Last night I uploaded a video and experienced the worst performing first 8 hours of any video I’ve ever released. As I was working through the reasons why I thought I’d share my thought process with you to help those who, at some point in your life, have also produced something that just didn’t work.
Define what success means
When you upload a YouTube video your first indication of success is usually how many views it’s getting. If it gets lots of views in the first few hours you’re probably onto a winner, if (like my video in question) it doesn’t, that’s generally an indication that your audience isn’t as interested in your content.
Or so you might think.
Remember YouTube places a lot of importance these days on two key metrics: click through rate – measured as a percentage of the number of people who saw your thumbnail/title to the number that clicked on it, and audience retention/watch time – how much of that video people choose to watch.
But in my opinion those two metrics don’t entirely represent how ‘successful’ a video is. Clickthrough rate is entirely about the video title and thumbnail, nothing to do with the content itself (it can’t be, the viewer hasn’t actually watched any of the video content at that stage). And audience retention varies so much depending on the type of content. Ie a lifestyle or story based video can have good watch time as the viewer is lead through the video in a structured way, whereas an information based video like a product review or test can have lower watch time as the viewer skips to the bit that’s relevant to them.
So don’t judge success purely on views, likes and watch time. It’s far more positive to measure success on setting out to create something, creating it, learning from it, producing something better next time and growing as a result.
If you do that every time, if you can stop worrying about views and likes, you’ll end up making better and more authentic content and an audience will follow.
The YouTube Dashboard includes a lot of AI generated feedback statements like the one above. This can be incredibly demoralising. Remember comparison is the thief of joy. If you’re after pure growth for your channel/brand then it can be useful to look at what types of content you make gets more audience approval than others, but this shouldn’t be a reason to heavily overcorrect.
I try and ignore these feedback statements (I wish there was a way to turn them off to be honest). As a creative person I don’t believe there’s anything to gain from listening to a computer program comparing one piece of my work to another.
And never fall in the trap of comparing yourself to other creators either, this is even more destructive. It can be very tempting to look at how others in your niche are performing and wonder why they’re getting so much attention or success when ‘my content is clearly better than theirs’ and ‘they don’t even make good videos, why do they get more views?’.
comparison is the thief of joy
This is a dangerous and negative path to venture down. The only person you should be comparing yourself to is, yourself. Don’t focus on others, and don’t let a computer summarise your value either.
Success is impossible without failure
I’ve run my own company for 10 years now so I’m accustomed to failure. You can’t grow anything – a business, YouTube channel, personal brand – without accepting that from time to time things will fail. Accepting that failure is inevitable and realising it’s a key part of growth is critical.
So when I have a ‘bad’ video I don’t focus on the negatives of that experience, instead I honestly see this as a huge strength. I assess why it happened, was it the timing, the editing, the style, the thumbnail, the subject? And what can I do differently in the future based on that knowledge to grow?
I like failure, I won’t ever complain about failure, because without it I know I’ll never truly have success.
So why did this video fail? Accepting your mistakes
Ok let’s get into specifics; I realised I made a few key mistakes with this video.
- I set it live at the wrong time so had to quickly take it offline for a while before ‘republishing’ it. This is a big no-no for YouTube who will look at the moment your video goes live and judge you from that second onwards. So if you take the video offline again, YouTube just thinks nobody is watching it, which they weren’t! So the first hour had very low views compared to other recent videos.
- I published it at 2am Australia time (to coincide with activity in the USA) despite knowing my videos perform better when I release them closer to 8am. This was a mistake, holding it back to 8am would have been smarter rather than trying to be the ‘first’ video released on the topic.
- I was really undecided on the thumbnail and title until the last minute so it all felt a little rushed and I lost the important initial momentum that YouTube looks for in a new video release.
- But the content itself is also a consideration. I grew my channel on sharing adventures, some involving flying, but mostly involving getting out of the house and exploring this world. Obviously with lockdown here in Melbourne I’ve had to adjust the content I make and videos like this where I am talking about something rather than doing something may not be what my audience want to see. I have to accept that.
show, don’t tell
By going through the video in this way and analysing my mistakes – publish time, thumbnail, title, presentation style – I now have a list of improvements I can focus on for the next video.
It’s not the mistakes you make, it’s learning from them that matters.
Blaming the YouTube algorithm
Finally, blaming YouTube’s algorithm is a very easy and tempting way to make yourself feel better about an underperforming piece of work. As I mentioned, YouTube does have a very sophisticated way of determining what content to surface to certain viewers, but as a creator you are still in control of so much.
The time you publish, how often you publish, your thumbnail, the video title, the narrative, the editing, your marketing outside of YouTube, etc, all of these factors are entirely in your control. Considering everyone is working under the same conditions, pushing blame onto the platform is a quick way to feel better but long term it’s blurring your view on what you could be doing to improve.
Don’t ‘blame’ yourself either, blame is such a pointless exercise. I always think blame is an easy out if for people who want to shrug responsibility. Learn and improve and strive for better through actions that are in your control, don’t point the finger at someone else.
At the end of the day whilst you may be disappointed with your own performance, remember someone else out there looks at your views or subscribers and wishes they could have what you have. Someone watches your content and wishes they could do what you do. Someone looks at you and thinks your life is better than theirs.
We’re always worse than someone, and better than someone else. So stop comparing and focus on what you can control, I’m confident you’ll be a lot happier and will create better content as a result.
I can’t wait to watch your next video, I hear it’s going to be awesome!