How Can We Get Better at YouTube?

In the past, I’ve written about how we can get better at Carousell and Instagram. Today, I’ll be writing about how we can get better at YouTube. I’ve always been a fan of identifying inputs that are potentially the most productive and make them the priority. I believe the best way to illustrate this is a short storytelling by Kobe Bryant on Kyrie Irving. Kyrie Irving is easily the Top 5 Guards in NBA at the moment. He is often praised for his ball handling skills. He could drive towards the left. He could drive towards the right. He can go between his legs and even do his signature hesitation spin moves. There are so many ways he could get past a defender. It is terrifying to be defending against him. However, his ball handling skills is not what makes him a great player. As what Kobe has described in the video, what is often overlooked is Kyrie’s ability to shoot the basketball. There are only 3 attacking options that a player has: shoot, drive left or drive right. The reason why Kyrie is able to get past so many defenders so easily, is because the defenders are too close to him, and the reason why defenders are so close to him is due to the simple fact that they’re afraid he’ll shoot the ball.

Kyrie’s ability to accurately shoot the ball time after time is what makes him so deadly. His shooting capability is the foundation that opens up many other doors of opportunities.

We can apply this concept to being good at YouTube too. Every passing year, YouTube is coming up with new ways to present the most suitable content for its viewers. For a period of time, as long as your videos have a sudden spike in views, YouTube will automatically rate your video highly and recommend it to similar target audience. However, its algorithm is becoming more nuanced. Don’t get me wrong, YouTube is still concerned with how many eyeballs have watched a particular video. But, it is also concerned with other metrics too. For (new) content creators, the 2 most important metrics we should dedicate our time and effort to is: Click Through Rate (CTR) and Retention. No doubt, there are many other tiny tips and tricks that can further boost our videos such as scheduling our video to be posted at the right time or adding specific hashtags. Similar to how Kyrie can always increase the speed at which he bounces the ball, but it makes no difference if the percentage of him scoring a ball is low.

Likewise, it is only when we’ve grounded our fundamentals into CTR and Retention, only then the tiny details after that would be effective.

This is how YouTube works. It starts by recommending your video to a small sample size. Let’s say the sample size is 100 people. If more than 10 people click on the video to watch it, it means that the CTR is more than 10%. This is considered healthy, and YouTube will continue to recommend your video to similar target audience. However, if less than 10 people click on the video to watch it, YouTube is less likely to recommend your video. Instead, YouTube will recommend someone else’s video to the similar group of target audience. In order to improve CTR, we need to work on our thumbnails and our video titles. Is the first 5 words of our video title attractive enough to get people to want to watch the video? Is it a demonstration of a “How-To” video? Or, can it be a tutorial on “Top 5 Steps To…” As much as possible, we want to trigger a Call-To-Action to get people to click in and find out more. As for our thumbnails, we want to keep it clear and simple. It is already so small. We want to avoid having more than 8 words in our thumbnail, and try our best to tell a story with it. Can we show the “Before vs After” photo? Can we show the amazing loot we’ve gotten after slaying the big demon boss?

Can we show a glimpse of the chocolate on the carrot on our thumbnail?

It is not enough that people click into our videos. Matter of the fact is if our drop out rate is high, which means that people click into our 10-minute long video and exit out of the browser in 30 seconds, YouTube will automatically assume that our video is trash. Similarly, if the drop out rate is too high, YouTube will be less likely to recommend our videos to new target audience. A healthy retention rate is 40%. This indicates that we need to find a way retain our audiences’ attention for at least 4 minutes in our 10-minute long video.

In my humble opinion, the most effective way to go about doing this is to incorporate video elements such as jump cuts, graphics, transitions and sound effects to reset our viewer’s attention.

With these video elements, there is always something around the corner for the viewer to look forward to, or to take mini breaks along the way. Think about it this way. When you’re watching a horror film, 80% of the film is probably dark and cinematic whereas the other 20% of the film typically focuses on sunrises and smiles which reset our attention back to neutral. If the entire film is about something or someone attempting to haunt us, the only thing left haunting us would be boredom. A simple jump cut, essentially a crop in on what we’re looking at, accompanied with the right sound effect would reset our mind. We can also slide in relevant graphics and input transitions.

The other thing we can do to hold someone’s attention is to introduce a powerful hook.

It is almost like creating a 15–30 second trailer of what our video is about. It is showcasing our final blow to the boss and reaching out for the high-valued loot in the treasure chest only to be hooked in further to find out what we’ve gotten. It is showcasing the final product of the egg fried rice we’ve made with hot steam rising between the rice only to be hooked in further to find out how to cook this dish. It is showcasing a glimpse of the final product or the journey which makes people want to find out more. A powerful hook is how we can hold someone’s attention for more than 40% of the video. More importantly, a hook is not to be confused with an introduction. An introduction can be boring, a hook is often not.

There is a fine line between fishing and doing nothing. We would like to think that we’re fishing, but the truth is we don’t have the line.