Learning From YouTube

YouTube is one of modern society’s most powerful tools, and it’s literally in the hands of anyone. YouTube’s popularity is so much more than just the fact that it’s a place to stream videos, and it’s more than the fact that anyone can create and distribute content there for free (although that’s huge, for sure). The true power of YouTube is in creating community. And community is created when people converse with each other, creators with their audience and creators amongst themselves.

Every once in a while I come across a video or channel with their comments turned off. That to me is perhaps one of the fastest ways to kill any chance that channel has for true community to grow. Yea, it takes time to filter through and read comments, but through doing so I have not only created a stronger connection with my audience, but I have also learned so much along the way. Here are some things I have learned.

  1. You never know what videos are going to connect with a bigger audience.
    You can research and plan a video. You can film an epic video with the most amazing footage. You can have the best experience in the world. You can spend weeks making the perfect edit. But you never know which video is going to take off. If you make videos long enough, you will find there are certain subjects that a bigger audience than your typical audience really likes. And that is a HUGE clue to you of how to connect to your audience.

    In our channels’ case, whenever we post a video about our family’s experience in Japanese schools, it typically reaches bigger audiences — like our recent video about the girls’ Japanese Junior High School experience or the kids’ backpacks. These videos almost always connect in a big way.
  2. A popular video doesn’t mean it’s impactful
    Just because a video is popular, it doesn’t mean it’s having a big impact. And the reverse is also true — just because a video isn’t getting a lot of views doesn’t mean it’s not a powerful video that is really touching somebody. I love asking people what their favorite video is from our channel. So often it’s one of the more obscure ones that didn’t even get many views compared to others, like on parenting or our video on Brazil (these are all real examples that people have given). If you just follow what is popular, ironically you could actually move away from creating content that truly touches and changes people. This leads to the last point for now…
  3. YouTube is a terrible boss, but a great employee
    If your goal is to make a career out of YouTube, get ready for a huge up and down journey of chasing after an audience, creating content that will get their attention. And if you’re one of the few that actually do build an audience, then the stress of trying to keep that audience’s attention while growing a larger audience is enough to make most people quit. Creator burnout is a very real thing, and even though YouTube is not my full-time job, I have felt the same effects of a YouTube lifestyle.

    If you put half of the effort it takes to run a YouTube channel into any other career, you will do much better! YouTube is a terrible boss because it depends on your audience’s response, and an audience response can often be fickle and lackluster. However, if you have an entrepreneur spirit and have something deeper to share with an audience, YouTube is an incredible tool to employ! And in a very interesting way, it’s the people that have something to say who aren’t afraid to say it that often do really well on a platform like YouTube. No other platform I know of gives you quite the same possibilities. I hope it continues to grow in all the right ways!

An important thing to realize is that behind each number, each username and online persona, there are real people who are letting you into their lives. It is a humbling and powerful thing. People are choosing to go on a journey that you have created, either to learn from you, be entertained or a combination of both. For years we have created our Life in Japan series as a way to share our lives with our audience along the way. As we meet more and more people whose lives have changed because of the channel, the reality of what is happening sinks in more and more. In fact we received one message at the end of last year I wanted to share here:

Hi, I’m Megumi* and first of all merry Christmas! I’ve watched Life In Japan for a few years now, and I started watching as an atheist during COVID in the UK. I loved your videos so much as I’ve always loved different cultures and was studying for a Theology qualification. I thought I’d message in support of the channel but also to say that i was Saved nearly two months ago now, and became a Christian. I truly believe that God showed me your channel years before I accepted Him to soften my heart, and I applaud everything you do out in Japan, but also want to let you know that your channel is such a beacon of hope for so many. I hope you all have a blessed day whatever time it is for you, and that you keep doing what you’re doing!

Megumi (not actual name)

These kinds of comments make my day and charge my creative batteries! This is why we work so hard and do all we do — because at the end of the day, or episode, or whatever it is we’re doing, we want people to experience real life, no matter their background, beliefs or nationality. It might be something as simple as bringing a smile to someone, or exploring something in a new way, but when life is given, it’s a win-win situation for everyone.

2 replies on “Learning From YouTube”

When creating content for YouTube, I empathize with the conflict between what the content creator wants to convey and the number of views of the content by the viewer. When I look at your content, I always think about the importance of the smallest community called family. I believe that valuing one’s family will eventually lead to a greater sense of the importance of people’s lives and peace for people around the world. I believe this will lead to Christ, which you pastors teach. In your content, the children always pray to God before meals, and in the video the other day, the print on the chest of the sweatshirt Rebecca was wearing had the word “prayer” printed on it, which was lovely. I’m sure the number of views for some content varies greatly, but if 1/100 of your 160,000 YouTube subscribers believed what you were trying to convey, 1,600 people would come to Christ. There are people who show interest and are saved by your teachings. Even if it were 1/1000, 160 people would be saved. I feel that your You Tube activities are very wonderful.☺️

Your insight is awesome, just like your English! Thanks for your comment

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