Being an independent creator has gotten tremendously easier with the rise of YouTube and other video streaming sites. So naturally I jumped on the opportunity to integrate it into my capstone project. YouTube allows its users to have a channel along with their account, so I’ve had a channel for the past eight years. I did not, however, start using it to post content until 2015. I shared a few videos, travel vlogs, collaborations with my siblings, and then abandoned the channel for a couple years. This semester project seemed like the perfect chance to revive it. I had grown since my last video and I had a new idea of the kind of content I wanted to post.
Thus “Conversations with the Internet” was born.
I see people on the site get tens of thousands to millions of views and even make a living off their content. Of course, I knew I wouldn’t get anywhere close to that level of stardom in one semester, my goal was simply to get people watching. I didn’t care how many, but I hoped to get at least 30 views per video. Seemed easy enough.
So what makes a watchable video? I did some research by looking at videos by creators I enjoyed. Every one had a different look and feel to them. Hannah Witton’s videos are informative and use fun graphics and colors to keep people watching. At least they keep me watching, along with hearing about topics I care about. Daniel J Layton’s videos are fun bite sized videos where he talks about whatever is on his mind for the day, and even has a series where he brings his friends on camera and bakes pastries while having a chat. The laid back energy each video gives off makes for a channel I return to whenever I need a good pick-me-up. Ashley’s (bestdressed) channel is primarily about fashion, but she occasionally sits in front of the camera and gets real with her audience about her life. The level of transparency she has in videos about her finances, college, job, even more personal topics is what I like best about her channel, and inspires me to do the same with mine.
Putting it to Action
Each video posting on YouTube came with a post to my Instagram account announcing. Changing the account to a Creator Profile allowed me to view the analytics of the post and see where people saw the post and if they clicked through to the video on the channel. On YouTube I could see how people found my videos on the platform, whether through the search engine, if it was recommended to them on their homepage, or through shareable links. It was fascinating to see how the videos performed over time. I got most, if not all, of my views within the first day or so. On average my videos received about 3 minutes of watch time. Which meant that some people were clicking on the video, watching a few minutes, and clicking away before the video was over. I’m still learning about audience retention an how to keep people watching. Being a small channel with only 40 subscribers could be a factor, but the goal long term is to stretch those views and continue gaining new viewers over longer periods of time.
Whenever I posted a video, I would track it for a few days to see how it preformed. Each video did get views, but the amount of views were not consistent. My first video “I Don’t Know What I’m Doing [Revised]” only received 18 views, while my next video was viewed a whopping 65 times. However, that second video, “Lesbian is a Dirty Word,” was uploaded twice to my channel. The first upload of the video did not even reach 10 views. After showing it to my project director she advised I re-edit the video. We found it felt flat, wordy, and not visually appealing. A solid gray wall does not make for a very god background. Similarly, this was the reason for the low views on my first video. I didn’t know how I wanted my videos to look yet, so I may film that first video again and edit it to fit the style I’m going for. After re-uploading the new version, people watched it 65 times, half of which were in the first 8 hours of uploading!
Of course, re-uploading a video can really kill your views the second time around. I created a lofi hip hop track in GarageBand, set it to a rainy gif I found online — because that’s what most lofi hip hop videos had, and they had loads of views — and put it up on my channel. In it’s time online, it gained about 85 views. Luckily I had a friend with a large following on tumblr who shared the link and brought a bunch of people to the video. Again, showing it my director, she suggested to find a visual that suited my brand more. Great, now I had to decide what I wanted my brand to be!
I wanted my videos to be for people like me, who led a similar lifestyle, had a similar vibe. So what would I want to click on? After some thought, I created a sound wave in after effects that synced to the pitches and beat of the music and drew out a logo with my initials. Simple but more fitting to my modern style. I sent the video to YouTube and … 12 views. I used the same tags, description, and title; I asked the same friend to share the new link and it just didn’t perform as well. People had already seen it, heard the music before. It was nothing new. So less people were sharing it around.
From this, I learned if a video is performing well, leave it alone. Even if it’s not entirely my brand. And if a video is NOT performing well, figure out what could be wrong and see if it can be fixed. I did learn how to sync an animated sound wave in Adobe After Effects.
This project has taught me the importance of a well structured video. Each one is a mini story: they need an introduction, rising action, climax, and resolution. It should also be visual interesting to watch, so I’ve begun adding graphics and text that match and emphasize the words I’m saying. Music is also an important piece to the puzzle. A video without background music can cause the video to feel flat and you will lose audience retention. Lastly, the YouTube algorithm is very hard to understand right away. So many factors come into play when it comes to what videos YouTube recommends to a user’s homepage. I don’t have several of those factors yet as I am such a small channel. The more subscribers, views, and watch time a channel has, the more likely they are to pop up in searches and recommendations. That, coupled with relevant tags and searchable keywords in the description will help to up that probability. This is what I’m going to take with me as I move forward with this channel. I really enjoy making videos and want to continue having conversations with the internet for as long as they’ll have me.