At the start of the new year, I asked how I could be a better creator for you.
How can I be a better creator for you?
— gunnarolla (@gunnarolla) January 1, 2017
I’ve been thinking a lot about how to evolve as a creator and better serve my audience this year. A month ago, I shared some of my thoughts on where we are with YouTube right now and where I’d like to go, and these are some of the things that I learned from your feedback.
You want to see more personality, more behind the scenes
For ten years, all I wanted was to make each video better than the last. Making ordinary moments extraordinary has been my MO and I’ve continually sought to push the limits of what we can produce without a budget or team. And believe it or not, the majority of the videos on my channel are still shot, edited & scored by me… and me alone.
But in my quest for professionalism, it would seem that my videos have lost some personality. There are a few reasons I can think of for why this has happened – age and self-consciousness being the main culprits. But I know that the best stories are the ones that feel personal and aren’t always so polished, so I’m going to keep that in mind moving forward.
You appreciate socially-conscious content
The world is on fire, and I feel an obligation – not just as a person of colour, but as a citizen of this Earth – to use my platform responsibly. That’s something that my viewers have appreciated. I wish more of us would speak up, but I also understand that this can be challenging territory.
You love my mom
I mean, who wouldn’t? Videos that I have recorded with my mom have performed a lot better than some of my other content, so I’m going to find more opportunities to feature her (and also because it’s fun).
My brand is variety
From Circle Foods to Japanese pop songs to a travelogue set in Egypt to an entire series of bad ideas, I have created a wide variety of content that really runs the spectrum of funny to serious, creative to clickbait. I have a lot of interests, and it’s all reflected in my work on YouTube. I was once told that “you’re a creator who likes to experiment with form” – but that variety of content is not always understood nor appreciated, especially now that we’re in an era where YouTube channels have to be “about” something.
Your elevator pitch is everything, and I’ve never been able to explain what I do in a succinct and enticing way, other than throwing out terms like authentic and high-quality and travel and music and #MadeInTheMoment. These things are all fine and easy to see once you dig into my content, but they’re not great hooks. Everyone thinks they’re real and everyone thinks they make the best content.
How do you solve a problem like gunnarolla? Better marketing. I need to stick to one thing, or make it clear that I’m the best at everything that I do.
Success involves compromise
For 10 years, I’ve gotten away with creating whatever I wanted, however I wanted. I do it for you, but I’m also doing it for me. I never really followed the rules of the game – consistency, collaboration, timeliness – yet, somehow, I still managed to find some degree of success, popularity, and brand deals. And I’m proud of that.
But I’ve also sat back and watched as every single one of my peers has surpassed me, at least when it comes to numbers. Some of those people were friends, and others were friends whom I sadly realized were just business partners. But I can’t hate on anyone’s success, because I’m not sure if I even really tried. Ultimately, I realized that success, to me, was never tied to a number attached to my name. I revelled in being the underdog, YouTube’s Greatest Tragedy™.
Of course, I don’t live in a vacuum and just because I’ve decided that I’m successful, doesn’t mean that the rest of the world agrees. I’m frustrated that every time I create something, it feels like I’m throwing it in the garbage. I’m frustrated that I’m valued for my numbers and not on the quality of my work and the hours that it takes to get there.
Things are rapidly changing in the world of digital video & social influencer content, and I worry that there will come a day when I am no longer able to live in this fantasy world. To do what you love and get paid for it is a privilege that I don’t want to lose. I need to concede, I need to adapt, and I need to grow.
I need to work smarter without working harder.
I need to compromise without losing my integrity.
I need to be positive without losing my authenticity.
I need to figure out why I’m still doing this.
I need to be a better creator for me, and for you.