Chapter Five - Topnotch Talent
The decisions you make about your vlog are going to set the tone for how you are received by any audience, not just your viewer persona. This business is all about how you make someone feel, how they talk about you to their friends, and how they repeat your incredible content back to someone who would also be a perfect viewer.
Knowing who your audience is and what you want to achieve is only the first step. Next, we need to decide what message you want people to repeat back. What will they say about you?
People may not remember every video they've watched or how they found you, but they will remember how you made them feel (if you made them feel anything). The goal is to have an impact and make a feeling occur, but you can only do that by being hyper-focused on who they are and how they operate. What makes your viewer's wheels turn or gets them excited?
The way to that kind of word-of-mouth with video is through talent. If you remember, we talked about this in the section about fear of personality. It's not about your personality. It's about your talent to reach people and share things that matter to them. This is the thing that causes someone to naturally talk about you—their true feelings. They want to advocate on your behalf.
You become a video expert when you focus on your why. Your why is going to come in handy for these steps because they can feel difficult. Some days it will seem easy, but most days not.
Here's what makes it all worth it: hearing someone tell their friend about you. Not because you told them to but because they couldn't help themselves. You made that happen.
They think you're magical because you share your life through video. You will know that you're magical because you did the hard work it took to have a community who will want to talk about you.
Whenever someone says, "Amy is a social media maven and YouTube rock star!" I get so excited. Not that I like to have my ego stroked (okay, maybe I do). It’s because that's my brand. That's what the videos are about. The viewers understand and feel my brand (Hey, that rhymes!).
Secretly, I know what they're really saying even if they don't. Between the lines, they're saying that my channel creates an emotional impact that makes them want to watch and talk about it. That's talent. Knowing the content is important, but leaving a feeling is talent.
So let's talk about how I achieved that and how you're going to do it as well.
Talent in video can be summed up in three letters. That's right. Just three: SRP.
These are the three steps to video talent. If you only took away this one piece of advice from this entire book, you could still go on to vlogging success.
Let's unpack each of them.
We talked about how hard it is to truly be an authentic version of yourself. The struggles people have with specializing, I believe, fall into the same category of fear. We want to be all things to all people. It's our nature, even if we don't like to say it out loud. If we had a choice, everyone would love us and find us helpful.
Unfortunately, you don't build a rabidly loyal audience when you are trying to please the entire world. Yet, people still try.
Being a generalist isn't a bad thing, but it's not a differentiator. It's just not. I want you to be different. I want people to remember your name. I don't want people to come to you to find out if there's someone that's perfect for this, I want them to come to you because they know you're perfect for this.
Specializing is a big step because it means going niche and not looking back. You need to set the expectation for your audience with what you offer and stay in that lane. You can have fun with it and weave in and around the lines, but there will never be a question about how your audience describes you to others.
Jeff Bezos of Amazon is credited with the quote, "A brand is what people say about you when you're not in the room." What do you want people to say about you without having to make it your elevator pitch? The only way to have any control over the feeling you instill in someone is to get hyper-focused.
If you think you're too niche, you're probably wrong.
Don't you want to be the only? Even if you're truly not and there is competition out there? Don’t you want to be so talented and influential when you niche down and share your message that people will call you the “only one” in your field? They're not going to say you're the "only pet trainer." There’s no way would that be correct. But you might be the "only trainer for people who have epileptic beagles with separation anxiety in their post-puppy years."
Man, could I have used someone like that. Beagle owner here. She's sleeping under the desk right now. Keyboard taps are her happy place which is why I'm her best friend. Yeah. That's why.
Get specialized in what you do because it's going to take competition completely out of the equation and give you an incredible space to own.
What did you say you would talk about in your strategy statement? Do you know of anyone else doing that? Are there are a lot of other people doing that? How are you special? How are you different?
You might already have an idea for how you can define this for yourself, or you might have to do some research. Ideally, it's both. But you must find it out if you want that infectious word-of-mouth treatment from your audience. Because no one is rushing around to tell their friends about "just another comedy channel" or "another Q&A show."
How are you great? How are you different? How can you make sure your audience knows it? That's what it means to specialize.
As it pertains to video talent, reading means you need to read your audience. Knowing them backward and forward is a critical requirement of everything you do. If you're not making your content special for someone, you're simply creating videos to make yourself happy. I'm pretty sure that's not going to achieve the success you're looking for.
Reading your audience gives you information about them so you can know how your video might play a role in their day. This is the critical component to being discovered: share about what matters to your viewers.
What are their problems, thoughts, and queries? How can you show up there for them? You want to go where their eyeballs are. To do that, you need to know what they're thinking. What are they googling? What type of online activity do they enjoy? What are they doing when they're away from their devices? What keeps them up at night?
Reading is also going to help you with the specialization part of talent. Verifying that there is a need for what you do and why it matters is important for picking your focus and narrowing it. You need to read your audience and see the benefits to them before you decide to proclaim a message through video.
Everything you do is about who you help. Period. Nothing else matters.
When your perfect viewer finds you, give them an environment of content that makes them say, "This is exactly what I need." That moment—that connection between you and your viewer—is the beginning of what will be an incredible long-term relationship. They will be your brand advocate for as long as you decide to show up and cater to their struggles, needs, and desires.
If you want to create a video presence worth loving, my best piece of advice is to be just as much a viewer as you are a creator.
You must be in the shoes of your audience if you want to create the best experience for them. This applies to content design as well as content delivery. We're focusing on the design side for now, but keep it all in mind.
Your target demographic is already watching videos online. We've established that by going through the numbers of how video is being received online and how many different ranges of audiences are watching. Knowing that, it's time for you to see what they're seeing.
As a creator who is now being assigned the role of an avid viewer, dive into search and social and find out what vlog-type content you can subscribe to. It doesn't need to be similar to what you're hoping to talk about. You'll find you learn a lot by seeing what people who are outside of your scope are doing to speak to and engage their audience.
One of my biggest advantages as a creator-turned-business owner is that I had years of being an avid YouTube viewer and creator under my belt (and everything I'd created was for fun and not for the bottom line). However, you don't need to have started as a creator to get on the right foot.
You'll often find that the impact of videos has little to do with technology and editing knowledge as much as with the personality who is guiding the viewer through the content experience.
Watch. Take notes. What do you like? What don't you like? How do they make you feel? Do you want to do something similar or different?
It's not just about what you enjoy watching and potentially emulating in your own way. You also need to watch content that you see your audience engaging in. How do you find out if they're watching it? Search for what you think is relevant to your target and look at the comments. Really dig in. See their names and click to their profiles. Are they similar to who you've defined as your perfect viewer? Then you should be thinking about the fact that they took the time to comment on this video and that may mean they are a subscribed viewer and enjoying this channel. What is it that seems to resonate with them based on the comment and video?
This may sound like a lot of work. That's because it is. You can't know someone really, really well and create something perfect for them if you try to save time in the process. You just can't. But you can make time for this research if you want your videos to hit more than just your family and friends who will support you anyway.
Your viewers aren't just watching videos. You can learn a lot about them by seeing how they interact with each other on social media. What do they talk about when they send their 140-character press releases to the world? Where are they the most active? What trending topics seem to strike a chord?
Social and online media have made it the simplest way possible to learn more about anyone we want. That includes people who aren't famous and are simply enjoying the internet for the content and entertainment it provides them. It cannot be overstated that you must dissect what your perfect viewer is interested in. The more you know about them, the clearer your plan will become.
Specialize. Get niche. Stay niche. Read your viewer. Then vlog like a boss.
Because now you have to do it over and over again until it sticks.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. The only way to get better is to keep going. In video, that means pressing publish.
Sure! You can record a video, watch it, then drag that file to the trash and start over again.
Every time you opt for the trash and perfection, you miss out on an imperfect small win.
A small win is better than trash.
I can't wait to see people quoting that on Twitter.
I know it's tough watching yourself on video for the first time or maybe even the 100th time. It feels so personal. You watch. You close your eyes. You open them again. You're still there. You cringe. You puke a little in your mouth. It's a whole thing.
Without pressing publish, you didn't really practice. Recording something you intend to delete is not practice.
If I tried to make every video perfect before I clicked publish, I wouldn't be writing this book today. I'm proud to say that I have over 1,000 imperfect videos on the internet, because if they were indeed perfect, there might only be a couple of them online.
(I'm not as proud to say that approximately 85% of those imperfect videos are due to my hair being out of place. Just giving an example….)
Malcolm Gladwell said in his book Outliers that it takes 10,000 hours of practicing something to achieve mastery. 10,000 hours of video creation is a Long Way Away, even for me.
You'll never reach it unless you practice. And you need an audience to come along on that journey with you if you're going to get better on the way.
Publish. Publish. Publish. That's your job. Learn how to do this and get started as soon as you can. It doesn't matter if no one watches or if thousands watch. You must click “publish” if you're going to practice and become talented with video.