Ever thought about making YouTube videos in your spare time? What about as your full time job? We've been speaking to the man behind The Tech Chap to find out how it's done...
More than 173,000 people on YouTube know Tom Honeyands by another name: The Tech Chap. For a little over two years now he’s been creating tightly-focussed tech videos under that alias, where his easy-going, no-nonsense style has found favour with a legion of fans.
We caught up with Tom to find out how he got started, what the secrets are to YouTube success, and what he’s most looking forward to in the tech space in 2018…
From humble beginnings…
“It’s not hard to get involved with YouTube,” Tom says. “Anyone can do it, no matter what you’re passionate about or what your hobby is. Mine was tech; I always wanted to have the latest phones and laptops.
“At some point I saw that people were asking questions on forums about what people’s experiences were with the phone I had at the time [the LG G3], so I just shot a quick video about it. People were reasonably supportive about that,” he says, “so I shot another one and another one.”
Over those two years, Tom says he’s learned a lot about how to improve, and what works vs what doesn’t:
“On the production side, I find that I can’t watch my original videos any more because they’re so cringey and poorly made – it’s actually quite embarrassing. But I don’t delete them,” he says, “because it’s good to see the difference in quality. If every video you make isn’t better than the last one, you’re going backwards. But the good news is, you can teach yourself a lot as you go.”
And those learnings have taken Tom on a life-changing journey, and helped him gather thousands of followers in the process. “Now – a few years later – it’s my full-time job. I’ve been taken all over the world to product launches, I’ve got to play with loads of cool new tech… It’s been amazing.”
Give the people what they want
So what are people are looking for when it comes to tech videos on YouTube? What’s Tom’s secret to success?
“I think first and foremost,” he explains, “people want a relatable approach. The reason corporate commercials don’t engage viewers is because they’re often too polished and distant from the things normal people want to know about. People just want to know what a phone feels like in the hand, how the battery is after a day… They want impartiality.”
He also believes that the relationship YouTubers get to develop with their audience is key. “You could always read a review in a magazine, but when you establish a personality through a YouTube channel, people come to know what you think and what you’re looking for, and they know that you’ve got the experience to choose between different products. After a while, what you say carries real weight.
“It helps, of course, to try and make creative videos – ones that are interesting to watch. Add a bit of humour and make things relatable, and it’ll be lots better than a black and white 1,000-word article.”
Take a quick look at any tech topic on YouTube and you’ll find lots of different approaches, but Tom’s taken to doing more long-term phone reviews; his iPhone X video, for example, was posted a full month after he first picked his up. Does that mean he foresees an end to the ‘first out of the gates’ online review rush?
“I wish that was the case,” he says, “but I think it’s still just as popular as ever to do unboxings and get reviews out quickly. But I do think we’re seeing long term reviews becoming more popular. I think there’s a case for lots of different videos for devices at different stages. So you might have a news and rumours video, an unboxing, a first impressions, then a review after a week, a month or even six months. You get a narrative arc of your use of a device that way – your opinion changes over time.”
“Also,” Tom adds, “hype is a massive thing. Everyone’s talking about the iPhone X right from the rumour stage, and if Apple takes you to California for the launch you’re going to get swept up in all of the buzz. So I like to do things after a month, when the hype train has moved on a bit.”
Tech trends for 2018
From his Tech Chap chair, Tom’s got a great view of the changing face of mobile. So what innovations does he see coming over the horizon?
“People are starting to talk about 5G now,” he says, “but I think that’s another year or two away still. I suspect 2018 will be more of an evolutionary year in the mobile space. You’ll have the usual new OS releases – Android 9 and iOS 12 – but I think the more interesting stuff in tech generally will be things like AI, and seeing the impact that has.
“Products like Google Home and Amazon Alexa have now introduced AI into people’s houses, so it’ll be really interesting to see how that develops over the next few years.”
“In the mobile space, the things companies are doing with cameras – with better sensors and features – are exciting, but I think the one big thing people want in their phones is longer battery life. Hopefully,” he says in closing, “more efficient processors and refined design processes will result in better battery life.”
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