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Q&A: YouTube Star Shares His Secrets

YouTube isn’t just a place to make videos anymore. It has become a revolution that has redefined stardom and who can achieve it. Anyone nowadays can strike viral gold, even if it seems impossible to predict what will catch fire. YouTube stars tend to possess versatile talents and don’t necessarily fit into boxes.

Take Dan Brown, for example. Brown hit it big as a teenager with a simple instructional video on how to solve a Rubik’s Cube. But this bit of obscure knowledge wasn’t the only ingredient to Brown’s success. Brown conveyed the information with a particular verve and wit that audiences found addictive.

The Rubik’s Cube video, which was uploaded to YouTube in June 2007, as of the date of publication had been viewed more than 22 million times. Brown has parlayed that success into a video blog -- or vlog -- called “Delicious Steak.” The concept? Brown simply talks about things he believes his audience will find interesting. He releases new videos several times a week, and the growing library receives over 50,000 hits a day.

eHow talked to Brown about his success and about how beginners can take steps toward their own YouTube fame.

eHow: What tools do you need to make a YouTube video?

Dan Brown: You need a concept, a video and something to edit with. In the most basic sense, that’s it. You can go beyond that depending on what you’re doing. For what I do, video blogging, I always say audio is much, much more important than video.

eHow: Is overall video quality as important as the concept? Could you make a YouTube video with an iPhone?

DB: You definitely could. The one thing I worry about with iPhone video is it doesn’t have image stabilization. The only time that’s a problem is if it’s distracting -- if the quality is so bad that it takes away from the concept itself. My Rubik’s Cube video, my most successful video, was not shot with anything fancy. I had no lighting setup. It was just a picture camera that also took video. Pretty much any camera will work.

eHow: What are some universal qualities of successful YouTube videos?

DB: It’s a more personal medium, so the audience can tell when you aren't being sincere. So the most important thing is doing something you’re actually interested in. Not just making something because you think it might get views. When you actually care and put your blood, sweat and tears into it, the audience will recognize and respect that. The biggest trap people fall into is they see something on YouTube with 20 million views, and they think ‘Oh, that’s what I have to do.’ They feel like if they don’t go viral they aren’t succeeding. That’s a really bad mindset. I’ll get emails from viewers sometimes that are like ‘I’m only getting 300 views per video. What am I doing wrong?’ Are you crazy? You have 300 people who are watching and interested in what you’re saying. Keep at it and over time it will grow, as long as you are genuinely interested in what you’re doing.

It’s important to maintain a consistent brand. I do have a very polished intro and outro. I have regular things the audience can become comfortable with. When they watch an episode of "Delicious Steak," they know more or less what it’s going to flow like.

eHow: Does the audience need to focus on a single personality?

DB: It does help.

Speaking from my own experience … most of the people watching me are high school males. What they see in me is kind of a friend, a role-model figure. … It probably helps to have some personality they can relate to and build a relationship with. … It’s the funniest thing, when I go to a gathering or something, and someone who watches the videos shows up, they will just jump right into conversation with me as if they know me.

eHow: Is there a way to maximize audience interaction, and how important is that in building a following?

DB: It’s different for everyone. If you’re making sketch comedy videos, maybe interaction isn’t all that important. But if your thing is video blogging, that’s all about interaction. I'm sharing my ideas, my take on whatever is happening in the world. Then we pick it apart and just talk about it. But at the same time, even if you are just making sketch comedy videos, if you respond to a viewer’s comment, it makes that viewer feel special. That one act might turn them from a casual viewer into a lifelong, diehard fan because you were able to reach out and touch them. It’s very important, but there’s no hard and fast set of rules as to how to do that.

eHow: What are some things to avoid?

DB: Dragging on too long without going anywhere. It’s OK to have a long video as long as you maintain their attention. I think it’s a misstatement that all YouTube videos have to be two minutes long. At the same time, if your video is 10 minutes and you could say it in two minutes, you are going to lose people somewhere around three minutes. The most important thing is to get to the point.

eHow: Is it helpful to define your audience ahead of time?

DB: It depends on how you are getting involved in it. For me, I just grew up on it, and I started with my peers. But we are going to see more and more traditional, established media networks trying to figure out this whole new-media thing. They do have a demographic. They do know who watches them. … I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to know who you want to watch you. But at the same time, if who winds up watching you is different than what you expected, there is nothing wrong with adapting to that.

There are these new channels geared toward stay-at-home moms essentially. I was looking at their demographics and the people watching them are 13- to 17-year-old girls. That was really funny to me. I’m curious as to whether they will embrace that or ignore that. Because that’s who is on YouTube -- tweens and actual kids. There is definitely a generational gap.

Video Transcript

How to Make a YouTube Video. Go to, create an account and sign into it. Click the "Upload" button. Choose a video file to upload. Wait for your video to upload. When your video has finished uploading, you will see a link where you can view your video. To edit your video, click "Edit," then "Enhancements." Adjust the fill light, contrast, saturation, color temperature. You can even "Trim" and "Stabilize" your video as well. When your video is looking the way you want it to look, share it!

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