VidCon 2011: 5 Steps to Make It Big on YouTube

Representatives from the video sharing site shared secrets to streaming big

Last Updated: July 28, 2011 @ 5:48 PM

YouTube’s aspiring stars sat down at a post-lunch lecture during VidCon Thursday with Ben Relles, Head of Creative Development at YouTube, to find out how to get their videos to go viral.

The creative mind behind the “Obama Girls” video that put his channel, Barely Political, on the map pre-Presidential election, Relles later became a YouTube insider, working for YouTube Next, a team that focuses on building potentially viral stars.

Also read: VidCon 2011: 'Put It Out, Sit Back, and Hope People Like It!'

Part of Relle’s work is the YouTube Partner Project, where rising YouTube stars are interviewed for advice on just how to make it big. Relles and those interviewed in the video offer the following steps, synthesized for you by TheWrap:

1. Pay Attention to What’s Trending

Relles describes YouTube as Darwinian, where once something works, many other people will jump on board. Think “planking” (laying flat, face down on random objects) or “coning” (grabbing your drive-through ice cream cone upside-down) and the traction those odd acts gained across the web. Search for what’s trending, and post.

2. If You Think it’s Funny and Awesome, Others Might Too!

One user on the Partner Project says that the true failure of an idea is not pursuing it. “If you’re laughing while you’re editing it,” one user said, “put it up!”

Once your videos gain traction, the money comes after you, and not the other way around, they say. One user described her fan following as a beast that needed to be fed or they become irritable. Give the people what they want.

3. Keep in Mind YouTube’s Algorithms to Rise Above the Clutter

The YouTube algorithm takes into account many factors that will affect where its shared and who will see your content.

How long people stay on your video, for example, is factored in. Relles admits that most users drop off a video within the first 15 seconds, so keep it interesting.

Lengthy videos are a little much, but the more minutes users stay engaged, the wider the popularity.

YouTube audiences also favor videos with a consistent schedule. “You want people to watch videos and feel a part of something bigger,” Relles said. Posting 7 times, then nothing for three months doesn’t bode well.

Something else to keep in mind is the metadata: titles, tags, and descriptions. YouTube has risen to the second biggest search engine on the internet (behind Google), so it’s important to optimize titles and keywords for your videos to surface.

4. Talk to your Audience

Make like iJustine and answer audience questions. Tell them what to do — to subscribe and “like” your videos, share them and subscribe to others. “It’s a very social medium,” Relle said. The videos should reflect that. It also helps if you're hot.

5. Collaborate

Other YouTube stars just like you are itching for exposure. If you’ve both got a few hundred followers, work together to build a few thousand — especially with stars who have a loyal fan base, such as Michael Buckley — who promotes rising YouTubers. Their word sticks.

Another option is to connect with the blogging world. Vlogs and blogs are surprisingly out of communication with one another, Relles implied. He cited his “Speak Like Kristin Stewart” parody, which was able to gain traction when blogs and other larger media sites latched on.

It’s a tough road, but it’s yours alone. Now get taping.