Digital Marketing Strategies, Support, and Ideas

How My Friend Became a YouTube Star

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When my "little sister," Brittany Estes, graduated with her degree in journalism with an emphasis on broadcasting, she already knew defining her own media platform would be the key to her success.

Half-a-million views on videos don’t just come overnight — usually. I spoke with Brittany, known to her followers as BrittZilla, about how she got into the vlogging business and what it takes to be your own media brand.

From posting her first video in November 2014, she took the leap and went full steam ahead in 2015 and now works with brands all over the world. She shares what she has learned from her YouTube publishing experiences from content planning, distribution, analytics and the power of owning your own media. Here are her tips. 

Becoming comfortable enough to become a visual content creator

With my degree, I was trained on being in front of cameras. I did a lot of anchoring so I was really comfortable just talking to an audience without directly seeing them (alone in a room) which can be kind of what’s weird to people.

But I think it’s fun — I love recording, I love editing, and I love being able to put up what I want to put up, without people telling me what I should or shouldn’t do. You can’t put a creative mind in a box, otherwise, you’re just gonna get junk that’s just gonna be filtered through everything else.

What it takes to become your own media brand

It took a long time – it takes a long time, actually. But, I saw people make this a career, so I thought, ‘this is kind of the day and age where we are that you can have your own production company, basically, and you run it all yourself.’

I started by watching videos upon videos for an entire year; I made lists, I filled up notebooks of what is making people successful on YouTube — and still do. I also set up times to just sit and brainstorm.

Coming from a news background, that thought of controlling your own message was really appealing. The news is so formulated, you have to selectively choose what to talk about — even if you find something really important, you would have to just drop it. With this, I get complete freedom to do whatever the heck I want.

Why owning your own content is critical

Being a Youtuber, everything is so personal. You see people broadcast everything to the world, no matter what their niche is. It’s basically you running your own reality television show. I don’t really trust people to be able to post the way I would. Only I can sound like me.

Some people’s problem with YouTube is when you post to their website, they have the rights to your video. This is an issue with many people, especially filmmakers. With YouTube being the largest broadcast website, there is the greater chance to get found. Compared to traditional television, YouTube is starting to dominate. It’s easier for me to let YouTube host my videos and I control my content and message.

Speaking of owning your own content, copyrights are a huge issue (and rightly so!), especially in music. Ensure the tunes you are using are royalty-free or you own the rights.

The value of authenticity in Brand Publishing

When you’re on YouTube, you’re your brand — you represent yourself. This is the same with any self-publisher.

Be selective about the products you endorse; you’re not going to make as much money if that’s not what your audience is looking to you for. Because I have an audience interested in beauty, I typically pass on unrelated opportunities. I also evaluate if I’ve heard of the company, their reputation and if their products would actually be something I can ethically recommend. For example, one beauty blogger did a review for Christmas lights and tied it in with her content as well as she could (decorating her vanity), however anyone with any sense knows that makes for horrible light to do your makeup in, so are you genuinely recommending this or just in it for the sponsorship?

People can be really insecure and self-conscious about how they do their makeup in this day and age. It’s all about Instagram “baddies” but trying to compete with that can be daunting and exhausting. I try to think, ‘what’s different than what everyone else is posting on Instagram?’ Even though those super-made-up looks get a lot of likes, when I make tutorials, I make them so you can do it, too.

Who defines the standard of success for YouTubers?

I would not take advice from anyone that wasn’t at least over 100,000 followers. And, I still think that hitting 10,000 followers is really successful, but, I feel like people start to really hit it off once they hit that 100,000 subscriber mark, where it just grows immensely. That’s where you see their videos bringing in enough views to where they can start living off it.

I also look for people who have been consistent in who they are. Many times you see people who start out with a certain persona to get subscribers and then change. Taking that into account, I do a lot of research on the actual person that I listen to for advice — not just their YouTube-version.

How to create emotional connections with your target market

When I created my channel, my goal target audience were people around my age (I’m 25, so basically anyone from 20-29). By staying true to how old I am myself, I am not limited by what I can create. I can create “regular everyday makeup” videos or “makeup for beginners” videos, but it’s not out of the ordinary for me to also do bridal makeup videos and something more age appropriate for my personal satisfaction.

The youngest I’ve targeted really would have been with my Prom makeup video, but young girls need that and they need tips from someone who has already experienced that major social event… sort of like a big sister they might not have.

This video by STILA does a great job of showcasing humor and making the viewer feel like they are learning from a friend, while still learning about a popular brand.

Processes for managing content planning

I write down what days I will film, edit and schedule my videos to go up. I make a mini work schedule for myself.

I also have a notepad version of this that breaks it down weekly and I always add a motivational quote to stay inspired and remind myself why I do what I do. It’s always a good idea to keep a positive mind when you’re busy becoming a boss.

Instagram and YouTube are where I receive the most engagement, so I focus most on those.

Planning content for YouTube

For YouTube, I have a huge calendar that I use to write exactly what I’m doing each day. I spend one day a week writing video ideas down and seeing when I should post them so I make sure I’m not being crazy repetitive with my content. I don’t want two similar things next to one another.

I try to post at least once a week on YouTube. My goal is to post three times in one week, but if you try to create when you’re not inspired, you don’t make good content. So I make an effort to post once a week to stay consistent and I never go longer than a month without posting.

Planning content for Instagram

For Instagram, I post once a day but try to post at least three times when I can. I take lots of photos and have them as backstock so I always have something to talk about. I find that you can make your followers grow quickly when you post three times. That seems to be the magic number. The way Instagram is set up now with their timeline not being chronological, your page can get lost. Posting three times keeps you there and you’re not over-posting which can be annoying to your audience.

I also run a side beauty repost Instagram and I post about 12 times a day. That works because I’m providing a lot of different content, so it’s not the same stuff with the same face over and over again. It’s only been up a month and that method has gained me almost 400 followers so far. I also look on the discover page on Instagram to see what people with similar accounts are posting. Just scrolling through, you can see what everyone is into at the moment.

Content Planning Tip: Twitter is a great place for me to decide what I should be posting. They added Twitter Polls, so I make one and people can vote on what they want to see. I’ll end up making both at some point, but this helps decide what I should create first.

The power of proper formatting your YouTube videos

Especially in the building phase of audience growth, formatting is vital to how videos show up in search (higher views result in your video appearing higher in searches). If you don’t have a searchable format, it’s very difficult to find what people are looking for.

To combat this, I make sure to focus on user experience and what the user is already familiar with. I evaluated brands I admire and take every factor into account to see how their social media flows together, from their profile pictures to their banner and even how they format their playlist. I don’t copy them directly; it’s just for inspiration. I still find my way to what I like to do.

Formatting also helps to get videos to pop up in the “Watch Next” section of YouTube. Try putting something similar to a popular video in your title so when someone clicks on that very popular video, then they’ll see yours as suggested underneath.

YouTube Tip: YouTube is very visual and really what catches user attention is the thumbnail.

Best ways to distribute video on social media

When distributing your content, think about the result you want your end user to accomplish. If you’re not careful, you can give away your content before you have people reach your home base (for me, YouTube). One fellow blogger had a hard time growing her YouTube following because she was posting her how-tos straight to Instagram, not giving people a reason to follow on YouTube. Things are so quick these days, so I suggest using a picture as your main social media post and try to encourage people to view the full video.

I find I get more engagement from posting the video to Pinterest, which is actually how I get a lot of views; I got like half a million video views from that one Pinterest post! Because of this, I do work hard at growing my Pinterest base, so I have enough people to follow me there.

Best social media platforms for video content

YouTube dominates anything media related, and coming from a news background, this was what I knew. While everyone learns differently, I naturally think videos are the most powerful pieces of content. It’s also the best way to showcase whatever personality you have for your brand.

For me, it’s about creating an emotional bond with my followers. When I do my makeup, I always play a video of someone doing their makeup and it feels like I’m getting ready to hit the town and have a good time with a girlfriend. You can get on a very personal level with someone through the tone of your voice, your facial expressions and just the way you naturally are on camera.

How analytics play a role in content planning

Looking at the analytics of what I post, I really measure how effective something is. I take every failure as a learning experience and I better understand what my audience wants. A lot is what I’ve learned from experience. If I review a product, and I leave the name out of it, I get significantly fewer views than I would if I put the name of the product and the brand in the title.

On Instagram, I look at best time to post for certain days (which changes every day), demographic of who is looking, how many website clicks I have, impressions (also compared to the week before), and the pictures in order of which were the most successful.

YouTube is even more in-depth even down to the ad revenue. I also do research on how and when big businesses post videos to gain views. All of this information allows me to always be on the mark.

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Advice for Content Marketers thinking of using Influencer Marketing

Anybody can make or break your business. If you have enough bad reviews of your product or so many complaints about customer service, people won’t want to buy from you. It also flips. If you get enough praise, you can essentially become a huge company overnight. This is why it’s important to reach out to influencers on different mediums and have them be a spokesperson for your product. Be careful who you chose though. Do your research. It can hurt if you pick the wrong person.

How brands can become Brand Publishers

Make a detailed plan, be natural, don’t force yourself to be anything you’re not, and most importantly, HAVE FUN! If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, whatever you make will become the most mediocre thing you’ve ever created. You have been given so many free tools to succeed. Learn them all. Never stop researching ways to be better.

Follow Brittany Estes

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Check out this video that got over 750K views!

This post originally appeared on Powerpost.Digital