Over the past year there is rarely a day that goes by without a YouTube creator asking me the question, "Why does YouTube hate me all of the sudden?" It can certainly feel like YouTube hates us when once top performing videos suddenly fall off the viewership cliff. We dive into our analytics to see that they are no longer getting viewers by being recommended on other videos and channels, aka "suggested."
Suddenly, we are back in middle school, and all of our once close friends are avoiding us in the hall, and not sitting with us at lunch. We don't know what we did wrong or how to fix it. This horrible feeling of confusion and helplessness bleeds into all areas of our lives, and begins to consume us. People who do not create YouTube videos cannot begin to understand how personal this business is. Every success brings intense joy into our lives, and every failure feels like the death of a loved one.
From the outside it is very easy to think that YouTubers are freaking out because these sudden changes to viewership impact their bottom line, but it is so much more than that. I'm beginning to believe that YouTube analytics have become like a drug to creators. When the numbers are going up and the arrows are all green we get a rush of endorphins. We feel good, and things seem right with the world, but when those arrows turn red...oh that's really bad. No endorphins. No feel good juice coursing through our brains stimulating our creativity, and motivating us to create more videos. Instead, our amygdala, the most primal part of our brain, perceives a threat based on our emotions, and signals our adrenal glands to start pumping out adrenaline. It's the famous fight or flight response.
The problem is that there is no T-Rex for us to fight, and there is nowhere to run. We are left sitting in front of our computers staring in horror. We reach out to our community hoping that it is a bug, a glitch. If it is happening to everyone, we get a little taste of those endorphins, but there is still fear. What if YouTube just hates a whole bunch of us suddenly? What if there has been a dreaded ALGORITHM CHANGE.
Eventually, we either adapt to the new order of things or get lucky, and those frowning arrows turn upside down and green again, and the endorphins return. We start feeling positive and in control again. Our creativity returns, and we keep checking our analytics in happy anticipation. We dig through analytics, and decide we have figured out what happened, and that we now understand what works. We start to feel really great about our channels and our lives.
Until it happens again.
A friend of mine likes to compare YouTube to a bad boyfriend. The kind that treats you like a queen until he snaps and become abusive. The kind you try to leave, and then he sweet talks you into staying. Things are good for a while, great even. Until he snaps again. Sounds like an extreme analogy, but it really hits home. Pun totally intended.
Waking up to a sudden and unexpected plummet in realtime views feels like getting punched in the gut. It sets off every mental, emotional and physical alarm in our bodies. I imagine that stock traders might have similar feelings, but they have an advantage. They can change up their portfolio, switch markets, leave the bad boyfriend so to speak. We can't. This bad boyfriend is the only man on earth. This market is the only market, and that makes this all the more terrifying.
Does it have to be this way? Can we become dispassionate about our YouTube views and analytics? Is it possible to get to a place where our YouTube channels are just a business and not personal?
I believe that, to an extent, the answer is, yes.
Over the past year I have liberated myself from my analytics addiction. I no longer see those red and green arrows as a reflection of my self worth. YouTube is a business and the algorithm is a machine. It is one of the smartest machines ever designed, but it is also like a toddler, who has much to learn. While the nature of what we do as creators, especially those of us who are on camera, is always going to be somewhat personal, there are ways to mitigate the damage the bad boyfriend can do to our lives.
Some of this work will require you to make mental and emotional shifts. Learning how to disconnect your identity from your YouTube channels. Other work will involve getting to know the machine better. Learning how to work side by side with an unruly, and sometimes confused, toddler, who happens to be an unpredictable genius. Impossible? Nothing is impossible!
I am here to hold your hand and help you break the cycle of analytics abuse. I can educate you and, when needed, I can help YouTube educate the machine based on what we are experiencing in the field. Think of me as your YouTube Fairy Godmother :-)
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