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My Journey to Becoming a Content Creator - Part 2

Previously, I mentioned the fact that I found some channels on YouTube that specialized in growth and how to create a "successful" YouTube channel. Falling into the rabbit hole that is YouTube growth channels leads to more peril than success though.

Back in the 19th century there were people who would travel around the United States, specifically out west, selling a cure. This cure wasn't for any specific disease, oh no, it was a cure for everything! It didn't matter what ailed you, this special blend of Snake Oil would fix you right up in no time.

People would flock to the cart of the salesman and witness miracles happening before their eyes. The lame would walk, the blind would see, this magical medicine really worked! The problem was, the individuals being cured were actors who never had anything wrong to begin with. By the time the locals figured it out, the snake oil salesman and his minions would be long gone, with coin purses that weighed much more than when they had arrived.

This kind of con was nothing new, and would be repeated many times throughout history. From ancient Rome to more modern times, there have always been individuals preying on those who are gullible or in need. Sometimes it takes the shape of scammers who go around a town after a disaster, claiming to be able to fix things only to take the money for the job and run after barely starting it. Sometimes, it is a "prince" who has millions of dollars in a bank account that he can only access by first sending it to one lucky recipient who will get half of it as a reward.

Religious leaders have taken scamming to an extreme. Standing at the pulpit, sometimes several times a week, and encouraging people to give as much money as they can to please God. Never mind the question of what any god would need with money, the preacher needs a new jet!

From religious leaders and other scammers there came something called a guru. Now, the term guru isn't new, but in the context of scams it refers to someone who has made it and now wants to show you how to make it. This usually comes in the form of someone who has gotten rich either by being extremely lucky OR by using less than moral methods. They'll stand in front of crowds or a camera and tell you their story, following it up by offering to share their deepest secrets with you, for a price of course.

"Normally, this course would go for hundreds of dollars, but because I truly want you all to succeed, you can get it for only $99.99!" They shout. This is, of course, a limited time offer so you need to hurry. No thinking about it, make a decision to buy before doubt robs you of future riches.

Pyramid schemes (MLMs in this context) follow the same kind of logic. They require you to buy a ton of product that you will never be able to sell to stay in their good graces. You can make even more money by conning your friends and family into joining!

Something all of these schemes have in common is that they prey on those who are desperate or who want to make a better life for themselves or their families. They know that most people will never make more than a small amount of money, many times barely scraping by, and are there to offer a "solution" to the money problem. This is where we collide with YouTube "growth" gurus.

When I first started on YouTube, I wanted to learn the ins and outs. How do you edit and upload videos? What kind of thumbnail is the best? Does the algorithm hate me? It was in searching for answers and trying to become an expert that I first stumbled across a YouTube guru.

I don't rightly remember which one was the first, but there are so many out there since the pandemic caused us all to rethink our lives and careers. Many people in 2020 decided to try making YouTube channels as a possible income stream while they waited for the world to come back. As a result, the demand for channels that taught people about YouTube skyrocketed.

These channels all spouted the same, generic, advice over and over again.

  • Make better thumbnails.

  • Get people to watch longer.

  • Have a hook at the beginning of your videos.

  • Use the right keywords and tags.

  • Cut out all the breaths when editing (because even a single breath would cause people to click away.)

This isn't a comprehensive list by any means, but it gets the point across. Everyone was looking for a solution to "beat" the YouTube algorithm and these "growth" channels were selling it.

Now, when I say they were selling it, I don't mean all of them were putting out their hands and asking for money, though some were. Many of them were raking in advertiser dollars due to the massive increase in views, and many were promoting one of two big name tools: VidIQ or TubeBuddy.

Both of these "tools"(I use that term VERY loosely) were advertised as ways to increase traffic to your videos. They offered help with keyword research and suggesting tags for your videos. They both also were "free" unless you wanted to get any actual use out of them. The coolest looking features were hidden behind a paywall.

I actually gave both tools a shot, albeit for a short time, and found they offered nothing of value when it came to growing a channel. This wasn't entirely shocking, but what was kind of shocking was the response I would get from the various communities I was in for small YouTubers when I brought this up. People would defend these things to the death, and anyone who spoke against the tools or the growth channels that touted them was an enemy.

It didn't take me long to realize the con the growth gurus were pulling. Convince people you have the secret to growth, offer them some basic advice, with the really good advice/tools locked behind a paywall, and profit.

It did take me some time to learn that the secret to YouTube is that there is no secret.

There are millions upon millions of channels out there and the quality of the channels does not matter when it comes to growth. I've seen everything from the highest quality channels, with basically the budget of a movie studio, to a guy/girl in their room with a camera phone all blow up. I've also seen some great quality channels that stayed small for a really long time or never grew more than a small audience.

The YouTube algorithm is built for the viewer, to keep them on the platform so Google can make more money on ads. This is a standard business practice and the biggest reason YouTube is what it is today. It doesn't care about any one channel. What it does care about is reaching into a bag full of videos and pulling out the one that will keep a viewer engaged. Sometimes, that is a video from a small channel and sometimes it is a video from a bigger channel.

When you upload a video to YouTube, it gets placed in an index of videos. In order to determine the most likely correct viewer for the video, a small handful of people with various watch histories will be shown the thumbnail. Who it gets shown to is based on things like what you say the video is about and what the YouTube AI can figure out about the video.

If some of those people click on the thumbnail, YouTube then monitors what they do. Do they watch the whole thing? Part of it? Do they click another video or leave the platform?

One video doesn't make a pattern or a channel, so they will try this over and over again over a long period of time to see who might watch the content you make.

This whole process gets a jump if you make a video that a lot of people share or find somewhere outside of YouTube. If someone shares your video on Twitter or Reddit or somewhere else and a ton of people all come in to watch it, they will be more likely to push it to more people because they now have a ton of data on potential viewers.

But this post isn't really about how the YouTube algorithm works, so I will digress.

Once I figured out I was wasting my time with the growth channels, I began to focus on what I wanted to do. I shifted from making photography videos into more paranormal or ghost related stuff combined with science in what I called "Cemetery Chats". I found that I rather enjoyed making these, but as the days grew shorter and the weather colder, it was hard to get out and make them.

I had also been working on a creative project that would eventually wind up becoming "The Journal" as well as my Legends and Tales series. Into the winter, Cemetery Chats would be brought indoors and I would start more Vlog style videos. With so many irons in the fire, things were not really working out for me on the YouTube front. At the time, more or less spring 2022, this wasn't a big deal as I wasn't really worried about growing my channel. I was having fun and a few people were watching and even getting some entertainment and educational stuff so all was well.

Things would change drastically in late May, but that is a topic for the next post.

If you read this far I want to thank you for sticking with me. These blogs are really just a way for me to get some things off my chest, kind of like therapy, and I don't really expect anyone to read them.

Have a great day and I'll see you in the next one!

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