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Vlogging – The Television of the Internet

The beginning of the 21st century was marked by the emergence of user-generated video content online, and it has been on the rise ever since. The wide commercial use of digital cameras and the subsequent development of mobile technology has brought an increasing number of people in front of the camera. YouTube was established in 2005, and it quickly became the vlogging platform of the world. For the first time ever, internet television allowed everyone with a mobile phone and online access to record a blog in video format (video blog, thus vlog) in order to document a small segment of their life.

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When we look at some of the oldest pre-YouTube vlogs online, we can see that not much has changed in the format in which vloggers present their content. On the other hand, statistics show just how much attention the video format receives. At the end of 2019, Similar Web reported YouTube to be the second most popular website, second to Google, and that visitors spend twice as much time on this online video sharing platform than they do on Google.

YouTube also prides itself on some other important statistics :

  • Reaches around 100 countries,
  • Has content in 80 different languages,
  • Serves over 1 billion users (roughly one-third of all internet users), and
  • Their content is watched over one billion hours daily.

Even though other similar platforms like Vimeo, DailyMotion and Twitch are competing for their slice of the enormous interest in video content, along with social media channels like Facebook and Snapchat, YouTube has established standards and monetisation models that keep the most popular vloggers on their platform.

 

Should youth workers even bother with vlogging?

Yes, vlogging seems hard at first. There is equipment to buy as well as hours of editing, uploading and promoting every video, and everyone knows that new content needs to be published on a regular basis. Is it worth it? Well, it would seem to be, but consider this: as a youth worker, where do you expect to find your audience? We are already seeing some decline in the use of Facebook, especially among younger internet users, but one thing that keeps people’s attention is video content. Be it Instagram videos, Snapchat or YouTube, vlogging seems to be the reasonable option for any kind of content that concerns youth. All of these places are not “hard” for young people to navigate – they have grown up with this technology! So, if you really want to help them have their own voice, help them learn how to present themselves in the world of online videos! Here are some tips and tricks to help you navigate your vlogging adventure!

 

Demystifying Equipment

Who knows how many interesting people never started vlogging because they felt like they needed the best of the best cameras, microphones and additional lighting. Video can and should be pleasing to the eyes, but add at least five to six hundred euros for a good quality camera, a couple of hundred for additional microphones and just as much for lighting equipment, and shooting videos becomes a very expensive hobby. Before you decide to invest that much, know this: many great vlogs have started with nothing more than a pair of good quality headphones with a decent mic and a smartphone. Will it be perfect? No, not really, but it is a great way to start while you find your niche and an audience that will support you for the story you want to share. Add to that some free video recording and editing software like Blender or Shortcut, which you can use on Windows, Mac or Linux, and there you have it – your first vlog ready for publishing!

 

The success or failure of your vlog not only depends on your equipment. Creativity and good storytelling are key. We have seen professional journalists using mobile phones to report on some hot topics and going live from war zones around the world. When you have a good story, a clear idea and a focus, you can achieve a great deal, no matter what your equipment.

One of the inspirational examples of mobile journalism is Yusuf Omar. From using paper cups for tripods to teamwork, with some creativity you can find a way to work around the issue of technology. And with some practice, you can minimise the need for post-production.

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Equipment – how much is reasonable to spend?

If you really want to invest money in equipment for vlogging, buy a good direct microphone (decent ones can be found even for $10-20) and a tripod or a gimbal device (between $50-120). The fact is that people do care about the sound quality in your videos because they need to hear what you have to say. Having a tripod or gimbal for your mobile phone allows you to go outside the comfort of your living room and play around making your content format more versatile. One example of how good a vlogger you can be with basic equipment is the vlog called How to Dad. The creator used his phone and basic lighting to add value through his video targeting parents. Despite being his first video on YouTube, it went viral with one million views within the first two weeks.

Therefore, once you have established your channel’s persona and a regular consistent upload schedule, you can begin to focus on high quality. Focus on upgrading your equipment, cameras, lighting and editing software. Take baby steps towards the success of your platform. Remember, fans will always notice the progress and will always show support when they see your efforts and that you’re always trying to improve your video quality.

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Prepare and share!

There are three main indicators of success in vlogging:

  1. First and foremost of the three is the number of subscribers: people who regularly follow your content. These people are not some bypassers who stumbled upon one of your videos; their trust in you should matter. The more stable the audience you have, the better. Both of these are hard to get, especially when you are just a beginner in vlogging. 
  2. What you should always focus on is total watch time, as it shows how much of your video people have actually watched through. If your videos are interesting, you will build your audience over time and the number of views will steadily grow. 

Another key quality you should strive to adopt is persistence. YouTube (and other platforms as well) value regularity in publishing and reward it by recommending your videos to new viewers.

The unseen factor of success in vlogging is preparation. Everyone keeps saying you have to find your niche. The point is that people (and algorithms, too) value consistency. You want to find:

  • Something you are passionate about (otherwise, you will run out of ideas quickly)
  • Something that you like doing (because you will be doing this for hours),
  • Something you can show your expertise in.

If you consistently produce quality content on one particular topic, the algorithms that govern YouTube, Google, Facebook, etc. will help you find like-minded people who may become your audience. Be it travel vlogs, how-to videos, gameplays, reactions, education, or interviews and reports on some very serious topics, what is expected of you is to respect the audience the internet brings your way by offering quality content.

 

Keep in mind:

  • Take time to research your topics.
  • Script your ideas before shooting a video.
  • Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!

After some time you will get used to making good videos – then is the time to work on your specific style. Most vloggers open or end their videos with a catchphrase. You need to learn how to understand your audience, how to engage them and how to build up a dialogue with them. 

The comment section is a great place to work on those, and subscribers usually appreciate it. Notice that thumbnails are the first thing people see, even before they open a video. You can put some time into making them artistic and inviting. Don’t spend hours and hours working on a video and then spend 2 minutes working on its thumbnail, description and tags. Spend an equal amount of effort on each of these aspects before publishing. Fill in the About section to present your channel to newcomers. In the end, use your social media accounts to promote your videos to larger audiences. A good idea would be to create a short teaser you can use on other platforms to drive viewers to your original content.

 

Diversify your content

One basic truth is that different platforms draw different kinds of people. In practice, this means that for instance Facebook followers will stay mostly on Facebook, but sometimes they will check out something they only see as a link outside of Facebook. Each platform has its own rules and you should not neglect different target audiences by posting only on one. Why? Video is so popular and versatile that you can easily use your big piece of content and make a teaser for other platforms too.

Here is what famous vloggers sometimes do when they finish their 10 minute YouTube vlog:

  • Create a 1 minute recap for Instagram – as this platform favours shorter content,
  • Create several photos for Twitter and write short captions,
  • Facebook is more versatile content-wise, so you can play with it: a small album, shared video or a shorter teaser. The important thing is to follow up on popular Facebook groups with the same interest. 

Another reason why you should think of diversifying your content is that you don’t want to put all your focus on one platform and wake up the next morning to find that this platform has just shut down or is losing users rapidly. Not only have you lost your presence on social media, but you will have to start again from the beginning. Diversification will protect you from losing your hard work.

 

A good vlogger is a part of the community

Vlogging gives a lot of freedom. You can say what you want to say in the way you want to say it. Online video-sharing platforms use sophisticated algorithms to bring a worldwide audience to your channel. Videos are believable. They are concise. They pack a lot of information through extralinguistic aspects such as body language, surroundings and added animation, which many vloggers use quite creatively. All of this is one part of what makes being a vlogger so exciting.

Online communities can be rough. Nothing makes you so exposed and vulnerable as the video does. You must be ready to take open and sometimes very harsh public criticism. Sometimes you might even get hate speech or online bullying. You will also see many vloggers using some form of trolling as their baseline approach to content. The thing you need to do, and fast, is to learn how to differentiate between bullying, hate-speech, negative comments and constructive feedback. Ignore the first three and read and reply to the last one, as it will help you grow personally and establish a connection with the community. That is exactly why YouTube and vlogging will help you grow as a person.

Vloggers are a fast growing and fast moving community of people who are extremely passionate about their content and protective of their followers. Becoming a part of that community is demanding and it is certainly not for everyone. Seeing some YouTubers succeed overnight does not mean you will. Nonetheless, you should try it out for a while. It will help you in your presentation skills, and it will also give you an opportunity to reflect on yourself and your views and the way in which you handle good and bad criticism. Hopefully, you will also have some fun while doing it too! Let’s end with a piece of timeless wisdom:

A good vlogger always views more videos than he produces.

Authors

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Milan Petrović

Milan Petrović is teaching language, literature and MIL in a high school in Serbia. He is licenced by DW Academy and IREX as a media literacy educator. In his spare time he is the president of the NGO "Teach me" that is engaged in innovations in education and runs a co-learning hub called Unbox.

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Ahmad Mohsen

Ahmad Mohsen quit his corporate job as an Architect to make a living off producing travel, documentary and educational video content on YouTube and other social media platforms.