BYU journalism graduate Alex Balinski decided to quit his campus job in 2012 to start a YouTube channel. He and his wife knew they were taking a risk, but they look back at Balinski’s decision four years later with gratitude.
Balinski’s YouTube channel, Prepare to Serve, has 500,000 to 800,000 views a month. He believes students interested in starting their own YouTube channel can be successful if they are willing to commit to it.
Prepare to Serve helps young men and women prepare for their missions, according to Balinski. He typically interviews returned missionaries about their mission experiences in his videos.
Balinski said timing was important for the success of Prepare to Serve.
“There was the age change announcement two weeks (after I quit my job). That helped us to generate a lot of excitement and enthusiasm about missionary work. It probably also helped us acquire some sponsors,” Balinski said.
Balinski generates much of his content to help him gain views and subscribers.
“If you have 10,000 individual video clips on YouTube, and one in a hundred of those clips pulls in 50 views a day, that adds up,” Balinski said.
BYU communications professor Robert Walz said students who start a YouTube channel should start posting once a week or every other week in order to generate a following. He said channels with a lot of subscribers and viewers must post good content every day in order to remain successful.
“If it’s good content, you better post it every day. You don’t want to post bad content, because that’s how you lose people,” Walz said.
BYU advertising seniors Chase Osmond and Chris Johnson have a YouTube channel called Chris and Chase. Osmond said consistency has been important for their channel’s success.
“If you’re sporadic with your posts or if you have a bunch of different styles, it’s going to crash and burn,” Osmond said.
Balinski said using other social media to promote his YouTube channel has been helpful. He has used Facebook to promote Prepared to Serve by tagging people he has interviewed and thanking them.
“We’ll interview someone and (write on Facebook) ‘Thanks Alex for letting us interview you about your mission in Argentina.’ We will share a nice screen shot of that person smiling and included a link to their YouTube interview,” Balinski said.
Walz said it is important for students who start a YouTube channel to use Facebook to promote their channel, because it is the largest social media platform. Facebook has 1.71 billion monthly users as of the second quarter of 2016, according to statista.com.
It is also important to use a variety of social media platforms in order to generate a following, according to Walz.
“The idea is, use the social media platforms to pull people to a place where you can make money. You can’t really just pick one. You have to use all of them to be able to get to traffic to make money,” Walz said.
Walz clarified that blogs, YouTube and websites are places people can make money.
Balinski said another thing that has helped Prepare to Serve’s success is organic content. He said there isn’t a lot of content about specific missions on YouTube.
“If you search for any mission on YouTube just about, there’s a very high likelihood that you’ll just get flooded with our videos,” Balinski said.
Walz said students should find an area of expertise when deciding what content to post. He said it should be interesting and transparent.
“If you find something that resonates with people, then you’ll get a lot of people who’ll go (to your channel),” Walz said.
Johnson and Osmond said focusing on a niche market it important for creating a successful YouTube channel. They don’t focus on gaining subscribers or views. Instead, they post videos they like and target people who can relate to their content.
“If it’s not fun for you, you’re not going to make it,” Johnson said. “It’s too much effort. We’ve had fun being us, instead of trying to get the views or likes.”
Shaun Barrowes, a Utah musician, has a YouTube channel, and has had great success because of it. He currently prefers Livestream on Facebook because he said it is hard for newcomers to make a profit and generate a following on YouTube with the current competition.
“There’s so many things that have already been done,” Barrowes said. “Even when you come up with something new, it does pretty well on its own organically, but it’s still just not going to reach the status that it would five years ago. There’s just a saturation in the market (on YouTube).”
Balinski doesn’t think it is too late to break into YouTube and be successful. He said students may become discouraged because it takes time to gain success. However, consistency and hard work pays off, according to Balinski.
“I’ve yet to meet anyone who has created high-quality content for longer than two years, without seeing any sort of success,” Balinski said.