By Robbie Mitchell

February marked the 10th anniversary of YouTube.

If you could travel back to 2005 and tell the world how popular the platform would become, almost everyone would laugh at you. Viewing and uploading video to the web was relatively new and extremely arduous at the time. How could something so inaccessible become so popular?

Like every successful idea, technology caught up and now over 1 billion active users upload over 300 million minutes of new content every day to feed our demand.

Video is becoming, or has become, the way many people want to consume content online and as science communicators we need to have a grasp of how to use it effectively to communicate with this growing audience.

So, what makes a science video popular on YouTube?

Cat party Tube

Cats also help improve a video’s popularity


Having analysed nearly 400 science communication videos to understand what successful YouTube science communicators do, Dustin Welbourne and Will Grant found 7 things that can help you to communicate science on YouTube:

  1. Know your audience
  2. Deliver your story in style
  3. Focus on a topic
  4. Get to the point quickly
  5. Participate in the YouTube community
  6. Use a consistent presenter
  7. Be authentic

Many of these points are relevant to YouTube’s most successful content (cat videos excluded) and are great for helping anyone who wants to use YouTube as a means to communicate more effectively.

However, what has dawned on me, in writing this article, is that these points are based on an analysis of videos already published on YouTube.

While many of them are common communication rules and will continue to be applicable across all kinds of communication channels, I think we need to think about how our audience will want to consume media in the future.

If we think about it now, we will be ready when technology catches up.

An example of these shifting sands of communication is the rise of social videos on Vine, Snapchat and, as of January, Twitter. Who’s to say that these or some yet to be founded platforms won’t become the YouTube of the next decade?

What we mustn’t lose in all this is that the success of any communication is the story. If you have a good feeling, funny, shocking, inspiring or quirky story to tell, it doesn’t matter how you tell it, people will still enjoy it.

What makes a good science YouTube video for you? @RobbieMitch