“You do find out that there are bits of tech that are built a certain way for a certain person. I use Samsung phones, Korean phones, all the time, and you realize that phones are built a certain way or have certain features for certain markets. Some of them don’t work as well for people with my own skin tone. Perfect, I’m happy to report that because it’s my own experience,” he says. “That is, at the end of the day, why I feel like it’s important for more people to be creators, so that we have more people giving all of their own diverse experiences and submitting them for the world to see.”
Brownlee is upfront about where he thinks YouTube needs serious improvement, but the creator still sees the platform as his flagship in 2022. Even though he’s experimented with TikTok (and amassed over a million followers), the platform does not appear as central to MKBHD’s online presence.
“I think that my overarching philosophy is that I want to make really good videos native to each platform. I know some people like to cut up videos from YouTube and put them on TikTok,” he says. “I don’t really believe in doing that. I want to make a TikTok for TikTok.”
Describing key differences between the two video platforms as a creator, Brownlee says, “I mean, obviously, it’s vertical versus horizontal. It’s a much shorter video every time on TikTok. Really what happens is you end up optimizing for slightly different things. In the class, when I talk about trying to make a great video, I’m generally talking about a YouTube video. You get this thumbnail and this title, and it has to stand out. Then when someone clicks, as they’re watching the video, surrounding the video is a bunch of other thumbnails and a bunch of other things to do and click on. So, it’s your job to make something that engages them and hooks them right away, to get them to stay and watch the video. On TikTok, that’s probably amplified 10X because you can just swipe to the next one. Your hook time is way shorter.”
For creators who are getting approached by different companies and beginning to negotiate brand deals, Brownlee underscores that you should always factor your audience into the equation. (Fans of The Office may recognize his style of negotiation.)
He says, “My number one tip when negotiating that whole space is to try to make it a win for every party involved. There are actually three parties involved: It’s yourself as a creator. It’s the company you’re trying to work with. And it’s your audience, because you always want to maintain that relationship with your audience. Try to make it a win, win, win.”
MKBHD has long graduated from shooting videos inside his college dorm room, and he now films at a professional-grade studio equipped with a $250,000 robot for dope product shots. As business operations grow, he recognizes the significance of acknowledging your weaknesses and finding trustworthy collaborators.
“I started as just a kid in my room with my laptop. So, this is someone who is very focused on the tech, and then learning the business parts as they go. My advice is to find people who are smarter than you at the things you don’t do well, and work with them. Because that’s going to make it a lot easier, a lot smarter, a lot more functional. That’s what I’ve ended up doing,” says Brownlee. “There’s a lot of parts of the business now, like the gears turning in the background that you don’t necessarily see on camera, that are very important when it does become a multi-person operation.”
Definitely don’t be discouraged by his large operation and all of the flashy gear! Brownlee advises those undertaking their initial video projects to discover topics that ignite their passion, develop their editing skills, and find joy in the process of creation. Instead of searching for reasons not to make videos, MKBHD thinks you should take the plunge.
“Bro, you’ve got a phone in your pocket. You can start making videos right now.”