Running a successful YouTube channel requires a lot of effort. It’s important to know why you are doing it and what you hope to achieve.

There are over 31 million YouTube channels hosted from all around the globe. Creators are uploading more than 500 hours of content per minute. You might think that sounds like a flooded market without much need for new creators, but you’d be wrong. 1.3 billion viewers are watching 500 million videos every day and they’re not slowing down. The world has a seemingly insatiable appetite for video content. If you have an itch to begin your own channel, this is all great news.

Whether you’re planning to run your production solo with minimal gear or have a full crew and big travel itineraries, it’s important to stay organized and be prepared to create content consistently. Chances are, you already know it will be a lot of work and commitment. You might even have a secret daydream of how it will launch you into a prolific online creator career.

Before you dive in, it’s important to know why you are doing it and what you hope to achieve with your content. Defining these things will give your channel a purpose.

Successful channels have a purpose

Sometimes the purpose is simply to sell products, but often, it goes much deeper than that. And it should. If you take the time early on to clearly define your purpose, your channel has a better shot at longevity. It’s also more likely to capture the attention of followers who will keep coming back for more. The best way to define your channel’s purpose is with a mission statement.

You may think a mission statement is something only brick-and-mortar companies do, or that it’s too formal for a YouTube channel. We disagree. It’s a great tool for any business but maybe even more so if your channel is more content-oriented and less product-related.

A strong mission statement will guide your decisions. For example, if you are offered an interesting partnership, you’ll want to ensure that connection is aligned with your mission. If your content focuses on specific topics but you’re considering branching out, you can reflect on your mission statement to determine which new topics will still meet your objectives. During weeks where you need to upload a video but you’re feeling burned out, revisiting your mission statement can give you the encouragement that you need to keep going.

Also, it should be publicly visible to help inform your audience. It helps them understand what your content might be about and entice them to follow your channel. When someone is running a quick search for videos on YouTube, your page only has a few seconds to catch their interest. Having a great mission statement as your description will help potential viewers know that your channel is exactly what they are looking for.

Think bigger than monetary gain

There are thousands of great mission statements out there. Corporate mission statements are often vague and wordy. You’ve probably seen a few and maybe even felt good about giving them your money because of it. Some companies make it very clear that their mission is to make the world a better place. Others want to drive the best bargains, to offer the most sustainability or to capture customer loyalty. You can browse the Fortune 500 companies list to be inspired by their mission statements.

It’s easy enough to say that the purpose of creating your own YouTube channel is obviously to make money. Or to become a top influencer in your market. While these are great dreams to have, they are results of your work. You have to be willing to let these pieces have flexibility. Monetization can be tricky and unpredictable. Popularity and trends ride on waves that are hard to control.

social media influencer or food blogger creating content. man shooting a cooking video using camera on tripod. chef holding bluberries in hands and showing them to viewer.
Your channel can be primarily educational or focus on entertainment. Sometimes, these approaches overlap, as we often see in cooking channels.

You might think that getting the most views or followers is a solid reason to create a channel. Metrics and ratings can give you information about the health and popularity of your channel. They also serve as feedback to inform you about which content draws in your audience or even new followers. To stay relevant, though, you’ll need to dig deeper.

A mission is more than a goal

Education, either professionally or casually, is a common theme with endless directions for a new channel. Preserving stories and legacies is vital to helping bridge the generation gaps while enriching the global culture. Some schools use a channel to share class lessons so that students who need review have access to it. The mission is to ensure that every student who wants to succeed has that opportunity, even if life gets in the way. Channels also exist for the purpose of making a positive impact on the planet with sustainability ideas and inspirations. There are channels dedicated to raising awareness or funds for charities and causes they believe in.

Your purpose doesn’t have to be serious, though. Entertainment and humor have been a path to success on radio, television and the internet for decades. It adds laughter and distraction to our lives. Food channels can help bring joy to mealtimes, encourage healthier eating habits and bring people together. Gamers, artists and crafters can geek-out with others all over the world who are into whatever they’re into. Through this, lasting friendships are made. People who feel isolated because of location or accessibility suddenly have a sense of community and connection.

If you’re an entrepreneur, your mission might be entirely different. Product branding and recognition is crucial. Also, personal branding is often more important than people think. Especially in the online personality and influencer world, you are an extension of your company. You are the product, the seller and the marketing. Either way, your channel needs to keep customers engaged and reach new prospects.

Go beyond demographics

Understanding who your target audience is can’t be overstated. If you create a channel simply because you like it and just hope some viewers like it, too, that’s exactly what you’ll get. Some viewers. If you’re here to make a big splash though, you need to know who you want to reach. This allows you to gear your content towards them and makes them more likely to find you.

To begin, consider general demographics like age, gender, cultural/ethnic background and socioeconomic background. What interests, education and goals do they likely have? What challenges do they face? Often, the audience mirrors the creator, but not always. Try to envision your audience without applying stereotypes or excluding potential followers. If your channel can provide diversity by way of guests and collaborations, your audience might gain a broader demographic.

Once you have a clear picture of who the viewers are, you can expand on it or narrow it. Perhaps you’re looking to reach 40-somethings who are mid-career and just beginning to discover a love for the “finer things in life.” From there, you can decide to broaden your scope with a variety of enrichments for anyone in this group or become a niche channel that focuses on, for instance, LGBTQ+ travel.

Knowing your audience also influences your approach. A channel that grabs the attention of retired military veterans to promote wellness will have a very different visual concept from a make-up channel. Both of these can be great markets, but they’ll be miles apart on color schemes, tone, graphics and calls-to-action. Will your ideal audience be more engaged with vlogs, tutorials or live streams? Consider the differences between selfie-style videos and set productions. Who connects best to each of these formats?

Teenage smiling girl using a laptop and wearing headphones, technology and leisure concept
As you refine your mission statement, think about your audience and how you want them to feel when watching your videos.

Commit to your direction

You might already have an idea of what your YouTube channel will be about. Now is the best time to dial it in because you’ll include this in your mission statement. Allow yourself some time for introspection and brainstorming. Write down your thoughts and ideas as they occur. Ask yourself a lot of questions.

What interests you? What do you know a lot about? What would you like to learn more about? What internal motivations drive you to this subject matter? Dig beyond obvious answers and try to discover what really ignites a spark for you personally. It’s not always necessary to be a renowned expert on the topic. As long as you are excited and curious, you and your audience can explore it together. If you had an opportunity, class or adventure years ago that influenced you towards a hobby or passion, this could be a great place to start.

Another angle to consider is your own vantage point as a viewer or consumer. When you’re online, what do you search for? What do you wish there was more of? What can you binge-watch and never get bored of? How does this fit with your projected audience? Will it create a community of like-minded people?

Speaking of your audience, how do you want people to feel when they watch your content? What are they hoping to gain from tuning in? Are they looking for education? A break from reality? New thoughts, perspectives and opinions? How can your channel serve their needs? What do you bring to the table better than anyone else?

As you make notes, look for patterns and repetition from these questions and reflections. You might find exactly what you always knew was true. You might find something intriguing you hadn’t really thought of before.

Now the hard part…

Your mission statement will hopefully be seen by thousands (millions?) of viewers, and that can seem like a lot of pressure. It’s important to get it right, but it’s more important to get it out there. After all of the thought cataloging and introspection, you may be surprised that your mission statement should probably be exactly that: just one strong sentence. Or, it may make sense to use a few brief sentences. Here are some powerful examples from businesses and creators:

  • Creative Commons: Realizing the full potential of the internet — universal access to research and education, full participation in culture — to drive a new era of development, growth, and productivity.
  • YouTube: Our mission is to give everyone a voice and show them the world. We believe that everyone deserves to have a voice, and that the world is a better place when we listen, share and build community through our stories.
  • Disney: To entertain, inform and inspire people around the globe through the power of unparalleled storytelling, reflecting the iconic brands, creative minds and innovative technologies that make ours the world’s premier entertainment company.
  • Crash Course: At Crash Course, we believe that high quality educational videos should be available to everyone for free… Crash Course transforms the traditional textbook model by presenting information in a fast-paced format, enhancing the learning experience.

Write your mission statement in concise, simple language. It’s easy to get carried away when we’re writing about our passion. Be sure that you answer the basic questions of who you are, who you are trying to reach, what you want to achieve, and how you’ll do it. Leave it open enough to allow variety in your content. Be specific enough that it will feel engaging and important to the viewers you intend to attract.

Put it to work

Once you have a solid mission statement, you have a great business tool. It becomes a roadmap, guiding your decisions and keeping your content aligned with your intentions. It communicates your values and goals to your viewers so they have an understanding of what to expect from your channel. It might even inspire you out of a creative slump or remind you why you began.

Your mission statement should be seen as a living document. You can review and revise it periodically as you, your channel and your audience evolve. It becomes a piece of your history and a measure of your growth. Defining why you want a channel is the first step to winning at YouTube.

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