The video portal YouTube connects people the world over. Operators of these video channels entertain and influence millions of subscribers with their innovative ideas; in some cases, this can fund their entire lifestyle. So how do professional YouTubers actually make money on the platform? Could uploading videos and earning income from YouTube also be something for you?
If you look around on the channels of well-known YouTubers, you’ll spot the word vlog soon enough. Vlogs are videos in which the ‘vlogger’ talks to their audience and shares thoughts or private insights with them – sometimes on topics that don’t directly relate to the channel. This mixture of video and blog is known as a vlog and plays an important role in the personal branding of a channel or account. If you use this format skilfully, you can use it to strengthen your profile in the long term.
What is a vlog, and what is its purpose?
The word vlog is short for video-blog, which refers to blog posts in video format. In a vlog, the person speaking addresses their viewers directly and talks openly about a specific topic, personal experiences, or updates their followers on their life (e.g., by filming themselves traveling, giving a tour of their home, or during a shopping trip). This gives followers the feeling of really getting to know the person behind the account and builds a personal bond – turning casual viewers into a loyal following.
The increasing popularity of vlogs is closely linked to YouTube's success story. While the first YouTubers still focused strictly on their core topic, the possibility of monetising YouTube channels triggered the frenzy for view-numbers and subscribers, and the pressure rose to regularly produce new, varied content to retain subscribers over the long term. A vlog offers the perfect opportunity to address followers (seemingly) at a personal level. The more authentic this appears, the more the YouTubers became idols whose lifestyles simply had to be emulated – and so the first influencers were born.
What characterises a good Vlog?
The first vlogs were still total amateur videos – often recorded in poorly lit living rooms or with shaky cell phone cameras. A lot has changed since then. The vlogs of today’s YouTube stars are elaborately planned and professionally produced videos that often take a full day or even several days to create. Nevertheless, authenticity is still the top priority. The videos still look as if they were shot on a whim. And that's entirely desirable, so that followers can continue to identify with the account and the person behind it.
Apart from that, a good vlog is characterized by the following features:
- Personal style: Regardless of whether you are commenting on current events, talking about your last trip or explaining a difficult issue, it is important that the viewers feel personally addressed. You can achieve this through linguistic styles such as rhetorical questions or talking as if in conversation with your viewers.
- Colloquial style: Choose language that fits the target audience and the topic of the account. Overly formal language creates distance and often looks out of place on social media. At the same time, you’ll seem disingenuous if you change the way you naturally speak. The most natural approach is to speak as you do in everyday life with friends and family.
- Topics: The topic should fit the concept of the account and interest and inform followers at the same time. Think about what you want to say beforehand and record the most important points on a keyword list. This will create a thread for your vlog that will help you not to get lost in details or stray from the topic.
- Length: The magic formula for social media posts is ‘short and snappy.’ Many users are used to snackable content and have a short attention span. The optimal duration of a vlog also depends on the respective platform. For YouTube, it is around 10 to 15 minutes, for Stories on Instagram or Snapchat around 2 to 3 minutes. This amount of time gets you the full attention of your viewers and is more than sufficient for most everyday topics. In exceptional cases, a longer vlog is also possible if the topic is particularly complex or very close to your heart.
- Community exchange: Show your followers that you value their feedback. To do this, you can post vlogs from time to time that address comments or questions about previous videos. Implementing topic requests or suggestions from the community also resonates with followers.
The role of vlogs in online marketing
The more views and subscribers an account has, the more interesting it becomes from a marketing point of view, because the large reach is important for promoting a company’s products and raising awareness of who they are. At this point, every successful vlogger has to ask themselves where the line is between occasional product recommendations and intrusive advertising.
A completely different way to earn money with your own content are supporter platforms like Patreon. There, followers who value your content can sign up and promote your work with a regular monthly contribution. In return, they get access to premium content created specifically for Patreon or other individual benefits.
Many followers usually don’t have a problem with PR samples being presented on an account from time to time, as long as the focus and style of the posts don’t change, and the sponsored posts don’t take over. Calling yourself a brand ambassador can be a double-edged sword – on the one hand, it’ll help boost your income, but followers can also react negatively to this. If you promote one brand tirelessly, it can quickly cost you the hard-earned trust of the community.
The key here is to communicate honestly and transparently with the community. If you clearly label promotional posts and explain the reasons why you decided to work with a brand, you involve followers in this important step.
Among the best-known vloggers who have managed this balancing act in the UK are:
- DanTDM – Daniel Middleton is from Aldershot in England and has been a popular vlogger for many years. He has a following of over 20 million, which has meant that he’s been able to push his career beyond vlogging to include writing a NYT Bestselling novel. His YouTube content is mainly focused on entertainment.
- KSI– Olajide Olatunji is behind KSI and has over 20 million subscribers on YouTube. The channel started with gaming content, such as FIFA and GTA, but has since grown to include KSI’s recording artistry and boxing career. His content has had a combined value of 8.2 billion views.
- Miniminter – Simon Minter has a long history of vlogging success, with his YouTube channel having over 9 million subscribers. His content is personal, entertaining and he has a close connection to his fans. He often features his girlfriend on his channel, and the two undertake internet challenges or film reaction videos together.
- Patricia Bright – Patricia Bright has a hugely popular YouTube channel which covers everything from ‘getting ready’ videos, to self-care videos, from things she’s learned as a mother, to high-street shop hauls. She describes her channel as a hair and beauty channel, but also covers other topics for her audience of almost 3 million.