I spoke to Tyler Oakley, one of the biggest YouTube personalities and bestselling author of Binge, about his inspiration for building his successful YouTube channel, the benefits and drawbacks of technology, how he decides what projects to take on and which ones to avoid, and his top tips for building an online following on social media.
Oakley has amassed 8.1 million YouTube subscribers, generating nearly 600 million views between all of his videos. In total, Oakley has amassed more than twenty-one million social media followers through his humorous, no-holds-barred YouTube videos, high-profile interviews, and social rights advocacy. After uploading his first video eight years ago, Oakley took the Internet by storm. With successes ranging from interviews with First Lady Michelle Obama and boy band One Direction, a worldwide live tour, and his chart-topping podcast Psychobabble, Oakley is an Internet icon.
On screen, Oakley has done appearances on broadcasting platforms, having some that air on national TV. Oakley was seen on Insider Tonight, featuring co-hosts Kevin Frazier, and Thea Andrews. He has also interviewed live from the 2014 Kids Choice Awards red carpet, along with many other events that have him meeting and speaking to celebrities.
Dan Schawbel: What inspired you to start uploading videos to YouTube and what was the breaking point when you knew you “made it” as an Internet celebrity?
Tyler Oakley: I actually began making YouTube videos to keep in touch with friends and family – I had just gone off to college and it was my way to keep everyone up to date with that new chapter of my life. What started as a diary soon became something much more.
The first time was when I had 100 views on a single video and I was like, “Uhhh… I don’t have 100 friends???” so it definitely opened my eyes and I quickly realized that strangers could find me on the Internet. I also remember once in college I was at a university football game, and I looked around, knowing that the packed stadium could fit 75,000 people, and I had more subscribers than that. It’s sometimes hard to visualize the amount of people who tune in, but when I thought of it that way, it blew my mind.
Schawbel: When you started gaining notoriety, what led you to become an activist on some major issues? What impact do you believe you’ve made so far?
Oakley: Back in 2008, when I made my first video about The Trevor Project, a nonprofit focusing on suicide prevention for LGBTQ+ youth, I received a postcard from one of the founders saying thank you for the video and back then I barely had any subscribers. Seeing that was the encouragement I needed to stay involved and use my influence to be a part of a movement. Since then I’ve had that postcard on my shelf as a reminder to focus on what’s important.
For the past couple of years, I have hosted a birthday campaign to support The Trevor Project and was able to raise over $1 million dollars by asking my viewers to donate what they could. To see the impact my platform can have on the online community and bringing awareness to The Trevor Project message has been the most important thing I think I’ll ever accomplish.
Schawbel: What do you believe are the benefits and drawbacks with advances in technology?
Oakley: I’d hate to imagine technology used to harm or bully others. Anonymity on the Internet can allow some people to say things they’d never say to people in person. I’d definitely say there are more benefits to advances in technology though, the best of all being the ability to make connections with people all over the world that you might not have ever had the chance to meet. The Internet can expand your worldview, and help you see a bigger picture.
Schawbel: As a creator, and entrepreneur, how do you decide what projects to start, what ones to stop, and how long you will invest in them?
Oakley: If there is a project or something that inspired me that I am truly passionate about, I will create content around that topic(s) on my channel/podcast. With regard to working with brands/companies/organizations, they all have to be in line with my brand and messaging and what I am wanting to put forth. I need to have a genuine and authentic connection to the product/the organization. I always try to be my best self and just live my best life, and I talk about it on camera. I think people gravitate toward authenticity and that’s what I put forth in my videos. As long as I still love something, I’ll keep it in my life.
Schawbel: As someone who has built a major following on social media, what are your top three tips on how to best use content to make a name for yourself?
1. Be yourself. Nobody wants to follow an imitation of something that’s already successful – why subscribe to a second rate version of something else?
2. Don’t give up. It took me years to get to where I am today, and with the oversaturated landscape of social media, it’s can be hard to break through the noise.
3. Follow your passion. People gravitate toward those who enjoy what they’re doing. I have no reason to watch make-up tutorials, but there are certain beauty vloggers that I always tune-in to – because I love them and watching them love what they do. Do what you love and the audience will appreciate that.
[By: Dan Schawbel] [Forbes] [Read More]