YouTube is a wonderful way to reach new fans and easily monetize your content. My YouTube has grown from a small channel to one that routinely produces 25,000 views a day, and yields over $1,000 a month in revenue. Here are some tips and best practices to help you do the same.
1) Content is king. Never forget that phrase. The higher the quantity of good content, the more likely something will go viral on its own. Start by taping EVERY show. Taping helps you get better as a comedian, but it also makes sure you have every strange and non-material incident.
2) Don’t post your material until you’ve stopped telling those jokes on stage. We’re in a time where people often Google who they’re coming to see before they arrive, and clubs use your videos to promote the show. The last thing you want is people to come see you because they love your act – and it turns out you haven’t written a new joke since then.
3) NEVER put out a public video of material if you’re new. We all suck when we start. If you think you’re the exception to that rule, please quit now because you’re too delusional to get better. If you want to post a set for feedback or submissions, YouTube has an “unlisted” feature that allows you to have a public link that isn’t searchable. Posting a “private” video is only so that you can later make it public. The ONLY person who can see a private link is you. I can’t tell you how often comedians confuse “private” and “unlisted”.
4) Cameras are pretty cheap because you don’t need anything high-end. I taped for two years with a Flip camera in the back of the room. You can get a blogger camera for under $50. Or just use a smart phone and a tripod. Or on the higher end, Sony has a bunch of great cameras, some for under $200. Here’s my Amazon link if you’d like to check them out.
5) Video editing software is free and easy to use. Windows Movie Maker comes with PCs and iMovie comes with Macs. If you want to get fancy, Final Cut is a good program that’s not particularly hard to learn. But basic editing (music, slicing clips, etc) is really, really easy. Don’t let it intimidate you – every program comes with help files, and Google has the answer to any question you have.
6) If you’re posting a stand-up video, I recommend a quick first-person introduction to the camera, vlogger style. On stand-up AND sketch, I recommend closing with an end slate of you talking to the camera as well. It lets your fans get to know you, and creates a more personal experience for them. My views doubled when I started doing this.
7) Longer videos make more money because the ad rates are higher, but shorter videos go viral more easily. I try to have a good mix of both. Also, your content should not be lots of brands at once because your fans will expect you to be consistent. If your channel is stand-up, post stand-up. If it’s sketch, post sketch. Or make it a mix of both from the beginning. But whatever your channel is, establish it early on and stick with it. You can always create a second channel if you want to.
8) Be creative about how you title your videos, and name them based on what people are searching for. No one searches for “I” – they search for third person words like “comedian”. The way you can tell what people are searching for is by starting to type a word into the YouTube search bar – those suggestions that come up are based on popular searches.
9) When you name your video, use strong language. i.e. if you’re making fun of the GOP, write something like “Comedian Trashes GOP” – a strong stance is what gets people to click on a video in the sidebar. Do NOT lie in the title, ever. That will just lead to poor retention rates, and YouTube will not suggest your video anymore. The more thumbs up, full views, and comments your video generates, the more likely YouTube will suggest it to people who are watching another video.
10) The description of your video and the tags are also important. Be smart about it and use words people will search for that also tell an interesting story. Also, your “subscribe” link (and encouragement to do so) should be in the description of every video you post.
11) Once you post your video, annotations are extremely important. Those are those little pop-up boxes encouraging people to subscribe, add you on Facebook, etc. I’d recommend posting a “subscribe!” annotation three quarters of the way through a video (if it has no end slate). If your video has an end slate, then just post the subscribe link there. A great end slate is you encouraging people to subscribe, while your subscribe button pops up. But don’t put annotations at the bottom of a video, they’ll be blocked by ads.
12) YouTube annotations only let you link to pages on your pre-approved website (you can put your website in your YouTube settings). However, there is an HTML trick called “META-REFRESH” which allows you to make a page automatically refresh to another site anywhere on the web. So I have http://www.stevehofstetter.com/twitter.cfm automatically refresh to http://www.twitter.com/stevehofstetter – and thus, I can link to my twitter directly on YouTube. You can use that for your Facebook, merchandise, tickets, etc. There are tutorials on how to do this, or you can have a friend help.
13) Monetizing is super important. It’s a YouTube setting that allows ads to play on your videos. Allow it to play ads of every length and type – YouTube’s algorithm will automatically adjust your ads down if they’re not performing well. So by allowing the maximum ads possible, you’ll ensure that you have the maximum ads that don’t negatively affect the performance of your video.
14) If your channel is doing very well, using an aggregator ad service will increase your ad revenue. I’m on Fullscreen, but there are plenty of great ones. It’s worthwhile to do if you have at least 100 subscribers. Here’s my referral link: http://apply.fullscreen.net/?ref=thehofstetter – and if your channel is big enough, they will negotiate their cut of your ads down from what they usually take.
15) Most importantly, stop reading the comments. I have mine set to automatically go to SPAM so I never see them. There are CRAZY people on YouTube. Don’t go down that rabbit hole. And if you feel you MUST read the comments, don’t reply to anything other than people asking when you’re going to perform in their city (or things like that). Debating an idiot makes you look silly and too accessible. If someone tells you the sky is green, they seem crazy. If you argue with them and INSIST that it’s blue, you’re just as crazy.
If you’re interested in more YouTube tips, there are TONS of tutorials online for every little facet of it. Happy creating!