• Scott Herring

How You Can Make a Successful, Non-Sucking Vlog

Several years ago, I attended VidCon, the annual YouTube conference in Southern California. That conference opened my eyes to just how big the YouTube vlogger scene had grown. Dozens of "celebrities" (folks I had certainly never heard of) popped up, prompting loud shrieks and generating parades of young fans trying to capture selfies with their heroes. Those early-days vloggers had captured the hearts & minds of their fans using a combination of talent, video skills, luck, and social media expertise. And over the years, I've seen a number of similar vloggers grow audiences to ridiculous scale. Vlogs can reflect any number of ideas: fashion, comedy, politics, sports, business, food. There are virtually no limits to what you can create or what audiences will find. And that's why I've assembled a list of ideas that you can employ to make your own successful, non-sucking vlog.



First, Some Vlog Examples


Gary Vaynerchuk


This "wine guy" burst on the scene around 2009 as an author explaining how he grew his family business. With each book Vaynerchuk delivered, his audience of aspiring entrepreneurs grew, and he ultimately became a guru of social media and online marketing. On YouTube, he now has over 2.6 million subscribers. His content spans several topics, from business coaching to social media. He publishes new content regularly, and it's highly produced.


PewDiePie


For several years, PewDiePie has been one of the internet’s biggest stars. With more than 100 million YouTube subscribers, his channel is known for irreverent gaming content. “Let’s Play” features videos of PewDiePie playing games delivering comical commentary. His fame connected him to Disney (until he said something too controversial), and virtually everyone under 30 knows way too much about him. His formula of gaming, comedy, and consistency all added up to over a billion views...


Jamie Oliver


Over 5 million subscribers hope to master the art of cooking chicken, pasta, and fish from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. Once a FoodNetwork TV star, Oliver went small-screen to build and monetize his global tribe. Cooking makes it easy to focus on a single topic - yes, he makes bite-sized content. And like Vaynerchuk, Oliver has well-branded, professionally edited, informative, engaging content targeted to distinct groups, such as home chefs and kids learning to cook. Hashtags abound too, enhancing his social reach.


Whitney Cummings


Known for her standup comedy, Whitney Cummings interviews a wide variety of guests on her weekly video podcast. Always controversial, Cummings shares her opinions with her guest's responses to questions covering a broad spectrum, from sexuality to social media to politics. She's unique, authentic, and highly entertaining.


Wistia


Not all vlogs are created by celebrities. Wistia is a business-to-business video company. Wistia serves companies that need more control and security than available via YouTube. And their vlog educates potential customers as well as active users in how to make great videos. Witty, smart, practical ideas abound. The brand publishes regularly, using email to drive traffic, delivering well-produced videos true to their brand.


COOPH


I'll list COOPH because they're whimsical and fun to watch. Like Wistia, they produce inspiring, useful "how to" videos on a regular basis. You know it's good if you watch it every time. Every. Single. Time. These guys & gals make artistic photography approachable by anyone. The end game for them appears to be selling apparel, but they're making art in the process.



How Do You Make a Successful Vlog?


Authenticity


The buck starts and stops here in vlogging. If you aren't an authentic presenter, turn the camera off before you even bother. Try running one of your sessions in front of a friend first. Show them what you'd do on your vlog -- get some feedback and maybe try again. Being on camera is a whole different ball game. Record yourself. Watch it. Did it hurt? Authenticity delivers a relatable message. Your wonderful style (hopefully) makes it unique. Your personal brand is the real you, your true voice. If you've ever seen Guy Fieri not acting like Guy Fieri, that's his authentic self.


And make sure your brand is included somehow "up front" in your content. Who are you? What are you communicating via your vlog? For example, "Hey, I'm the Beagle, speaking to you every week about making a great friggen blog. This week, I'm going to show you how you can make a successful vlog that really doesn't suck...".



Content


So if you don't suck on camera, make sure you have something to say that doesn't suck. Whether content is written, spoken, or filmed, it should deliver value. Get to the point quickly, then substantiate the case. If you're teaching, teach something helpful ASAP. If you're telling jokes, hook the audience fast. If you're telling stories, set the scene. The drop-off rate of those watching correlates directly with that initial spark.


Speaking of spark, did you know internet users have ADHD? Yes, shorter is generally better. Keeping content clear and condensed is essential. For me, I look at the length of every video link I open. If it's over 10 minutes, I probably skip watching. I personally don't have that kind of attention span or time to watch long-form digital content. Your audience may have a higher tolerance for pain, but edit yourself as much as you can. I prefer quick hitters with high value. Teach me something, make me laugh, make me think, challenge me to be a better human, and then sign off.



Appearance


Part of your brand is how you look. So look in the mirror before you record. Spinach in your teeth sucks (unless you're going for comedy). Hair, clothing, eyeglasses -- they all matter. Test your recording and watch it back. Adjust accordingly.



Set & Setting


In this era of Zoom meetings, video chat apps, and so much screen time, don't you notice what's in the background? You have that colleague with that dead ficus, the friend who clearly drinks too much soda (based on all the bottles), the boss with the MASSIVE book collection, and the friend who has the PERFECT setting (perhaps too perfect?). Be the last one, with an ideal setting. If your set has a bunch of nonsense going on, it's distracting. If you're at your desk, clear it. If you're in your room, clean it. If you're outside, make sure there's not too much background motion or too many distracting people (BOBABOOEY) in your camera's view.



Camera & Microphone


We all have a plethora of options to create great videos. Your computer, your phone, or, well, your camera. Seems like even the toaster has a lens on it anymore. Use the best camera you have available. And use the best microphone you have too -- if it's your iPhone, test the sound quality quickly before you record your vlog. Room noise sucks (but you can clean it up in post-production if you have time). Echo-filled rooms suck (and that's hard to clean up). Shooting outdoors may pick up sounds like wind, sirens, or traffic. Test, listen, adjust. Many of the best vloggers invest in good microphones.



Effects


If you have the tools & skills to do some editing of your videos, you will probably add quality. From titling to audio cleanup to emphatic effects, you can polish up your deliverable product. iMovie on your phone enables a few things. Final Cut Pro on your computer enables more. You may create fancier graphics and import them. You may add in other footage from another shoot or source. It's insane how good/simple/fast even FREE editing software is now. If you're inclined to go further, even pro versions are fairly approachable. By the way, these editing ideas are all unnecessary, but they can help when you are vying to get paid for your vlogging skills.



Transcripts


Especially in the case of business vlogs, you can get huge benefit from providing a text version of your content. Not all folks watch videos -- some scan content, for example -- to determine where to spend their time. Thus, a transcript or reasonable facsimile of your content in text form can help attract more viewers (or content consumers). If you're hosting video on YouTube, include as much as you can in your description to help improve visibility in YouTube searches. Which leads to...



Search Engine Optimization (SEO)


Google is the world's largest search engine, and YouTube is the second. Making your content searchable is helpful to build your viewership. We will pepper Renegade Blogger with TONS of search engine optimization advice in the future because it's probably the cheapest and easiest way to get traffic flowing. Do all the basic stuff first, then if time permits, go deeper. Spend time optimizing your best content first (feed the winners a treat).



Interactivity


E is for Engagement. If someone comments on your content, respond. Don't feed the trolls, but do engage with your audience when it suits you to have a viable conversation. Michael is AWESOME at engaging with his blog readers on all platforms -- it's a few minutes here and there, and it has a layered effect. First, your audience feels your presence. That is, you're not on a pulpit; you're across the table. Second, it's a signal to the search engines that your content is a bit more than letters (or video) on a page. YouTube & Google reward traffic with more traffic, so get you some.



Continuity


How many times do you find a channel or blog that started out furiously posting and then abruptly stopped? You can almost see the life event that transpired or the frustration that had the producer throw her arms up in the air. Post on a schedule. Prolific? Try every day. Too busy for that? Once a week. WAY too buy? Once a month. Find your rhythm and stick with it.


Iterate


Learn from your mistakes. Do more of what works. I guarantee all those famous vloggers cringe at their early work.



Your Own Successful, Non-Sucking Vlog


Naturally, if it was easy, everyone could do it. But you CAN build a tribe with the right framework and effort. We can't help you become funny or authentic or famous, but we can help with the framework. We hope these ideas inspire you to make a better vlog. If you dissect the famous vloggers, you'll see many of these ideas in use. And the ones that aren't are there to help you grow anyway. Get the camera, mic, and script ready. And....ACTION!





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