YouTube & Calculus: A Video Marketing Love Story (Plus Tips for Bootstrappers!)
Five years ago I graduated from Notre Dame and started my first “real” job. About four years ago, it was clear to me that the corporate world was not everything I’d dreamed it would be. I simply was not cut out for cubicle life. I think most people last longer before reaching my same level of quiet desperation; I guess I just got lucky.
All I could think about was quitting and traveling around the world, but I didn’t know how to do that and pay my student loans at the same time, so I did a YouTube search for “make money doing what you love”. It became obvious to me that I had to start an online business. After all, how else was I going to get away with working from anywhere in the world?
I started a couple websites that turned into nothing before I figured out what I really wanted to do. It seems crazy to most people, but calculus video tutorials were the right product for me because I love helping people get better at calculus. And I used to tutor other students back in college as a side gig. So I started integralCALC.com
I didn’t really know what I was doing at first. I managed to put up a website and make a YouTube channel. I was filming my videos with an old pocket camera, setting it on the coffee table in my living room and pointing it roughly at myself and my whiteboard. And I just kept filming and filming and filming, every spare minute I got on nights and weekends. I knew I wanted to help people, and I didn’t know how to build a business, so I just kept filming.
Since then, it’s been sheer determination that’s kept me going, and a long series of wrong turns that have landed me in the place I’m at today, which is a pretty great place to be. To date, people have watched millions of minutes of my videos, and the growing success of my business has allowed me to move down to part-time work. By next year, I plan to leave my day job and focus full time on integralCALC … and travel.
Here’s a quick example of the type of videos I create (this is an intro to one of my mini lectures on YouTube):
Since I started off as a bootstrapper myself, I learned a lot about video marketing from trial and error. Today, I’m going to share my lessons of video marketing, community and tips on how to make great videos for marketing when you don’t have a giant budget.
Video Marketing Lessons Learned
Written content may still have an edge when it comes to search engine algorithms, but video content can’t be beat when it comes to building community and social networks. Invariably, short videos posted to my Facebook or Twitter page get more likes and retweets than text posts.
I’ll watch almost any video if it’s very well done. Yet despite that fact that it’s easier and more affordable than ever to create high-quality video content, most people don’t invest time into that extra layer of polish. In today’s online marketplace, you can still find a competitive edge by investing in video and audio quality, even if your competitors currently have you beat in viewers, subscribers or anything else.
People check your site when they’re expecting to hear from you. If they don’t know when you’ll publish, they don’t know when to visit you, so they just won’t. Communicating your publishing schedule and sticking to it makes it easy for your followers to follow you. Why wouldn’t you want do that? Make sure that you also prompt your users to sign up for your newsletter, subscribe to your channel, or connect with you on social networks. Give them plenty of opportunities to do so on your website, or on the end screen of your videos.
Every time I’ve asked my followers for feedback on something I’ve done, or input on something I’m going to do, I’m always surprised by their eagerness to share their ideas and opinions. And I often find that they disagree with the direction I’m heading. Don’t abandon your purpose for the sake of pleasing your audience, but be willing to give a little. Use your audience as a course correction tool to make sure you’re giving them what they want. If you’re curious about what they’ll think or what they’ll like, just ask; they’re happy to enlighten you.
I used to film my videos with a regular camera, then transfer the file to my computer, edit, export and upload. Switching to screencasting means I save myself the file transfer and the import into the editing software. Cutting out little steps like this can save you a ton of time, especially if you’re a frequent publisher. Look at every step in your process and decide whether it’s absolutely essential to meeting your primary objectives, or whether it can be eliminated.
Here’s a still shot of one of my oldest videos compared to one of my newest, so you can see how it’s evolved over the years:
5 Video Marketing Must-Haves
- You. Know yourself, and don’t try to be someone you’re not. Write blog posts if you like writing; film videos if you like being in front of the camera. Your audience can sense immediately when you’re uncomfortable, and they don’t want to see you that way!
- But not too much you. My YouTube analytics consistently show me that people are more likely to click play on a shorter video, and more likely to stick with the video if the end is in sight. For example, if I publish a six-minute video, people will stop watching at the four-minute mark, but they’ll stay to the end of a five-minute video. Always be as concise as possible. Your viewers appreciate it.
- Great audio. I mentioned earlier that quality matters. For a long time, I invested in quality video, while ignoring quality audio, but I know now that ignoring audio quality is a huge mistake. I’m much more likely to watch something with so-so video quality and great audio, than I am to watch something with great video and awful audio. I use a Yeti microphone by Blue, because it’s a good mix of quality and affordability.
- Accountability. I’m not the best at keeping myself accountable. I’m passionate about what I do and I have a sense of purpose and determination, but sometimes it’s still hard to stay focused and put in the time. Make sure you have something or someone who keeps you accountable. This is one of the most important must-haves in my opinion, because a great idea or a great product doesn’t matter if you don’t keep going and execute. If you’re self-motivated, then set goals and timelines and stick to them. If not, involve someone you can trust to help keep you on track. Or, you can always use an option like Google Chrome’s StayFocused to deter procrastination.
- Knowledge. Don’t spend so much time learning that you neglect real progress in your business. Instead, set aside a predefined amount of time daily or weekly to stay up-to-date. “That was soooo last year” is now “That was soooo three months ago,” so it’s important to make sure you’re taking advantage of the latest and greatest, when it offers significant benefit to your business.
For example, when the “Sh*t so and so never says” meme hit the Internet, I knew I could use it as a way to connect with my audience, so I jumped on the trend right away. I produced the “Sh*t Calculus Students Never Say” video below in less than a week from discovering the meme.
More than anything, I want new entrepreneurs to know that success depends solely on your level of determination. I was unprepared to start a business. I am often intimidated by the amount of opportunity in front of me, and by the amount of work required to take advantage of it. Many times I’ve thought that I would never get this far. Now I know that all I have to do is keep going, and no matter how many wrong turns I make, it only gets better from here.
You can check out and subscribe to integralCALC videos on YouTube and on integralCALC.com. To stay up-to-date on Krista and integralCALC, check out integralCALC on Facebook and on Twitter @integralCALC.