Those in the LGBTQ community have been early adopters of almost every social media platform, all the way back to the days of Bulletin Board Systems and listservs. YouTube is no exception: From the platform’s launch in 2005, LGBTQ activists have utilized the platform to spread their stories and campaigns, and more than a handful of personalities have launched entire media careers through their channels.
YouTube is one of the most respected brands by LGBTQ consumers, and has officially celebrated LGBTQ Pride Month across the platform since 2013. Just two of the biggest LGBTQ YouTube Stars, Gigi Gorgeous and Tyler Oakley, have nearly 1 billion views between the two of them, and have expanded their media empires into mainstream television and film gigs. What has made YouTube such a good home for this community, and what lessons can YouTubers of all stripes take from their most successful stars?
Perhaps the most important factor of YouTube’s success for LGBTQ stars has been the self-driven nature of the platform. YouTube only requires a simple sign-up and has few restrictions on the type of content you can upload. This means that whether you’re a man who likes to do elaborate makeup, an aspiring singer, or just a vlogger looking to broadcast your thoughts, your channel can be your own space to do just that, even if a major network would never put you on primetime. There’s also the freedom to explore controversial subjects without fear of censorship. Keep this in mind when you’re developing ideas for your channel: it’s better to create great, unique content that you’re authentically passionate about than to make sub-par content for a mainstream subject. YouTube literally has space for everyone.
In a community that is tight-knit but also fragmented into countless sub-cultures, the conversational aspect of YouTube is also a massive benefit. Hot-button issues from politics to new music videos can be presented in tentpole programming and debated in a comments section, guest stars can make appearances on your vlog, and you can participate in movements far larger than your own channel. Dan Savage, a prominent sex-advice columnist and LGBTQ activist, launched the famous It Gets Better project in 2010 via YouTube to give messages of hope to LGBTQ youth who are not accepted in their homes or communities. LGBTQ adults, allies, and political figures including President Obama uploaded and continue to upload hundreds of videos of their own authentic stories in real-time. This type of crowd-sourced, conversational activism around such a targeted message simply would not be possible on any other platform. Even if you don’t have the reach to start your own movement, participating in one you have a passion for is a great way to give yourself exposure to a new audience and give your existing audience a fuller picture of what you’re about.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, LGBTQ YouTube stars are hard workers! Some upload videos every day or every week. They customize their channels and produce videos that have a consistent aesthetic. They make use of YouTube’s self-promotional features like End Screens and Cards and spend time researching their passions and the communities that surround them. This is why choosing a subject you’re passionate about is so key. Keep an eye on LGBTQ YouTubers this year. A major march on Washington is already planned for Pride Month and you can be certain some of the best content will be on a YouTube channel near you.