Shweta Mulki

Is it easy to become an online star?

YouTube stars Darshan Raval, Jayvijay, Prajakta Koli and Shalini Samuel share their insights in a session moderated by Vanita Kohli-Khandekar at vdonxt asia 2017.

At the vdonxt asia 2017 convention, a panel, moderated by Vanita Kohli-Khandekar, contributing editor at Business Standard, had young online stars talk about what has got them this far, and the challenges they face in growing their followers.

The panel had Darshan Raval- a reality show find and performer who sings and composes original songs, cover versions and has over 25 million views and 250,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel; Jayvijay - a master impersonator who can mimic more than 350 characters, and has over 80,000 followers on YouTube; Prajakta Koli a former radio jockey and also one of India's fastest growing 'Youtubers' with a following of over 110000 and hair and beauty expert Shalini Samuel, who gives hairstyling tips and tricks to folks on the go has over 120,000 subscribers on her YouTube Channel.

Is it easy to become an online star?
Kohli-Khandekar began the session by asking each panelist to recount how they got on to the YouTube platform in the first place. Raval spoke about his need to reach out a larger audience, while Jayvijay simply gave everyone a glimpse of his impressive impersonating skills. Koli spoke about her need to move from her job as a radio jockey, while Samuel who began as a 'freelance hairstylist' found YouTube lacking in videos on hair tutorials. All agreed that the comments, feedback and the viewer connect egged them on to be more prolific with their video uploads.

When the panelists were asked by the moderator the extent to which audience reaction shaped their content, Raval said that it helps to balance audience feedback with what he himself wishes to create, while Koli said that initially you do consider user feedback and it evolves slowly from there. Samuel recalled that it took her six months to analyse feedback and figure out the right mix of content. "Understanding your target audience works better than looking at only what's trending," adds Samuel. Jayvijay on the other hand commented that he looks as topical things for content fodder.

The panelists also stressed that making videos was hard work. "A four-minute video can take up to hours," commented Jayvijay, also adding that those four minutes need to be 'worth their while for the audience.' Raval too acknowledged videos did take a lot of effort but then these were songs that would 'stay with people for very long'.

When asked about the key learnings for someone aspiring to make it big in online videos, Koli replied that video after video, her channel helped her shed her own inhibitions and share more of her true self with the world. How long can you pretend to be someone else," exclaimed Koli.

Samuel shared that understanding audience behaviour, watchtime, analytics as well as the platform will help smart content.

Raval believed that one has to be confident about their own content, and the journey will teach you the rest, while Jayvijay stressed on the need to differentiate your content. The biggest thing you learn is, 'How to deal with hate?', added Koli.

On the subject of sustaining and making money, the panel was asked whether just YouTube revenue was enough to sustain in this space. While Raval responded to that by saying that audience love translates to money, Koli commented that brands will reach to influencers with a certain amount of following. Samuel said beauty and hair space lends itself easily to collaborations once you become an influencer.

The closing question on how to attract a following brought in responses that ranged from 'pester your friends and family to share', and 'do a spot on impression of Shahrukh Khan' to going deep into audience analysis.

Finally, the audience in the room was polled on whether it was easy to become an online star, the majority of them replied in the negative. So there you have it.