Part 1: Crafting Your Channel

The first thing any new Youtuber should do is put some serious thought into their channel. Answer these questions, and any others you can think of:

  • What kind of videos are you going to make?
  • Do you have a target audience? You should!
  • Are you going to swear, or is your channel going to be family friendly?
  • How many videos are you going to upload a week? YouTube rewards people who work.
  • Do you have something special? What will set your channel apart?

Channel Design

Once you have those questions answered, it’s time to start making your channel look good. Get some reasonably professional-looking channel art and profile image. Make your thumbnails (and don’t use MS Paint). Watch, read, and generally absorb as much information as you can about how to make your content and channel as professional as possible. Keep in mind, the goal is to make your channel look appealing, and to try and set it apart from other channels as much as possible.

People make the mistake of not doing all of this first. They probably missed out on some potential subscribers and viewers. If your content is not high-quality, or you don’t have everything organized nicely into playlists (rather than the big clusterf*** of a activity feed), then it could be hard to grow on YouTube. A Pro-Painter could paint your channel art, but it won’t help if your content is poor. Which leads into the next part of crafting your channel…

Quality and making good videos

Make sure your videos are as high in quality as you can possibly make them. Nobody really enjoys watching gaming videos recording via a camera pointed at a screen. If you can’t make a high-quality video for a game, pick a different game. Render in the highest possible settings that you can achieve. Now, let me be clear: I’m not saying that you need to record and render in 1080p60fps. I’m saying that if you have the ability, given the equipment that you have, to record and render in 1080p60fps, you should. Don’t cut corners or take shortcuts if it means cutting quality. Your goal should be to make every video better than your last one. Learn how to use basic tools like Audacity and Handbrake. Get your hands on a decent video editing software ASAP. Get your hands on a decent microphone ASAP (there are plenty of excellent options for less than $50, and I’d be happy to point you to a microphone in just about any price range).

Is your content entertaining?

Consider your content as you edit: is this worth watching? If not, cut it out, or something else. For example, I do a lot of Minecraft. Minecraft can be a very repetitive game, when doing big projects. Do you, as a viewer, really want to watch me place all of the 500 wood blocks that make up the walls of my build? Probably not. You want to see enough to understand how I’m building it, but watching me place all of those blocks is just not entertaining, which means that I will either edit it out or do something else to make it cool.

Consider your schedule: you need to be recording and uploading regularly, whether it’s 2 videos a week, or 2 videos a day. Sporadic uploading, that is, 2 uploads in one day, then 3 weeks of nothing, then another video, then 2 months off… that will hurt you, and will greatly hinder your growth.

If you need help improving your content or channel, and you want feedback… ask! I highly recommend http://reddit.com/r/LetsPlayCritiques for feedback, and http://reddit.com/r/LetsPlay for general knowledge and technical questions. Just make sure you read the rules before you post.

So, now you’ve got quality content and a professional-looking channel. Now what? Well, now it’s time for…

Part 2: Promoting Your Channel

How do you get noticed, especially as a small channel? Well, sharing your content with friends and family is a great place to start. However, if that’s not something you’re comfortable with (I only share my content with a handful of select individuals), there are other ways to promote your channel too. Let’s talk about a few different ones:

  • Reddit:

    This is probably the best place to promote yourself, but you have to be very careful about how you do it. Reddit is a fickle beast; people there generally do not like self-promotion, and they especially hate spam. Read the rules of each subreddit before you post. Become part of the community, and be invested in it; don’t just pop in to post your videos from time to time. Post videos that contribute something to the community, and for the love of god, try to avoid making it sound like an advertisement!
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization): Learn it, love it, live it. SEO is love, SEO is life. If I talked about this a whole lot more, this guide would double in length, but needless to say… it’s very, very important. There are lots and lots of guides out there about how to properly name, tag, and describe your videos so that they pop up higher in search results; find them, read them, and absorb them. (EDIT: Also consider reading The Market Within The Market: SEO For Small Channels, another write-up I did more recently.)
  • Twitter:

    This is an easy one, especially with Youtube-Twitter integration. Hashtag your videos, tweet them to various accounts that will retweet them, interact with your followers, and generally make Twitter your best friend and time-killer.
  • Youtube Forums:

    Places like youtubegaming.com, Yttalk.com, and other Youtube forums can be great places to make connections, give your channel some exposure, and make friends.
  • Collaborations:

    Collaborations with other content creators can also be great! By collaborating with other channels (preferably about the same size as yours), you can “share” subscribers and viewers.
  • Game Forums:

    Forums for specific games can be an excellent place to share your content for that game. For example, I am an active member at the Pokecommunity.com forums, where I post all of my Pokemon content. Not only are they generally welcoming of it, you can get some very loyal subscribers there, as long as you are part of the community, not just a video spammer.
  • Facebook/Instagram/Other Social Media:

    Yes, you can use them. I have not been very successful with them personally, though, so I’m not going to cover it here. However, if someone else wants to post their secrets to success with other forms of social media, I will be happy to update this thread and give credit.

Because it is such a common thing, I’m going to talk about sub-for-sub. For anyone who doesn’t know what sub-for-sub is, it’s agreeing to subscribe to someone who subscribes to you, based solely on the fact that they subscribe to you. I’m all for checking out the channels of your subscribers, and subscribing back if you like their content. But simply subscribing with no intent to ever watch a video is pointless, and honestly, kind of immoral. Sub-for-sub is how you see channels that have 1500 subscribers, and only 15 views on their videos. I would rather have my 160 legitimate, hard-earned, and most importantly, active subscribers, than 1600 subscribers who only clicked the button because I did the same for them. It hurts your engagement, and frankly, it makes you look bad and unprofessional. Don’t do sub-for-sub, plain and simple.

Let’s wrap it up (TL;DR) with some promotion do’s and don’ts.

Do:

  • Promote yourself, anywhere and everywhere.
  • Always try to represent your channel positively.
  • Become a member of the communities where you promote yourself.
  • Be creative in your self-promotion.
  • Make sure you’re promoting a channel with content that is actually worth promoting.

Don’t:

  • Be spammy and annoying.
  • Do sub-for-sub.
  • Forget that you represent your channel, always.
  • Be afraid to ask questions.
  • Cut corners.