4 Feb 2020
Elena Galant is a blogger with nine years of experience. Her YouTube channel has over 308 000 subscribers, her Instagram account is keeping step (302 000 followers). On the scale of the Russian-speaking part of the Internet, she can be called the guru of style and fashion. Elena told us how a newbie can develop a popular YouTube channel and how long it takes to turn a hobby into a stable, profitable business model.
…imagine: a middle-aged girl (30 years old, to be precise), living in a small town in the south of Ukraine, with two university degrees in economics and professional experience in any sector (management, export, import) except style and fashion. At 30 she realizes that she needs change and in two years she becomes one of the most influential, successful and recognizable fashion bloggers of the entire Russian-speaking Internet.
Today we will talk about two things that factored into her success: her self-belief and persistence. If each of you is persistent and believing in yourself, then it will take you two years to become a successful YouTube blogger and share the experience with other novice bloggers the same way.
I wish to emphasize that not a penny was invested into the promotion of the channel. The only investment was into the equipment, but actually nowadays iPhone takes a video just as good as any decent camera — it is quite sufficient for YouTube. You will also need a clip-on microphone that doesn’t cost much and any laptop fit for video editing.
Now, let’s figure out how to get from point A (where you are a beginner blogger without a clue of what you are doing) to point B where you become one of the most powerful influencers in your industry.
Choosing your theme
You need to find your passion. It is when you realize what you want to do and cannot help doing it, and you are prepared to do it for free (in the beginning, of course) — that’s when you can become an influencer.
If you sit and think “I hate my boss, I want to spend more time at home with my family” — you will not succeed, you’re better off working. You’ve got to burn with passion. This applies specifically to YouTube. If you’re hosting a Telegram channel, it’s not that important, you can make up anything there — your energy is not the factor there. If we are talking about YouTube, you’ve got to have stars in your eyes, to really like what you’re doing, and it’s not something you can fake. Well, maybe you’ll be able to fool the audience once or twice. But if you keep doing this for 4-5 years, you will simply exhaust yourself. If your eyes do not shine when you talk about your topic, do not do this on YouTube.
So if you don’t know what you want to do, what you really want to talk about, don’t become an influencer at all.
Choosing the platform
I kept playing around with platforms all the way, trying the ones that were most popular. When I started, all we had was LJ (Russian platform for text longreads like Blogger), that was a long time ago. Then I realized that the advertisers require a separate website — pretty and self-contained. Back then it was important, personal websites worked very well. Then Instagram came along, having an account there is a given for an influencer, but for me it’s more of a backstage, the workings of my life.
And finally there was YouTube. At that stage two years ago I figured out that it was the only social network that ensured a constant stable growth of subscribers without a penny of investment — simply on the grounds of the author creating quality content and doing it regularly. Only YouTube will provide you with a constant increase in subscribers, and as a result, a constant increase in revenue from CPA (and not just that).
CPA marketing on YouTube
Why CPA specifically? Currently it comprises 70-80% of my earnings. I believe that this is the most elegant and honest way for influencers to earn money. You don’t need to sell your conscience, advertise dandruff shampoos or detergents, and think every time: will your subscriber forgive you for advertising something that everyone is already tired of? There are some recurrent advertising projects that annoy everyone. CPA guarantees your clear conscience, it is always a stable pleasant income, and the best part is that you can always honestly choose what to advertise and what not to advertise.
Let’s say there is a hypermarket of clothes and accessories, selling millions of brands. As a fashion blogger, I will honestly tell you that there are some brands there that I will never refer to in my life, because they are a total nightmare. But at the same time there is a million of other brands there that I always refer to and my viewers are satisfied. They purchase things from my links, receive them, are pleased with them and do not wish to return them (remember that each client and viewer has the opportunity to return their purchase). You can’t fool anyone: if you advertise some overly expensive garbage, people will return it and the next time they simply will not click on your, and this will be the downfall of your ingenious business project.
Work with the audience and promotion tools
Working with the audience is the primary promotion tool on YouTube, since all the algorithms of all social networks are tooled for the viewer. There is no social network that would be tooled for a blogger, so you should cater to your viewer, and only then will the social network algorithms promote you. This is the only way to have a steady increase in subscribers without money or investment.
So, how can you work with this audience and use YouTube algorithms to keep a constant positive growth — both in subscribers and in earnings? There is a trias, consisting of the cover, the title and the first three seconds of video — this is the chief and most important thing to pay attention to at the start.
By the way, for some reason, even many professional YouTube bloggers with many years of experience forget or simply do not know that the most important thing is the cover. Beginner bloggers go about like this: they spend two days without sleep, shoot their video with three cameras, edit it, insert links. All of it takes quite a while, and by the time they reach the stage of uploading the video to YouTube, they have neither time nor energy left to prepare the cover. They do it by the leftover principle. But in fact they should be doing it exactly the opposite way: first they need to come up with a cover and think it through.
Why? There are studies that show that when a person goes on YouTube (on the phone or on the laptop — it doesn’t matter — on the main page, in the “Recommended” or “subscribed” section) — he sees a large array of pictures. His eye gently glides over these pictures, he doesn’t see the words yet. The first thing he appreciates is the photo of the cover and you have only one second to catch his attention. If your cover is brighter, catchier, more emotional, then the viewer’s gaze will linger over it. Therefore, your covers should always be bright. The title on these covers should be readable: few words and to the point. Do not write whole sentences — it’s ok if the words are not coordinated, as long as your viewers clearly see and understand them. Therefore, the cover of the video is the number one thing you should think about.
The second step (after the cover got the viewer hooked) is the title of the video. This is the next second of your contact with the person. You can select the title of the video based on Google-trends, you can look up a proper way of wording it — that might be a smart, analytical approach. But in any case the title is only the second component of your video’s success. The title itself should be made of simple clear words and (preferably) be very catchy.
And here is the bad news for all the perfectionists and those yearning to be well-liked by everybody: negative content works twice as good as positive. To use my own example: a video about “Anti-trends of the fall” will be viewed twice as well as a video “Fall trends”, a video “Things I’ll never buy for my autumn wardrobe” will appeal twice as good as a video “My purchases for autumn wardrobe”. Do not be afraid to be aggressive, self-confident jerks: the more of that catchy negative content you have, the better. There are channels that rose to two hundred, three hundred thousands, even half a million subscribers in one year on negative content. Imagine this: a channel has half a million viewers and all because of its exposés: “We will uncover the whole truth and tell you about it, even if half of it is made up”. Unfortunately it works well, so negative emotions always work better than positive ones.
And, finally, factor number 3: the first three seconds of the video. Broadcasters use this “gimmick”, where they take the most aggressive phrases out of the whole video, make a short reel of them and put it at the very beginning of the video. That is, in the process of shooting you may say a lot of things, your 15-minute video may at some point show you say things like: “Screw you!” or “I’ll never buy this” or “Oh my God, that was magical!” You take these three phrases, cut and paste them and place them at the very beginning of the video. It is preferable to have these phrases pronounced at the end of the video, or at least in the second half of it, and here is why: a person will think: “I want to hear in what context this phrase was said,” and he will have to watch the video to the very end to hear it.
Therefore, do not forget that the first three seconds of contact are crucial, at this time a person makes a decision whether he will continue to watch the video or not.
Why does all of this matter this much? If YouTube registers that your video was clicked on, plus it has a sufficiently high percent of retention, then the service starts recommending your video to other subscribers, who have never seen you before.
YouTube begins to recommend you to someone else’s audience from time to time and gauges its reaction. If it sees that these knew people click on videos and watch them for a sufficient amount of time, then it starts offering your content to more and more people. This is called a “click pillow”: thus with the help of your native audience you can get boosted into the feed like on a trampoline and reach a whole new level, a new audience. Therefore, these three components are, in essence, the main formula for success on YouTube.
Wo rk with comments
The more comments you have, the better. Then again, you can provoke your viewers. For example, you can deliberately say some nonsense in your video (even if it is a load of crap). That would instigate people to debate, to write to you: “That is wrong, I do not agree with you”, someone else would stand up for you, and yet another person would continue to disagree, and it will all turn into endless threads of discussion. YouTube algorithm would think: this video is important, it covers some substantial social topic, which means it is worth recommending to everyone.
The same goes for likes and dislikes. Many people already know that they are all the same for YouTube. Do not get upset if your video receives many dislikes — it may even turn out to be a good thing — it means you struck a nerve with someone. The more users interact with your channel, the better, and it does not matter what kind of interaction that is — a comment, a like or a dislike.
Here are three of my personal life hacks that I have figured out in my two years on YouTube and nine years of blogging.
First and foremost — have your finger on the pulse. It doesn’t matter which social network you are in, which social network is the primary one for you, which one is secondary. I have always been making money on CPA, but in different years I was on different platforms. One platform may show rapid growth, be the most popular at the moment, it can spin a lot of money. But this fact does not prevent some other social network to rise to the top of popularity in six months. A lot of channels died precisely because their creators, bloggers, did not have their ear to the ground and were not aware of what was trending: what social network is in, where people hang out and where one should come and make a name for oneself. That is why you should make friends with your market associates, other publishers and bloggers, find like-minded people among your colleagues and keep up the shop talk: what’s new, what happened, who tested a new social network, what the results were. You must be in the loop — this is really very important.
Second, believe in yourself. Because every blogger (especially in the beginning) encounters… I would not even call them haters. Sometimes people are truly sincere when they write: “You should not be doing this, no, seriously, not you, not that!” Never listen to personal opinions in the comments. Listen to the popular opinion, when you really dropped the ball and there is a mass of similar comments. But if someone writes you a five-paragraph comment like: “You have no talent, you should not be doing this”, do not listen. Personal opinion in the comments never matters.
A specific example: for three years I had been asked to make a video about men’s fashion, and commentators wrote how important that was — and those comments gathered most of the likes. Finally I made that video, and as you may have guessed, I received minimal views (lower than ever). Yes, those who had asked me to make such a video, wrote: “Thank you, finally, we have waited for this for so long”, but in terms of views it turned out totally worthless for me. That is why you should keep in mind that a personal opinion is just that — a one person’s opinion, it does not mean anything.
If you keep doing what I told you to do for a week, two weeks, five, ten weeks, a year and expect immediate results — do not hold your breath, that is not going to happen. Many professional bloggers (we discussed this with our colleagues) came to understanding that the minimal timeframe is two years of consistent, stable, continuous work. There are channels that after one year have reached 200 thousand from just one video in two weeks, but that one video was of a very good quality.
Release the video on the same day of the week, at the same time — frequency is also important for YouTube. Persistence and patience are the two most important factors for achieving good results in two years without much investment on YouTube.