It’s two years since I started my YouTube channel. I never expected that after two years I would have over 8000 subscribers, and more than a million total views. But I did have some strange ideas about what having a YouTube channel would be like. Here are five things I wish I’d known when I started out.
1. YouTube has more than enough Lego speed builds
When I started out on Gold Puffin, I thought that I could upload Lego speed builds and get thousands of views on them. I thought that if I could find Lego sets that no one had done a speed build of yet, and do speed builds of enough sets, my videos could become popular and start appearing at the top of searches. But the trouble is, no one really needs to watch two different speed builds of the same set. And Brickbuilder has the whole of YouTube covered when it comes to speed builds. He’s pretty much done a speed build of every Lego set ever, and he gets his new videos out so quickly whenever new sets are released. Doing speed builds was fun, and it was a nice way to get started on my channel. But if I’d known what I know now, I never would have done more than two or three.
The first video on Gold Puffin was a speed build of the Lego Creator Park Street Townhouse:
2. There's no end of people who want a shout-out
It was a couple of months before I came across the idea of a “shout-out” on YouTube. But by the time I was creating my 250 subscriber special, people had started to ask me to shout them out. I agreed, because it seemed like fun, I didn’t like to say no, and I wanted to help other channels. What I didn’t realise was that, the more shout-outs I did, the more people would ask for them. After a few weeks, I realised that I couldn’t carry on that way. I uploaded the video below to explain to my subscribers that the things had to change!
3. Quality is more important than quantity
Originally I thought that the more content I uploaded, the more popular my channel would become. I thought that if I could make speed builds on hundreds of sets, I would start to show up at the top of search results. But gradually it dawned on me that YouTube doesn’t work like that. Uploading regularly is one factor in having a successful channel, but it’s more important to have quality content. Quality content is what will bring in new subscribers, keep the existing subscribers clicking on your videos, and increase your videos watch time – meaning that they are more likely to be recommended to other viewers.
4. Thumbnails are incredibly important
When someone is scrolling through YouTube, there are three or four things that can cause them to stop scrolling and click on your video. There’s your channel name, the title of your video, and the thumbnail. (YouTube now also offers a preview of the video content as well, if you pause scrolling.) Usually the thumbnail is by far the most important factor, because it is the biggest of the 3 elements and offers you the chance to grab viewers’ attention with an intriguing or exciting image.
5. Timing is (sometimes) crucial
The time you choose to upload your videos can make a big difference. For some of my videos, like “10 Things Stop Motion Pros Do”, I think they would have done equally well if they had been uploaded a couple of months earlier, or a couple of months later. But with some, such as my Avengers Endgame Teaser Trailer, they wouldn’t have got nearly as many views if they were delayed by even a day. Although my teaser trailer was rushed out, and not particularly good, it got a lot of videos within its first few days, as I uploaded it at the time when speculation about the Avengers 4 trailer release was at fever pitch.
When it came to my Avengers Endgame Official Trailer recreation, I was a couple of days behind the first people to upload their versions. Although I could have rushed out the trailer within 24 hours or 48 hours of the official trailer’s release, I took extra time designing the sets in an attempt to match some of the scenes closely to the original.
Whilst some of the bigger channels produced fantastic recreations and got them uploaded before mine, some smaller channels produced low quality trailers, but got tens of thousands of views just by being along the first. Looking back, I wouldn’t have done anything differently. But it certainly does show the importance of timing the release of your videos correctly.
These are just 5 of the things I’ve learnt in my first couple of years on YouTube. I’ve learnt a lot of other things too, not least about stop motion animation (if you're interested in some of the things I've learnt about animation, you can read more on the Tutorials page.
I’m grateful to everyone who has helped me in the last two years by providing advice, helping out in my videos, and by giving me feedback and ideas. I’m also very grateful to all my viewers, especially my subscribers, who have encouraged me so much in the last 24 months. I’m excited to see what the next two years will bring!