How to Start Vlogging on YouTube

Interested in learning how to make your own vlogs for YouTube? Wise decision on both fronts, my friend. With the meteoric rise of YouTube serving as evidence, it’s undeniable that video is becoming an increasingly popular medium for both content producers and consumers (two terms, more and more, describing the same population). And because it’s YouTube that has become the leader in online video–in fact, now fielding more queries in the US than any other search engine save Google–it makes the most sense to publish there. And did I mention its free? And it now supports HD? The following is a how-to guide for creating your own video blogs, doing so in little time and costing next to nothing.

Vlogger’s toolbox

  1. Computer/Internet connection: You’re reading this article…check!
  2. Video recording device: My guess is that you already own something that records to video, if not a dedicated camcorder, then a cell phone, digital camera or webcam. If not, don’t worry–although, you did just bust my “no purchases necessary” bubble–because you can get one online or at nearby brick-and-mortar on the cheap.
  3. Editing software: Again, even if you’re unaware, you most likely already have it. Windows Movie Maker comes bundled with Microsoft PCs, and iMovie comes with Macs. Both, although entry-level editors, are more than capable of producing video blogs.
  4. Desk lamp (optional): To put your best face forward, you need to properly light it. Natural lighting from a window is ideal, but if you’re shooting at night, you’ll probably need additional lighting beyond just the overheads.

Pick a topic, any topic
Important: although blogging is personal, this isn’t your diary, folks. Maybe you to want listen to yourself ramble on about the mundane details of your life, your current emotional state, or whatever else is on the top of your head, but, trust me, nobody else does. Your video blog, to be effective, should be tightly focused on a singular topic, one about which you are a) knowledgeable and b) passionate. If you meet those two qualifications, then your vlog has the best chance of offering something worthwhile to the viewer in an interesting, compelling manner.

One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is doing a product review. If you regularly use a product and love doing so, then you probably know quite a bit about it and would come across energetically when speaking to it–plus, you already have it around the house to show on camera. Congrats, you’re qualified to vlog! I recently recorded a review of the newly released Bud Select 55 (oh, how I love getting drunk for reasons other than dancing off beat and sending inappropriate texts).

Lights, camera, action!
Lighting: The best option is to position yourself near a window, letting the sun light your face. The goal is to make sure your face is well lit so the viewer can see all that passion about Bounce dryer sheets being emoted on your expressive features. If you have to use artificial lighting, avoid relying just on overheads, which can shadow your eyes and simply not provide enough light. I’d advise using a desk lamp set up near eye level to supplement.

Sound: Using your camera’s built-in microphone should be good enough; however, make sure you’re somewhere quiet. That means eliminating as much background noise as possible, including the sound of your laundry being dried to static-free perfection.

Performance: Your first instinct may be to write a script. Don’t do it! Sounding as if you’re reading lines comes off badly, and having a script nearby tempts you to do something even worse: looking off-camera to actually read what you wrote. Do that, and just like an outfit of clingy clothes, the whole thing is ruined. It works best when you give a natural-sounding delivery while looking into the lens, appearing to make eye contact with the viewer. Go ahead and outline what you want to say–it’ll help you stay focused and reduce distracting “um” pauses–but just don’t write it verbatim.

Edit it, then edit it some more
Rule One: Generally speaking, shorter equals better. It’s a moot point that there’s a ten minute limit on YouTube; your vlog shouldn’t come within a closet make-out session length of that time maximum. Seriously, I highly doubt what you’re talking about warrants more than three minutes, probably no more than two. If you haven’t been paying attention, online content platforms becoming popular lately fall under the more-is-less micro category. Twitter, anyone?

Rule Two: Vanilla Ice rapped it best, “quick to the point, to the point no fakin’.” With your video’s title, you’re making a promise; and you need to deliver on that promise quickly–and by quickly, I mean in the first five seconds. If not, then you’re running the high risk of viewers clicking away “so fast, other DJs say, damn!”

Techniques/Effects: A text intro and outro is fine, just make sure they don’t force you to violate the aforementioned rules. When you’re starting out, your video editor’s built-in effects and transitions are like shiny new objects tempting you to play with them–they’re innocent looking, but employ them at your own peril. Anything beyond a simple fade is probably going to look at best endearingly cheesy, at worst annoyingly distracting.

Send it through the YouTubes
The information you wrap around your vlog is just as important as the information you deliver in it. Around it? Yes, I’m talking about the title, info and tags. Not only do these three make up the text that’ll communicate to the user what your vlog is about, but, importantly, they’re three main factors by which YouTube indexes your video for inclusion in its own search engine, as well as how the other major players like Google and Bing do so too. As such, you should be filling each with searched keywords best describing your subject matter. The title is the most important; the art is writing one that packages your topical keywords into an appealing attention getter, plainly and clearly delivering the gist, but in a click-baiting, compelling way.

If you link it, they will come…maybe
Just because you post it on YouTube doesn’t mean anyone is going to see it. There are literally millions of videos on the site competing for viewers’ attention, most of them sitting silently, waiting on the thousands of views that are never going to come. The same as for the vlog itself, if you want to make some noise you’ve got to create it. For purposes of both optimizing for the search engines and targeting well-qualified traffic, a smart way to catch views is to cast out a wide net to Web 2.0, posting the link and embedding the code to popular places themed similarly to your vlog’s topic. For my Bud Select review, I found Budweiser-related Facebook pages and groups–many with thousands of fans and members–and posted my vlog to their respective walls. From YouTube Insight’s statistics, I can see I’ve gotten views as a result.

By making and uploading your own vlogs, are you going to become the next YouTube sensation, garnering millions of views and thousands of dollars as a partner? Rest assuredly not. But, with some creative and strategic effort, you can definitely make yourself heard by the niche you serve, with the possibility of creating a targeted funnel of well-qualified traffic to your website or blog (something that could be profitable if you’re selling a legitimate service or product). Business purposes aside, by creating to-the-point video blogs on topics you know about and have passion for, you’ll definitely be adding value to the online community. Isn’t that what it’s all about?