Back in the day, sailors shared their tales of adventure and exploration when they returned to port and their favorite waterfront saloon. No more.
Leopard owners increasingly share their cruising stories in real-time via video blogs or Vlogs and, more broadly, across social media. Some content is informational; others are inspirational. And a small percentage are actually profitable. Have you considered adding your voice to the sailing video chorus? If so, here are some things to consider.
Find your audience
As with sailing, you can’t chart a course for your video blog until you know your destination. Who are you hoping to reach with your content? Is this something you're doing to share your life and adventures with friends and family back home, or are you looking to capture a broader audience? Do you hope to make money, or is it something you do for yourself, for fun, for art, or just to make a record of your travels?
If you want to keep viewers coming back, you have to know your audience and tailor your content. If you hook an audience with one type of content, then pivot to something different, will they keep watching?
Start with a plan and a charter for the type of content you hope to deliver. You can move within it and take sidesteps and variations and should step outside it occasionally to mix things up. But it’s that original focus that keeps viewers coming back.
Sharing your adventures with family and friends
Creating a platform to share your story with your circle of family and friends is a different focus than building a broad following. You're sharing your adventures, but you're not planning or marketing your content. You're busy living out your dream.
Publishing your adventure online with stories and photos is common for sharing with family and friends instead of a large audience. If you can write clearly and take pictures, a text blog is a lot less work to maintain than a Vlog channel. And you can still share any videos you might take in the course of your daily adventures.
Vlogging as a business
A compelling video blog that draws thousands of viewers requires a regular stream of quality content. It has to stand out from the thousands of other YouTube sailing channels. This means more of everything - more work, more video, more editing, and more time. And, you may find — for better or worse — that the need to generate fresh, exciting content begins to drive your decisions on when and where to cruise.
Once you’ve created your compelling content, there’s even more work to be done. Vlogs create revenue through various streams ranging from ads and channel subscriptions to product promotions, sponsorships and merchandise sales. Chasing revenue means a marketing plan for every possible income stream.
Pick your angle
Most sailing Vlogs fall into a few broad categories. Some are instructional. Others are pure entertainment - travelogs showcasing your latest adventures and your alternate lifestyle. And some can be more dramatic, with the educational and entertainment aspects blending into a bit of reality TV-style drama. Stories keep people coming back as much as stunning videos.
You also need to decide how much to share. Are you showing all the good and the bad? Or are you sharing the highlights and keeping most of your personal challenges and struggles private? Drama can draw viewers, but is it something you want to share with the world?
For family and friends, the highlights are probably sufficient. To build a broader audience, the story and people are important. That means revealing a little more, maybe showing your mistakes and fears to the public.
Whatever approach you settle on, remember this: Get to the point and keep it tight. We all have time pressures and limited attention spans, so it’s critical to capture and hold the viewer’s attention right from the get-go of every episode. Skip fancy pre-produced openings (This is your boat, not The Love Boat) and jump right into the material you plan to share in this latest installment. Be mindful of length, too. Yes, some technical topics take time to explain, but there’s a reason the “director’s cut” of a hit movie is never as popular as the original version — it's too self-indulgently long.
Get the right equipment
Cell phones with great video resolution and waterproofing make good working cameras. They're easy to carry around and always with you so that you can capture the moment.
Some things to consider for your cell phone:
- A shotgun microphone kit with a wind muffler. Terrible sound can make a gorgeous video hard to watch.
- A small tripod or adjustable clamp mounts.
- A waterproof case to capture underwater adventures.
Other gear you might need:
- A true waterproof camera. Most phones aren't up for snorkeling, diving or surfing with you.
- A GoPro or similar camera, especially if you do action sports.
- A drone for aerial photos and videos.
Your computer will come with iMovie (Apple) or Windows Movie Maker. Those are free and should work until you’re ready for more sophistication. Pick a camera with WiFi transfer, so you don't have to bother with cables and moving data cards from wet equipment.
Tell YOUR story
There are thousands of sailing Vlogs with lots of breathtaking videos from around the world. Beautiful photos and videos are a must, but they won't set you apart and get people to subscribe. You have to tell your story with your unique perspective.
So what is your story? There are Vlogs from clueless young couples learning to sail as they repair their free boat, crusty old salts sailing the world with confidence and competence, well-equipped sailors with plenty of budget behind them, and thousands of others. Your story is the overarching concept for your Vlog, and each episode is another chapter.
Think about what makes you, your situation, and your adventure different. What makes you more than just another Leopard cruiser stepping out to see the world? That's the framework to develop content that keeps people coming back.
Set your expectations
Sharing your passion with friends is a great way to start any creative communications undertaking. Will that project morph into something that will make you rich or pay for your travels? Probably not.
Only a handful of sailing Vlogs reaches the superstar status that fully funds adventures. That type of success requires a huge commitment and may put blogging ahead of your in-the-moment Leopard experiences. You'll have the adventures, but you'll also have to document them meticulously and relentlessly. That takes time, hard work, and planning.
By all means, share your vision, your story, and the special places you visit. Any money you make from those efforts will be icing on the cake — so long as you keep focused on what took you to sea in the first place.