I’m going to hazard a guess and say you probably already know what YouTube is.
With a global user base of over 1.9bn people, more 18-to-49-year-old viewers on mobile alone than existing television networks, and with people cumulatively watching more than one billion hours of YouTube content every single day, YouTube isn’t just a video website anymore – it’s a part of our daily lives. And of course, it isn’t just YouTube that offers an outlet for video content. Facebook has its own video platform, as does Instagram with IGTV. Twitter allows clips of a certain size to be attached to tweets, too.
Which begs the question; if video content is such a potential goldmine for followers and exposure, are you using it effectively?
Chances are, the answer is no. And that’s not me being mean – in such a crowded and saturated marketplace, it can seem almost impossible to stand out.
It may well be that it isn’t a priority compared to platforms that you feel you can leverage more easily for brand awareness and that all-important sponsorship deal. Tweeting about your race weekend or throwing up pictures of your racecar on Instagram ultimately requires less of a time investment than creating and uploading a video.
But just like any other social media platform, you need to stand out. And unfortunately, unedited onboard footage recorded on a shakey GoPro camera and drowning in wind noise and rattling won’t cut it.
Here’s the good news though; it’s much less work than you might expect to use video content to meaningfully build your brand. You don’t need professional equipment, nor the directorial flair of an Edgar Wright; just some commitment, creativity, a dash of confidence and a knowledge of how you want to portray yourself.
To misquote the philosopher Thomas Aquinas, we must take note of who did it, what they did, where they did it, why they did it, and how and when they did it. So let’s break that down.
Above all else, any video content you produce should tell the audience who you are. Viewers should be able to get a sense of you as a person, and get a grasp on your hook.
Don’t be afraid to be authentic; many lifestyle vloggers, in particular, are so popular in large part because of their honest and very relatable personality, almost like you are having a coffee and a chat with a friend.
And remember, new people will be coming to you with each video you put out, so stay true to yourself in each video; don’t assume you are playing to the same crowd every time, and use each video as a chance to make a great first impression on a new viewer, fan, or even a sponsor.
For many of you, the prospect of talking to camera and a bunch of strangers on the internet might be extremely daunting. Don’t worry – I get it.
The truth is, the best way to overcome any nerves is to just do it. Experiment and see what works; if you find yourself rambling or struggling to find things to say off the cuff, write a little script or make some notes on talking points. Or if you’d rather not be on camera, you can record a voiceover instead – perfect for something like an onboard video of your fastest lap, where you can guide viewers around the circuit.
Just remember; no-one is a natural in front of the camera right out the gate. If you cringe at your first efforts, don’t worry – most big YouTube vloggers look back at their first videos and cringe too!
This is perhaps the most important part that you need to nail down before turning the camera on. What is your brand? What message do you want to convey? What would you like viewers to take away from watching your videos? And relating to that last point, make sure that whatever message you want to convey, it is one that is relevant and encourages first-time viewers to keep coming back.
This can also extend to two other things: ‘what’ type of videos you want to make, and ‘what’ platform to put them on. YouTube is, of course, the popular option, but shorter-form and behind-the-scenes vlogging content can be ideal for a platform like Instagram or Facebook.
You might think the answer to this one is obvious; the racetrack, right? Well, not exclusively. The racetrack is, of course, the ideal spot to get footage of you looking badass out on the circuit. Additionally, you can use footage from the track to show your worth to sponsors in terms of fanbase; some clips from your hospitality tent packed full of guests and fans can really show your popularity and attract others to join the movement.
But there’s no reason not to think beyond the racetrack, especially if it suits your brand more.
- Want to focus on getting fitter for racing? Film from the gym during your workout.
- Want to talk about race driver nutrition? Vlog in your kitchen – some of the biggest YouTubers out there, like Hannah Hart and Barry Lewis, make videos like this and show off recipes and cooking skills in entertaining ways.
- Want to show off the mechanical and engineering side of racing? Film in your garage or race shop while you’re working on your car!
And even if you just want to vlog from home, setting up a little vlogging space with a backdrop can help convey your message in subtle ways – a bookshelf in the background of the shot with certain books placed conveniently on it, for example – and give you a comfortable space to present to the camera from.
This is not just related to previous points about who you are and what you are about, but perhaps one of the most important factors in encouraging viewers to follow your journey.
Why are you doing this?
And no, ‘wanting to drive fast cars’ won’t do as an answer on its own. Sorry. You need to stand out.
But this is where you once again go back to your hook. Are you racing because it helps your self-confidence or mental health? To raise awareness on an issue close to your heart? Because you want to be the first of your kind to achieve certain goals in motorsport – for example like Charlie Martin and her quest to become the first transgender driver to compete at Le Mans?
Whatever your ‘why’ is, say it and make it clear. Not only will it encourage viewers to become fans and support you in your journey, but answering the question of why you are doing this will also help sponsors answer the question of why they should invest in you.
The simple truth is this; no matter how engaging you are and how much people want to support you, viewers will click off if the image quality is poor or they can’t hear what you are saying. But before you start wincing at the price of film-quality DSLRs, don’t worry; there’s plenty you can do to achieve good quality videos without needing a Hollywood budget.
A nice, clear image with detail will be more appealing to watch for a viewer than a grainy or dark clip. Ideally, you want a camera that can film in high-definition, so 720p or 1080p minimum.
You’re probably holding such a device in your hand right now – the majority of smartphones around now can film in at least 720p and above quality.
If your phone isn’t up to scratch, a handheld camera that can shoot in HD can be had on a decent budget (here are some options). Combine this with good lighting that shows your subject clearly in shot, and you have the foundation for high-quality video.
You can pick up home lighting relatively inexpensively (a small softbox is a good place to start) but setting yourself up in front of a window with lots of natural light is often enough.
How many videos, especially ones filmed outdoors or onboard a racecar, have you watched and been put off by excessively loud background noises, or gusts of wind drowning everything out?
Most smartphone and handheld cameras have a decent basic microphone that’s adequate for home vlogging. But be aware of background noise – especially if you are filming outdoors. A lapel mic that can plug into your smartphone (available for iPhone Lightning, USB and standard jack connections) can be picked up relatively cheaply, and recording your speech through that is a great way to work around the audio in your camera potentially getting spoiled by loud background or wind noises.
I can already feel you worrying about having to shell out hundreds of pounds for software like Final Cut Pro or Adobe Creative Suite. But just like with the equipment, there are affordable options out there.
Programs like iMovie and Windows Movie Maker come bundled with devices like Macbooks and Windows PCs, and programs like DaVinci Resolve are available to download for free or a small one-off price.
Editing is important not just to trim down footage and assemble it into a coherent video, but to tweak things like wobbly or unstable video, cut out bloopers and more. Experiment and get creative – you’ll be amazed how much you learn by just stumbling across tools and effects in the editing software.
Well, there’s no time like the present to get started…
Creating a schedule and sticking to it is vital; it helps your videos climb the search rankings on your chosen platform and viewers know where to find your latest video.
It doesn’t have to be a packed schedule – a minimum of one video per week is a good baseline to work on. Don’t burn yourself out – quality is still more important than quantity, and consistency trumps all.
Pick days and times to upload that you can stick to, and keep in mind tools like YouTube’s scheduling option where you can upload a video and set it to go live later.
That should hopefully cover everything – if you have any other questions, feel free to reach me on Twitter @AJCantFail. Meantime and most importantly, get creating – experiment, have fun and stay authentically true to yourself. I can’t promise you’ll be the next Ken Block of social media, but you won’t know unless you try….