Earlier this week, NPR’s “All Things Considered” featured Maker Studios co-founder and YouTube OG Lisa Donovan aka LisaNova. Also featured in the interview was Dan Zappin, Donovan’s fiancé and fellow Maker Studios co-founder. In the companion post by Laura Sydell, she explains that according to Zappin, Maker helps their artists create better YouTube content based off of viewer comments. While modifying your work based on criticism is not the most revolutionary idea, it typically only works when the criticism is constructive. As YouTube creators, something that we all know too well is that YouTube comments are rarely helpful in any way. Previously at NMR, we told you how to handle trolls on YouTube. Now, we are setting our sights on taking those YouTube comments, regardless of their nature, and using them to improve your content.
First, Remember That Everyone Is Brutally Honest Online….
In a presentation to the Society for Applied Anthropology Conference by Patricia G. Lange, she suggested that some scholars believe that “a key limitation of online text-based environments is a prevalence of anonymity which directly spawns antagonism.” In other words, Lange is saying that some scholars believe the hostility in criticism that is directed towards YouTube comments are a result of the commenter’s ability to remain anonymous and unseen. Essentially, because the commenter has no reason to fear any type of responsibility for their comments, they will not censor themselves. Although it is easy to just write off negative comments as people spouting senseless hate, sometimes they can be legitimate and honest criticisms. Do not immediately write off every commenter as troll or hater simply because that is the easiest policy to adopt. Keep an open mind to any reasonable negative comments because they may be the most honest criticism you will ever receive.
…But Only Use The Constructive Criticism
While honesty is blunt and uncensored online, much of it is used not to help build, but to destroy. The key to using YouTube comments to supplement your work is being able to wade through the comments that are designed to bring you down. Being able to distinguish the difference between constructive and destructive criticism should be simple in most cases. But in the world of YouTube commenters, it is never as easy. Look for comments that critique your work and add advice on how to improve it. Never consider using comments that seem to be intended to embarrass you in any way. Destructive criticism doesn’t have to be filled with expletives and racial slurs. Sometimes it can be an offhand comment that offers no help at all. For example, in ShayCarl’s Justin Bieber Parody “Bro-Friend,” one commenter writes, “I fucking hate Justin Bieber (Gayber) but this parody it’s so boring.” Now, lets ignore for a moment that replacing Bieber with “Gayber” might be the worst play on words in history and instead look at the basic information of this comment. This commenter is explaining that they thought this parody was boring but didn’t offer any help on how ShayCarl could have made it more exciting.
Don’t Get Bent Out Of Shape
Once you find actual constructive criticism (it may take a long time) recognize it for what it is. It can be very easy to instantly be on the defensive when being critiqued, but remember that a constructive commenter can actually offer solid office. If your subs and views have been decreasing, chances are it isn’t some grand conspiracy against you. There is something missing from your work, and maybe that criticism will help you find out what you are missing. At the end of the day, you are making this content so that people can watch and enjoy it. If those people are not enjoying your work, it is probably for a good reason. The good thing about the Internet is that there will be no shortage of people to tell you what that reason is.
Take It And Build On It
Now that you have your handpicked constructive comments, it is time to put them to use. Find a common theme among them and pinpoint exactly what people are not responding well to. If you have fifteen comments that all say your video quality is bad or your camera work is shaky, maybe it’s time to get a new camera and a tripod. This may seem like a no-brainer, but combing through all of your comments will take much time and patience; pulling out that common negative thread can take even longer. Put simply, take commenters’ advice and use it to make better videos.
Be Honest With Yourself
Receiving criticism can hurt, but it is a necessary part of any creator’s life. “You suck” can be dismissed, but after the fiftieth iteration of “This is boring,” maybe it is time to consider that your work could use some improvement. You should never consider your content perfect and be open-minded enough to accept criticism as a way to improve your videos.