Why YouTube's New Creator Policy Should Be a Wake Up Call (And What To Do About It)

YouTube recently announced a change regarding its Partner Program, and the news has the social media world in a frenzy.

According to the updated rules, in order for creators to monetize their channels, through YouTube's traditional Google Adsense program, they must have a total watch time of 4,000 hours in the past 12 months and a minimum of 1,000 subscribers. While larger content creators easily meet these requirements, it's the smaller YouTubers who will bear the brunt of the changes, many of whom work just as hard as the popular creators to produce great content.

It's not just YouTube who's implementing big changes. On January 11th, Mark Zuckerberg also announced a new Facebook algorithm that will prioritize content from “friends, family and groups.” Brands, publishers, and anyone else with a Facebook Business page will need to fight even harder than ever for visibility on the platform. Big businesses with million dollar advertising budgets and large-scale marketing teams professionally trained to deal with changes like these will likely not be phased. However, the small businesses, brands, and creators who depend on Facebook to promote their offerings feel the most concern.

The Huffington Post is eliminating its blogger network, which included roughly 100,000 contributors. Although an unpaid platform, many writers distributed most, if not all, of their content through the network, in lieu of personal blog in hopes for more visibility via the popular site. In fact, many blogger and publisher networks require 100% original content in the first place, which often prohibits creators from posting their content elsewhere, such as on their own website.

Of course, Instagram is no stranger to unwanted changes. Moving forward, your posts may only be exposed to 10% of your audience. Your post's exposure will be based on your post's engagement. The 30 hashtag in a comment trick will likely be regarded as spam and may not show up in search results. Comments less than 4 words will no longer be regarded as engagement. And despite how much we've kicked and screamed all last year, we never got our timelines back in chronological order.

Wake up, people.

These social and digital media giants do not care about you or your brand. They are businesses, focused on their own bottom line, not yours. Sure, they were all created for noble reasons: YouTube gives creative video makers a platform to showcase their talents, Facebook keeps friends and families connected, and Instagram allows anyone to share their favorite images with the world. But the fact is they are billion dollar businesses who make changes based on their business's needs, and they couldn't care less about your complaints. 

What does this mean for you as a small business, brand, or creator? 

You need your own platform.

Stop listening to those who tell you, "You don't need a website! All you need is a YouTube channel!" or "You don't need a blog! You can micro-blog on Instagram!" Having your own platform is more crucial now than ever. When you build your entire brand on someone else's turf, you exist only at their will. You abide by their rules. And when they decide to end you, like Huffington Post did with their blogger network, there's nothing you can do about it except scramble to salvage as much as you can. When you own your platform, your own website, you're in control. You can embed your own videos. You can publish your own posts. YouTube doesn't have a monopoly on Google Adsense or monetization. You can monetize your own website yourself. You can create and sell products on your own. You can sell services on your own. You can become an affiliate marketer on your own. But you need your own digital real estate to do it. Build the damn website.

You need an email list.

You can build an audience of 100,000 fans on Instagram, but if only 153 people see your content because of the new algorithm, how will you ensure the other 99,847 know about it? If you wrote all of your best content on a HuffPo blog, and it ceases to exist, how will your loyal readers know where to keep up with you next? Email is powerful. It's intimate. It's direct. It converts better than anything else on the digital planet. People seldom change email addresses. Even if you change email list systems, you can always export your list for safe keeping. You have access to your audience, on your terms, virtually forever. (That's why you still get sales promo emails from that store you visited once 10 years ago.) If social media evaporated into thin air, it's the best way to keep up with those who support you. For example, those HuffPo bloggers who have an email list can simply shoot out an email saying, "Hey! You can find my work here now!" Those who don't have a list will have to be a bit more creative to get their audience back. Even if you don't think of yourself as a marketer, or maybe you've been turned off by the spammy, salesly emails you personally receive, there's still a reason everyone who knows anything about building a brand online has one.

You need to get creative.

The biggest similarity between all of the new changes on the major social media platforms is the rising importance of engagement. The content you do produce and share on social media needs to be creative and engaging enough to make people want to subscribe to your lists and become loyal visitors to your website. Basic and boring content won't stand out or drive people to act. Big brands are even building their own content production studios (yes, studios!) because they understand more than anyone the immediate importance of upgrading their content strategy in the new year and in the years to come. So, create cool videos. Produce podcasts and audio series. Make your visuals pop. Think outside the box. Analyze what the major players in your industry are doing and put your creative spin on it. With organic reach on the decline, high quality content will win the race.

 

Overall, none of this means you should stop using social media. Social media is still and will continue to be a powerful way to market your content online. After all, you have to find an audience somewhere. As a professional social media manager, I'm even ramping up my own and my clients' social media promotions. But social media should be just that — promotion. Remember all of those Vine famous people we all watched and loved? While some of them converted to YouTube and Instagram, a bunch of them disappeared right along with the app. Use social media as a tool to get your name and your brand out in the world, but social media should not be your brand. You should always have a final destination to drive people to aka your own website. As long as you have your own platform you're actively building and the creative content needed to grow it, it won't matter what changes Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media network throws at you. You won't need to depend on them to survive anyway.