Why You Can Only Go Up on YouTube

As Logan Paul shows, once you go big it’s, hard to pull you down

Robbie Mukai
Nov 15, 2019 · 4 min read
Photo by KAL VISUALS on Unsplash

Logan Paul is one of the biggest YouTubers out there. But his career has been far from spotless.

In a now-infamous piece of YouTube history, Paul shockingly posted a video with him walking by the body of a suicide victim. After swift and wide condemnation, Paul realized the insensitivity of the move and quickly pulled down the video. It was soon followed up with an “I’m sorry” post.

While it seemed genuine, anyone else’s career — not on the internet — would have unceremoniously ended. But just a year later, he was reportedly making around $14 million.

It seems you can do anything short of being de-platformed and still make it.

Which is completely contrary to real life. Because poor decisions are supposed to harm reputations. With maybe the most puzzling exception being a congresswoman from California — as Jessica Valenti points out — if you reach the top, then at some point, people don’t care anymore.

Any creator on Medium or YouTube knows this very well: The grind upwards can be long for most. Occasionally, there are those odd exceptions that will defy even those laws of physics. Peter McKinnon, another YouTuber, that makes how-to guides on video editing, blew past one million subs in about eight months, according to Social Blade. He’s today now well past even that number.

But as the Logan incident shows us, getting to the top means that you apparently become insulated from even egregious bad judgment.

What Equals Resonance?

It’s a question that every writer or vlogger has. In the case of McKinnon vs. Logan, they couldn’t be more different.

Both have made some pretty impressive inroads(although Logan holds far more subs), and they both have a good cinematic eye. That’s where the commonalities end. Logan is a cocksure young man, which was on full display at his recent boxing match with KSI. On the other hand, McKinnon is a polite, friendly, seemingly shy middle-aged Canadian.

There is endless debate on what makes these two so good at what they do. Everything from the thumbnails, the content value, to the intro they use. All of these things help for sure. But the two things that people pay too little attention to in their equations are something we do in all of our best relationships: be helpful and trustworthy.

That will get creators to eventual success. But that bulwark of support isn’t free. It takes years of persistence to get there.

Why exactly is there such a cost to enter? The answer is found in two qualities at strange odds for any type of influencer.

The Expertise and Trust Paradox

A while ago, I cracked open my thesis supervisor’s old dissertation. I really look up to her as she was researching some cutting-edge topics in marketing and word of mouth on social media.

One study jumped out at me in particular that highlights why an online figure’s reputation can hold, especially when they are established. Whether they know it or not, people are always looking for signals from people they engage with online. These signals tell the person if they are someone worth following. They also help people determine if the person has any credibility or not.

In the 2012 study, my professor took that study and extended on it. What she found was that people who were experts by self-proclamation were actually seen by the readers as having less credibility. This makes perfect sense since there are many real experts that are viewed as being the equivalent as the scum of the earth. Fair or not, some lawyers are ambulance chasers, and sometimes politicians are corrupt.

That might bring you some despair — especially if you are starting out — but the second half of the study is the real kicker.

When people are asked for feedback about an online commentator, lack of trust was only if they were self-proclaiming expertise. Naturally then, people might look at this with some trepidation. However, that lack of trust was canceled out when the reader had more reviews.

At least here, it seems that people are more willing to accept at face value when people call themselves an expert. But that comes at a cost of trust, at least in the beginning. Getting through that rough beginning may be worth it, because, over time, you will build greater trust and support your claim as an expert.

Her study showed that fans gave the author crowdsourced trustworthiness, which, in turn, lead to people believing more in their expertise.

The same can be true on Medium or any other platform. The more fans you have or the higher your subscriber count is, the more that people will see you as having proven yourself as a legitimate expert.

Hearing the Logan tale being retold should give all of us that publish a nice feeling of safety. It’s a long (for most) and uphill battle. But the rewards are that it gives you a nice moat to put your castle behind.

For which we should be very thankful because, as an online writer or any other type of creator, you don’t want your castle getting sacked for one stupid mistake. We all make them for sure. But more than one — well, that’s up to the audience.

After all, every warranty comes with its expiration.

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Robbie Mukai

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Social media manager: likes talking nerdy about building effective ad copy + business thought + social marketing strategy.

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