We have the ancient Babylonians to thank for New Year’s resolutions, but if you’re a video creator, chances are you too have dabbled in this ancient practice.
According to the History Channel, the annual promise to do better at the beginning of the year started 4,000 years ago in what is today Iraq when people made a yearly oath to the gods: to return all things borrowed to their rightful owner and to pay off all debts. Tradition had it that if you delivered, the gods would bestow favors, but if you didn’t, things might not go so well for you.
Fast forward several centuries and the consequences for not sticking to our New Year’s resolutions aren’t quite so dire, but our annual preoccupation with promises for self-improvement hasn’t diminished. According to some of the online chatter, DIY video creators are always looking for ways to improve their output and capture eyeballs for their channels. Resolve to do better appears to run thick in the veins of creators.
Learn from experience.
Christopher Dover, who hosts a sport shooting channel out of Texas, fears that recent YouTube upheavals, such as the Adpocalypse, might discourage creators from going wholeheartedly after their YouTube aspirations.
“I feel most creators have probably not remained very steadfast with resolutions,” says Dover. “I think the thing that has helped me to trudge through issues is continual education.”
Dover says he’s made a commitment to himself “to keep educated on all things YouTube.” This year he gave three resolutions priority: “To increase my branding so that I could attract more sponsors, advertisers and affiliates; work on my fan funding options; and finally hone my promotion practices to target more engaged and loyal viewers.”
Dover says he’s getting it done using consistent avatars, banners, colors and thumbs across social media profiles and websites. “It is a matter of making your channel (which for me is a legitimate media business) look more attractive, look bigger than it is and have a presence everywhere you turn.”
So far this year, Dover has stuck to his resolutions and brought his YouTube watch time up by 129 percent.
One thing about New Year’s resolutions is that they’re not much use if you don’t shout out to the world what they are. Friends and followers will check up on you to see if you’re actually walking the talk and, most importantly, they will become your social support network.
Brandon Joseph Reese is just starting out on his YouTube career and hosts an “amazing world of Pokemon” channel out of Danville, Pennsylvania. He says New Year’s resolutions are useful during these early days of his life as creator.
“I think that making goals like this is definitely key to being an influencer, because you want to do it as best you can,” says Reese.
He says his main goal is for his channel to start paying for itself. “I think that in order to achieve my goal, I will probably be putting the skills I gained through YouTube (Academy) to use,” says Reese.
Charlene Dipaola is a YouTube veteran who has brought over 30,000 subscribers to her fitness channel by maintaining a robust presence across creator platforms, communities and forums. She frequently reaches out to online creator groups to test out new ideas and never stops soaking up new information on all aspects of the trade, from marketing and monetization to production values. Dipaola knows it will take discipline to stick to her resolution of finding ways to increase her channel revenue.
“This year I want to focus on sponsor outreach,” she says. “I have consistent views now per month. I would like to get at least two sponsored videos out of my 8 monthly videos I produce.”
A 2017 Statistic Brain Research Institute Survey says that “People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions.” Bad news is the Institute also found that only 44 per cent of Americans stick with their resolutions for more than six months.
Behavioral scientist Dr. Paul Marciano (Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work, 2010) takes it up a notch: his research suggests that of all Americans who make New Year’s resolutions, only eight percent achieve them. But Marciano does offer tips for following through on the annual promises we make to ourselves and to the world. Published on forbes.com these universal tips are transferable and can easily be applied to goal-setting agendas of channel hosts and creators.
SMART is Marciano’s acronym for making resolutions that are ‘specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.’
Specific — It’s not enough to say that you plan to get more people to watch your channel. Be specific about how you intend to make that happen; a.k.a. ‘clearly defining your goals.’ For example, you could resolve to create a network, a community of like-minded channels. Taking a genuine interest in the work of other creators operating in the same realm and sharing good content with your community can be mutually instructive and inspiring.
Measurable — Measuring your goals in creator speak means tracking channel traffic, which is covered by YouTube and Google Analytics. If you haven’t done it already, you probably want to link the two tools and get your Google Analytics Account I.D. YouTube analytics tell you how people found and viewed your video, whereas Google Analytics tracks what people are doing on your channel, how people actually find your channel page, what they googled that led them to your channel and more. The resolution or discipline is to monitor analytics data religiously and use that information to drive relevant strategies aimed at prospective subs. “If you can measure it, you can change it,” is Marciano’s mantra.
Achievable — For creators ‘achievable’ is code for ‘be patient and be persistent.’
For her pop culture channel Why Stuff Is Great (6,500 subs.) YouTuber Anna Eichenauer surveyed a diverse range of creators and posted an anecdotal analysis of how long it took them to reach the magic plateau of 1,000 subscriptions. Creators came back with a range of responses: “Two months of hustle and a plan”; “It took me a year of uploading very regularly”; and “Three years and we are at 417!” Eichenauer’s survey results point to achievability being about rolling up your sleeves, staying consistent in your efforts and not giving up.
Relevant — For creators relevancy can mean having the discipline to spend time only on your resolutions and not much else. But perhaps more importantly, relevance can also mean, asking “are these goals relevant to me?” Why do you want to achieve them?
Time-bound — Make your new resolutions a priority and mark them on your calendar. Don’t just think about outreach letters to channel hosts or e-mail newsletters for your subscribers, actually schedule them into your calendar.
Like many self-improvement gurus, Marciano believes that achieving goals and sticking to resolutions isn’t so much about willpower as it is about developing the right skills and strategies.
Do what you can.
But what if you’re not hitting your goals? What if conditions prevent you from taking care of business? The consensus in the self-improvement bloggerverse is any effort towards moving your goals forward is better than no effort. Maybe you’ve had to cut back on sponsor outreach activities because life happened ‘while you were busy making other plans.’ Consider inviting loyal collaborators from your network to keep things rolling and do what needs doing when you can’t get to it.
Eichenauer says while New Year’s resolutions can be valuable for focusing on goals, she finds they can also set you up for failure and disappointment. “Make sure that you choose realistic goals that aren’t too much of a stretch,” says Eichenauer. “For example, don’t try to double, triple or quadruple your video output. Instead, try to increase your output by 20, 30 or even 50 percent. Then, if you feel like you can keep up your new output speed comfortably, you can tackle your next goal.”
It took Eichenauer about a year and a half to sign up her first one thousand subscribers. “However, I didn’t post regularly, often less than once a month,” she writes. “I bet I could have reached this number a lot sooner with a more consistent schedule.”
If you do get knocked down on your way to your goals, Marciano says resilience is key. “It isn’t whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get back up,” Marciano posits in an online interview. “Just acknowledge the mistake and recommit to the path.”
The Babylonians weren’t the only ancients who promised to be and do better in the New Year. We can hold the Romans responsible for tinkering with the calendar in 46 B.C. to create the month of January, named after Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions. Typically represented as a two-faced god who looks to the future as well as to the past, Janus and January remind us that if we are to move forward as creators we must be prepared to learn from the past and from where we’ve been.
Here’s wishing you a most resolute New Year!