone there and can help you get there further faster, but you do have increased competition. Of course, every day competition is more increasing.
I think it comes down to this: it doesn't matter. Is it too late? Can I still break through? Is the weather perfect right now? It just never will be perfect.
The best time to start a YouTube channel was in 2005. The second best time is right now.
Liron Segev: People just need to do it because so many people who are stuck in this cycle of research, analysis paralysis. I'm going to watch another video. I'm going to take another course. I'm going to download another PDF. The best way to do it is to do it. You want to share a message? Just share the message. Simple as that. Do you find some common denominators amongst all the people that you speak to, the people that you consult with, which almost are like the laws of success of YouTube?
Sean Cannell: Yeah. I actually have a training called the Three Irrefutable Laws of YouTube Success. A caveat here is that my point of view and who I help the most are teachers, coaches, consultants, people with a message, people that want to leverage YouTube to probably drive some kind of business result, and also impact people. While that can blur into kind of your new school creator, the way I summarize it is I help business-minded content creators.
These laws are also based on the fact that YouTube is a search engine. Now, I'm aware—I think that actually everybody can leverage that fact at different points in their YouTube career, different videos that they upload, but it's not maybe as relevant for peer entertainment channels or things like that.
The final caveat, these are two very good, specific examples, there's sometimes comedians and musicians will ask me, "Well Sean, how can I use these laws as a musician?" I say, "Here's the trouble being a musician: your music is either going to be good or bad and people are either going to like it or not. If you title your video right to rank it for such and such cover of a song, look, that's going to be determined by if the market likes that or not."
You have a little bit more of a, in my opinion, challenge. If you want to be a great comedian, you just need to get it out there and grind and put those videos out, or a musician, you need to level up your craft.
I actually think, and this is why I love teaching it, that it's a much more forgiving path to share your expertise, to share your knowledge, to actually be a guide to people that are just a few steps behind you. Whether that's in homeschool, and these are the people in our community, Heather Torres is actually on our team. She's helping people with homeschool. You've got Steve Panate who's helping people with real estate, leveraging YouTube to grow his real estate business. You've even got Dad Verb who is video production and freelance video per day. He's got his own agency, but then he does a Dad Verb channel, parenting channel, to review strollers and different things.
So almost a way to put it would almost be practical. Not that I don't help motivational and inspirational people, but that I love the practical path of YouTube, and these laws apply to that, and they start with this: Number one: research before you press record. That's the first law.
It's everything. That's why I love tools like vidIQ, and KeywordsEverywhere.com, and why I love even YouTube itself. That gives us those predictions and the auto-complete. That can give us insights into the exact videos that we should make.
The biggest mistake most people make when starting YouTube is they don't know what videos to make, to talk about, so they just turn their camera on and just randomly pontificate their thoughts or just make random content.
I've learned that random acts of content typically don't work, unless you're a meme account and being random is your message or you're a comedian and that is what has worked for you. You want to be strategic, specific, starting with the end in mind.
When you use the powerful tools of research, you can not only come up with the specific video ideas you should be making, you also are now going to be leveraging the fact that YouTube is a search engine, and so that you are giving your content the best possible opportunity for not just getting views when you upload it to your subscribers, but being viewed by new people for weeks, months, and years to come, leveraging YouTube search.
Liron Segev: Absolutely. Research, research, research, research. So many people pick up the camera, will film. We've all seen them at events. They're walking around with their GorillaPods and filming for hours on end, and then they have three SD cards full of hours of videos. Now what?
But if they did their research, and they knew that they wanted to come out with five tips to make your YouTube videos better, they'll shoot five tips and they're done because they know people are searching for that. I cannot stress this enough. Totally echo that. Research, research, research, unless you really have a following on TikTok or Instagram and you're leveraging that audience to come across to YouTube. If you're starting at zero, research is so, so key, and YouTube is that search engine that wants to marry a query, a question, with an answer. Be the answer. Love that. Hit us with law number two.
Sean Cannell: Law number two then is rank your videos. The purpose of your research is to get that video ranked. Now, here's my definition of ranked videos: there's of course search, which is if someone types in an inquiry, homeschool versus public school, in the search box, and then there's the top result, there's a second result, there's a third result. Those are ranked videos. They're ranking for a particular search query.
Heather Torres, on her homeschool channel, when she made that video, it ranked in search based on how she created the content and how she optimized it, and therefore, she grew her channel so far to 13,000 subscribers, which are focused homeschool moms that are wanting to just learn and grow. That is ranking and search.
But we know that, actually, the largest traffic source on YouTube is suggested videos. What I've discovered is I define ranking as both. Ranking is search and suggested. Ranking simply means that you're getting seen. Suggested video, in a way, is a ranked video. It's YouTube saying, "This is worthy of being put on the sidebar because of the minutes watched, because of the consumption," and that's the one-two punch of YouTube. When I look at my traffic, a lot of times we get about 1.5 million views a month on Think Media, and about 40% is usually suggested videos and 20 to 30% is search, but the practices, the tactics, I believe, of doing search right, gives you much more leverage for suggested. When you get that mix right, you'll leverage both and you can experience the dream.
When a video is ranked, the dream, for me, is views while you snooze. Think Media gets roughly 2,000 to 3,000 views every 60 minutes, whether I upload new videos or not. Crazy powerful and that is search and suggested traffic predominantly.
Liron Segev: Well, there's a couple of things on that. Firstly, you said that her channel's got 13,000 subscribers, but you also said a very, very keyword here, which is focused. It's not a numbers game, which is the vanity metrics is driving me insane, which people just think, "I've got to get subscribers. I've got to get subscribers. Sub for sub. Let me just get as many numbers of my channel as possible." If you're doing this as a business and you're looking to grow a course, you're looking to get more people through the front door of your shop, you're doing it with a business intent in mind, it's not a numbers game; it's the right number game. So it's the intent that's absolutely critical to that. I love the idea of focus and in fact, and I think you actually told me this once, that nothing will suck the joy out of YouTube faster than comparing it to other people.
Sean Cannell: Absolutely. You know, what's interesting is I think it would probably be encouraging for people to hear that you also never know what's going on under the surface. You never know what someone's CPM is. Someone might be getting 10 million views a month, but their CPM is 50 cents, and you might be getting a fraction of that, but your CPM is $10. Furthermore, you don't know what's happening on the backend of their business. So many people judge on the surface.
This comes our way a lot. They'll say, "Man, you don't need to get views," like some troll gamer kids somewhere, and I'm like, "That's fair." Because if you compare that to a Jake Paul or a PewDiePie, then correct. Compared to that, I'm just a blip on the radar. But let's flip that. 1.5 million views a month is insanity! That is a crazy amount of traffic and this 16-year-old, is actually probably a 36-year-old living in his mom's basement with four subscribers, is commentating on how many views we're getting, also not realizing that there's an entire business model behind that's generating multiple seven figures.
You just never know what's really happening and too many people, yeah, they're judging by the surface. They're judging vanity metrics, what's happening on the surface, and they don't really even understand how the game works.
Liron Segev: All right, so that was two laws. What's the third?
Sean Cannell: The third law is then reoccurring revenue. To recap, number one, research before you press record. Now you're going to make the right video for the right audience. Then you want to rank your videos. We could share resources. Obviously, the book. We didn't really go into how, but if you could pull that off. Number three though, you need this, you want to have reoccurring revenue in place.
Why are these the laws of YouTube success? Well, by the definition of these three laws, success in my mind is freedom; you're using YouTube for leverage. You're achieving that goal of generating revenue from YouTube, not like you would generate revenue from going to work at your job. I worked at Red Robin, a hamburger place here in America, for ten years. I was a busser, I waited tables, and so I knew what it was to go in and I traded time for money.
What I'm after here with these laws is leverage and freedom because if you are making the right videos, they're ranked in search, therefore they work for you when you're not working, but only if law number three is in place, and that is reoccurring revenue is set up.
Now what's cool about YouTube is if you are getting views while you snooze, like our friend Sonny so famously said, if you're doing that, then you are making ad revenue. That actually can be pretty great. We could maybe do a conversation some other time about feature YouTube accounts or niche YouTube accounts. I got a friend, he's got 15 channels. He's making $100,000 a month just in ad revenue. He's not in the videos. So ad revenue actually really can be a strategy, it can create leverage of course, and people realize that, but in a significant way.
But then I'm into probably the second biggest one is affiliate marketing because if videos are relevant to affiliate marketing where you're doing product reviews, tutorials of some kind, when those videos are viewed while you're sleeping, you also are making sales through affiliate marketing.
I will say this: I'm less of a fan of brand deals, and more and more, my mindset has been shifting about brand deals based on some of my mentors and stuff, and that's just my personality. I hate having a boss. If I'm working with four or five different companies, it increases my stress level because I've got four or five bosses. While there are just very few brands that we love working with because it's just a great synergy, it's almost like family, my favorite is really taking your power back and building a business on your own terms.
That monetization strategy is sell something. Your income is correlated by the amount of buy buttons you have on your website. The listener might say, "Well shoot, I don't even have a website." Okay. Well, then I don't know. I guess you could send someone to a PayPal, but thing one. Thing two, how many buy buttons are on your website? Well, zero. Well, if your income is correlated to the amount of buy buttons you have on your website, then we might have a problem of why you're not making any income.
What's really exciting, because again, going back to vanity metrics, there's that famous article, I'm sure you've brought it up before, many of your listeners have probably heard it, Kevin Kelly, 1,000 True Fans.
Look, you don't need a million subscribers, 100,000, or even 10,000; but you need 1,000 true fans, and however you serve them, whether that's through a box that comes out every quarter, some kind of a digital course, some kind of merch, some kind of physical product, some kind of white label or outsource or eComm, if you want to create this freedom business embracing the power of YouTube online video, and impacting people in the process, then setting up reoccurring revenue streams is hugely important.
This might go without saying, but I actually kind of want to emphasize it here. It's this: you need to make more money. A listener might be like, "Yeah! Tell me about it. That's a moot point." But no, I actually think that a lot of creators, that's why we help business-minded content creators, and a lot of content creators are not business-minded.
Our views towards money are very interesting, right? It's how we're raised. We can sometimes have different mindsets. When I say you need to make more money, it's because I hope that you're listening and you've got a big dream, you've got a big vision, you've got a vision that's bigger than money, but it's going to take money. I think that sometimes, we have that starving artist perspective, and that can really put a lid on us as creators.
It's like look, you need to make revenue because doing this is hard. You've got to hire a team eventually. But also, you've got to make revenue because is your vision bigger than you? I've heard some people say, "You know what? I only need enough money for myself and my family," and they view that as contentedness, which I respect. In my opinion, that's selfish. Why? Because there's more needs around planet earth than just you and your family. So if you have the ability to create content, build your influence, generate revenue, make way more than you think.
People are still like, "Okay. Yes, I would love to." But I actually think it has to fit into the framework of why because reasons come before results. A lot of creators plateau, I even think they burnout because they hit a certain level of success. This YouTube thing can rush in and you can experience success, you can experience money, but they don't necessarily know how to manage it or know how to build a business, or how to actually keep their own fire lit. Sometimes they drift a little and maybe because their vision needs to expand.
So anyways, I just encourage people, when you set up that reoccurring revenue, now you can build more momentum. How amazing is it that you could actually pay somebody else and help feed their kids, build their family, that you could bring people together with you and actually build a movement all around this fact of YouTube? But the only reason that's going to happen is if you create leverage because you can't be working 60, 70, 80 hours a week trying to feed the YouTube machine, grinding it out, as a solopreneur forever. You've got to create leverage. You want to rank your videos and have reoccurring revenue streams so you can continue to make a greater impact and go forward with your mission.
Liron Segev: The more money that you make, which by the way, I don't understand why people almost feel bad for saying that, it's almost like they hide their head in shame, go, "Well, I'm making X-number of dollars per month out of my YouTube." Good. That's the point of this because conferences cost money, travel costs money, meeting costs money. Would you suggest that people go into YouTube with the end in mind? In other words, go into YouTube thinking of this as a business and therefore everything revolves around a business mission?
Sean Cannell: I would suggest what you said first, absolutely, that they should start with the end in mind, but I wouldn't say that it has to be a business mission. I think that what you said first is what's so important. Having real personal clarity on the fact of is this meant ... This is actually a conflict, not really a conflict, but it's something that we talk about in our community a lot in the sense of people, they want YouTube to be their full-time job, but they pick a niche or something that couldn't even support that.
Here's an example. Only around 8,000 people a month search for underwater basket weaving. Now actually, you could make underwater basket weaving a full-time job. Of course you could, you probably could build different revenue streams, but only 8,000 people a month means the market size is not very large.
You've got to start with the end in mind. If you say YouTube is a creative outlet for me, it is something. You might have a target to say, "You know what? I hope to earn an extra $5 to $10,000 a year so that YouTube is going to be our hobby channel and our vacation money," and you set a clear vision like that, you put a level of hustle in it, you love doing it, but you don't ... I mean, I'm not saying you have to build a team and scale.
It's completely predicated on your vision, but if you flip it because that's where people are out of alignment; people are saying, "Yo, I want to be a millionaire," and then they start an underwater basket weaving channel and they're frustrated because it's not growing as fast. The market you're in, your niche, your business model, your plan is incongruent with your aspirations.
That's probably the way to summarize it. If you can get clear ... I heard a quote, "Definitiveness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement." It's hard to figure that out. It's easier said than done, but that's why, in our book, chapter one, the first law of the seven secrets of YouTube success is clarity. Start with the end in mind.
Yeah, you just want to be clear on your goals, and I think something to consider is be clear on your goals of the whole picture. If I'm open, I know that YouTube, for as much good as it's done, it's pulled out probably some negative tendencies in me as well. The algorithm is kind of vicious. And I don't mean vicious by not ranking videos. It is a content monster that ... I actually really feel like, unchecked, it can drive you to burnout. It can drive you to just keep feeding it, keep hustling, keep grinding.
Early on, when we were talking about comparison and vanity metrics, I think that's the other thing to consider too. What is your vision for your lifestyle? What is your vision for balance? What is it you ultimately want to build? That's so personal.
A lot of times though, we don't think through those things, and we just charge the one mountain of views or of a target of money, but you want to think about that big picture.
Kind of to wrap back to that, that's why you also don't really want to judge because some people are choosing to work 60, 70, 80-hour weeks on this, and of course their numbers are probably going to be superior. But if you just say, "I want to upload one video every two weeks. I figured out a few income streams because I want to be able to have more time and margin with my family. I've got a bunch of kids," everyone's in different seasons and the people I respect the most are the people that, really, they're thoughtful and they just have wisdom about what's right for them. They figured out ... It's no judgment. If someone wants to crush it all day long, or on the other side, someone is on a slower pace, well, of course the numbers or the growth is going to be incongruent there-
But that person may be living the most wise life that's more to be modeled because there is kind of a dark side to this YouTube thing that can almost take over your lifetime and mind, and we can forget how to be human.
Liron Segev: Exactly it. It's your personal situation. You cannot compare someone with four kids, mortgages, school fees, all of those bills that come with it, to someone whose mom and dad are willing to pay for their lifestyle whilst in the Hamptons, they're making vlogging videos. The two worlds are so far apart, your responsibilities are different, your time-constraints are different. Again, we're going back to the whole stop comparing, run your own race, but be smart about the race that you're trying to run. My problem with the algorithm at the moment, and I'd like to hear your thoughts on this, do you think that because of the algorithm, it's almost killing creativity because we have to play to the way the algorithm wants to work?
Sean Cannell: You know, that's an interesting question that's pulling out, maybe, some deeper stuff here. To me, that is the conflict of artist and businessperson. So, the first answer's yes. I do actually think, at some level, it is killing creativity.
I do think that, if we get super introspective, we could just take that because obviously, people that are super creative, certain artistic videos, certain creative videos that are outside of the box win, still, on YouTube here and there or whatever, but overall, no, I agree with you because what YouTube is saying, especially now with YouTube Studio Beta, how clear it was ... I threw up a video that's a little off-brand and it's like you're down 56%, your subscribers have no interest in this. And you're like, "Well, when was it just ... What if I wanted to create a video?"
That's what I mean about the tension between being an artist and being a creative or a business-minded person. I think that is, it's interesting. It's almost like two different personalities, but you're good if you can blend them.
I'll tell you this. For me, this is the way I do it. I'm not saying this is right. I am on YouTube for a mission that's bigger than YouTube. I'm on YouTube to accomplish things but my life is not about just YouTube. Therefore, in my opinion, business actually takes priority over creativity. Some people, that would rub them the wrong way and that's why maybe they don't want to follow me or whatever because they're just more like, even though extremely business-minded, they may be more like Casey Neistat. They just maybe want to follow a creative, kind of that person who is such an artist spirit, so they resonate with that.
That's completely fine. Whoever you vibe with. But I go into YouTube, it is my passion, I love helping people, but I also want to create leverage so I can spend time with my wife, my family. Does that make sense?
The reason artists are often times starving is because they're not thinking about business marketing. I know that went a lot of ways from the algorithm, but yeah, it's kind of almost an unfortunate, but I understand it. I respect that it's about economics and ad revenue, and yeah, I think you have to play in that framework.
For the artist that maybe feels they can't do that, it's like well, there's not much you can do about it. You could just share it on another platform. Keep trying to share it. Try to get your art seen.
I actually think that there's a great book that can blend the two, and I don't think they have to be at war, and it's called Real Artists Don't Starve by Jeff Goins. I definitely recommend that because I think that to maybe even have a better relationship with the algorithm. There's probably a lot of people, maybe if they've got stress in their marriage or with their partner, maybe they're stressed with the algorithm. We have a love-hate relationship. There's some drama in our relationship.
I think Real Artists Don't Starve is just that idea that look, the game is the game, however it changes. A, you need to pay attention. You need to be always current and updated and aware, and that's why this podcast and stuff you do and tools are so important. You've got to pay attention. And then what happens, and Gary Vee talks about this a lot, what creators and all of us and business owners, you just get romantic about things. You wish it was a certain way. You wish that artists were more ... We wish independent creators were more represented in YouTube Rewind or something, and we can just wish, and complain, and worry about everything that's going on.
And by the way, YouTube should be paying attention, as they are, and making changes and not offending the creator community. But we're living in the area of just offense, excuses, complaining, blaming algorithms. It just is what it is! You just have to succeed or not in that framework and not wish it was some other way.
Liron Segev: And we live in such an echo chamber that we create for ourselves. We follow the same people who think the same as we do, so it's the whole round circle, tap each other on the back situation. When you go, "The algorithm sucks. YouTube hates my channel," you're going to get a whole bunch of people saying, "Yes, the algorithm's bad. Yes, they hate your channel."
It's this echo chamber, but it's also about the balance. So yes, you want to put out a creative message into the world, but don't forget, YouTube is just a tool. You might do better on TikTok. You might do better on Instagram. It's just a leverage. It's just yet another lever that you can pull to get your message out there. But I think blaming the algorithm for all the ills of the world, I think that's a flawed logic too. There's a balance between business, talking to your community, engaging with your audience, and what's this thing called the AI and what's it going to do to my metadata and what's it going to do with my video?
I do find it interesting because it is almost a conflict, but we have to understand it, and I agree that when you log into your dashboard, your new Studio Beta dashboard, and it's very glaringly obvious in your face saying, "You're down 50%," what? Now you've got to start thinking, "What am I doing wrong?" Well, it's not that. You've just got to have a different perspective. Think of that video in isolation compared to your channel as a whole. I found, and I'd like your opinion on this as well, do you find people look at individual videos and then make decisions based on that and therefore, "My channel sucks. It didn't do well. I'm quitting"? Should they be looking at a channel as a holistic tool versus just one-on-one videos?
Sean Cannell: Absolutely. I think that not only looking at your channel as a holistic whole, but also not judging too soon. My biggest recommendation when people are starting YouTube is I say, "Look, not until you get to your first 30," but what I want to say, and sometimes say is, "Actually, not until you get to your first 100 uploads do I think you're even starting."
It's almost like if you go to the gym — which I don't do, so I don't even know how I have this information — it's almost like if you go to the gym and you haven't been in years and you're out of shape, not only do you not have the form, but you could barely lift the weights, so it's all ugly. Your arms are wobbling. You walk in, everyone's like ... Some gym shark dude's got the hat, shirt, Beats headphones, and you're coming in, you don't have the right clothes, the right form, you don't know anything. You're scrawny. Whatever. You've got to show up 100 times to even actually start exercising right.
The same thing's true on YouTube. I see people that they're like, "Yo, your stuff doesn't work. I've been following Video Influencers. I can't believe your stuff doesn't work." I'm like, "Okay. Fair. Let me look into your stuff." Click through on their channel. Bro, you have three uploads in the last six months.
You can't even say whether it works or not, and even if you had 30 uploads, what I still say is true. I think that you're still in a learning, self-discovery, finding your voice, refining your message, getting through the production process, the workflow process, and most people, that's actually the season where they get stuck. There's the start season. Immediate follows it is stuck. You start, and then you're like, "Okay. I put out a video. Took me five hours, ten hours, fifteen hours and it got five views. Shoot, I make more money at my minimum wage job." Of course you do because you're just starting.
But over time, you're going to create that leverage and build that momentum. If you can press through that season, there's so many rewards on the other side. But that goes back to the beginning of the call. You have to walk through the season of suck, I will fear no evil. It's like hey, I'm in it, man.
This the season of finding my voice. So I would agree, look at it as a whole. And then the thing, if we play both sides though, when you said is it based on one video, you probably even know more about me than the algorithm, but from what I've been studying lately, YouTube seems to be in this place where, this is what I'm hearing, that if you have two bad uploads in a row, that it's going to affect that third upload in relation to how much velocity it got right there, like it said it Studio Beta. To your point, yes, the algorithm, unfortunately, not only is it killing creativity, but it's actually almost forcing your content in a certain direction. It's saying, "Look, only give us what works. Therefore, if that means changing your message or only talking about certain topics," it's frustrating, and that's the tension of only being business and algorithm-minded.
But on the flip side, again, it is weird to judge that because we could take it so personally and forget that okay, hey, this is a free platform that you're making money on.
I do think it's interesting. I come from a faith background so I follow some different, of course, preachers online, and I was actually hearing one talk about Instagram. I think it illustrates the same point because of course Instagram has an algorithm as well. What he was saying was look, there's certain clips of messages that are just kind of going to naturally go viral. They're just the shareable thing, they're the thing that everyone wants to click like on, and they just blow up. He goes, "And then there's things though that why did this get 50,000 view.
Unfortunately, the algorithm or even the way people interact with it, it's not always going to go viral, but it's important.
Can you blend the two? That's the dance. Can you then put out what YouTube wants and what placates your subscribers and whatever, and then also balance that with weaving in the stuff that you're like, "Man, I don't know if this will be popular, but it's important so I know I need to publish it"?
Do you find that on your channel with some of the tech stuff you used to do way back then is still delivering money into your bank account?
Sean Cannell: Of course. We're going to generate over $200,000 profit just from the Amazon associates program this year. Which is insane. I think that's $4 to $6 million in top line sales for Amazon, which is something by the way, you talk about branding and writing about bios and things, and I actually have helped all kinds of clients that have different types of businesses, but early on, that was one of my authority positioning pieces. I said, "I've helped my clients, at the time, generate millions of dollars because I've helped Amazon generate millions of dollars." It is totally true. Directly.
Almost in a direct sales type of environment because content is putting that out and then generating those profits. But yeah, so many older tech videos, older videos from affiliate marketing. People don't know a lot of times I've got a channel, Sean Cannell, my personal channel. I'll sometimes review health products. There was one, it was like a green juice powder, and my friend Lewis Howes mentioned it to me so I tried it for a while, loved it, found out they had an affiliate program. But what I also like looking for is programs that are outside of Amazon's 4 to 10%. In this case, this was 30%.
And continuity. If they subscribed to a bottle a month of this green juice powder that you mix with water for health on the go and when you travel, and that's one of my main passions personally. I put this video out, put the affiliate link in the description below. It actually went through ClickBank as an affiliate network. Put that link down there. That video has generated $200 to $300 a month, roughly $3,000 a year, for four or five years.
And I made it four or five years ago and it just keeps bringing in ... That was absolutely one of the ways I got to where I was today was video-by-video. It was almost like I viewed those things like a project and it wasn't just a video, but once I worked on it, got it in place, on the one hand, $300 a month when you start out, that's not going to pay your rent and feed your family and feed your kids, but how many of those videos, those mini-projects could you get in place?
Well, now you can start seeing how practical it could be to have $1,000, $2,000, $3,000 a month. Now that's life-changing money. Now that's you doing this full-time. That has been a major strategy for me and that's why I love ranked videos and these laws because when you get these things in place with reoccurring revenue like that, it's a complete game-changer.
Liron Segev: Game-changing is what this is all about. It can be. People want their dream, but I always question how hungry are they to get it? And how often are they going to turn around and say, "Well, this algorithm is screwing me. I'm now giving up" versus people who say, "You know what? Okay, so it was a bad video. Next. I'm going to just carry on doing it, carry on hustling"?
At the end of the day, we just don't know what the algorithm is going to pick up and you could have old videos. It happened on my channel. A four-months-old video that I've long forgotten about just blew up, almost doubled my subscriber base in 20 days, just from that one video alone. What do I do? I double-down. Make more of the same content. The algorithm loves all of that. It's my top search term now on coming to my channel.
My point is that you just never know, but if you're not willing to put in the effort of this whole overnight success takes a couple of years situation, you've got to put in the legwork. You've got to put in the groundwork for you to get those rewards so you can get that passive income. A couple of hundred bucks of month is not a lot, but a couple of hundred bucks times lots of videos, well, that's amazing. That is beautiful money that is some people's vacation money, some people's college down payment. It could be anything and those can be life-changing kind of money. Is there anything that's got you super, super pumped right now?
Sean Cannell: You know, as we are in this deep conversation with YouTube, I'm super pumped about online video in general, and here's my list.
YouTube's still number one for me. Number two for me, close number two and three, is Instagram video and LinkedIn video. I think that these are some tactical stuff for people right at the end too. I think Instagram TV, it was dead. It just kind of was. But once they started distributing in the feed, it was revived, and now it's a big deal because now there's that crossover. If you're executing well with content in the feed, you get that 60-second preview, and then they can complete watching it over on your IGTV. It's all blended together.
I don't think it should surprise us that Instagram wasn't just going to roll over and stay down. They are in the boxing ring. Of course, going to continue to evolve.
I think there's a lot of opportunity, especially dare I say, dare I even utter these words, that if you are at absolute zero, that there's some, I think, wisdom to consider Instagram, or number three, LinkedIn video as ... That's probably the most open season, the most favorable, organic reach algorithm right now. As this message has been ... For me, it was 2018 VidCon when they did the first-ever LinkedIn video creators panel, and I was like, "Phew, yeah right. What is a LinkedIn video creator? What is this?" And I was early to see that. Those people were early because it'd only been a few months old at that time, but LinkedIn, and we're there. We're being present in those places.
YouTube number one; LinkedIn and Instagram, in either order, two and three; number four, paid video ads. We didn't even go there. Maybe it's a conversation for the future place.
But paid traffic. Again, when I say it's irresponsible for you not to be on YouTube, I'm talking to the person who is on the sidelines and on the fences right now for not going all-in in this most remarkable time in history. We're living through the greatest communication shift in the last 2,000 years, and organic, free ability to build your influence, income, and impact is a major reality, as we've talked about, on YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn. But paid is this whole other piece that's actually missing from a lot of entrepreneur's businesses. There's a learning curve. You've got to figure it out.
By the way, you'll lose money. You'll make mistakes. We spent $10,000 on ads once that barely ROIed. It was super frustrating, took a ton of energy, we were super exhausted, and that kind of thing could make you disillusioned and say, "Huh, should I do this anymore?"
But my friends, paid LinkedIn ... Not actually LinkedIn for me, but that's relevant too. Paid Instagram video ads, static ads, Facebook, YouTube. We do all of those in our business. Loved or hated by some people, but those people who love and hate, I've never ran into any of those people at the bank. None of them have ever ... We've crossed paths. I've never seen any of them there. People can critique it, but look, if you believe in your message and your mission, and that's what I think it comes down to, and really, that doubt could be in people's hearts because if you really believe in your message, your mission, your products, your motives, your intentions, then why would you ever put a cap on how many people you could reach with your message, your products, your mission?
Therefore, paid traffic, it's not just a 10x your business type of thing; it's a 100x, 1,000x your business type of thing. That's what we've experienced. And by the way, we do both. It's not either/or in our opinion, it's both. As an entrepreneur, I say, "If there are tools that are available to me, why would I not leverage and maximize them?" That's one of those tools.
So I encourage people. I'm so pumped about online video. I'm playing in probably those four verticals the most. I'm YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, and paid ads across the board. That's the four horseman of the apocalypse right there if you can execute on those well.
Liron Segev: Well, on that note, if the rest of us can't even keep up with one platform, Sean's channels, Sean's platforms are absolutely something to keep an eye on because one thing's for sure: when he figures this stuff out because Sean will break them, and when he figures how to do it, he'll simply make a video about it teaching the rest of us. So Sean, where can people get a hold of you? What have you got going on that people need to be aware of? Hit us with some links, some things for us to check out.
Sean Cannell: Yeah. YouTube Secrets, definitely if people haven't checked it out. It's on audiobook now. TubeSecretsAudio.com, if you don't have Audible. I'm sure most do, but you can always grab it free when you do an Audible trial. Check that out.
Think Media. Just go to the YouTube search bar and type in the word Think Media. And Video Influencers, Video Influencer. Think Media's going to help you with tactics and strategies, but also a lot of the tech gear, the lighting. And then of course, Video Influencers, weekly interview show. Do that with my good friend Benji Travis and co-author of YouTube Secrets.
And then finally, I just love connecting with people. Twitter, ironically, I had to bring it up, but I think Twitter is a social platform to me. It's the networking party, it's the chance to hang out with people and have conversations. We definitely publish there, but I love conversations the most and not just publishing content, so @SeanCannell. If you find me on Twitter, I would love to connect with you there if you've got questions or anything, especially if you listen to this podcast. We talked about some really cool things, so let me know if you listened to the podcast and let me know if you have any questions. I would love to connect.
Liron Segev: Sean, thank you very much one more time. Amazing chats. Always inspiring to us. Whenever we get together, it's always amazing stuff.
Sean Cannell: Thank you so much. The honor is all mine.
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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 YouTube Channel.