When I hear the word “vlogging” I think of Youtubers, personalities, and people intensely sharing their lives. A ton of people vlog (as is evident by the constant stream of new vlogs appearing on /r/NewTubers), and only a handful have made it huge - such is the case with most things. I’ve always thought that vlogs were kind of, let’s say silly - things that my younger sister would watch. But that’s because the ones I had always come across simply didn’t resonate with me, didn’t appeal to me. Within the last year, I came across Casey Neistat, and now I don’t think vlogs are that silly.
I watch his vlogs frequently - almost daily. In watching them I’ve noticed some things that make vlogs a powerful way for certain startups to grow and even generate sales. Vlogging helps you build a unique relationship with your viewers - as a startup, these would ideally become your customers.
By watching Casey’s vlogs you get to know him. You see inside his bedroom, go with him to get a cavity filled, meet his parents, his friends, you go to his son’s graduation, and spend time with his daughter at the park. This experience would not be anywhere close to the same if he was only blogging about it. Each vlog is also a 10 minute, continuous story - not a choppy Snapchat story montage - which makes it more enjoyable and powerful.
If you didn’t know I was talking about someone I only know through videos on the Internet, you’d assume we were good friends. We’ve virtually and passively done a lot together. It feels weird to say this, but in a small sense, it feels like we are friends.
A big part of this has to do with how the video is shot. When Casey addresses the camera directly it is either an arms length away from his face or sitting on a bench, table, whatever. Sometimes he has people use his camera to get shots of him, but he uses them in a way that preserves his voice through the vlog.
If you look at Gary Vaynerchuck, he has a vlog, but it is shot and edited by someone else and it is really more of a show. The shots are always you following him around and the edit is not consistent with his voice and style - because he doesn’t do the edits - and you can feel that. Watching his videos feels - to me - like he is too busy to sit down with me, but he gave me a visitors pass and let me into his office so that I could poke around. Whereas Casey makes time alone, whether in his hotel room, on a plane, or in a park to talk right to me as if it is just him and me.
Now these weren’t feelings that I was consciously aware of but only came to realize when trying to understand why I don’t like Gary’s vlog - yet continue to tune into Casey’s. These feelings of friendship and importance are powerful.
If Casey invited me into his studio, I would know everyone, be able to find certain items, and I’d have a general idea of where he’d like to go for lunch if he told me to pick a place. That’s a lot for having never met this guy and only having briefly seen him in real life once. There are over 3 million people in the same boat as me. We feel like we have a relationship with a guy we’ve never met.
Before I go into how this could benefit a startup, I want to make a disclaimer: you really, really, really genuinely need to care. To care about your audience, your mission, everything. If you don’t, the Internet will smell your bullsh*t a mile away. This isn’t a “growth-hack”. This is a serious commitment.
I’m more likely to buy from a friend, vouch for a friend, be empathetic, understanding, patient, and honest with a friend - we all are. These aren’t new insights, just something to be cognizant of. Imagine if your customers thought about your startup in this way - that they were friends with you guys. They’d be more willing to buy from you, to recommend you, more forgiving and understanding if something went wrong, and more candid in their feedback because they want to see you succeed.
Isn’t that the dream for a startup, making your customers love you? That’s currently done by being hands-on, personable, and building something that solves a problem, that people love. Even when you’re doing all of those things, growth still isn’t easy. In the early days, getting customers can feel like an uphill battle, and being everywhere at once for all customers is hard. The low hanging fruit here is to get your friends to signup, and after that, you start courting people you don’t know to try your product.
But what if you could increase your number of friends, scale your “friendships”? Scale is kind of a dirty word to me - people only ever seem to be focusing on scale and not impact; it sounds especially manipulative when used in this sense, but it’s not. It’s true, vlogs could really help you scale your friendships - Casey shares his day with over 3 million people and now gets mobbed in public. He couldn’t sit down and call all of us each day, or respond to our emails. If you’re willing to be vulnerable, candid, and open, people will want to have a relationship with you and since you want a relationship with them, they aren’t viewers and fans, but business partners and friends.
What I’m talking about is essentially Casey Neistat meets the Startup Podcast, in a sense. Take people visually on this trip with you. Introduce them to your team, your struggles, your moments of ecstasy. If your team goes hiking - take them hiking. If your site crashes - flick on the camera and let them be a part of the firefight. Your mom comes by to visit? You better believe they’ll be excited to meet her. You guys take a break to play FIFA? Let them hear the shit talking and pick a side to root for.
Most critics of this idea will point out that it takes time away from the product. Sure. It’s less time you spend building. I agree with that. But it is time you spend driving traffic and sales, and bringing more humanity to your company. It’s not for everyone.
If you already have a big YouTube presence, then this is an awesome way to leverage that. If you don’t, well now you also have to grow that on top of your product. This is not an easy decision and depends on the type of person you are and the vibes/goals of your company.
People don’t know what you’re up to unless you share, and if you’re willing to be vulnerable and open, you’ll see that people start rooting for you. It’s human nature to want to see others succeed, especially people you like and have a relationship with.
If you’re a schmuck, don’t vlog. That’ll only make the Internet root against you and if that happens you are in serious trouble.
If you’re curious about how this would work for your company but are feeling overwhelmed at the indefinite commitment of vlogging - try a 2 week challenge. Vlog every day for 2 weeks. That’s what I did, but as a Comfort Zone Challenge, not for a startup. Test it - like anything else - and see what the response is like, it may surprise you.