media update's Adam Wakefield spoke to Danilo Acquisto, co-founder and CEO of Special Effects Media South Africa, a recognised Youtube Multi-Channel Network (MCN), about the mistakes content creators make using YouTube, and whether it is possible to create viral content.

What is the challenge for brands and content creators in terms of it becoming harder to make an impact on YouTube than what it was five years ago?

One of the greatest challenges is that there is so much content on the site that trying to stand out becomes overwhelming. Content creators are worried about the income streams, and brands are still trying to figure out how to grow an audience. 

Because of the sheer amount of content on YouTube, over the last five years, YouTube has been working on its algorithms to reward creators for consistent content, longer watch times, and better-curated content. In essence, those who create regular content of great quality, and focus on all elements of the channel, will be found easier and, as a result, will have the opportunity to build bigger communities. The key is data.

What three mistakes do content creators make when using YouTube? 

Firstly, they assume that TV quality and production is the only way to create content for the platform. This is not true – authenticity and great content is way more important than expensively produced content that's not as engaging and real. However, quality videos won't hurt.

Secondly, they use it as a broadcast platform just to embed in a website post. YouTube is a community and is the second largest search engine in the world. There is huge value in creating engaging content that drives interaction, which you can, in turn, monetise and generate revenue from.  

Lastly, creators think that because the video is up, people will somehow magically find the videos. That isn't the case in most circumstances. Creators and brands need to pay attention to the detail – keywords, short descriptions, eye-catching thumbnails, the metadata – to improve organic search results, but then also focus on paid advertising, clever peripheral social media techniques, and using influencers and PR to build awareness. The consistency of content, and ensuring it is of great value, is also important.

What misconceptions do you think are commonplace when using YouTube?

One of the most common misconceptions I have seen is that creators and brands post videos without fully utilising YouTube's unique formats, like end-cards, clickable icons, and using a proper 15-second hook to prevent terrible audience retention in a video, to name a few.

Another misconception is that you're allowed to post absolutely anything on YouTube. YouTube has got certain policies in place to prevent inappropriate content online. It also has copyright protection, so if you upload content that doesn't belong to you, the original owner has the right to take down your content or even place ads on your content to make money off of your success. This is where we, as an MCN, have more power than an individual content creator. Using Content ID, we can help fight claims and battle copyrights if your content is being re-uploaded or stolen.

I have also noticed some creators and brands make the assumption that if you're not Instagram or Facebook famous that you can't be YouTube famous. That's simply not true. YouTube is a world of its own and the other social media sites are simply boosters of the platform, but it is certainly possible to be a new content creator and to make a success of YouTube alone.

Is it possible to create "viral content"?

Only around 1% of YouTube content exceeds a million views. Remember that viral content doesn't necessarily mean successful content. The questions you should be asking is whether your content reached your desired target audience, whether the right influencers with the right audience shared the content, and whether it made the right headlines. Qualitative results are far more valuable than eyeballs, as the digital age of data will bolster. If you want to make a viral concept, make sure the content is good, have the right people talk about it, use clever strategy, and ensure your video is optimised correctly using our techniques – then pray.

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Like YouTube, Big Data is a beast that requires some nuance to tame. How do you do it? Read more in our article, How data mining can solve the problem of Big Data.