8 min read
There's no denying that vlogs are the content of the moment. You might be feeling like you should start one, and at the same time, you may also be wondering if it's too late to learn how to vlog.
How can your vlog stand out when there are over 300 hours of footage uploaded every minute to YouTube already?
Well, just as with blogging and podcasting, there is always room for your unique voice and story to be heard through video content. Here's why you should start a vlog, and how to get it off the ground.
First of all, what even is a vlog? And how is it different to other types of video?
As I'm sure you figured, ‘vlog' stands for ‘video blog' and it's exactly that: content that you would write a blog post on, but instead you talk to a camera about it.
There are two main styles of vlog: a ‘talking-head' video where the camera is on a tripod (or on a stack of books depending on your equipment budget!) and stays steady while the vlogger talks about a subject, or a ‘follow me around' vlog where the vlogger will take a camera with them and film clips as they go about their day or week.
It's easy to focus on the elaborate side of YouTube we often see in the media:
But for every member of the YouTube elite, there are untold more content creators diligently filming and uploading to a more, shall we say, realistically sized audience.
If fame and fortune are your sole reasons for wanting to start a vlog, you're setting yourself up for disappointment. Only around 4,000 channels out of the millions that exist on YouTube have over 1 million subscribers. But the great thing about vlogging is that you don't need a million subscribers to both give and receive a lot of value through your videos.
If you already have a blog or a podcast (perhaps even both), a vlog could open you up to a whole new audience. People like to consume content in different ways and just as some prefer to read or listen to stories or advice, others prefer to watch it.
YouTube is becoming a main source of entertainment with more and more people choosing to watch YouTube videos over traditional television or even Netflix. On YouTube most of the time we're not seeing actors, but real people and their real lives, making the content much more relatable.
It's much easier to build a personal connection with your audience through vlogging than it is through writing or podcasting. There is something meaningful about seeing someone speak to you, even if it is through video! When you vlog, you're letting someone in to see a little piece of your life or thoughts.
If you've already built an audience elsewhere, vlogging will help you build loyalty by connecting with them on a more personal level. And if you're brand new to the content game, vlogging on YouTube is a great place to start as the platform is also the world’s second largest search engine.
Over one billion hours of video are watched daily on YouTube. That means you'll be uploading your content to a place where people are already looking for it.
I will note here that the one downside to building a following on YouTube is that, unlike with your own website or email list, you don't have ownership of your audience. The only way to deliver content to them is by publishing videos or via YouTube's messaging system, both of which have their flaws.
But this just means that you need to do the work to bring a YouTube subscriber over to your email list. Because of the loyalty, you will build through vlogging, your core audience will follow you to other platforms, so you should think of YouTube subscribers as warm leads for your other projects.
It can be hard to grow on a new platform, especially with so much noise and hundreds of thousands of videos uploaded to YouTube every day. So the best way to stand out isn't to try to make videos that appeal to everyone, but to choose a specific niche.
Did you know you can choose your audience? By making videos that appeal to a very specific target market you'll attract people who are part of that niche and build an audience of people who see you as their go-to source on the topic.
Choosing a niche not only helps you grow because your videos will be more likely to show up in search results for that topic, but when people are talking about your channel to their friends they'll know exactly how to describe it.
They may not have seen a channel like it before (one that speaks directly to them) so they'll be much more inclined to share it in the first place. I've witnessed the power of the niche first hand on YouTube.
When I started my channel over four years ago I was making videos about anything that interested me: fashion, food, design, DIY projects– you name it. I did well, earning around 30,000 subscribers after three years on the platform. But then I made a drastic shift: I decided to focus my content solely on design. After all, I'm a designer and that's the subject that interests me the most!
I went all in on design videos, and while some of my audience who were there for the lookbooks and craft projects dropped off, I also became known in my niche and attracted tens of thousands of new viewers.
The YouTube algorithm now recommends my videos alongside those from other design channels, and I've been featured on several roundup lists of ‘top graphic designers to follow on YouTube'.
On my fourth YouTube channel anniversary, I'd reached 70,000 subscribers. That's a 40k difference in just one year of committing to a niche!
So the best way to build an audience on YouTube is to pick something you want to be known for and use that as your starting point for making content.
There’s a lot to think about when starting a vlog, but there are just a couple things I hear most often when people are asking for advice.
“What camera should I use?”
This is the question most people ask when they want to get into vlogging.
Our friend Caleb Wojcik has put together a guide to video gear that you can read here, but when it comes to vlogging: the content of your vlog is much more important than what you film it on.
Of course better quality audio and video will make you appear more professional, but even the most beautifully shot vlog in the world will have viewers leaving part way through if the content isn't interesting.
So what camera should you use? Whatever you have access to!
“What should I talk about?”
Another of the most common excuses I hear from people who want to start a vlog is “I just wouldn't know what to talk about.” Here's some advice from Gary Vaynerchuk, a CEO & entrepreneur with nearly one million subscribers on YouTube and a multi-million dollar business:
Document, don't create.
His advice is simple. Instead of stressing yourself out trying to think of new and creative content ideas, simply document your life and business.
Share your thoughts and experience. Share what's inspiring you or frustrating you at the moment. You'll still be creating content, but you'll never have to wonder what to talk about. And because you're just being yourself, it will instantly be relatable.
Take a look at the vlogs you love and you'll find that many follow this idea of documenting vs creating. They're sharing a day in their life, their process for food photography, their thoughts on politics, their review of the latest iPhone. They're being themselves and telling you what's on their mind.
So if you're wondering what to talk about when vlogging, think about what you know about your chosen niche topic (I bet it's a lot). Write down anything that comes to mind– any small piece of your process that could be broken out into a video a few minutes long. Any issues you remember facing when you were just getting started, or that you still struggle with today.
Soon you'll have a list of video ideas as long as your arm, and that's your next year's worth of content sorted. You'll be surprised at how much value your audience will get simply from you sharing your process.
So my best advice for learning how to vlog? Pick up a camera and start talking.
Don't leave it any longer. Share your thoughts. Upload it for the world to watch, and see what happens. With hard work, consistency, and a little vulnerability as you share your process, you'll build a loyal audience who will love your vlogs.