YouTube has always been a daunting platform for me to consider creating on. Many of my early thoughts were based on the premise that there were too many YouTubers and it was highly competitive. I thought about starting, but never executed.
When I moved to Singapore in 2020, I decided to begin documenting a few of my experiences. I had a unique perspective, coming from San Francisco as a Taiwanese American crash landing in Singapore, where this city-state was really fostering startup innovations, encouraging entrepreneurship to locals and foreigners, and effectively managing Covid-19 compared to the rest of the world. I had a privilege of being here that many did not have — for that, I am incredibly grateful and wanted to give back by showing the world what Singapore was really like. Not just the richness and beauty of Singapore, but also the authentic and local realistic parts that expats wouldn’t get to see if they didn’t look for it.
I wanted to show Singapore through my lens, so I started a YouTube channel called The Fang Girl. In the beginning, I was incredibly awkward speaking to the camera. I know this from my incredulous older sister when she watched a few of my first videos — she would say, “Wow your videos do not depict how you are as a person. Why are you speaking so softly, like a mouse. You seem so timid and shy. That is not the Emily we know.”
After a couple feedback loops and hard learnings, I compiled a few thoughts after hitting 1K subscribers on YouTube. For context, you need 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours to monetize your channel with AdSense within a year.
Be authentically you — talk to the camera as if you are speaking to a friend.
Honestly, this comes with a lot of practice. If it helps, think of it as you’re speaking to a friend on zoom and give your camera a name to give it an identity. Sounds weird I know, but psychologically, it’s helped me. I would even spend time speaking to myself and articulating my thoughts in the shower out loud to practice speaking out of nowhere and to no one. My housemate probably thinks I’m sane.
Also, there’s no cookie cutter personality you should have. Authenticity is key — if you are yourself, you’ll naturally draw in the right people who can relate to you and want to be part of your community. I also learned to be yourself, but if you’re a quiet speaker, practice projecting and throwing your voice to be louder; it shows up on camera a lot more effectively.
Your first 5 videos should offer value by answering the questions your viewers are searching.
People are on YouTube to learn (most of the time). If you were a viewer, think about what questions you would search and how you can offer value with the knowledge you hold. I learned this the hard way, since all I wanted to do is create content I was interested in, like my daily vlogs. But honestly, no one knows who I am or cares what I’m doing — that connection is built later on when you begin to offer value and they take interest in you as a person.
For example, questions I helped answer on YT include: What is online dating in Singapore like? What are the pros and cons of co-living in Singapore? How much do I pay for rent in Singapore? These perform well because people who are interested in moving to SG would look for these topics.
Optimize SEO practices for your channel.
I downloaded vidIQ, which has helped me tremendously. The image on the left shows how you can improve your optimization on YouTube. It’s a built-in to your dashboard and will show up in every video. I have the free version, but can see the value it offers. It prompts and reminds me to optimize SEO practices that I would not pay attention to otherwise. For channel video tags, you really want to rank higher for specific things that will help push your videos to the top of the search functions.
Niche down to what you want to be known for.
I thought about what niche I could fall in. It was American expat, my background in tech, and being in Singapore. That is what I wanted to be known for, and it has been my advantage since many YouTubers don’t have that edge. I heavily leveraged on that, especially since I have created an eclectic and strong network here in Singapore. I talk to everyone and think of ways to bring the best and interesting parts of Singapore to life in my videos. I also wanted to show the diversity and perspectives of other foreigners living here in Singapore. Being kaypoh (nosey) has been my advantage.
To be honest, I feel like I can probably niche down even further and I most likely will incorporate that strategy into my new videos.
Consistency is key — focus on uploading at the same time and day per week.
If I had the time, I would have also created two videos per week to snowball faster. In a couple of weeks, I will have more time to focus on my content and videos, so this will become an experiment for my channel. This also helps set expectations for your viewers, and those who religiously follow will receive a notification and revisit your content. Basically, putting out more content consistently is like widening your target for others to land into. I’ve seen channels explode in growth after their 30th video when they’ve uploaded consistently — it always just takes one really great viral video to explode, and it helps bring in viewers.
Comment, engage, and interact with your viewers.
“Mark Adams, a Vice Media employee, says ‘audience is a liability whereas a community is an asset.’” — @AsmitaMK.
Building a viewership takes time, and building a community is vital for consistent viewership and loyalty. I really enjoy interacting with my viewers and also get to learn from them, receive their suggestions, and have an ear to the ground about what content they want to watch. It’s important to develop that part of your channel because you can have thousands subscribed and low viewership. Building a channel is almost like building a media company — it’s your own personal brand and personality that people are drawn to. Focus on treating your viewers like a community, not a business.