YouTube can make you famous…

Justin Bieber, Julius Yego, Just a band, and Sal Khan have one thing in common – they found success through the online video platform, YouTube.

Teen pop music sensation, Bieber was signed up by Usher in 2009 at the age of 15 after a talent scout watched a YouTube video of Bieber performing in his school. Sal Khan quit his well paying job as a hedge fund manager to start an online academy on YouTube that teaches people around the world on different topics from math to chemistry. His 2,000 videos have been viewed 61 million times.

Closer home, Just a band’s 2010 hit single, ha-he, went viral in a matter of days after its release, while Julius Yego perfected his javelin skills by watching YouTube videos. He went on to win gold at the 10th All Africa Games in Mozambique.

These YouTube-made stars are just few of the many people who’ve reaped big using the online platform. While millions of viewers watch YouTube videos online (3 billion views a day), a majority go to the site to be entertained by music videos and theatrical clips.

A few, however, are moving beyond consumption to content producers, reaping massively from their makeshift studios. An ordinary video camera and an internet connection is all that is required to start a YouTube channel. There is no limit on video clip length anymore, but a 20GB file size constraint is still in place.

DIY YouTube entrepreneurs

YouTube provides an opportunity for content creators to earn from their videos. But one has to be a partner to share revenue with YouTube.

“To become a YouTube Partner, you must create original videos, own or have express permission to use and monetize all video that you upload and regularly upload videos that are viewed by thousands of YouTube users,” says Chris Kiagiri, Google Kenya Technical Lead.

There are other avenues of earning revenue from online videos. A media house or any other organization may buy your videos or form a partnership that will see the content producers benefit.

In other markets, companies are paying content producers to endorse their products and services. What YouTube provides is an almost free marketing platform. So visibility and consistency is vital.

The launch of a dedicated Kenyan YouTube channel late last year is meant to spur the growth and consumption of locally produced video content. So what does it take to be a YouTube star?

Patience and consistency

There is no overnight success. It takes time, consistency and a well thought-out strategy to reach critical mass. Then, maybe then, money will start flowing. In the US, out of the millions of videos uploaded by users, approximately 2 percent earn more than $200,000, according to TubeMogul. Schedule an upload timetable and stick to it. Subscribers will start following and expecting uploads.

Keep it fresh and unique

Viewers will keep coming back to your channel if they expect to find new content. If they really like it, they will share it with friends on their social networks.

“When it comes to best practice, nothing beats fresh interesting content. Be sure to also take the time to fill the meta data for all your uploads to aid in discoverability,” advices Chris.

In Kenya, music videos, news, comedy and bizarre content with high shock value is popular. But there is also growing interest in sports and education content.

Passion and Personal

Shane Dawson, a 22 year-old college drop-out from California, has made quite a fortune by producing and uploading three videos every week. Uploads of his humor videos has half a billion views a year, according to CNN.

Shane started recording when he was 10 years, but only turned his passion into a full time venture after being fired from his regular job. “If you don’t love doing this without making money, give it up,” says Burch of TubeMogul.

At the end of the day, YouTube is a social network, so engaging with your audience is important to grow the numbers.


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