How To Start a Vlog 101: Everything You Need To Know
So you want to be a YouTube star? Or maybe you’re simply an expert who wants to share important knowledge with the world. Regardless of why you want to start your own vlog or what you plan to feature, there are some best practices that ensure your vlog channel gets success that goes beyond the approval of your ever-supportive Aunt Sally.
Heed the following step-by-step tips to create a top-quality experience, generate lots of viewers, and position yourself to generate revenue through your very own video productions.
What’s a Vlog?
Short for a video blog or video log, a vlog is a blog in video form. Think of it as your own little TV show or channel, only it’s on the web, produced by you, and presumably starring you (or maybe your super cute pet).
There are a number of platforms where you can create a vlogging channel and publish video content. The most-viewed and successful vlogs are YouTube channels, but there are other platforms where you can publish like Instagram and Twitch.
While the vlog format is video and the publishing medium is the web, the rest is limited only by your imagination. Your vlog can be instructional or performance art, documentary or comedy in style. It can include nothing but video or video plus text, images, and other fun features that help you get your point across and entertain. It can be shot in one take or expertly edited.
What Makes a Good Video Vlog?
Just because you can make your vlog about anything your heart desires doesn’t mean you should. After all, you want an audience, right? So forget any notions of real-time live snail races or one-take reenactments of the entire__ Old Testament. There are known ways to attract viewers and turn them into loyal followers.
Here are some vlogging tips to live by.
Develop a Niche
Unless you’re the most fascinating and famous person in the world, you aren’t going to snag a huge or even medium audience on your winning personality alone. You need a subject matter that viewers are interested in and will come to rely on you for.
Decide what you plan to specialize in and make sure there’s an audience for it. Fast cooking, quick home improvement tricks, makeup tutorials, gaming, and fitness are all great video subjects likely to garner an interested audience.
Select something you’re passionate about. It’ll come through in your work and keep you engaged and excited to come up with new video ideas.
Identify and Speak To Your Target Audience
Once you know your niche, you can begin to identify your ideal audience. Think about who will be interested in what you’re showcasing. Make sure your video, graphics, and written and spoken language appeal to them. For example, the tone, graphics, and attitude of a vlog about Formula 1 racing would look, sound, and feel very different than one showcasing the fine art of knitting.
The key to great content, whether blogging or vlogging, is to provide value. Value can be in the form of education (like how to naturally get rid of mice or change your car’s oil or play guitar) or entertainment (think commentary, music, or your own version of “Saturday Night Live”).
In either case, it has to be compelling enough that the viewer feels they get value out of the time they spend watching you. Schmooze ‘em or lose ‘em.
Maintain Pro Video Quality
Nowadays you can make a top-quality, full-length film on your iPhone or Android using your smartphone’s video camera, so there’s no excuse for poor-quality video. Successful vloggers know it’s critical that videos are clean and clear with great audio and visuals. (We’ll get into the tools to help you do this later in this article.)
As the saying goes, everything’s been done before. But it hasn’t been done in your unique style. Adding your own personal touch to video blogging can be the thing that makes your chocolate chip cookie tutorial stand out from the gazillion others out there. (Remember the chef who got 740K views for telling viewers to just “Put the f*cking turkey in the oven”? Case in point!)
Find ways to make yourself or your channel or show stand out. Low-hanging-fruit opportunities include video titles (utilizing search engine optimization so they can get found via Google search), your video intro (create a trademark opener), your outro (leave a lasting goodbye), and any catchphrases that you can coin and perpetuate. (Hello, Cardi B’s “Okurrr.”)
Publish and Promote Consistently
The concept “Out of sight, out of mind” is real. Make sure you have enough good topics to cover on your vlog to create new content regularly. Create a content schedule to keep yourself on track and develop franchises (like tips, reviews, or recipes) that people can come to expect when they watch your vlog.
Now that you know what to publish, let’s address where to publish.
Vlog Platforms Worth Considering
YouTube is the king of user-generated video content, and it’s a fantastic platform to use. But it’s not the only place to establish yourself among video bloggers. As video becomes a more established and popular medium for content of all kinds, the options continue to grow. Other popular platforms include:
- Facebook Live
- Instagram Stories
- Instagram Live
If you want to try out various video formats, reach more audiences, or target a different audience than the YouTube crowd, these platforms will help you do it.
Best Practices for Top-Quality Vlog Production
Once you know your subject matter, style, and preferred platform, it’s time to get to production. Let’s cover the basics on how to do it right.
Have the Right Equipment
If you’re just joining the world of new vloggers and aren’t sure of your level of commitment, don’t bother investing in a lot of equipment just yet. A quality smartphone camera will get you started and may even be enough for the long haul. The more you get into vlogging, the more you’ll learn what you need to create your dream vlogs.
Depending on what you’re vlogging about, you may find you need some or all of the following:
- A high-quality vlogging camera (and tripod): Depending on your video subject matter, you may want to consider a camera that features an external microphone port (to add better sound capture), an LCD screen that can flip to the front (so you can see yourself as you film), an AF system (to refocus the camera if you’re on the move), and 4K video (so you can crop and reframe your video and still get quality output). Do your research; there are tons of camera reviews online.
- A quality vlogging microphone: A great microphone results in better sound quality and eliminates more outside noise, which creates a dramatically better listening experience for the viewer. The best microphone depends on the type of video you’re shooting. Learn more about various types of mics and why you might choose one over another.
- Lighting: Even**** the best camera in the world can’t make a poorly-lit environment look good. When you start vlogging, seek natural light (outside or near windows inside) and play around with best angles and locations for optimal lighting. If you find you want the freedom to vlog anywhere at any time, invest in lighting. This is a good starter version if you’re planning on focusing your face in front of the camera.
- Video editing software: Editing your video clips is essential for getting your final cut just right. This is where the post-production fun happens. You can trim your vlog videos, resize them for any platform, create split-screens, and add captions, music, a title, and text. The best part? Even as a newbie, it’s easy to do with the free video editing tools available online.
Make Sure Your Vlog Channel Is Well-Branded
If you’re investing in outstanding vlog content, you should put similar effort into branding your vlog channel. This is also easily done with free online tools. At a minimum, you need:
- A logo, which you can create with free logo-making tools.
- A channel banner. Use free templates to easily craft one for any platform or tap the template above to customize it.
Need a refresher on the importance and best practices of branding? Read a step-by-step guide to defining a winning online identity.
How To Generate Revenue Through Your Vlog
Maybe you’re starting a vlog just for fun and have no expectation of compensation other than accolades from your friends and family. But if you’re serious about vlogging, you should think about how to earn money doing it.
There are many ways to get paid through vlogging that don’t include selling yourself into a pay-per-view boxing match like Logan Paul. All of them start with making great content. People won’t begin to throw money at you until you have an audience they want to reach. So build your content library with an eye on attracting an audience the following ways:
- Learn and use SEO best practices for your vlog platform. Think titles, tags, video descriptions, and thumbnails to accompany the uploading of your video file. Use a free thumbnail design template to make it simple. These give your content a better chance of being discovered by users through an online search.
- Market your content on all social media platforms, using free social media graphics templates to create epic, well-branded posts. Ongoing social media promotion that includes links to your vlog will drive traffic to your channel.
- Optimize your watch time. Video platforms track watch hours and like content that keeps viewers watching. Keep your vlog at a length that people will want to sit through. For an idea of what works in your niche, check out other popular YouTubers in the space and see how long their YouTube videos are. Notice what they do that you find compelling. Read this article to understand the importance of video length.
Once you get an established audience, you can optimize any or all of these revenue streams:
- Ads: These are short videos automatically surfaced by Adsense on your vlog platform if you link it to your account. Learn more about Adsense and how to use it to generate revenue.
- Affiliate partnerships: This is where you get a kickback for selling something. Amazon has easy affiliate opportunities, but you can also do deals directly with brands where you get paid for each product you sell (this works best when you review the product). Here’s how to make money through affiliate marketing.
- The sale of your own products: Make, promote, and sell your own stuff and all the profits go into your pocket!
- Sponsored videos/brand ambassador: You can get someone to pay you for talking about or using their brand or products! Learn all about how to be a brand ambassador here.
Like anything worthwhile, building a successful vlog takes time, discipline, and commitment. You won’t become the next Dude Perfect overnight. So, take it one vlog at a time. Start with an epic first video that introduces yourself and your vlog and go from there, taking cues from your most popular videos and evolving with your audience’s preferences. With patience and effort, you’ll be on your way to establishing yourself as a bonafide vlogger.