By Adam Winnick
For the past decade, the YouTube platform has empowered anyone with a story to become content creators and distributors. Personalities are able to aggregate a massive fan base with unprecedented ease and speed, not to mention virtually for free given an Internet connection and a desktop camera. But the same platform that propels many to stardom has limited ability to help users monetize their content.
Interactivity is synonymous with YouTube and promotes authenticity. When content creators get it right, their brand equity grows. When they do things to try and make money, audiences can be merciless.
If you are a YouTube channel, here are five ways you can overcome these barriers, and start playing YouTube at its own game:
1. Take fans along for the ride. Even if you forget all other points, remember this one. Creators are great at driving traffic when they want to — whether it’s to a friend’s channel or to their next video. This time drive traffic to your own place. Creators, just like networks, need an off-YouTube strategy. What’s needed is a place to bring and engage fan bases by giving them more of what they want, which may be slightly different for each channel. The more control you have over the platform the better your chances for making money.
2. Learn from the mothership. YouTube is an excellent place for audiences to watch, share, and comment on videos. Just because the CPM rates are not great for creators or Google is not great at selling video ads doesn’t mean that audiences want to go somewhere else to watch video. ZEFR has access to the best content in the world and they still choose to have their content on YouTube even though it may not monetize as well. Why? Because YouTube is where audiences are, and they like it there. Don’t try to compete with that by creating your own website for watching videos even if you can get better CPMs. Instead, keep making great videos on YouTube to build audience and your brand.
3. You have influence! YouTube is the only major social network with a dislike button. This instant feedback loop promotes authenticity and breeds both likability and trust, essential elements for influence. I would argue that because of this YouTube channels are some of the most relatable influencers around today. Use this influence to get behind things you really truly like even if the money isn’t there right away. This could be through YouTube videos, comments, or activities on other platforms. The more you learn about what products or brands your audience associates you with, the more likely you will find ways to work with these companies in the future.
4. Don’t do it by yourself. Driving an audience to a destination off of YouTube on a regular basis can be difficult, but it’s worth it. It’s important to overwhelm an audience with reasons to visit a new platform. Having more content creators like you in the same place helps a lot. Leverage all of the collaboration you’ve done on YouTube and help bring your audience to a shared destination.
5. Think futuristically. If cash flow comes in too easily, chances are someone else is probably paying the price for it. It could be your audience. Invest in a platform that will let you monetize over the long-term. Make sure that the economic incentives are properly aligned. This will allow you to capture greater upside and allow you to retain the creative control that’s crucial to your influential online identity.
The frontier is still wide open for content creators to capture a disproportionate share of the value that exists at the intersection of their influence, authenticity, and creative interests. A personal brand, especially one built on YouTube is worth a lot. Be patient and highly strategic when trying to harvest that value. The right opportunities will present themselves.
Adam Winnick has been investing in and creating companies that create win-win solutions for customers and their partners for nearly a decade. Adam is the CEO/Founder of Subblime, which works closely with content creators on YouTube to help them monetize their audience and make them happy too. Adam is also an investor in EQAL, Spreecast, and Little Black Bag. Adam has an MBA from Stanford and a BA in Econ from Tufts University.