I will argue with alarming confidence (and no actual data) that 90’s kids were the original vloggers.
When I was about 14 years old, someone handed me a digital camera that I spent hours talking to. I would take my audience (AKA me) on my teen adventures and say things like, "Hey guys, it’s Martina. Today, my cousin and I are going over to her friend’s house." Exciting stuff. Thankfully, that footage never saw the light of day.
When YouTube first launched, people like me finally had a platform to share stories, entertain, and educate. But then, vlogging evolved into what we know it as today: a sustainable income source for influencers and an effective content marketing tool for brands.
So, how do you start vlogging? We’ll cover that and more here.
How to Create a Vlog
- Feel out the competition and find your niche.
- Develop a content strategy.
- Invest in your equipment.
- Film and produce in batches.
- Optimize your vlog channel.
- Upload consistently.
- Analyze your metrics and optimize.
1. Feel out the competition and find your niche.
Before you pull out your camera and start filming, you’ll have to do some strategizing. It starts with finding your niche.
This means narrowing down what your vlog will cover based on your brand, audience, and demand.
Starting with your audience: Does vlogging align with your user persona? This is critical, as you want to meet your audience where they are. Imagine creating these high-quality videos for YouTube, but your ideal customer lives on Facebook and prefers short-form videos. In this case, you would have wasted time and resources. So, start by reviewing your persona and ensuring this venture is a worthy investment.
Here are additional steps you should take to narrow down your niche:
- Confirm the demand for your content – Use tools like Google Trends and Google Keyword Planner to double-check the interest in the type of content you will be producing. This is a useful step to generate video ideas during the initial planning phase as well as later on, when the channel is live.
- Check out your competition – How many brands are currently creating the content you’d like to produce? To get your answer, head to YouTube, put your keywords in the search bar and go through the videos on the results page. This will tell you how saturated the market is and the difficulty level to stand out.
- Brainstorm your approach – Once you know who your competitors are, analyze their content and develop a fresh, unique approach to fit your audience.
2. Develop a content strategy.
Now that you’ve found your niche, here comes the fun part: content planning.
Just as you would for a blog or social media account, you want to break down your content ideas. Start with broad topic clusters and work your way down to specific videos. If you’re having trouble, HubSpot’s Business Blogging course can serve as a great foundation for structuring your content.
From there, you can group your ideas into series, which work great on vlogging channels. Think of them as segments on a TV show. They fall under the broader topic but only cover something specific. For instance, let’s say Tasty wants to start a food vlog. There are several subseries they could have, including:
- Recipe series.
- Food shopping series.
- Cooking accessories series.
- Food tasting series.
Social listening will also help you keep your ear to the ground and generate new content ideas.
With vlogging, there’s an additional layer of planning involved. Will you need any props for filming? Do you need to be at a particular location? All of this will call for advanced planning to ensure filming goes smoothly.
Once you know what topics you will cover, tackle the less concrete areas. What will be your channel’s aesthetic and style? Is it light and airy or dark and moody? It’s important your vlog channel matches your overall brand. So, go back to your brand identity and use that as your guide to design your channel.
3. Invest in your equipment.
Having a successful vlog isn’t only about having great content. It’s also about having the right equipment to produce high-quality videos. Every video you produce needs:
- A camera that captures in-focus subjects.
- Clear and crisp audio.
- Lighting to match the brand’s aesthetic.
- A non-distracting background that supports the foreground.
If you’re on a budget, here are a few essentials to get you going:
- A ring light or softbox for lighting.
- A lav mic for audio.
- A phone with a camera.
- A phone stand or tripod.
- A backdrop, if you want an empty background.
As your channel grows, you can invest in additional equipment.
4. Film and produce in batches.
One of the benefits of content planning is that you can then film multiple vlogs at once. Batch filming will save you hours of set up and make scheduling a breeze.
Start by looking at the content you plan on filming over the next few weeks. Then, see which ones can be filmed together.
Keep in mind that not every series will allow for batch-filming. For instance, if some of your vlogs will consist of behind-the-scenes footage, this strategy won’t work. Batch filming works best for videos within the same series with little to no change in the setting, like talking head vlogs.
Once you know which ones you will film, it’s just a matter of scheduling.
5. Optimize your vlog channel.
Once you’ve filmed and edited your video, there’s another step to complete before it’s ready to be published.
The first is making a thumbnail. It’s one way viewers will decide if they want to watch your video. While you can simply take a screengrab from your vlog and use that as your thumbnail, you’ll likely want to stand out with a custom thumbnail.
YouTube’s Creator Academy recommends these following specs for your thumbnail: 1280 x 720 pixels (16:9 ratio) with a resolution up to 2MB.
Next up is your video title. It’s key to gaining your audience’s interest and for SEO. Whenever you’re writing one, keep these tips in mind:
- Include your main keyword in your title.
- Keep your title under 70 characters.
- Use numbers and eye-catching words to grab attention. I.e.: "X Ways to Boost Your Brand Awareness."
Don’t forget about your video tags and descriptions. View these as additional SEO opportunities to rank higher for search queries and help audiences find your content.
6. Upload consistently.
Vlogging is a slow and steady venture that requires consistency. Yes, it’s important to have high-quality content but you can lose your audience if you don’t maintain a regular publishing schedule.
Think of your favorite TV shows. Isn’t it the worst when you’re expecting a new episode but it doesn’t air because of a football game or holiday? Well, it’s the same for vlogging.
Audiences expect consistency. When they don’t get it, they’re more likely to seek out other brands.
7. Analyze your metrics and optimize.
Once your channel begins generating views and subscribers, you can analyze your metrics to review each video’s performance.
Metrics like average watch time and audience retention can tell you if your content is resonating with your audience. Re-watches can help you identify subtopics of interest and develop more content ideas.
Impressions and click-through-rate (CTR) will tell you how attractive your thumbnail and title are. If the rate is low, you may need to try different titling strategies or use a different thumbnail template.
As with any venture, there’s trial and error involved. Analyzing your vlogs’ performance will give you the data you need to grow your channel.
How to Structure a Vlog
- Get familiar with the vlogging style.
- Build from a three-act story approach.
- Encourage viewers to engage with your vlog.
- Vlog from your phone (if that’s your style).
1. Get familiar with the vlogging style.
There are two main types of vlog styles:
- The documentary-style "talking head" where the vlogger sits in front of a static camera and discusses a topic for educational and/or entertainment purposes. Brands often use this for how-to videos.
- The "come-with-me" style where the vlogger takes the audience with them to various locations. When showing behind-the-scenes or a day in the life, this style is very popular.
If the video requires it, you can also combine these two styles within one video. You can also use the styles interchangeably from one video to the next.
One mistake brands can make is take their approach to social media videos and TV, and apply it to vlogging. Vlogging audiences tend to look for longer videos that go in depth on a given topic, unlike the short, viral-friendly content you’d typically see on TikTok or Instagram.
With audiences craving more authenticity from brands, vlogs are a great opportunity to show the faces behind your brand and engage with subscribers.
2. Build from a three-act story approach.
A vlog typically follows a similar storytelling format to a blog. When a viewer lands on your video, they expect an introduction to the topic followed by a deep dive. It then ends with a recap of what was discussed and a call to action.
Following this simple story structure will help you develop the content for each section of the video without straying off course. Writing video scripts is another way to make sure you cover key points in your video.
Pro-tip: Use a teleprompter app to deliver your script seamlessly without looking rehearsed.
3. Encourage viewers to engage with your vlog.
Comments, likes, shares are some of the ways your audience can engage with you on your vlog channel. But how do you encourage that behavior? It starts with your video.
Your video should include ways for your viewers to join the discussion. A simple call out like "Tell us your thoughts on X in the comment section," or "Put a thumbs up if you agree," urges your viewers to jump in.
Incorporating subscribers’ comments or suggestions in your future videos is another way to encourage participation and drive your engagement rate up.
4. Vlog from your phone (if that’s your style).
Depending on your budget and the style you’re going for, you can choose between vlogging from your phone or camera.
Vlogging with a phone can give a more intimate and informal look to your vlog. It’s often used to show behind-the-scenes footage or when taking the audience on an adventure with you. However, you do sacrifice image quality when filming from a phone.
If you’re on a budget, a phone will do. As your vlog channel grows, it’s worth investing in a lightweight camera that works in different lighting conditions and has key features like image stabilization and mic inputs.
How to Edit a Vlog
Use video editing software.
When filming a vlog, you’ll inevitably pause from time to time, make mistakes, or need to reshoot something. This is where editing comes in handy.
Editing videos allows you to cut down your video to keep the most important parts. There are many video editing software available ranging in price, ease of use, and features. The most popular options include:
- iMovie(free) - This is a great beginner option if you are on a budget and own an Apple product. This software has basic editing capabilities with a sound and music library.
- Apple Final Cut Pro(One-time fee of $299.99) - If you want to take your editing to the next level, this is a great option. It offers a large array of templates, plugins, and audio mixing settings.
- Adobe Premiere Pro(Starts at $239.88/year) - With features like scene edit detection and virtual reality editing, Premiere is one of the best editing tools on the market. It’s ideal for brands who are producing videos frequently and require advanced editing features.
Create an intro.
A good vlogging intro serves the same purpose as your favorite show’s theme song. It helps build a connection with your audience and helps maintain consistency.
There are a few different approaches you can take with your intro. Some brands keep it simple with a simple frame of their logo while others prefer intros that give more context into the channel with voice-overs or animation.
Whatever you choose, be sure to use that intro in every video you publish.
Add sounds and music in the background.
Think of a scary movie without any terrifying music to build up the moment. Not the same, right?
Sounds and music are subtle touches that can keep your audience engaged in your content.
One thing to keep in mind is that YouTube is very strict about the use of copyrighted material. You must use royalty-free music or risk having a muted video your audience can’t enjoy.
Be sure to check the fine print before downloading, as some sites require you to credit the artist on your video. If you want a wider selection of music, you will likely need to subscribe to a royalty-free music library platform.
How to Start a Vlog Channel
Pick a Vlogging Platform
YouTube is the second largest search engine behind Google and the most popular vlogging platform. According to the Pew Research Center, 73% of adults report using it, most users between 18 and 49 years of age.
So, naturally, it’s where most brands and influencers launch their channel. The platform also allows its content creators to monetize their videos with ads, offering an additional source of revenue.
YouTube is also one of the most lenient platforms when it comes to video length. Users can post videos up to 12 hours. But, like I tell myself when I’m tempted to eat a bag of gummy bears: even though you can, doesn’t mean you should.So, while the option is there, most brands should probably stick to videos under 30 minutes.
Find the steps to create a YouTube channel here.
As soon as Instagram launched IGTV, it became another vlogging platform. Users can categorize their IGTV videos by series, which makes it easy to navigate. However, unlike YouTube, content creators are restricted to 20-minute videos.
A major benefit to this platform is the fact that it’s an all-in-one experience. Followers can scroll down a brand’s timeline to see their pictures and videos as well as shop their products.
With Instagram being an influencer hub, brands could benefit from collaborating with influencers for IGTV vlogs.
Although less popular, some brands use Vimeo to post their vlogs. Back in 2019, the site had a reported 170 million active monthly users. One benefit of using this platform is that there’s less competition, making it easier to stand out.
What Makes a Vlog Successful
According to a report by CNET, 70% of the videos users watch are recommended by the platform’s algorithm. So, getting on the algorithm’s proverbial good side is a great advantage.
The first tip for success is creating content that matches your audience’s interests. Google reported that when deciding what to watch, YouTube viewers choose interest over production value at 1.6 times the rate.
Some publishers report that the algorithm favors longer videos. However, spokespeople from YouTube have said it doesn’t prioritize by length, but instead by interest. The better a video performs, the more likely it will get recommended.
So, by focusing on creating high-quality content that aligns with your audience, you can have a highly successful vlog that’s engaging and drives traffic to your brand.
Originally published Jan 20, 2021 7:00:00 AM, updated January 11 2022