Lessons Learned from Creating YouTube Content

My big goal for In Third Person in 2020 was to establish a presence on YouTube. Though my channel has been in existence for over a decade, creating content optimized to work on that platform has eluded me.

For a few months, I was on a roll. Then the pandemic hit. Then I got a new PC. Then a bunch of other stuff came up and the project fell by the wayside.

Maybe I didn’t get all the way towards my goal. But I made forward progress and learned so much along the way. Here are some of the lessons I’ll take with me going forward.

What’s the big idea?

Making a YouTube video is a lot closer to writing a blog post than it is to creating live streaming content. Live streaming content largely happens off-the-cuff and is more conversational in nature.

With a video, you start with an idea and you build the story around it. Blogging experience really helped me in this regard, as I wasn’t short on things to make videos about.

Then again, blogging experience did come around to haunt me. On this site, I approach it as a diary where I write with no expectations for pleasing an audience or achieving any numerical milestones. On YouTube, it’s a lot harder for me to freely create in the same way. Partially because I have bigger expectations for my video content. And partially because…

Making video content is an involved process

Part of why I write so much is that it’s relatively easy and convenient for me to create content within this medium. I can write on virtually any device, which means I end up chipping away at ideas while sitting on the couch or standing in line at the grocery story.

Video content is a different beast. After scripting or outlining the video, one then has to record all of their A-roll. Videos that require five-to-ten minutes of A-roll can take hours in order to get it right. Then it’s potentially hours to get your B-roll, graphics, music, and images. Thankfully, I could draw from my past streams for at least a bit of gameplay footage. After that, you’re going through the lengthy process of editing.

After that, there’s still more to be done. The most important part of the process comes at the end where you have to come up with the right thumbnail, title, and tags for your video. Even the best videos won’t generate views if viewers can’t find them and if they don’t look appealing to watch.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility that a five-to-ten minute video can take an entire day to make, assuming it’s the only thing on your plate. But if you’ve got a real-life job and any other hobbies in play, creating the average video is a multi-day process. This has to be accounted for, especially if I plan on being somewhat consistent with my output.

Relative to other mediums, it takes a lot of time to create very little content. In the time it takes to make one video, I could write multiple blog posts. Or, if I was streaming, all of my on-air time directly translates into tangible content. When a YouTube video doesn’t hit, it really hurts to think about all the time you spent creating something that no one watched.

I understand that not every video is going to hit. If anything, most videos in this early stage of my career won’t. Knowing that doesn’t take away the sting when a video flops.

My biggest hurdles at this juncture are the the production time and the return on investment. I know these videos are tough to turn around, which makes me reluctant to go back. Also, if I do go through the process, I really want to do so with ideas that have the best chance of drawing an audience. But this ultimately stunts my growth, as I end up spending all of my time thinking and none of my time doing anything. If I really want to make this happen, I need to get over both.

In the spotlight

At this point, I have hundreds of hours of experience in front of a camera thanks to my experience live streaming on Twitch. But when it’s time to record for YouTube, I clam up. Watching these videos back, I’m not the same person as I normally am on stream. And it really hurts the quality of these videos.

The difference between these two mediums is that on stream, I’m shooting from the hip with no expectations of presenting my points perfectly. On YouTube, the expectation is that you hit your points mostly-cleanly and concisely. By virtue of trying to follow a script or an outline makes it very easy for me to sound like I’m reading a script.

Sounding natural while trying to follow a script is a skill that must be developed. I need to invest a lot more effort towards developing that skill. It will be a point of emphasis when I eventually come back to this project.

I only need one hit

The beautiful thing about YouTube is that it features an algorithm that makes discovery easier. Yes, nailing the thumbnail and the title are critical, but there’s a lot more room and long-term value for content on YouTube vs. live streaming content like Twitch. Even for my videos that didn’t generate many views, the views it did receive had longer average watch times than stream highlights or full VODs.

But then my Fuser video broke through. To-date, it’s generated thousands of views and is still getting watched regularly. Strictly in terms of views, it’s been seen more time than many months of my live stream views put together. Months later, it’s still generating views for me every day.

Stream content, on the other hand, is pretty much dead weight once the stream ends. Most viewers don’t want to consume stream VODs that are long and generally filled with down time.

I know I can do it

The most important thing I learned by going through this process is that making long-form video content is something I can do. Though I can poke holes in my work, I though that the videos were fairly well done and I know they could get so much better with practice. On top of that, at least one of the videos hit north of 3,000 views. I’m confident that one of these days, I can surpass that.

Before I go back, I have to find the time to create that type of content and overcome my latest round of mental barriers. But when I eventually do, I think the content will be even better and achieve more. Aiming to make more of a dent in 2021!

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2 thoughts on “Lessons Learned from Creating YouTube Content

  1. Kate Kane December 23, 2020 / 11:07 AM

    I never realized blog posts and videos were so much similar! Minds work in different ways, and I’m so glad you spotted that similarity. Anyway, nice post!

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