What Makes a YouTube Channel Unique

By Rob Ciampa, Theresa Moore, John Carucci, Stan Muller, Adam Wescott

When you first create a YouTube channel, it’s nothing more than an empty template on a page. Over time, you add videos, make playlists, and create a header with graphics, logo, and other information. Obviously, your video content plays a big part in what make your channel special, but so does the channel’s look and feel.

Everything from the layout and font color to the type of content and its subscribers helps set one channel apart from the others.

Take a look at some basics:

  • Have people find your channel. If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it fall, does it make a sound? Who knows? More appropriately, if you create a YouTube channel and nobody visits it, it’s a safe bet to say that all your good work has come to nothing.

    Viewers have to know that your channel exists before they can visit. The main way you have of letting people know you exist is by making sure your content shows up high in the search results of both Google and YouTube itself. (Don’t forget that YouTube is the second-most-popular search engine, just behind Google.)

    To get those high rankings, you have upper-left to associate tons of search‐engine‐friendly keywords with each of your videos — doing that will bring viewers searching for content in contact with your content, rather than someone else’s content. It’s also important that viewers watch, like, comment on, and share your video — yet more indications to the search engines that your content and channel are important.

    For good measure, use social media to prep your audience for content that’s coming down the pike — just like a movie studio creates a buzz for a big summer blockbuster by teasing you with previews and trailers weeks before release.

    Users often take advantage of the Browse Channels feature, which they can access by clicking the drop‐down menu to the right of the YouTube TV icon in the upper-left corner of the home screen. The more appealing your channel looks at first glance, the more likely a viewer will stop to spend some time exploring your offerings.

    The Browse Channels menu option.

    The Browse Channels menu option.
  • Connect with your viewers. You definitely want to build a community of followers, and for that to happen, you need to actively communicate with them. That means everything from having them subscribe to your channel, engaging with them in your channel’s Comments section, and exposing them to your social media. You can do all this directly on your channel page.

  • Provide them with a clear description of your channel. When viewers know what your channel has to offer, and if it appeals to their interests, they’re more likely to visit often, and maybe even subscribe to it. But you need to get the word out.

Angling for subscriptions

Viewers who like your content will come back and watch more, but ­viewers who love your content will want to subscribe. Why not? When you keep reaching for the same magazine whenever you see it, eventually you just subscribe to it so it regularly comes to your door. YouTube offers repeat viewers of your channel the same option. Basically all they have to do is click the Subscribe button on your channel’s home page.

The Subscribe button lets viewers become subscribers with a single click.

The Subscribe button lets viewers become subscribers with a single click.

After viewers subscribe to your channel, you have to make it worth their while to view it, or they’ll unsubscribe faster than you can say Jack Nicholson. Here’s what “making it worth their while” entails:

  • Stay in touch subscribers. According to YouTube, viewers subscribe to millions of channels every day, so it’s important to stay in touch if you want to stay uppermost in their minds. Suggest that viewers follow you on social media so that you can let them know when new content is available. This strategy helps your audience grow as you amass a devoted fan base.

  • Actively upload videos. It’s difficult to imagine a television station maintaining viewers if it doesn’t add new programs. Even if it were all Seinfeld all the time, chances are good that viewers would even­tually drift off to something else. Well, the same concept applies for your YouTube channel. If you don’t upload new video content, you’ll lose the interest of your subscriber base. The takeaway here? Always ­provide new content.

  • Pay close attention to tagging. Tagging is where you categorize your video after uploading it to YouTube. When a video is properly identified, it increases the possibility of someone else finding it, and that extends to future subscribers.

Establishing your brand

Whether it’s a consumer or a viewer, a brand makes your product or service immediately identifiable. Imagine that the Coca‐Cola logo looked different every time you saw it, or maybe the apple on your PowerBook wasn’t the same apple you saw one embossed on your iPhone. This lack of consistency could shatter your confidence in the product; you may start wondering if what you had was a cheap knock‐off of the real thing, rather than the genuine article.

Branding is designed to restore confidence in the product — that familiar logo makes us relax, knowing that we are sure to get the real thing. When it comes to your YouTube channel, branding becomes the identifiable element that lets viewers know who you are and what you’re all about, thus creating a similar feeling of confidence. Just like consumers flock to brands they identify with, your audience will do the same with your brand.

Branding takes on many forms on YouTube:

  • Intro clip: Before each video runs on your channel, you can insert a three‐second clip that acts as a label for your content. The torch-carrying lady wrapped in a flag for Columbia Pictures and the roaring MGM lion are good examples of a branding element. Your job, if you choose to accept it, is to come up with an intro of your own that is equally compelling.

  • Channel header: This element is the banner on top of your main page, and at first it’s as empty as a blank page. You’ll ­definitely want to click that Add Channel Art button to add a compelling picture or another graphic along with the name of your channel. The channel header can also include your contact info and specify how often you intend to upload new videos.

    Empty header waiting to be filled with an image that represents your content.

    Empty header waiting to be filled with an image that represents your content.
  • Logo: Companies spend millions on branding when they have to come up with a new logo, because they have to track down and replace every single instance of the old logo. You just have to come up with your own logo, perhaps using a simple image and your name. If you feel graphically challenged, you can find places on the web to create one inexpensively. Or just have an artistic friend design a logo for you.

  • Playlists: If you have enough videos on your channel, you can create a running order of them. This playlist can provide an overview of your content or a specific sub‐topic of your videos. You can name every playlist, and even rearrange them.

  • Trailer: In a YouTube context, a trailer is a video that can automatically play when visitors come to your channel. You can use the video most representative of your content as a kind of advertisement for your offerings, or you could make a short video that shows viewers what your channel is all about and how they can benefit from watching your videos.