You can build a community
Dr. Gerald Auger isn’t famous, but he does have a bigger YouTube channel than me.
Gerald started his YouTube channel to be able to show and tell his work to a specific audience. But that audience wasn’t there.
So he changed his approach and started growing a following that has led to big opportunities in his career. This week I’d like to share something special with you:
An in-depth look at exactly how, what and why Gerald built his audience so that you can do the same.
What Gerald shares is a very detailed look into how he started from scratch to build a YouTube channel and a following on LinkedIn that opened doors for him.
Here’s what you’ll learn:
- How your YouTube channel helps build authority and trust with complete strangers
- What your LinkedIn profile is probably missing and how to fix that
- When to use recorded and live video to make the most of each platform you’re on
Gerald is a PhD in Cybersecurity. He’s not a marketer or a growth hacker. He’s just a smart dude who figured out how to make this work and I can't thank him enough for sharing this.
Watch the video
Listen to the audio
Read the transcript
You previously had a podcast. Why did you decide to focus on YouTube first instead of podcasting?
So I originally started a podcast called InfoSec ICU, and it was a healthcare information security podcast hosted by my employer, the Medical University of South Carolina. So it was actually part of my job function, and I co-hosted that podcast for about two years. And Steve, the guy who was running it with me, he was actually a very successful podcaster, he won some awards and stuff. So he understood not just the technology piece and how to do production and editing and those types of things, but he understood a show format and technique, including having an opening, having very clear objectives on what the listener is going to get, and then having some hook at the end to encourage people to stay with you through the entire show, and so incentivize them.
So, I enjoyed doing that. However, I was working under my employer with a cohost, and there were restrictions on what I could talk about, on topics that I could reference. I couldn't inject my own personal style or perspective in some cases. I mean, it was open, but I didn't have that full authority that I wanted. Plus we were talking about healthcare exclusively, and it was kind of narrow, and I'm a cybersecurity professional, I love the entire field. And when we ended up deciding, Steve ended up leaving MSC, and after a couple of weeks, or months, I found that the podcast was too difficult to manage by myself. I ended it, but then I started a YouTube channel. And because of, the reason that I wanted to do a YouTube channel, is because the medium is more engaging. I do a lot of demonstrations with my computer and tool sets, and I wanted to be able to incorporate that you can't just speak cybersecurity. You have to show cybersecurity as well.
So with the full authority to be able to control my own destiny and having the knowledge that I had on how to run a show, whether just audio or audio and visual, I went forward with that and actually started doing YouTube and really have enjoyed it, and a lot of those skills have translated from those podcasting experiences.
You've used a mix of live and recorded content. How do you decide which topics to go live with and which to record?
So on my YouTube channel, I do have a, every Monday, I release a recorded show. It's got known content, and I plan it, I research it, I deliver, I produce it, et cetera. It takes a bit of work, right? And that's fantastic. On Thursdays, I run a live stream, which is, as you would think, it's live broadcast to multiple platforms at the same time, which is a fantastic benefit over the recorded sessions.
And I chose to do live streams where I would interview experts. I would provide the questions ahead of time, and I would have that engagement. Now I could do that as a prerecorded session, and I've done that in the past. However, with platforms like LinkedIn, you can promote the shows in advance and promote the talent that you're bringing on or the expert you're bringing on and get an audience excited about it, have them sign, up kind of like a webinar, and then they're present during the live stream. And the platform I use, StreamYard, allows comments that attendees are putting into the chat windows to be able to be brought into the live stream. So you can get that engagement. With prerecorded videos, I mean, you can respond to comments and stuff, but it's very much an asynchronous delivery of media, whereas the live stream is very much more dynamic and engaging with the audience. I mean, they can go back and watch it.
Also I'll note, when you see something going live, I don't know about you, but when I register for something, if I don't attend it live, even if I was super interested, I'm less likely to go watch a replay of it. When it's live, I make an effort to get to it and I go to it. So if audience is what your goal is and increasing those numbers, those live stream formats, have a higher opportunity to get those people to show up. Plus it's some diversity, the format's different, there's an energy to a live stream versus a prerecorded one. Basically I choose live stream events where I'm going to either do a technical demo, which I don't do that anymore, because of some technical demo issues I had during live stream, or if I'm going to be interviewing a talent, and like I said, I'll, I'll brief them ahead of time and what we'll be talking about. But sometimes there's an organic nature to the conversation that is very interesting, depending on what the audience is saying and stuff like that. So that's definitely an opportunity for live streams to win.
I do want to also note that there is a relatively new technology, and I'm not plugging this company, but I think they're called Pigeon Live, and they actually allow you to upload prerecorded content and then give the illusion that it's live streaming. So it will say Gerry Auger just went live, and it'll look like a live stream broadcast, but it'll be a prerecorded video that's played. Now, it's a little, I don't want to call it fraudulent, but there is a bit of a benefit to it. What I'm live streaming, it's very difficult, because I'm on a budget to host the event, interview the client, or that expert, handle the audience feedback, comb through the comments and be able to deliver accurate comments to the show, all at the same time. I mean, that's typically why the on air talent isn't also producing it in the back room, right? Because you need focus in both of those.
So by doing a live stream as a prerecorded event in this new type of paradigm, you could actually really engage with your audience while the broadcast is going on, so there is that benefit, it's something to consider, again, because when people see live, they're more likely to go to it, because it's kind of a depreciating asset, or it's something that's volatile that you can't go back, it's like now or never.
As you plan for more livestreams, what would you stop doing, start doing, and continue doing?
Things that I would stop doing, I would point out that when you start a live stream, it's like, you're live, now. Now on my shows, I actually do have a five minute countdown, because when someone gets the notification that you just went live, they can click on it right now, but what if they're driving? What if they're in the middle of a meeting? What if they're trying to get a cup of coffee, run to the bathroom, whatever. So you want to give your audience a few minutes in order to come into the room, for lack of a better term, and get settled for the show. So I've seen, I think like 12 minutes is the sweet number, I was using five minutes. I would bump that up, actually, to about 10 to 12 minutes to allow those people to pull, queue up.
I would also recommend, and this is a very subtle nuance, but it's important, because I've done research on it and it's proven. I currently run a animated video during my countdown that has a countdown timer, important, you should have a countdown timer. So people are coming in, understand how much time they have left or how much time they have to go run and grab a Gatorade or a glass of water from the kitchen. But my screen is kind of like a blank screen, or not blank, but it looks like when you go to the movie theater and there's like the previews and little factoids and trivia and stuff like that. I need it to be engaging, but I have seen people who have a semi-transparent background, and it allows you as the person sitting in the audience to kind of see something going on in the background, you see movement, you see the talent getting ready, maybe there's music playing and stuff like that.
So that slight little voyeurism, that little piece of what's going on in the background is very interesting to audience members and engaging. And I'm not a hundred percent sure of the psychology of that, but I can tell you right now, about 12 minutes and being able to kind of see through a semi-transparent background of what's going on is very, very useful for retaining people. So I would start doing that, and I would stop having the short of the short time span.
Also, I kind of model my shows after late night TV where you bring in the talent, you introduce them, you give them a little bio, you let them talk about what's good for them. Then you pepper them with some questions that you would expect based on what the show's about, and then you close. Out my close outs aren't very strong. I usually ask them how to, where, if people want to engage with them or get more information, how they can do that, and then I usually thank the audience for being there and then kind of sign off. There's no end screen or no kind of closure to the show. And I've always felt that that is a shortcoming. If I was modeling after a late night show, it's never, they don't just like, "Good night, everybody," and then it just clips to a commercial. There is a kind of finale end screen if you will, or a conclusion to it. So I would recommend that.
And as far as continue doing, I do find, I've been doing 30 minute shows, I've seen 60 minutes shows. I would continue, or I would encourage you, to really take advantage of the audience. If you're doing a live stream, in my opinion, the reason you're doing it is for audience engagement. We're we're all doing it remote, it's not like you're on a stage or something, it's all remote. So if it's just the two of you talking in a regular conversation, then why are you live streaming in anyways?
So engage the community, engage the audience, ask them where they're from, give shout outs, bring their comments in, answer their questions. Your prepared questions might be fine, but the ones that they're asking is the ones that you should be bringing to the on air talent, because that's what the people who are sitting in the audience want to know about, right? So unless it's a completely absurd question, then obviously you just disregard that.
You've used LinkedIn as a way of building community and audience. Why LinkedIn, what was your strategy for this? What tactics are working on LinkedIn that you feel will always work?
So I've been on LinkedIn for probably eight to 10 years. And before Microsoft bought it a couple of years ago, I mean, it really was just a digital bazaar for individuals looking for jobs to find employers looking for talent. And it was basically a glorified digital resume. Well, once Microsoft bought it, they have aggressively turned it into a social media platform that is designed for business people to network with business people. And it's obviously, you can see how successful it's become.
I chose LinkedIn for my platform for building my community and building my audience because I am building a professional business with a audience that I want. I'm targeting professional individuals, so my YouTube channel and my whole LinkedIn business model, it's all targeted at people who want to make or take their career in cybersecurity further faster. So I'm looking for individuals looking to get into cybersecurity, which I get asked all the time, how do I get into cybersecurity? It's like the number one question. So there's a huge pool out there of people.
And then there's people who are in the zero to three years that quite don't understand what they're into or they got their first job and that's all they know about cybersecurity and they want to understand more. Those are the people I'm looking for. These are professionals. It's not a cooking blog, it's not a personal fitness blog, even though those could work on LinkedIn, mine is geared for professionals. So LinkedIn was the obvious choice of platform. I mean, there really isn't any other business networking platforms out there. You can use Facebook, but that's not really what it's designed for. It's almost like cobbled together and being shoehorned as a business platform, simply because there's so many users there that businesses are like barnacles on the side of boats, right? So that's why I chose LinkedIn, and my strategy for choosing it.
Now, I will say LinkedIn does have a lot of capabilities that you should be taking advantage of if you are seriously trying to reach and build an audience on LinkedIn, which I would encourage you to do that. Couple things. LinkedIn allows you to build a space for your business. Now, you can build a business account or you can build a personal account. I'm building a personal brand at this time, so I've decided to use my personal account for this, but they give you header space at the top of your LinkedIn profile, and you can use generic stuff, but a lot of businesses will use this opportunity to feature call to action content. "Here's my YouTube channel, here's my Twitter account, here's what I do." It's professional looking. You can have a professional photo. You can use your header title instead of saying whatever, "marketing guru," you can say what you do, what is the impact of the people who are coming to your profile page?
So that's my strategy. I will tell you an incredibly powerful tactic is, one, all these call to actions, right? Click to connect, to follow me. So that's building your audience, so every time that you're posting something or replying to something, it's showing up in the feeds of your audience. You should know this about LinkedIn as well. Their content is very sticky if it's popular. What does that mean? When you post something on Twitter, it's like throwing a leaf in a moving river. Yeah, it's there for a second, but the water is going to take it and no one's going to see it unless they were standing on the bank at that time. With LinkedIn, to its, it's a benefit and a curse really, but LinkedIn will show content, and if people are liking it or commenting on it, it'll pull it back up. And if you haven't logged in in a few days, but it's a good fit for you algorithmically, the posting, it'll put it in your feed even if it's a few days old.
Now, why is this a curse? Because it's delivering great content to you, but why is it a curse? So, we were talking earlier about promoting live streams. Well, if I'm, push out a post two hours before my live stream that says, "Two hours till the live stream, be sure to make it," just a reminder to people, because you want to constantly remind them, that might not show up in your feed until tomorrow. And it's incredibly frustrating, because you're trying to give timely, relevant information to your audience, and it just doesn't work that way. And that's really one of the shortcomings of LinkedIn. So just be aware of that.
Also, one other thing that you should really consider is developing a hashtag that is unique to you. Individuals can search in LinkedIn for a hashtag, and if you can start associating your brand with that hashtag that is basically yours, then people will start identifying it with you, they'll start following it, you can add it to promotional material. You can have it everywhere, but it allows them a very memorable, easy way to quickly find your content or people talking about you. Furthermore, for yourself, if people are talking about you and using your hashtag, you can search for yourself and quickly jump into their conversations and provide that immediate impact. So you'll see on my header, I've got hashtag Simply Cyber, I have it in my little bio writeup thing over here. It's all over the place. And I put it in every single post that I do that's associated with my YouTube channel and my business content, really this audience that I'm building, this community.
What has your YouTube channel done for you professionally and personally?
So my YouTube channel was originally designed to compliment and be professional. It's always been professional, I've never posted personal content to my YouTube channel. I chose professional, and I have a small consulting business on the side doing cybersecurity for small businesses. And I wanted the YouTube channel to make content for that audience so I could build authority in my space and I could build trust in my space. Authority and trust are really the two elements that you need in order to develop a client, right? So if you have a potential lead and you're trying to develop them into a client, and let's just assume that they are a good fit for you as a client, it's not like you're trying to sell them snake oil.
They're a good fit, but how do you do it? The two ways that people feel comfortable in engaging in a business with another person is if that they believe that person has authority, they understand what they're doing and how to do it, that is solve the problem that you have, and that you trust that they will do it the way they're saying it. I mean, you're giving them access to your things, your personal business, your personal property, privacy, whatever.
So how do you build authority and trust? I mean, you can have meet and greets, you can have calls, you can provide value through free stuff. But with a YouTube channel, to me, yes, I have a PhD in this content, but that might not mean anything to you, but if you can watch one of my videos and you can see that I know exactly what I'm talking about, and I am solving problems that you have or that you've heard other people in your space have, you know I can do it, and then, because it's my channel and I'm delivering the content, you get to see who I am and what my personality is. Of course, it's one way, but if you've ever said, "Oh, I saw him talk, seems like a good guy," or, you know, it's not a hundred percent trust, but it's better than just a name on a piece of paper that they don't know you from a can of paint. That is why I did it.
Now, interestingly, after thinking about the content and the audience of those small businesses, I quickly realized that I wasn't going to be able to get those individuals to watch my videos, because, quite frankly, they don't care about cybersecurity, and that's part of the problem why they need help. So instead of running into a wall and making content for an audience that I knew wouldn't want it, I started making YouTube videos, and it just organically went into answering the question that I get asked all the time, how do I get into cybersecurity?
So I started making videos on that, and this is not a profitable business at this time. However, I am building a large audience. I am networking. I'm meeting a lot of people who I'm helping, which has given me a very, very satisfying sense of self and kind of a righteousness and philanthropy. It's very, it's soulfully nourishing. So that part is good. In addition, opportunities that I hadn't foresaw are beginning to introduce themselves. I've been asked to collaborate on some stuff. I've been asked to be a guest speaker for a federal agency at a very important event in November that I can't disclose yet because it's still being finalized. But my point is, they found me through my YouTube channel. They literally message me directly and say, "Hey, Gerry, I saw your content. I love what you're doing. Would you like to work with me on this?"
Whether it's a collaboration, whether it's a speaking engagement, whether it's doing a research paper, whatever it is, and all of those things, again, they build on top of themselves, and it's like a snowball going down a hill, and I'm starting to begin to build this audience. I'm starting to begin to develop gravity. I'm beginning to pull in larger, interesting, they're all interesting, but larger, I don't know the right word other than more interesting, but bigger fish, if you will, are starting to contact me, and I'm getting that growth where, again, the authority is just increasing and increasing and the word of mouth is growing and growing of who I am and what I do.
So these are all wonderful things. It's very difficult to foresee this, as I mentioned, I hadn't planned any of this when I started, but if you stay the course, if you have a niche that you're following and you always ask yourself, is this content, even the content I post on LinkedIn maps to this, is this content serving this audience, yes or no? And if it is, let it fly, and it has been very interesting and it's actually afforded me quite a few opportunities, and I'm actually quite interested on what other opportunities that I didn't expect might come down the road.
What is your YouTube channel's value to you and your audience?
I'll say this about my content, and it's very, very intentional. So, with my YouTube content, which I overlay with my LinkedIn content, let's talk about this for a second. This is how I look at it, and this is how you should look at it, too. Economies of scale. So I do a full YouTube channel. I also teach part time at a university. I'm also a full time information security architect, and I run a small business on the side. That's four jobs. How could I possibly do that?
If you start taking opportunities to overlay an overlap, so, I'm teaching right now for the fall semester. I assure you, many of my YouTube videos that are going to be coming out in the fall are going to align with the curriculum that I'm teaching. This is twofold. One, I get to practice whatever my lecture is going to be that week. Two, I'm developing YouTube content. Three, I am kind of working through the lecture and identifying areas of weakness or an opportunity to bring in a tool or a resource or whatever for the students. But I'm going through that exercise, and they all kind of compliment each other, and then I might post it on something on LinkedIn that's relevant to that to drive content to my YouTube channel, or all these different things.
So that's just one example of an economy of scale that you can definitely leverage. Also, as I do things for the small businesses, maybe they have an interesting challenge that I solve in a technical way. Well, then I'll make a YouTube video. I don't name the client and I definitely don't disclose their issue or their trouble, but I will say, like, "Oh, hey, this is a common issue in the industry, and this is you how solve it, steps one, two, and three," and I'll make it a little bit more technical. So I'm targeting that audience, that is the ones who are going to be doing the work, but I'm also putting in keywords that SEO will identify that people who are in small businesses that don't have an IT person might type in in order to see if they can figure it out, and then they pull up my video that gives them a technical explanation on how to do it.
And they probably, they could follow it and they could do it for themselves, but people go out to dinner, they can make food for themselves, but they pay someone else to do it, right? So they see me, I have links in there to my business and my YouTube channel. I talk about my YouTube channel. My videos are sponsored by my company. So they watch the video, they realize, this is over my head, or I don't want to invest my time, because my time is money and I'd rather pay someone else to do it, who could I pay? How about Gerry? He's, obviously knows what to do. Boom. I get a sale. So all of these things need to interrelate. They're absolutely not fundamentally distinct from each other. If that were the case, I absolutely would go crazy. Right?
Your content is primarily educational based on your experiences and research. Why such a focus on education?
My content is heavily focused on education in that I am, I want people to come and watch one video and two videos, whatever, however many videos they want and leave with knowledge that they didn't have when they got there. To me, being able to educate people and spread knowledge is a, it's a wonderful idea, right, because you're helping people out, you're giving them answers to their challenges or giving them access to opportunities that they might not already have. Additionally, I mean, if you've ever... Repetition and practice is how you learn yourself. So, yeah, I know this stuff, but by going through the videos, I identify to myself, A, I know it fully, or B, here's a couple areas that I was a little squishy on, and I'll go do some research and flush that out. So by attempting to show someone else, you actually show yourself whether or not you truly know it, and that is incredibly beneficial.
Additionally, I really feel like education, which can come in the form of doing demos or doing labs, exercises, it all equates to experience, and experience in cybersecurity is really one of the most important things that you can do in order to get a job. And again, a lot of the people that I'm targeting in my audience are specifically people who are trying to get into cybersecurity, and cybersecurity is, while there is a ton of unfilled jobs, and the field pays well, a lot of people have difficulty getting into it because it is a special field. It's basically an extension of IT, and you have to have some foundational understanding before you just jump into cybersecurity. You can't just get in, you have to have some experience in some tangential fields. So by providing that, you're giving them the skills they need, the opportunity they need, to be able to do something about it.
Secondly, in my particular field, cybersecurity, as in many other fields, but because cyber is such a new field, many people do not understand the width of the field. Shows like Mr. Robot, movies like Swordfish, War Games, they all focus on the hacker, the penetration tester, the person who types in a few keys and they're in the back door, or they work in like a Mission Impossible setting, and they push a couple buttons and the door unlocks for Ethan Hunt to walk through. Like, yes, that is a field in cybersecurity, and it's obviously the most romanticized element of cybersecurity because of what you do in that job role, but the field is so much wider. And so many people are unaware of that, because it's just not socialized as well.
And it's very, there's a lot of jobs in the field that are gratifying and interesting, and I want to provide that awareness to them, because you can't even do anything about it until you at least even know it exists, right? So for me, that's another reason for focusing on education and really awareness. It's not about me showing you how great I am at how something works. I could care less about that. For me, it's about making a connection and improving somebody's situation, which to me is the definition of bringing value through my channel. And hopefully you are using your content, or if you're thinking about it, keep it in mind that yes, you're trying to get subscribers, and yes, you're trying to increase your watch time and stuff like that, become monetized eventually, use the platform for a feeder system into other stuff, if you're selling courses or if you're selling shirts, or whatever you're selling, services.
But just remember, if someone's going to spend time on your channel, give them something, make it... It's not, I mean, unless you're doing comedy, and then I guess the entertainment is the value, but just always keep in mind who your audience is and why you're trying to serve them. And that's why you need a niche audience too, so you can keep that definition sharp.
Find more from Dr. Gerald Auger here