Used cleverly, YouTube can be a powerful self-promotional tool for designers and creatives. With over 1 billion unique users visiting the site each month, if you can stand out from the crowd you’ll give your work a global audience.
So how do you cut through the noise? How can you make your YouTube channel stand out from the rest - and what are the best ways to attract more viewers?
Computer Arts’ Julia Sagar took five with YouTube creative strategist Jessica Elvidge to find out more about her job - and how designers can make better use of the platform.
Whether you want to make your exisiting channel more effective or you’re setting one up from scratch, scroll down for Elvidge’s pro tips on kicking your YouTube presence into shape.
You're a creative strategist at YouTube - what do you do day-to-day?
As a creative strategist my role is mainly research-focused. I watch a lot of YouTube, make a bit of it and talk to a lot of creators to understand what’s working on YouTube and why it’s working. The creative strategy team also have a few partnerships with creators to help them innovate and try new and exciting things on YouTube, hopefully to inspire others to do the same.
We’re part of an overall team called Spaces, which works directly with creators to help them get the most out of YouTube and make great things. We do everything from helping them with production through to running events where they can learn from what other creators are doing.
Who, or what kinds of people, do you provide strategy for?
I work with creators from across the entire ecosystem - whether it’s brand new creators who turn up for our introductory workshop sessions in the Space in London, independent native YouTube creators who’ve been at it for a long time, broadcasters or publishers who are trying something new, or brands and charities who are looking to make really compelling channels of their own.
At the moment I’m working on one great project in the book publishing industry as part of a programme we run here called the Creator Innovation Program - where we partner with creators who are looking to do something really new and exciting on the YouTube platform. We’ve worked with author Richard Wiseman to adapt his book, 59 seconds, into a YouTube channel, working out how that can be done best. There’s loads more. Very varied indeed!
What unique challenges do you face?
My job is to give creative advice - and it’s never going to be an exact science. So it can be challenging in that sense, not always being able to have the ‘right’ answer for a creator question or problem.
Also, the pace of the industry in general means that everything is constantly changing - from the tech to the viewership - so it’s up to creators to iterate and innovate. Keeping up in such a fast-paced environment is actually an awesome challenge for me.
What's the best part of your job?
Easy. Watching YouTube. Finding people doing something innovative in their industry, I love that. Seeing when people are opening up archives of old footage, like British Pathe, or are creatively reimagining old stuff, such as the guys who make Blank on Blank, a channel that animates old interview tapes.
What are the most common mistakes that you see?
It depends on what the strategy is for the channel, but personally I can’t get along with a channel that doesn’t have a clear identity or consistency. If a channel’s not got a clear purpose, or is trying to do too many things, how will a viewer want to subscribe and return to it, if they don’t know what video they’ll get in their feed next?
When I ask people why they subscribe, the answer I usually get back is that they saw a video they liked, then realised the channel made more of that kind of thing on a regular basis, so subscribed to get more of it.
What top tips would you give to designers looking to attract bigger audiences to their YouTube channels?
When I’m working with creators, helping them with their creative strategy, we use a set of 10 fundamentals. It’s a list of ideas or questions that we’ve built together with some of the most successful YouTube creators. We apply them to creative ideas as a measure of how well something might work on YouTube. They go like this:
- Shareable: will viewers share your videos?
- Conversational: is there an element of speaking directly to the audience?
- Interactive: can the audience interact with the content?
- Consistent: are there consistent elements to each episode?
- Targeted: is there a distinct audience your videos are targeting?
- Discoverable: will viewers discover your videos through search?
- Accessible: can a new viewer appreciate every episode?
- Sustainable: if your audience loves it, can you make more of it?
- Collaborative: is there space for guests in your episodes?
- Inspired: are your videos coming from a place of true passion?
Shareable goes first in that list, and it’s the simplest of all of them. If you’re looking to build an audience, and for people to watch your videos, it’s so important to consider why people might share them on their own networks.
Are they particularly remarkable, or valuable, or maybe topical? What does someone who’s sharing your videos look like, and how does sharing your video make them look? Thinking about your videos in that way is really important if you want to grow an audience.
This interview first appeared in Computer Arts issue 232 - an Education Special - on sale now.
You can watch our exclusive video documentaries with leading design studios as well as go behind the scenes on our latest innovative cover finishes via the Computer Arts YouTube channel. And check out The Mill's slick Mill Move Film on the agency's YouTube channel [pictured].
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