YouTube 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Navigating the World’s Largest Video Platform

A Beginner's Guide to YouTubeWelcome to the Wonderful World of YouTube!

YouTube has become one of the most popular websites on the internet, with over 2 billion monthly users visiting to watch video content on every topic imaginable. Whether you want to laugh at funny viral videos, learn a new skill, listen to music, or get the latest news, YouTube has something for everyone.

As a beginner on YouTube, the amount of content and features can feel overwhelming at first. But with this handy guide, you’ll learn the ins and outs of YouTube and become an expert in no time!

Getting Started on YouTube

Signing up for an account – The first step to tapping into the power of YouTube is to set up your own account. Having a YouTube or Google account allows you to subscribe and like videos, leave comments, and upload your own videos. The signup process only takes a minute or two.

Installing the mobile app – YouTube’s mobile app makes it easy to watch videos on the go. You can download the free YouTube app on your iOS or Android device and take your video viewing experience on the road. The app provides all the same features as the desktop site.

Customizing your experience – One of the best parts of YouTube is being able to customize your viewing experience. After logging into your account, you can set video preferences, subscribe to channels you like, create playlists of favorite videos, and get personalized recommendations based on your interests. Spending some time customizing your YouTube experience will make your video watching productive and enjoyable.

Understanding Video Categories, Tags, and Playlists

Categories – All videos uploaded to YouTube are placed into categories like Music, Entertainment, Education, Science, and more. Categorizing videos makes it easier to find content based on your interests. When you’re browsing YouTube, check out the category options to dive deeper into a particular subject.

Tags – In addition to categories, videos are also tagged with keywords that describe what the video is about. Tags help the YouTube search algorithm surface relevant content when you search for something specific. As the viewer, looking at a video’s tags gives you more insight into the video topic.

Playlists – Playlists allow you to collect and organize videos into customized groups around themes or topics. You can create unlimited playlists filled with content you want to watch later. YouTube also auto-generates playlists related to topics you frequently view.

Understanding YouTube Algorithms and Suggestions

The mysterious algorithm – YouTube uses a complex proprietary algorithm to recommend videos to viewers based on their watch history, interactions, keywords, and other signals. The goal is to keep you watching relevant, engaging content. While the exact details of the algorithm are secret, understanding some of the basic principles can help guide your viewing experience.

Suggestions – Based on their algorithm, YouTube offers suggested videos along the right side of the watch page. Hovering over a suggestion tells you why that particular video is being recommended. Pay attention to the suggestions as they often lead viewers down interesting new pathways of discovery.

Autoplay – YouTube can queue up related videos that will play automatically after you finish watching the current video. The autoplay feature is on by default but you can turn it off in your account settings if you prefer a manual viewing experience. Embrace autoplay to let the YouTube algorithm be your guide.

Search and Discover New Content

The search bar – The search bar at the top of any YouTube page is your portal for discovering new content on whatever you’re interested in. Try entering keywords, topics, names of creators you like, or even just describe what you feel like watching. YouTube search auto-fills results as you type to guide your exploration.

Refine your results – To narrow your search results even further, use the filters below the search bar. You can filter by duration, features like 4K or 360° video, upload date, content type, and more. Refining your search helps cut through the noise.

Explore interesting topics – YouTube’s Explore tab suggests various topics that are popular or trending across the platform. Browsing through the Explore tab can reveal unexpected topics and content you may not have found otherwise. Dive into subjects you’re curious about.

Falling down the rabbit hole – One of the joys of YouTube is getting engrossed in a topic and going on an hours-long (or longer) binge. Allow yourself to fall down the YouTube rabbit hole by following suggested videos and autoplay. You never know what fascinating new worlds you’ll discover down there.

Subscriptions and Notifications

Subscribe to channels – When you find a YouTube creator you like, subscribe to their channel so you never miss a new upload from them. Subscribing is free, and also gives you access to a subscriber-only community tab on the channel. Support your favorite creators by subscribing.

Notification options – For channels you subscribe to, make sure you have notifications enabled under the “Subscription” tab of your account settings. That way you’ll get alerts when new videos go up. You can choose to get notifications via email, as a browser notification, or on your mobile device.

Explore subscription feeds – Your “Subscriptions” feed shows uploads from all the channels you subscribe to in reverse chronological order, making it easy to stay on top of new content. Make checking your Subscriptions feed part of your daily YouTube routine.

Leave Comments and Interact with Creators

Join the discussion – Leaving a comment on a video is a great way to discuss it with the creator and other viewers. YouTube comment sections often become forums for analyzing, debating, joking about, and adding context to the content. Just be mindful to be respectful to others.

Provide feedback – Creators appreciate hearing what their audience liked, how the video could improve, video ideas, and other constructive feedback in the comments. Your thoughts can help shape future content.

Reply to others – Having a back-and-forth discussion with other commenters is one of the fun parts of the comments. Reply to others directly to share your thoughts and keep the conversation going.

Heart comments you like – You can tap the “heart” icon to like comments you find funny, insightful, helpful, or otherwise worthwhile. Hearting good comments helps them stand out.

Protect your privacy – If you prefer to lurk rather than comment publicly, that’s totally fine. Watching YouTube without an account at all limits functionality but protects your privacy. There are many ways to engage at your comfort level.

Share Interesting Videos with Friends

Embed videos – Sharing videos with friends is easy. You can embed a YouTube video into an email, blog, social media post, or website by using the “Share” button below the video and copying the embed code. This lets others view the video without having to visit YouTube.

Use YouTube messaging – YouTube allows you to share videos directly with your Google contacts through its built-in messaging platform. Click “Share” then “Send to friends” to send the video to specific Google contacts or groups.

Text video links – Of course, you can always share a video by texting or messaging the URL directly to friends and family. YouTube makes videos very shareable.

Collaborate on playlists – For a shared viewing experience, you and your friends can collaborate on YouTube playlists. You can all add videos to the same custom playlist and curate a collection together.

Comment tag friends – When commenting on a video you think friends would enjoy, you can tag their YouTube or Google account in your comment to recommend it to them. This notifies them and helps spread the word.

Understanding YouTube Premium

What is YouTube Premium? – YouTube Premium is a paid subscription that removes ads from videos, allows you to play content in the background or offline, and grants access to YouTube Music Premium and YouTube Originals shows. It costs $11.99/month in the US.

Is it worth it? – For ad-free and uninterrupted viewing, downloading videos to watch offline, and access to exclusive content, YouTube Premium may be worthwhile. Evaluate whether the features are worth the monthly fee based on how you use YouTube.

Free trial – YouTube Premium offers a 1-month free trial so you can experience the benefits yourself before committing. Just remember to cancel before the month is up if you don’t want to be charged.

Student discount – Verified students can get a big discount on YouTube Premium. It’s just $6.99/month with a student subscription.

Sharing an account – To save money, YouTube Premium allows you to add up to 5 additional family members to your subscription for easier sharing. Each person gets their own login.

YouTube for Creators

Upload your first video – Anyone can upload videos to YouTube for free. You need to create a Google account, verify your channel through YouTube Studio, then use the YouTube Studio upload tool to share your first video with the world.

Customize your channel – Your channel is your home on YouTube. Spend time organizing your channel with a profile picture, banner art, customized sections, and featured playlists to showcase your brand identity.

Track performance – In YouTube Studio, you can analyze important metrics like views, average watch time, traffic sources, demographics, revenue, and more. Use data to shape your YouTube strategy.

Engage with viewers – Respond to comments, post Community updates, and interact with fans to build a loyal viewership. Building a community helps earn more subscribers.

Monetize your content – Once you reach the threshold, you can enroll your channel in the YouTube Partner Program to monetize your content through ads, channel memberships, merchandise and more. Earning income is the dream!

Promote outside YouTube – Don’t just rely on YouTube. Promote your content on your other social media accounts, blog, website, email list etc. to drive more traffic to your channel.

The YouTube Landscape is Limitless

That covers the core basics of how to use YouTube productively, safely, and enjoyably as a beginner. With over 500 hours of video uploaded every minute, though, there’s always more to explore in the YouTube universe. New features and capabilities arrive regularly. But by understanding the fundamental aspects of the platform, you can confidently navigate YouTube and tap into its endless potential for entertainment, learning, and creative expression.

The wonderful world of YouTube awaits. Start watching, liking, commenting, subscribing, and creating. And if you ever feel lost, just come back and reference this handy beginner’s guide!