The Scoop: Shot of the Yeagers
I messaged Steve Yeager from the YouTube channel Shot of the Yeagers, requesting an interview. He was happy to accept and when I suggested 11 am for the call he needed to change it to noon because he was at the gym. Most people’s schedules don’t permit them to hit the gym in the middle of a Tuesday morning. The life of a YouTuber can be quite different though.
We connected on our 12 o’clock call and I was able to talk with Steve and his wife Jamie, who I came to realize was the catalyst to their social media success.
So what do you guys have going on right now?
S: YouTube is the bulk of our life right now, we’re putting a lot of time and effort into it. But as far as us and our life, we have the kids in school, we’re currently in the process of building a home. YouTube kinda takes over our life a little bit so that’s a big part of it.
So what made you guys decide to start a YouTube channel?
S: We were watching General Conference (a television broadcast from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and in between the two conferences there was a video about LDS people who are on social media, and Jamie thought, “well that’s kinda cool” and started looking into it a little bit, and that’s kinda where the first idea came from.
So did you start with a family vlog or try something else?
S: We started with a family vlog concept right off the bat, that was our idea from the beginning, with our kids being a heavy focus of it.
Were there creators that you derived your creativity from or were inspired by?
S: It kind of evolved. At first there were the Shaytards and family vlog channels like that out there, and then as we started doing our own videos and going our own way, we started kind of almost hybriding a mixture of a few different ones. There was a little less family vlog, like Family Fun Pack. We’ve kind of always seen ourselves as a hybrid of them and J House Vlogs, where you have the fun activities but you also have the family vlog.
What challenges did you face as you were trying to grow?
S: I mean the first thing was getting any kind of attention for it, and by that I mean like getting it in front of people. When we went to the first CVX Live that we went to which was 2 years ago, we had less than 100 subscribers and we had been doing it for like 9 months. So we were just making videos and putting them out, we’d share it on social media and not get any reaction from them. The hardest part was figuring out how to get it in front of people.
In 2016 you participated in the Next Big YouTuber competition at CVX Live and were a finalist. What was that experience like?
S: Yeah we had a good experience at that first CVX Live. The competition itself didn’t necessarily bring us more subscribers or viewers or anything like that, but we learned about how you have to grind. For as small as a channel we were, we had to do a lot of grinding to get the votes to get into the top 20. That same kind of drive and grind is what you have to do to grow a YouTube channel. It goes hand and hand whether it’s winning a contest, getting views, or triggering algorithmic things in YouTube. So I would say that was the biggest thing we got. And also the ability to go to CVX Live because we got into the top 20 and at the time we were broke, so we weren’t even planning on going unless we could get in for free somehow.
So Jamie has always been the driving force of our YouTube channel, and up until CVX Live, that’s when I realized it was more than just putting videos online. That’s was my eye opening experience of like, “Hey, these other YouTubers are doing something in order to grow, they’re not just getting lucky. They’re working and doing things to figure YouTube out and it’s not just posting something and if it goes viral you win and if it doesn’t you lose.” So that was the first time I had my eyes opened to the fact that it was a career, not just a hobby.
So it was seeing that it could be lucrative that got you on board with your wife?
S: Not even the lucrative part. It was just noticing that there was intentional things happening in order to grow. Because at first we were making videos and I was on board even though she was more into it. But it was the first time I started studying YouTube and the algorithm because I realized it wasn’t just… like yeah we’ve always wanted to make money on YouTube, but the deciding factor was that we can put effort in and get results from it.
What were the things that mattered most in growing your channel? What things gave you the best ROI?
S: There were quite a few things. Number one was the realization that you have to get yourself in front of people, you have to figure that out. We put a lot of effort into studying other channels that were at the moment growing very rapidly. Like at the time the Tannerites were going pretty rapidly, and there’s a few other channels that we studied really hard. So we put a lot of time into reading comments, watching videos, checking out their other social media, looking for things that they did to try to figure out what the keys were to their successes. So I would say a big part of it was deciding to put the time in and the work into the discovery process of how to grow a YouTube channel. Also learning to get better at thumbnails and other things and focusing on what got our audience’s attention as opposed to what we thought we wanted to do.
What about you Jamie, anything else you noticed helped your growth?
J: I think it was when we realized who was viewing our videos and our actual target audience. That was just from seeing comments and videos that got more views than others, and then really realizing who was watching our videos. Then making thumbnails and titles and content that would appeal to that audience more than others.
So knowing your audience and giving them what they want?
S: Yes. (laughter) Over and over and over again.
What would have done differently to accelerate your growth early on?
S: I think a big thing is not worrying about other people’s opinions about what you’re doing. You have to kind of let it slide. At the time we thought that growing our YouTube audience meant getting our friends and family to watch and like our videos, or even getting other YouTubers to watch our videos. The earlier we gave up on trying to please them and just started to figure out who our audience was, the sooner we started growing. That’s one of the triggers for us.
What advice do you have for those who are struggling and trying to grow?
S: For starters I think you have to remember that it’s like a stairway up. I’m sure some people probably have these magical successes and maybe we even appear that way. But it’s a stairway and you watch yourself climb slowly and surely. A lot of it is the grinding and consistency but also focusing on how to grow, how the algorithm works and those things. So you’re not just making videos and working hard on your content, which is also important, but also learning how you can get your content in front of other people and putting a focus on that.
What changes do you see on the horizon for social media?
S: I think that the younger audience wants to do social media. The younger demographic is bigtime into wanting to do this kind of stuff. So you’re going to see an influx of people entering the market, and you’ve probably already seen this some, but it’s going to be a lot more people competing for those views and that attention. And the creativity and understanding the algorithm is going to be what sets people apart, which it kind of already is. It’s not going to be much different, just a lot more people coming into it.
What financial insights do you have for people wanting to make a living on social media?
S: We tell people this a lot, but you don’t need money to make it on YouTube. We didn’t have any. We literally did not have any. You need creativity. There might be trends that you don’t think you can afford to do or things going on that you don’t think you can put the money into, and don’t if you can’t, and just realize that there are other creative ways to still get involved. Things that we did would be like taking trends that we knew we couldn’t get onto and turning them into games with our family that we could still link with videos. So doing different things that would make it that we could afford it. Most of our videos still don’t cost us that much money, it’s just a matter of being creative enough and not let money be an excuse for not doing it. We were as broke as you can be (laughter) and we got our channel finally growing. You have to learn to put things that you’re mentally holding yourself back with, like your finances, and putting those aside and finding creative ways to get around that. We started off with one of those flip open cameras from Walmart with the grainy video and we were just making our videos with that. You got to not let those things hold you back and really use your creativity and your drive to really get through it.
So can we expect to Shot of the Yeagers at CVX Live 2018?
S: Oh yeah!
You guys have been to a lot of conventions, what is it about CVX Live that you enjoy?
S: The family friendly atmosphere of it. The first year we went in 2016, it was a real tight, fun, energetic atmosphere and it was really cool and we had a really good time there. We’re kind of quiet people so we’re not the ones talking to everybody, but we still enjoy that. So we’re able to get all of that but also still get the educational aspects of it. So yeah there’s that fun family energy, but there’s this learning path. And for us, learning is the main reason we go to any convention. So when we have that opportunity to hear other people and their stories or their conversations on the sideline, those are the things that really help.
J: I look forward to CVX Live every year. It’s just one of the things I get the most excited about because I know I can bring my kids and they can have a good time, and I know we’re going to be able to meet some people that like to watch us and that’s something that we look forward to.