Forbes is double-dipping in ad-revenue by publishing about Kylie Jenner. First they made the entire world read the headlines that Kylie is the world’s youngest self-made billionaire.
Months later they published that Kylie and her family lied about her billionaire status and that she is not yet a billionaire. Instead, she’s worth only 900 million.
I don’t know about you, but I see no difference in being a billionaire or being worth 900 million. If she’s worth 900 million, she will be a billionaire in 1 or 2 years.
Instead I thought of something else when I read the news. I thought that an instagram influencer is (nearly) worth a billion dollars. She’s built this empire using Instagram, a Shopify store, and by private labeling products.
I also thought that Facebook only paid a billion dollars for Instagram while today an Instagram influencer is worth a billion dollars.
I also thought about TikTok posting 17 billion dollars in revenue in 2019 and over 3 billion dollars in profits. And the fact that they have over 1.5 billion monthly active users, more than Instagram as well as Snapchat.
I thought about gaming influencers/streamers who are making tens of millions of dollars per month using Twitch, YouTube, etc.
I thought about influencer marketing. I thought about riding along the wave of a powerful platform such as TikTok.
And I thought how being early in riding that wave can make you a millionaire or even a billionaire.
I have known, met or spoken to 100s of influencers till date who were early in riding the wave on Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Facebook, Instagram, Snap, TikTok etc. I know a large majority of them are worth at least hundreds of thousands of dollars.
If you saw a platform taking off, figured it early, and cringed instead of taking advantage, it was your loss and it will continue to be.
I can’t stress enough how useful YouTube is. For people who already use YouTube for learning, this was an obvious statement. But I know this isn’t an obvious statement for everyone. Most people do not use YouTube for any kind of learning. In fact, “Education” is one of the least viewed categories on YouTube. I learnt Facebook advertising almost entirely from YouTube.
I try to read books, but I honestly can’t read too many. Like most millennials, I have a short attention span. I also like to learn about many different topics in as short amount of time as possible so I rely heavily on video learning.
Over the time, I’ve tried to develop a skill to watch most videos at a much higher speed. Initially, I found it difficult to grasp and absorb information at any speed faster than 1.25x. I started watching all YouTube videos at 1.25x a few years ago. These days I watch most videos at 1.5x or more. I recommend that you start doing that to fit more content in your life.
After I developed liking for the faster playback, I started to hate the fact that this feature wasn’t available on Facebook or most other video platforms, or video embeds on many 3rd party websites.
I use a chrome plugin called Video Speed Controller which not only allows me to watch videos at faster playback on most websites, but also allows me shorter increments (0.1x) compared to YouTube. This allows me to watch some videos at 1.4x and some at 1.6x which was previously not possible by using YouTube’s native speed controller.
While this has helped me save great amount of time, I recommend that you slowly increment speed over a course of time otherwise you’ll miss a lot of important content.
I recently asked my friend Usama from Tech With Usama to write down the process that he developed over time to be able to grow his channel. He was kind enough to share his experiences and has written a run down of how you can start a YouTube channel. Following blog post is written by him.
Starting your own YouTube channel may seem like a difficult process at first, but after I pen down my own experience, you will find it easier than ever.
If you are already enticed by the idea of starting a YouTube channel, you probably have an idea of the content you want to produce, but the journey ahead may keep you from taking that first step. I will break the entire process into small parts with the results that I achieved.
Why do you want to start a YouTube channel?
Ask yourself this question first of all. There are two kinds of people on YouTube. The first ones who do it just for the sake of self-satisfaction, they love to create content, creative content to be precise. And then there are the ones who want to opt for it as a profession. Both these need a lot of passion, without passion it’s just a car without wheels. Combined with passion, you can achieve greater results of course.
Creative people are not result-oriented, they just keep on making the content that satisfies them. On the other hand, professionals are data-driven, they keep figuring out what’s working and what’s not in order to act accordingly. If you fall in the first category, just go ahead, start making the content, go-on-and-on until people start noticing you. But, it’s an entirely different process for anyone who’s looking forward to making YouTube a source of income. To achieve results faster on YouTube, you have to be data-driven.
Choosing the content
After deciding that you want to be a professional YouTuber, the next thing is choosing the content, the category you want to work in. YouTube primarily has 12 categories including Travel, Lifestyle, Science & Technology, How To, People & Blogs, etc. These categories do not limit you to a specific content type, you can just choose what you want to do and fit in there.
While choosing the content-type, you need to make sure that you are passionate about your choice. You have to be an expert in your game. For example, when I wanted to start my YouTube channel, I knew that my passion was technology and I ended up making a tech channel that falls in the Science & Technology category. Choosing something that you are not passionate about will not affect you initially, but it will become monotonous at one point. So take your time, and choose this wisely.
Choose the language
Language plays a big role on YouTube, and language has different impacts on a channel. Before choosing a language, you need to know what audience you want to target. Bear in mind that the audience will have a direct impact on your revenue. If you want the audience from countries like the US, Canada, UK, and Europe, you will probably go with the English language. But if you are going with Urdu/Hindi, your audience will be limited to India, Pakistan, and a little bit of Bangladesh. So, do the maths and decide on the language.
Remember that the Indian/Pakistani audience can still watch your English content, but the US, UK, European audience will not be able to listen to your Urdu/Hindi content.
Choose the audience
What age group and gender you want to target with your videos? You should know that beforehand. Take a look at YouTube’s stats and create a sketch of the content for the most-active age group on YouTube.
Preparing for the channel launch
The next step is to prepare for the channel launch. For this, you will simply open YouTube, sign-in, and create your channel. By default, your YouTube account itself is a channel, but you can choose to create new channels under one account. Here is what you have to do in order to prepare the channel outlook.
Decide the channel name, don’t go for a too-long & confusing name. Keep it short, sweet, and simple.
Write an interesting “About us” with your contact email.
Make a very eye-catching channel thumbnail/profile picture.
Design a creative channel-art picture.
Preparing for the Video
Before you cluelessly start shooting a video, you need to write down a script. You need to know what you want to work on, and what you want to speak. A script that the video will follow. You will compile your clips according to the script. If you don’t want to create a script, list down the important points at the least and shoot accordingly.
Video Tips and Length
When you start off on YouTube, it will not let you publish videos of over 15 minutes. So, for a good amount of time, you will make videos under 15 minutes, but in my opinion, you should make videos under 10 minutes. Keep your videos short, straight to the point. If there is a video that requires 30 – 40 minutes, break it into small parts. Do 4 parts of 10 minutes each instead. This will give your channel more content.
Do not waste a lot of time saying the things people don’t want to listen to. Getting straight to the point will make users stick to your video, and watch it until the end. The video should be interesting enough to keep a user’s interest alive.
As far as the video resolution is concerned, the minimum resolution your videos should have is 1080p. You can go up to 4K if your gear supports it.
Your video should have a very good description attached to it. The description should give users an idea of what your video is all about.
Dedicate a small part of your video to explaining what your channel is all about and what value you are offering to the viewers. Encourage your viewers to subscribe to your channel.
Thumbnails are the most important part of a YouTube video. Thumbnails can actually determine a video’s success or failure. Here is how thumbnails work.
When you publish a video on YouTube, it goes to YouTube’s homepage and appears on the user’s browse page. If your Thumbnail is good, people will click on it out of curiosity, and if the video next to the thumbnail is worth it, they will stay and stick to your channel.
If one user comes to your video from YouTube’s browse section, YouTube will automatically recommend it to next 10 users, if they come to your channel too, it will go on to appearing on the screens of another 100, and the chain goes on.
Thumbnail dimensions should be 1280 x 720
Thumbnails should be eye-catching.
Text concentration should be minimal on the thumbnails.
The thumbnails should be self-explanatory.
Symmetry among your thumbnails will give your channel’s homepage a very nice look.
Always target the keywords that suit and explain your content. The keywords should placed inside the Title, and all over your description. You can also put them in the form of hashtags. Up to 3 hashtags can be placed in a video. Keywords should be placed in tags too.
Content Quality vs Quantity
A lot of beginners often confuse themselves between the Quality vs Quantity debate. Here is how it works.
If you focus on quality, a video is going to require a lot of time. In this case, you may not be able to go over 3 or 4 videos a week. The fewer videos you upload, the lesser are going to be your chances of hitting the right chords on YouTube. What I mean is, initially, you have no idea of what will bring traffic to your channel and what do people exactly want to watch, and this is where quantity takes over.
Quantity over quality will open a whole new world of opportunities. You will be publishing more videos on YouTube, targetting more keywords, providing a lot of content, a lot of choices to the viewers. If the users develop an interest in a certain video of yours, you can build your entire channel around that one video.
When I say quantity or quality, I do not mean that you do 2 videos or 3 videos a day. These are not blog posts, these are videos that require a lot of hard work. In this case, you should try doing 1 video a day and stay consistent with it. Out of 10 videos, 1 will work and open your doors on YouTube.
After you publish a few videos on YouTube, start watching the channel analytics. Keep an eye on the geographical location of the users, user age, traffic from non-subscribers, subscriber conversion per video, and everything else that matters.
Hitting the right chords
Keep an eye on the video that’s performing well. Not down the keywords that are bringing traffic to that particular video and develop more content covering those keywords.
All it takes is 1 single video for a YouTube channel to make its place. Let me explain that further.
I started creating content on YouTube in October 2018. From October 2018 to March 2019, none of my videos crossed even 10,000 views. It was mid of March when one video of my channel brought in 2,000 views in a single day, this was huge and I was overwhelmed. I stretched across the same content and produced over 15 videos on the same topic, and this is what happened.
My channel started going up in March and hit the highest views in the following months, and it never lost the ground after that.
From October 2018 to March 2019, I had only 700 subscribers, but in the following month, my Subscribers count went up to 5,000.
To see this day, I had to make over 100 videos. It was a difficult process, but consistency is the key. After these results, I never looked back and had already given up the thoughts of giving up.
But the question is, how do you make 100 videos? Well, Quantity over quality. Make 10s of videos around the same topic, and keep making the videos until your day comes.
To monetize a YouTube channel, your channel needs to have 1,000 Subscribers 4,000 watch hours. This can be achieved by using the Quantity over Quality approach too. If one video of your channel finds its way to YouTube’s homepage for a good amount of time, it will take a couple of days to bring in 4,000 hour watch time and 1,000 subscribers.
Fighting with “Others have done this, I shouldn’t do this” thought
This thought is disastrous. It has killed many dreams, and I suggest you not to do the same. It doesn’t matter if others have made a video already, you still need to make the video you want, in your own style, telling people what they need to know, and say what no one else says. Not making a video just because someone else has already made it is an extremely absurd approach, so avoid that at all costs.
Fighting with negative comments and dislikes on YouTube
The Internet is a ruthless place and so is YouTube. There is going to be a number of people who are not going to like your content for many reasons, but it doesn’t mean you should back down. The number of people liking your content and encouraging you will always be higher than the discouraging ones. Take the negative feedback positively, and improve your videos further to a point where people stop disliking them.
Channel branding tips
Add a “Subscribe” animation to your videos urging users to subscribe.
Add a “Like” animation as well.
Also, add a 150×150 “Subscribe” button to channel’s lower-left corner, this appears in the channel’s advanced settings.
Use an “End Screen” showing two of your videos to drive the audience.
Share your videos on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and Pinterest.
YouTube Channel Growth
The channel growth prospects entirely depend on the linguistics. If you are making Hindi/Urdu content, your channel will grow faster in terms of subscriber count because of the relatability factor. The competition is still low, as Neil Patel mentions in his vlog.
YouTube is extremely competitive in the English language, and I have experienced this too, but the point is, English is the language you want to work in if you want to make YouTube a passive income source in a short period of time. You can definitely make a lot of money from the Urdu/Hindi content too, but it’s going to take a lot of time, a lot of effort.
So far in my experience, my English channel brought a higher number of views and fewer subscribers while the Urdu channel brought a higher number of subscribers and fewer views. The English channels’ Views to Subscriber ratio was like 100:1 and for Urdu, it was 100:20.
Does Gear matter?
If you are creative, the gear doesn’t matter. Your creativity will overcome the lack of gear. Shoot with whatever you have, and build your base before you invest in your YouTube gear. But if you don’t have very good video-skills, the Gear can certainly overcome the lack of skills and this requires a lot of money. In my case, I didn’t have any skills beforehand, and my blogging career enabled me to invest in the Gear before I made my first video. My first 50 videos still didn’t look good, I only started learning after I had made over 100 videos. This was a slow process but I eventually learned and realized that this can be one approach too.
Motivation for beginners
A year ago, I was a beginner on YouTube. I sought help from videos of other YouTubers. Furthermore, I read a lot of posts, and even after doing all that I found myself clueless. I only got a hang of YouTube after I made my first video. Making my first video also made me realize as if that was the hardest thing ever. Here is how the YouTube process takes its course.
Hardest things on YouTube
Making your first video.
The very first video will take a lot of time. Maybe a day, a week, a month, or a year before you finally sit down and write down that script. After the first video, you build confidence to do more of it, and you eventually start making the content on a daily or weekly basis. Remember that it’s all about that first video.
Killing the Camera-shyness.
With the first video, the camera-shyness will also come in your way. It’s very good if you are not camera-shy, but if you are, just shoot down the first video thinking that the camera is your friend and you are talking to it. It’s very important to kill it as the face value will build a better lock-in with your viewers.
Reaching your first 100 Subscribers.
The hardest thing on YouTube is reaching your first 100 subscribers. This is a painful process and you need to wait patiently. I’m talking about the organic 100 subscribers. Wait it out and don’t lose hope.
Reaching your first 1000 Subscribers.
Reaching your 1000 Subscribers will not be as difficult as reaching the first 100. In my own case, it took 3 months to reach 100 subscribers and another 3 months to reach 1000 subscribers.
Reaching your first 10,000 Subscribers
Reaching the first 10,000 subscribers will not be as difficult as reaching your first 100 and 1000 subscribers. Once you reach 10,000 subscribers, YouTube will open its doors for you. Your channel will see rapid growth after this given the amount of content you are publishing. Take a look at what Casey Neistat has to say.
Consistency, perseverance, persistence is the key to a successful YouTube. So what if you are not getting views, never give up and keep making the content unless YouTube starts suggesting your content to people or the people start noticing your channel. I emphasized the fact that it takes only one video to hit it, and that cannot be done without consistency. Stay consistent, keep making content, and your consistency will improve once you start seeing results.
Find the gaps
It is not possible that what you want to work is all-already done. One of the keys to success on YouTube is the ability to find the gaps. Go through the content that is similar to your idea and see what others are doing. Instead of focusing on the things they have covered, find out what they have not, and that is your room to play. Play within those gaps and make a mark on YouTube.
Camera – Start with whatever you have, your phone, action camera, or whatever you fancy right now.
There is a lot more that I’d want to write down, but it’s important not to confuse the beginners with a lot of knowledge all at once. Starting your YouTube channel is a great idea keeping in view how big YouTube is. As of March 2020, YouTube makes up about one-third of the Internet’s population. YouTube’s search engine is as big as Google now. Millions of videos are uploaded each day and billions of views are generated. Youtube’s application is vast and using it rightly can help you in a number of ways.
Ask your questions in the comments below, I will try my best to answer each one of them with the knowledge I have gained in 1.5 years of my YouTube career.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been head over heels in love with this new indie song called “Rung” by Shamoon Ismail.
After listening to this on loop for a few weeks, since yesterday I’ve been listening to it on 0.75X playback speed. It’s mellowing the feels down even further.
But I also found an interesting thing that Shamoon is doing to make it easier for his fans to subscribe to his YouTube channel. He has created a subscribe link that you can use especially externally to create a 1-step subscribe funnel for your fans. So you could use this link on your other social media presences such as Instagram or Twitter. The link looks like the one below
Platforms of all sorts incentivize businesses to depend on them. Most of my internet businesses were/are heavily dependent on Facebook, Instagram, Digg, Google etc. You got to drive traffic from somewhere, right?
The influencers making hundreds of thousands claiming to be indie artists are dependent on platforms like Instagram, Facebook & Youtube. It would take one bad email to snatch away their dreams, career, livelihood and fame. Platforms are risky, and the bigger your business is, the less dependent you need to be on a platform.
The list of causalities is too long for me to name. The list of my own business casualties isn’t short either.
It’s okay to be on a platform. We all need them. They are the power houses of the internet and fuel growth for all of our businesses. But it’s one thing to drive business from the platform and it’s another thing to build business on a platform. In an ideal scenario, we shouldn’t be building businesses on platforms. In some situations though the reward is so high that we and others embrace the risk that comes with the platforms.
When I started this blog, my father asked me that why am I self-hosting it. By self-hosting, I need to take care of some small bills, and also need to maintain it myself. In comparison, I could have started writing on Medium instead, which is what my father expected me to do. It can be easier to subscribe, higher email delivery and open rates, free recommendations and surfacing of my content on the platform to other medium users, no cost of hosting content, safe, higher up time, better SEO etc. There could be many benefits.
But when I see content-locker on Medium that tells me that I like to read a lot and hence have reached my reading limit, it’s a sweet reminder of why I chose not to use a platform like Medium.
I’ve finally decided to share my life stories. It took a long while for me to agree to write and share and I can not leave my breadcrumbs on the mercy of Medium or others. I use platforms because there’s financial incentive. As there is no financial incentive with this blog, I decided to self host it even if it means lesser readership, lower email open rates and everything else that I’ll be missing out. In the long run, I think, I will miss out more on a platform.
As I mentioned earlier on this blog, our first e-commerce store was launched in 2016. Our primary customer acquisition strategy since then has been through Facebook ads.
While I had run Facebook ads a long time before, it wasn’t until 2016 that I spent a major budget. Since then, almost everything about the ads has changed. Many new strategies have been introduced and a lot of strategies that I learnt in 2016 are irrelevant.
Case in point, tech moves really really fast. Digital marketing moves even faster. And I’m curious what value could business schools add in your marketing career in this day and age.
It’s likely that my perspective is limited too, since I’ve never been to a business school. But help me understand, do business schools, including international, teach anything about this kind of marketing? If they do, how do the teachings stay relevant since the minimum length of a masters business degree is 1 year. Let’s not even talk about the bachelors degree here. In my opinion 1 year is a long enough time in digital marketing to unlearn everything and learn new things.
In my 15 years of career as digital marketer, I’ve changed my job roles 15 times. If I hadn’t, I would have found myself with no work. My primary source of revenue came from selling ads and our publishing company Socialoholic mastered that area. Only a few years later, we found ourselves buying ads instead. Now all of our revenue comes from buying ads.
In digital marketing, if you’re not pivoting every few months or even weeks, you’re being left behind.
So if you’re looking for a marketing school, let me tell you one. It’s where I went to. It’s called YouTube. The course length varies from 4 days to 4 weeks. And after that, you can get shit done.
While I acknowledge that internet is the biggest game changer of the human history, it is still not what it was supposed to be or what it can be.
In the offline world, all humans aren’t born equal. They are born in certain conditions where their lives are driven by their socioeconomic circumstances. Their lives are dictated by their place of birth and half of what they can and can’t do is written in the stone. Sure they can break the chains and the barriers to come out stronger but that happens very seldom.
On the internet, everyone has the same opportunities. In theory, though. You could get on YouTube and make a living regardless of where you live. Hundred of millions of people have benefited from such global opportunities that didn’t exist 30 years ago. But these global opportunities are still not provided equally to everyone, although they are marketed as such always.
For example, YouTube first launched their monetization partner program in 2006 for select countries but it wasn’t until 2016 that this program was launched in Pakistan.
Facebook restricts fresh Pakistani ad accounts at Rs 1000/day spend ($6.46 on today’s exchange rate) while a fresh US account is restricted at $50/day spend. Restrictions are lifted more quickly for the developed world, and less quickly for the emerging world. The scrutiny of AI is much harsher for us than it is for the developed world.
In summary, AI is no different than the visa issuing officers that judge us more than our counterparts elsewhere in the world.
On the bright side, in the offline world, if you try hard enough, you can sometimes circumvent these restrictions. You can sometimes emigrate or obtain a better travel document by meeting certain criteria or just by wanting to have it bad enough.
Since internet is almost always better than the offline world in every regard, you can also circumvent a lot of these restrictions if you try hard enough. In fact, on the internet, like everything else, this circumvention is often not as hard as in the offline world.
I met Zeeshan aka ZSM nearly 10 years ago. I met him after reading this article. He just had his 100th story get on Digg’s front-page which was a very big deal for me since I hadn’t had my first at that point. For people who joined social media later, Digg was like Reddit, only bigger.
To put things in numbers, 1 story getting popular on Digg would roughly mean 50,000 unique visits. 100 popular stories would approximately mean 5,000,000 visits. Assuming an RPM of $5, which is quite low, this should have generated $25,000. In 2008. By a 17 year old. Before Facebook, Twitter & YouTube were a thing.
Zeeshan also happens to have a rare disability called ‘rickets’ that has caused deformation to almost all the bones in his body. But I’ve found him more ‘able’ than most other people I know, including me. Since he doesn’t talk a lot about his disability anymore, I’m not going to do any further talking either.
Zeeshan’s story is extra-ordinary. What he achieved was special. Way more special than what anyone else I know achieved. But Zeeshan in the last couple of years, was very ordinary. He was ordinary because like most successful people, he had found his comfort-zone. He seeked happiness in things outside of work, which I completely understand. But once you do that long enough, you become very ordinary. And somehow, I feel special people shouldn’t be ordinary. They can be ordinary for themselves, but not for the rest of the world. And the world deserves to see more of Zeeshan.
Today, I think would be the first day of that happening. Zeeshan has just started his YouTube vlog. His challenge to himself is 1 vlog a day for at least next 365 days.
My predictions for his YouTube channel are below.
He will cross minimum 250,000 subscribers before year ends, without a Rupee in ad-spend.
He will have minimum 10,000,000 views before the year ends.
At least 1 of his videos will hit 1 million views. There’s a 50% probability that this will happen. But if he gets married in last quarter of 2020, there’s a 95% probability of this happening.
All these predictions will only come true if he completes 365-day challenge.
I’ve recently developed a habit of making public predictions. They can be embarrassing if you’re awfully off. But they are fun and challenging. They also improve my chances of predicting better in the long run.
Internet marketing is a blend of two things; social science and technology. I think I do a better job at understanding the technology, but may be not so much at understanding the social science.
Think of SEO; you need to have certain technical knowledge. You need to know about XML sitemaps. You have to focus on reducing time taken to load the site and the techniques used to do so such as caching, CDN, Ajax, SSL, minifying JS and CSS, etc. You may need to learn about link juice, focus keywords and how that works. By the way I’m not the best resource for SEO. So, I recommend you to read the techniques from an actual SEO blog.
For social media, you may need to learn about the techniques used to have a higher reach and distribution in the newsfeed and other areas such as using the right hashtags/location tags. You’ll need to learn about different ways to post such as photos, videos, stories etc. You may have to compare their distribution insights and learn what to post where and when and how many times a day etc. You may have to reverse engineer the exact method by looking at your virals to have your content appear more often in watch tab, newsfeed etc. In other words, this may require time, experience, data and technical knowledge.
The other side of internet marketing is social science, and I can’t stress enough its importance. Point is, no matter how much you get the technology part right, if you’re unable to understand the human behavior and psychology, you’re unlikely to do well. This is especially true for social media. Viral marketers often train themselves in to producing and recognizing content that is going to break all barriers, and is going to spread like wild fire. You’ll find infinite examples of how people have made viral content, repeatedly, without having enough seed views, influence or followers. They also didn’t follow any traditional SEO/SMM strategies. They are able to do that because they get the social science right. Our ISI case study was certainly about getting the social science right. I learnt this from my friend Zeeshan Shafquat who does an incredible job at understanding human behavior and psychology.
So if you’re going to venture in to internet marketing or already do it, I highly recommend that one of the co-founders need to understand human behavior and social science better, while the other focuses more on technology.