Lights, Camera, Content: How to Use YouTube As a Sales Funnel
Blog Post Written By: Melrose Michaels
This week's blog is pretty special to me because I’ve been spending such a large amount of time studying this topic lately and I think it’s an avenue most adult creators haven’t approached: creating and maintaining a YouTube channel.
I know a lot of you are going to immediately think "YouTube doesn’t allow explicit content" or "I’ll probably get banned on there." I want to encourage you to reframe your business from ‘sex worker or adult creator’ to simply just creator. At the end of the day, that is what you are in its simplest form.
To elaborate, we, as a community, are met with so much resistance in terms of discrimination and de-platforming that it can be easy to assume it’s impossible to exist anywhere. This thought process isn’t necessarily true. It’s not impossible because there are adult creators doing it successfully. The difference is that those who are successful are focusing their efforts on being mainstream creators and influencers. Ultimately it’s the safest route to staying on the platform and gaining traffic.
YouTube is the second largest ‘search engine’ on the internet, and the third most visited website in the world. That means with respect to potentially getting exposure to new fans, it’s pretty much bar none.
You can specify with each upload ‘this content is age restricted’ or ‘this content is not made for kids’. This is another massively appealing factor, especially for the creator who feels an ethical or moral dilemma with something like TikTok. On YouTube, you can genuinely age-gate your content should you choose to do so if you feel that’s right for your business.
If you do Youtube right, that content alone can be re-edited and re-formated into YouTube shorts, Reels, Tiktoks, etc. making you as distributed as possible on social media with the most optimized SFW content flow possible.
I could elaborate on additional reasons to start or build a Youtube channel, but I don’t think most of you reading this need persuading to be on Youtube. Instead, I want to offer you strategies for how to succeed there.
Before I do that, I need to address one other thing I know some of you are thinking - "I probably won’t be able to monetize my Youtube channel" or "What if I lose monetization status?" The way I view this is, yes, you could have an unmonetizable channel. In fact, many mainstream creators in general can’t monetize their channel at all. Don't approach having a YouTube channel with the goal of monetization. Even the most squeaky-clean creators have trouble staying monetized on Youtube.
What Is The Goal?
The goal of your Youtube channel should be to grow an audience and generate traffic to your paywalls. You don’t even have to tell them to subscribe to your adult sites, this will happen naturally as your audience and community grows on the platform. Try not to let the idea of monetization stop you from starting a channel. If anything, you are monetizing it on the adult paywall side instead. Eventually, the goal can be getting sponsors for some of your videos on your channel. To bring this into focus, I want to touch on the tactical things I've been researching around launching and building a Youtube channel as an adult creator. If you are familiar with Sex Work CEO at all you're aware that I really try to provide actionable tangible things you can take away and implement - not just philosophical ideas.
Keep in mind as we go through the information I've been compiling that Youtube isn’t a vertical I’ve expanded too much in between either of my companies. My MelRose Michaels Youtube channel was launched with Shameless in the South, a type of ‘reality show’ I made to highlight what it’s like being an adult creator in the bible belt...but beyond those 10 episodes, I haven’t focused much on that channel. It presently sits at 500+ subscribers and 17 total videos including YouTube shorts. Nothing to write home about. On the other end, Sex Work CEO has a YouTube channel with a little more activity - 3500+ subscribers (mainly made up of you lovely creators) and hosts 239+ videos between courses, podcasts, and our Youtube shorts. Even that isn’t all that impressive size-wise. Most of that channel has been built blindly without any of the strategies I want to expose you to in this blog.
I mention this because, in the next coming year, my main focus for both my businesses will be shifting to this Youtube strategy. I'll be building these platforms in real-time and I can report back to you with real insights as I personally experience things that are working. This is really unique to the way I’ve provided education on Sex Work CEO up to this point. Everything has been experienced, tested, and then documented and shared, whereas this piece will involve real-time feedback during the process itself.
Let’s take a second to really look at some hard data (you know I love data) about YouTube channels and youtube creators as a whole.
Just 10% of popular YouTube channels with over 250,000 subscribers are responsible for 70% of all videos posted.
On YouTube, a few successful and consistent channels dominate the platform. In fact, the videos posted by that same 10% of large channels also receive an average of 79% of all views.
Over 84% of YouTube channels have less than 1,000 subscribers (that means once you hit your 1,001st subscriber you’re automatically in the top 16% of YouTubers.
Approx. 3.4% of all YouTube channels have more than 10,000 subscribers. (that means once you hit your 10,001st subscriber you’re in the top 3% of YouTubers)
These stats are approximate considering YouTube is gaining 500+ hours of content daily, meaning the stats are ever-changing. This data specifically was sourced from outofthe925.com.
Hopefully, that data actually motivates and inspires you to at least stick with your new channel until you pass those thresholds because those milestones alone are massive successes.
Now, with that in mind, let’s get into the actual things I've discovered in the 50+ hours I’ve spent in the last 30 days dissecting the top Youtube channels like Mr. Beast, Marques Brownlee, Ryan Trehan, SSSniperWolf, and many many more.
5 Key Elements
The 5 elements required to build a successful youtube channel are:
Strong hooks & Intros
Strategic cuts & pacing
Being relatable to the audience
Creating content that isn’t about you
Some of those elements are going to surprise you. So let’s dive in and explain them in detail!
The reality is that you likely already have a strong skill set in regard to how to film and produce content from a logistical aspect. You know how to trim and split clips, add them together, insert transitions, fade to black, etc. Logistically we as adult content creators already know how to produce content in a very general way. But what we don’t often do is focus on storytelling.
I’m sure you've heard at some point on the internet that storytelling is the secret to success on social media. Stories are what people relate to. They trigger emotional responses and they make people invested in the outcomes or conclusions. So that brings us to the real question, how do you tell a good story???
Each story, or each video you make, should have a few things in place to make the story compelling. In the simplest version of a story, you have a ‘setup, a conflict, and a resolution’. The setup should outline the purpose and the context of the story/video. The conflict should communicate the ‘stakes’ or the ‘problem or challenge’ you’re trying to overcome in the story & video. Then finally, the resolution or climax should leave the reader with closure and an outcome to the story or video. This is a general ‘story arc’ with essentially a beginning, middle, and end.
Now if you really want to dig even deeper into storytelling, keep in mind there are many ways to tell a compelling story, but one that I’m partial to is using the Harmon Circle approach to storytelling.
The Harmon Circle is outlined as follows:
1. You — A character is in a zone of comfort,
2. Need — But they want something.
3. Go — They enter an unfamiliar situation and go on a mission or adventure
4. Search — Searching for something
5. Find — Get what they wanted,
6. Take — Pay a heavy price for it, sacrifice, change, or grow for it
7. Return — Then return to their familiar situation,
8. Change — Having changed or transformed in some way
Essentially the idea is that you, or a character, go searching for something, find it, take it, and return back to where you began, having ‘changed’ or experienced some sort of growth from the experience.
If you can master that, the next thing you can consider doing is adding some elements like ‘foreshadowing’ and ‘cliffhangers’ into your storytelling that make it even more engaging.
Any story with those elements will be vastly more set up for success in terms of views, and audience retention simply because they include stronger elements about how to tell a proper story.
The next factor is utilizing hooks & creating a strong hook & introduction
Strong hooks & Intros
The ’hook’ of your Youtube video is the first single sentence that captures the viewer's attention. It is the single most important element, and often your ONLY chance, to capture their attention. Some examples of hooks are:
“You won't believe what I found today on X adventure..."
"Are you tired of [X problem]? Here's how to solve it."
"Exclusive behind-the-scenes look at [X] you won't see anywhere else."
"The truth about [X topic]. Brace yourself."
"Discover the secret to [X outcome] with this simple trick."
"My biggest [success/failure] revealed. Here's what I learned."
"10 things you didn't know about [X]."
"My [family member/friend/pet] surprised me with the most incredible gift."
"I tried [trendy or unusual activity] for a week, and here's what happened."
"You won't believe what I ate on my trip to [foreign country/city]."
You’ll notice these hook examples are geared at communicating what the video will be about, hooking the viewer with the expectation of what they will learn once they finish watching it, and the added suggestion that it’s likely not what they are expecting (in some of those cases).
That first sentence needs to be short, clear, and convey all of the information we just mentioned in the most optimized and effective way possible.
The next part of this is the video intro. The hook is obviously a part of the intro, but the intro is more than just the hook. When you outline the introduction as a whole, the hook is simply the first element of that equation.
Your intro should include:
Communicate who you are (by showing not telling if possible)
Set the remaining context for the video
Once you’ve mastered the hook and grabbed the viewer's attention, you have about 10-15 seconds max to communicate who you are, what the subject of the video is, and any remaining context for the video. If you’re looking on Youtube for the best example of a hook and an intro, my favorite is hands down Mr. Beast. Usually in one or two sentences, he’s conveyed all of this information in as few words as possible. Within those first 10 or so seconds of the video, you’re already jumping into the body of the video and he begins delivering on what his hook has promised.
The faster you can start delivering on what your hook promises at the beginning of the video, the more viewer attention you’re going to have.
Now this brings me to a major mistake many new YouTubers make, myself included. I make this mistake currently on both my Sex Work CEO Youtube channel and my MelRose Michaels videos. That mistake is having a 10-30 second introduction at the beginning of your videos. That beautifully crafted introduction might be incredibly well produced, but ultimately it’s repetitive, it delays your audience from getting into the body of your video and delivering to them what your hook promised, and it’s the highest point where viewers will get bored & click OFF your video - the exact opposite thing you want as a Youtube creator.
So while we, as creatives, may love a beautifully crafted introduction, it’s not actually helping your content or your channel. This is a major thing I will be changing in my own future content as well. My ego aside, the data is there and it tells us that approach is not working.
Strategic cuts & pacing
This brings us to the next extremely important factor: strategically cutting your content and maintaining a ‘pace’ that keeps the viewer engaged, and watching, and ensuring they don’t click off the video.
First, let’s define ‘cutting’ content. A ‘cut’ in content is anywhere that you splice the content and change what is on the screen to something different. For example, content that has many cuts usually cuts between every 3 to 7 seconds and changes the framing of what's on the screen, meaning it shifts to a new thing on the screen entirely. Typically this strategy keeps more viewers watching the content. Why is this? Well, it’s due to the short attention span of the viewers themselves. If you start watching some of the top YouTubers' content, you’ll notice they ‘cut’ their content or shift the focus on the screen every 3 to 7 seconds. It keeps the viewer watching the screen and lengthens the viewer retention overall so they don’t get bored and click off.
Now I know a lot of you listening are thinking "Man...that sounds like a LOT of editing cuts." It is! When you start watching the most successful videos with around 180 million views, you’re going to see that this is taking place non-stop. It’s effective, and it’s going to increase the likeness of your video's success on the platform.
Next, let’s define pacing. The pace of the content is a little more difficult to explain and identify. Pacing refers to the speed and rhythm at which the content is delivered to the viewer. This is more of the ‘art’ coming into play from you the creator. If a video's pacing is too slow or monotonous, the viewer may become bored and disengaged. Conversely, if the pacing is too fast or erratic, the viewer may struggle to keep up or become overwhelmed.
Pacing also compliments the way you ‘cut’ content and work symbiotically. When thinking about pacing overall, you should try and keep a fairly quick pace throughout the video as a whole. However, slowing the pace can at times be really appropriate to stress certain points, re-engage the audience, or draw emphasis on something. Pacing itself is genuinely an art form and mastering this will make your content that much more compelling to keep watching the content overall.
Being relatable to the audience
The next part I want to discuss is something I personally have a lot of trouble with. You need to find ways to be relatable to your audience. You need to make the viewer of your content feel like they know you, relate to you, or face similar things to you. If you create content that’s absolutely polished and perfect, or that highlights a lifestyle or circumstance your viewer can’t relate to, you and your content become less interesting to your audience as a whole.
Now, luckily for both of us, some relatability can be manufactured. There is a little part of that formula that you can kind of ‘fake it till you make it’. What I mean by that is, you can leave things in your content that will humanize you on purpose. This can be a speaking part that you mess up and say the wrong thing. That can be a film piece where maybe you're not perfectly framed in the video, or your camera falls over entirely. This can be left in the part of the video where you actually click record. Things like this help to humanize you to the audience and remind them you’re more alike than you are different.
That alone is going to drive more people to subscribe to your channel.
Creating content that isn’t about you
This may seem extremely counter-intuitive (at least it did to me at first) but you have to really consider the vast size of the youtube userbase. The reality is that most viewers on Youtube likely have no idea who you are with the exception of someone really famous in our industry like Riley Reid or Lana Rhoades.
For the majority of us, myself included, most people simply aren’t going to know who you are, and therefore, you alone will not come off as a very interesting subject. This is the reason most giant Youtubers' content isn’t actually about them alone. To continue with the Mr. Beast example, the subject of his content is these massive challenges or giveaways. The subject of Marques Brownlee’s content is the technology he’s reviewing. The subject of SSSniperWolf’s content is the videos she’s reacting to. Interestingly enough, even with these creators having more than 10 million plus youtube subscribers, their content is STILL not about them.
Why is that?
The reason successful YouTubers aren’t making content about them as the subject is that that type of content is only interesting to people who already know who they are. However, if they make content around a different subject then their content remains interesting to people who don’t know who the creator is. Why is this important? Because if your content has a high likelihood of being interesting to watch for people who have no idea who you are, that means your content will always attract NEW subscribers, (again - the people who have no idea who you are). Whereas the inverse, content that focuses solely on who you are as the subject, is only really catering to the fans you already have. This is a blaring mistake tons of creators can avoid making to help curve their success journey on Youtube as a whole.
As you consider these 5 major elements, you should start to see a bit of a roadmap emerging in terms of how you can start to imagine and shape the Youtube channel you plan on building. There are a TON of other things that go into building your channel, but in my opinion, these are the most fundamental building blocks for getting started or even someone who already has a YouTube channel but might not be optimized correctly for these specific aspects.
The remaining question is - what do you want to create content about? This topic could be an entirely separate blog but I will say this: the content you want to create, whatever that ends up being, should be made for the audience you want to build. For most of you reading, the audience you're trying to attract is the type of person who will also subscribe to your fansites or paywalled content. Think of your key demographic but this is likely males, 18+, and English-speaking.
While you may want to build a large channel around other things you enjoy like makeup or fashion (and you totally can do that) I’m suggesting that you, as an adult creator, who is looking to capitalize on the Youtube traffic and funnel that to your platforms and paywalls will need to target that same audience with the content you create for Youtube. And while you obviously can not link to your adult platforms from Youtube, you can link to your socials, your own personal website, and your blog. Additionally, if you as a creator are well optimized in terms of SEO so that when someone googles your creator name all your primary platforms and socials appear, then you’re even better positioned to funnel traffic from YouTube to your platforms.
Some large adult creators on Youtube, like Amouranth for example, do this by creating ‘lingerie hauls’ or ‘Twitch stream compilations’. Other adult creators like Lena The Plug and Lana Rhoades did this with podcasts and vlogs. Others who maybe don’t consider themselves adult creators per se, but still have fansites like Onlyfans, do this via workout videos with strategic camera angles in the gym. However you do it, do it intentionally with the viewer in mind and what they will be attracted to watching.
Hopefully, this information gives you a bit to think about in terms of planning your Youtube channel, optimizing it, and getting it off the ground. This probably will be a topic I will cover more in the future as I personally go through my own Youtube journey as a creator, so you can probably expect to see me sharing more insights about this as I experience them first-hand.
If you enjoyed this blog, you'll really love the Twitter Space we did focusing on this topic. We had a lot of great questions submitted by listeners not mentioned above so make sure to check it out!
Want to be part of the conversation? Join us Tuesdays at 1 pm CST on Twitter where we discuss new topics weekly to help take your adult content creator business to the next level. Unable to make it live? No problem! You can listen to all our past Twitter Spaces here.