YouTube Superstar iJustine Interview: How to Rock Your Channel

YouTube OG iJustine has been publishing content since 2006 so she knows what it takes to succeed as a creator. She gives us her advice on collabs, how to build a community around how-to channels, and how creators can help others right now.

iJustine has built up an incredible brand presence across all the major social media platforms. She's always evolving, always staying that one step ahead, and making the content she creates absolutely relevant to today's audience.

With 6.3M subscribers, and over 1B views, she knows what it takes to succeed on YouTube and she’s here to give us some golden tips. Such as why collaborations are amazing but not essential, how bringing your personality to the content you create is a winning formula, and how creators can help their community during this current pandemic.

Click on the podcast to listen, or read the full show notes below.

iJustine: YouTube | Twitter | Facebook | TikTok | LinkedIn

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iJustine - How to Rock Your YouTube Channel: Full Transcript

Liron Segev: Today I am super, super excited to be joined by one of my personal favorite tech YouTubers. I've been watching her content since way back when I lived in South Africa. She was actually part of my inspiration for moving to the US - so I’m a bit of a fanboy. She has over 6.3 million subscribers on YouTube, 1.4 million subscribers on Instagram and absolutely killing it on TikTok. She brings us this amazing tech content. She does it in her own way. iJustine, welcome to TubeTalk.

iJustine: Thanks for having me. This is so exciting.

Liron Segev: For those who've don't know, how would you describe iJustine in a tweet?

iJustine: Oh, I would say my content is basically me. So when people are coming to my channel, there's nothing really specific that you're going to find. It’s mostly tech stuff, but I also love cooking, travel, my dog. My channel is based on my interests, but also around finding a community of people who also love the same things. But for the most part, I love tech, so that's what I've been focusing a lot on the past couple of years.

Liron Segev: How long have you been uploading content for?

iJustine: For about 10 years. Well, it's maybe 14 at this point. It was 2006 but over the past couple of years I just kind of stopped the daily vlogging because it was just beyond exhausting, and it just was not fun anymore.

I always said when I'm doing something that isn't fun anymore, I have to pivot and shift to find something else, and creating more consistent tech content was great because it was still topical. You have a quick turnaround time but I'd still be able to infuse personality into it while covering tech in a really fun way. It's been really fun and it's just crazy to see it all kind of come to this point.

Liron Segev: And it's evolving all the time. I mean if you look at your content from years ago compared to your content now, it's completely changed but it still has you. You've always been the pivotal part of your own content. Do you find that you naturally tend to evolve your content or has this been something to appease the YouTube algorithm?

iJustine: I think it's natural. I mean, obviously, we focus on the algorithm. We think about it, we blame it for everything, even though sometimes I know it's like, "I know that video wasn't that good," so it was technically my fault, but I'm going to blame the algorithm. But I think it was just a natural progression because I've always created content about things that I liked and enjoyed.

I've been loving TikTok so much because I can actually sort of go back to being like my crazy weird self, which is always what I started doing on my channel, and then I started taking it a little more seriously to cover tech in a more serious way, but also really fun.

But I think just making content that is fun is just really what's important, especially now. It's just finding something you're passionate about and just going back to, making it fun, and not worrying about the production as much because it's like, let's just get the content out. It doesn't even matter at the end of the day sometimes.

Liron Segev: Yeah, it's a great platform. It gives you the ability to express yourself and just create stuff that you love. I mean, you've seen a lot of creators who really put out so much content just trying to appease that YouTube algorithm and more content and more content. Getting those views, it's absolutely draining.

iJustine: Yeah, I mean back in the day I used to have four or five different channels. I mean I ran a gaming channel, which I posted and edited three videos a day, and a daily vlogging channel, and then a daily iPhone video channel, and then my main channel, which I was posting on three times a week. So I was posting 40 or 50 videos a week, by myself, with zero help. So that's when I was like, this is crazy. It got to be too much.

Liron Segev: That's the kind of commitment you have to have your channel to be able to grow that.

iJustine: But I realized it wasn’t healthy. I think when you are younger you do take your health and energy levels for granted. Now I'm like I can't stay up all night and edit. I really try but I can't.

I think it's knowing when you have to take a step back and you have to focus on yourself that’s really important. And sometimes I'm like, I'm not going to meet this deadline. I'm not going to meet the embargo, and if I do I'm going to make myself sick, and I'm not going to be able to function tomorrow. So I think it's just realizing do what you can but you have to come first or you're not going to be able to be present for your audience or your work.

I definitely have ups and downs as most creators do, and what I will do is if I'm feeling great, I will shoot a bunch of videos, some of them which won't be timely.

I just posted a video on my channel that I shot back in June of last year. I was like, well, I might as well just post it because we were making lattes at home. So even just having those spare videos for times when you need it is really crucial. I can breathe because I know I have a piece of content to put up.

Liron Segev: Well, that's a great golden tip right there.

iJustine: Yes, it’s good to try to just have a couple of extra videos.

Liron Segev: Okay, we have to address the elephant in the room. One thing we hear time and time again that it's too late to be a success on YouTube. It's too saturated, I've missed this boat, I should've done this years ago.

iJustine: I should have joined TikTok a long time ago, and I didn't. But it really isn't ever too late because you really don't know what's going to happen.

I think being able to find that audience, especially around something that is heavily searched for, you could hop on that, and make content that answers people's questions, especially in the tech space.

If you have that same question of how do I pair my Nintendo Switch Pro controller to my Nintendo Switch, somebody else has that, so simple things like that that you can create content around, it ends up being evergreen content. I don't think it's ever too late. I mean it's definitely more difficult, so I think just keeping consistent and really enjoying what you're making is a huge part of it.

Liron Segev: The one problem that a small channel is going to face is they're not going to be first, right? We all know that the bigger channels, the bigger influencers, get invited to the events, get access to devices early, and therefore by the time a device launches, they're going to get those initial juicy eyeballs and views right off the bat. How does a small channel try to compete in that space at all?

iJustine: I mean, I think a lot of the bigger creators do get things. There are even products that I won't receive and I know my friends will get it. So sometimes I'll be like, okay, "Well if I know I'm getting this phone after them, I might skip the unboxing because, yeah, you've seen it. Sometimes you can even make jokes and be like, I know you've seen a bunch of videos, but here's my take on it.

Adding that personal spin and opinion I think is really important. And then find something else fun that you can do. For me, a lot of times for some of the new Samsung devices or some of the newer phones, everyone has done an unboxing. Everyone has already seen that.

So I'll take it out and actually use it, and I'll use it either for a week and I make a video vlogging, actually using the device. I think just showing what it can do as opposed to just reading off some spec sheets and stuff like that that people have already seen and heard. People want to see what it does and how it actually works.

Just try to do something different than what everyone else has already done.

Liron Segev: And make it personal. That's what I love about your channel. It's always been about you. It's all about how technology fits into your life. So if you can't be first, well, bring it back to you. What do you bring to the device? What do you bring to the table? What do you bring to whatever your channel is about that's not a copy of somebody else, but it's you, and therefore that's what the audience connects with.

iJustine: For sure. Yeah. There are even some lenses that I was trying to find, and I was like, "Why is no one using the lens? I want to see it zoom. I want to hear what the lens sounds like if it's on the body of the camera and there's a microphone attached. It's these weird things that I will end up testing out that I'm searching for myself. I was like, "Man, this lens would have been so cool. Why is no one just giving all the weird information that you wouldn't."

I want to know what this auto-zoom sounds like if I'm not using a microphone on it. It's strange things like that that you're just answering the questions that you would probably have. I guess that is the bigger tip.

Liron Segev: I love that because if I have that question, probably thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of other people have that same question and don't make the mistake thinking that, "Hey, it's obvious. I know how to do this, therefore everybody knows how to do this." That is absolutely not the case.

Let’s shift gears slightly and talk about collaborations because that has to be one of the number one questions we get asked time and time again. You've done a lot of these collabs with a lot of big people, and a lot of small creators. What is your take on this whole must-do collaborations? Are they absolute must or are they kind of nice to have?

iJustine: It definitely helps, but I feel bad because I think people will think, "I have to collab. I have to collab." But at the beginning of my channel, I didn't really collab with anyone. It's surprising, I'm an extreme introvert so I'm like if I can just sit in my house. This whole isolation quarantine thing? I'm thriving. This is what I love. It's hard for me to go out. So I'm like now that thing that I was forcing myself to go outside, I'm like, "Oh, great."

I don't want people to think that you have to collab because I think building your channel yourself, you don't ever want to be like, "Oh my gosh, well, I owe my entire channel to so-and-so for giving me all these views and subscribers." I think that sometimes it is hard too because then that person I guess feels like, they're like, "Oh, well, I made that person," if that makes any sense at all.

But I think collaboration is definitely fun, and to be able to work with people that you look up to and people that you enjoy creating content with is, is amazing.

But, at the beginning don't focus on trying to get a collab because if you're a smaller channel and you reach out and you say, "Hey, I'm going to be starting my YouTube channel soon. Do you want to collab? I mean most likely, I'm like, "Okay, cool. What kind of content are you going to make?" I feel like as a bigger channel you have to be careful with who you collab with because you don't know what that person is going to do.

Will they have a scandal in the next week? Will they do something crazy and then put your reputation on the line? So I think people do have to take that into consideration. Is this a risk? Is it a liability? It's weird because a lot of people don't think about that, and it's something that I do really think about a lot.

I love collabing, and I definitely have a close collab circle of people that I continuously work with. I think they're fun and I think it's just trying to find a fun way to do them,. But don't feel like that's the only way to do it. It's helpful, but you can do yourself.

Liron Segev: You don't have to. That's the message. It's nice to have. It's awesome if you do it with your friends and you're really adding value to each other and that's great. But is it a make or break thing? Definitely not.

iJustine: No. I mean, I think there are people that can go their entire careers and not have to collab. But if you can, I'd definitely recommend it. But if somebody turns you down or doesn't write back? Nope. Keep trying.

Maybe try in another five months or another six months depending upon how your channel is doing. Because again, you got to be careful, too, about who you collab with.

Liron Segev: When it comes to YouTube, it's kind of divided into those two sections. You've got the entertainment and you've got the how-to, right? Now entertainment's obvious - we subscribe because we want more of that content.

But it's not so obvious when it comes to the how-to channel. I mean, once I've told someone how to unblock the toilet, there's no real reason to subscribe to me, right? So especially in the tech space, once you've told someone the 10 best settings for the Galaxy S10, well, they've got it. That's pretty much they're done. So what would make someone stick around in how-to channel and actually subscribe for the rest of those videos?

iJustine: If they're doing it in a fun way. I mean, if somebody is teaching me how to do something and they're really funny, I'm like this is great. This is good content, it’s fun, and you're getting an answer. But a lot of these channels you can base it strictly off search. Even if you don't have a lot of subscribers, you can continuously be getting that content through recommended videos through search.

I actually don't look at my analytics that often because it stresses me out. It's really funny because years ago when I first started, I mean, I was obsessed. I would look, I'm like, "Oh these are down. This isn't working out." And then, finally, when I stopped looking, things started looking up.

I mean, I check every once in a while just to see, "Okay, monthly views are down. That's okay. It's like a slow tech time." I think just not becoming obsessed is really a difficult thing, especially when the analytics are all there. But with analytics, everything changes every single day, so you can't ever really pinpoint a specific thing. You just have to be able to change and pivot.

Really speaking to your audience and reading comments, I think, is the best way to gauge what they like, who's watching, and how they found your content.

I think one of the joys of having a smaller channel is you can actually have those dialogues. You could really get that feedback and actually have conversations. Whereas now, I mean, I try to respond to a lot of the comments, but then you get a lot of spam. You see those same people continuously commenting, so you can engage with a lot of people that are consistently there. But it gets harder as the channels get bigger, and you do sometimes feel disconnected from your community.

That's why I'm always active on Twitter and just always reading comments. I think it's just trying to value those moments with your audience because a lot of those people that have started watching me from the beginning, they're still there. I still see them and we have this bond from back in the day when I used to live stream.

Liron Segev: Your community is your audience, and it's really important to serve your audience, to serve that community. At the end of the day, they're the ones who are going to watch your videos. They're the ones who are going to comment. They're going to be the ones who are going to share, and those are the ones that you build a relationship with.

The more you engage with your community, the more you ask them questions, the more you put surveys up, you put polls up, those are the viewers who are going to tell you what they want to see

iJustine: For sure. Yeah. And I think you can develop this audience that has the same interests as you. I mean, I probably have made the mistake of making a lot of different content. Since I've been doing that from the very beginning, I think it helps my channel. It's helped, but it's also kind of hurt because I think a lot of people that have that one consistent thing, people know what to expect. Whereas mine, I mean, they don't really know.

But, I just think sometimes we all think too much about what we're doing. Just create and have fun. And I think TikTok, again, it's crazy and weird, but it helps me go back to that simple way of creating. Whereas now, I mean, we'll overthink a YouTube video. We shoot for an entire day, like 12, 18 hours doing an iPad review and then edit for like another 20 to 30 hours and then post it. I'm completely dead, and then I make a 15 second TikTok. I was like, yeah, that was fun.

Liron Segev: It's a lot of work. People really don't see that.

iJustine: A lot of the tech stuff is a very quick turnaround time. I'm so grateful, though, that I've been working with my friend Tyler for the past, I guess, a year now. He edits maybe about half of my videos now, which is great.

For the most recent iPad review one, we'll kind of tag-team a video where he'll start the rough edit, and then he'll be halfway done, and then I'll work on the first half, fine-tuning that, and then he'll be working on the back half. He sends me the back half and then I put them all together. I was like, okay, that's just definitely saved a lot of time. It's just interesting to see these different ways of working.

And it's not even sometimes about the gear that you have. It's storytelling. This was a really fun test. For my birthday this year, I was quarantined, so I thought, "What am I going to do?" So I filmed my day and then I wanted to teach myself to edit on LumaFusion on the iPad. So I'm like, "I'm going to shoot this entire video. This is my birthday treat to myself. I'm going to learn how to edit all on the iPad, shoot everything with the iPhone.

It was actually the best birthday ever because I just learned a skill, learned how to edit with an iPad and basically proved to myself that if you want to have a YouTube channel you just need a phone. You can create everything on that.

Granted, I did edit on the iPad, but LumaFusion is on the iPhone so you can do anything just with an iPhone. It really, I don't know, it just kind of like brought me back to, wow, this is a really powerful device. I mean, it was a 14, 15 minute video that I edited, added voiceover all on iOS. It was like, this just proved you don't need to have everything. Just get yourself an iPhone, you're set.

I mean, I'll sometimes have a crazy expensive camera and I'll be like, "Man, I've messed up the settings. I'm just going to use my phone." And it works.

I think a lot of things, obviously, lenses do make a difference but, for the most part, you really can do everything on the phone. I don't know. I'm just really excited about the future of mobile tech because it's amazing.

Liron Segev: We've spoken a lot about your channel. We've spoken about some amazing tips that you can give creators to be really inspired to understand it's not about the gear, it's not about the collaboration. It's about good content. It's about bringing yourself to the party. It's about sharing good value and engaging you with your community.

Liron Segev: As we’re wrapping up, if you could put something up in Times Square or a tweet for the whole creator community would see, what message would you give us?

iJustine: Be kind. I think that's just such a huge answer. I mean, especially right now, I think just being kind to people. A lot of us tech people have the knowledge to help homeschooled kids who don't know how to set up their computers.

And for elderly people who don't have access to a computer to be able to talk to their family who are now in isolation. That's been something that I've been focusing on right now is trying to find the easiest way to get this tech to the people and get the knowledge to them on how to use it.

So I think, right now, if somebody out there has an extra webcam, an extra microphone, or an extra computer, reach out to your community and find somebody who can use that.

That's been my big personal project, just reaching out to people around and just trying to be kind and help, because I think right now is a time that we really all have to be kind because that's really the only answer I think.

I'm definitely excited for the future of tech, and I think everything that's happening right now, I think it's really going to change the way that we interact. I mean, the technology is going to change and adapt to the way that we need it.

I mean, I'm excited about the future, and I'm just really just humbled by how kind people have been to everyone. It's been really cool to see. And then, again, if there are people that you know that you can help with any extra video tech that you have because some of these people can't be connected.

That's where it's breaking my heart because if they don't have the means to get this tech, they're not able to do their homeschooling. So it's like how do we get this tech in the hands of people that need it?

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