These tips are written with Let’s Play channels in mind, but apply to most other formats as well. This article is part of my YouTube Guides & Articles series.
Too much text in your thumbnails
I see this problem with a lot of gaming channels, especially when they are starting out: Including too much textual information in your thumbnail. The thumbnail’s job is to intrigue the user and catch his eye. If the user wants to know more of the contents of your video, he can find the title and (depending on the platform) description right next to your video.
I often see thumbnails that try to contain too much information with the text: Title of the game, the name of the episode, episode number and even the name of the channel. Not only is this too much information, but it also requires you to cram a lot of text into a little space, resulting in too small fonts. If you design a thumbnail, always zoom out until it is approximately the size, the user will encounter it on YouTube. Often, you can avoid mistakes in the design process, by asking yourself if you would be able to quickly gather the necessary information if you would look at it for a few seconds in that small size.
Sometimes it can make sense to highlight a word or two and put them in the thumbnail as well. If you are playing a crazy mod, that can make cows fly (and you don’t happen to have an interesting and unique enough thumbnail), putting “FLYING COWS” in huge letters over the thumbnail CAN make sense.
Keep in mind, that this is not a golden rule that has to be followed no matter what, but if you have the option to choose between a lot of text in your thumbnail or focus on a visually appealing motif instead, I would always pick the interesting picture.
Not using or not maintaining your playlists
Playlists are a very convenient way for your user to follow along a series and help you keep the retention up. Instead of having to look in the suggested videos for the next video in the series or even having to search it with the YouTube search or on your channel your viewer can have the video suggested automatically. When you have a busy upload schedule or have a similarly bad memory as I do, you might forget to keep your playlists up-to-date. Spend a minute or two each day to check if all your videos are listed correctly, and it will pay off. If you don’t leverage playlists yet, take some time to set them up! Also make sure to set them as an official series, if feasible.
Using Twitter Account to just auto-post your videos
Twitter, Facebook, and any other social media platform can help you grow your channel and engage with your community. When your channel is just starting out, you won’t see a whole lot of activity on those outlets, given your small reach. You can grow your YouTube channel through engaging other users on Twitter, for example, even getting to know other creators for possible collaborations. But often I only see Twitter feeds that primarily consist of the automatically created video posts from YouTube. Your social media outlet is a way for your fans to engage in conversation with you and get more invested in your channel, but also to learn more about you. Using social media just as a shitty billboard for your newest uploads does the same thing as YouTube’s subscription feed and doesn’t give your viewers any incentive to follow or even connect with you.
Promoting your videos on Twitter is highly encouraged, but make sure you put some time into the social aspect of social media.
Never looking into the camera
This tip is obviously geared towards YouTubers, using webcam footage for their gameplay, but it also applies to VLOGs and anything else with your face in it.
I often caught myself over the years, not looking into the camera. Not only does this seem distant, but it is also a missed opportunity to make your viewer feel you address them directly. Of course, you have to look at the screen to play a game, but take a moment at the beginning of your video to look straight into the camera and greet them. How would you feel if you met someone and they didn’t even look at you when they greeted you, not taking their eyes off the screen they?
It is also a good idea to look into the camera during your gameplay if you want to convey a particular reaction or make a joke. I used to put a post-it note on my monitor to remind me of that, in case I forgot.
Not editing pauses out of videos
I know, you are tempted just to upload the video as-is, but chances are, unless your commentary is just pure auditory gold, you’ll want to cut out awkward pauses. YouTube is first and foremost a platform for entertainment, especially Let’s Plays aim to be entertaining. If a viewer is not entertained and gets bored by what he is watching, he can switch to another video of the same game with one click. Everyone has a moment, where they are looking for the right solution or have to think about the next step. You can fill these moments with commentary if you are good at it, but every once in a while, you will be quiet, and nothing exciting will happen on the screen. If it doesn’t disorient the user and the gameplay not enjoyable by itself, cut it out. Your retention time and your users will thank you.
I hope these five quick tips will help you step up your YouTube game. I will be participating in NaNoWriMo in November, so I won’t have too much time that month, but I would love to hear your questions, suggestions, and tips about YouTube in the comments below!