Believe it or not, we are creating history everyday! In an age of pandemic and ongoing isolation, we are adapting in ways unthinkable ages ago. Pundits have pontificated what Renaissance of the Arts and Humanities will blossom during these unprecedented times. Perhaps we will find the likes of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, Pieter Bruegel or Edvard Munch?
You may have stumbled across this article in some godforsaken backwater on Twitter or a shady back-alley of a Discord server maybe advertised as a “key to success”. Perhaps you even searched for answers on how to become a successful content creator of sorts and thought that becoming a VTuber (virtual Youtuber) is the new hip thing that the youngins are into these days. Allow me to burst your bubble right now. There are no shortcuts or any paths to success with social media. There is only perseverance, Wu-Wei (non-action), and luck. It is important to keep these 3 qualities in mind moving forward, dear reader, and do what you can to enjoy what you want to do and redefine success in small, easily achievable increments that fit your situation.
Before we get started, I will assume that you have already searched far and wide for social media advice on Google, YouTube, etc. I encourage you to spend time with YouTube’s Creator Academy, Facebook Blueprint, and this handy 6-part Twitch Guide that’s been updated for 2020 before reading onward. I sympathize with you for not finding any decent guides and helpful advice for every other social media platform. Much of what I will include in this guide may (or may not) be helpful for navigating the other relevant platforms. Much of the advice given in these 3 resources can be loosely utilized elsewhere as well, which is helpful for developing a more efficient mindset for navigating social media.
That being said, this guide is for those who are struggling to grow, have hit rock bottom, are looking for something new by exploring this new avenue of content creation, or are brand new and curious to see what it takes to succeed. If this sounds like you, then you’re likely to extract some value from my advice. I want to disclaim again that there are no single paths to success. This guide is focusing on general advice that can be most applicable to the most amount of people — in other words, it’s a cookie-cutter guide. If you want personalized consultation for your unique brand and project ideas, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with as much relevant detail about you, your ideas,and goals and I will be able to schedule a consultation appointment with you.
I want to save your time with procedures on getting started with each type of VTuber are covered with commonalities. I’ll briefly list these commonalities here:
- Start: Create accounts on chosen social media sites
- Optimize: Spice up your profile
- Find Your Niche*: Determine what types of specific content that you want to make
- Network: Follow relevant people, communities,and circles to reach out to and connect with
- Create: Create your content, find your workflow, find your limitations and uniqueness, and do what you want to do rather than what you think will make you popular
These are 5 commonalities that apply to all content creators, not just VTubers. However, what you do with each step and how you do it (Steps 2–5 are never-ending and are things you do every day) determine what kind of brand and value people can expect from you and depend on your uniqueness and situation.*Finding your niche will be discussed in this guide in more detail.
Another disclaimer: forget everything you think you know about what it “means” to be a VTuber and what it means to you for the purposes of making use of this guide. Using the categories listed are mere tools for expression and are highly dependent on subjective aesthetic preferences. There are no superior “types” of being a VTuber (as I will showcase with a few case studies in each category). Proceed with caution and an open mind. Also, keep in mind: you do not have to be on every social media platform to be successful. Every social media platform serves its own purpose and hosts different demographics and potential audiences. Do not create accounts on every social media just because you want to gather as many fans as possible. You will only create more work for yourself, stress yourself out, and head towards burnout much quicker by shouldering this much burden early on. Expand out when you feel like you can handle dedicating appropriate time to each platform.
Something to consider with growing as a VTuber is utilizing trends by searching (or naturally finding these opportunities via networking in VTuber communities and circles): “drop your PNG” or using relevant hashtags/video tags on Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok, YouTube, Twitch, BiliBili, and even Facebook to give other VTubers and VTuber fans an opportunity to get to know you. I would not worry about “spamming” your audience’s timelines since you are still growing and will always need to make sure your audience interacts with you and remembers who you are.
Note: if you already know what you generally are aiming for, go ahead and scroll down to your relevant categories. I do encourage everyone to at least read the tips sprinkled throughout!
Pick A Class
- PNG: limited animation, high-quality image used to represent your persona
PNG is the oldest form of VTuber that is most commonly used on YouTube for commentary content and video essays. It serves its purpose still as a relatively easy entry point into VTubing and VStreaming while also being light on the bank account to get started. There are plenty of case studies that you may already know about regardless of your opinion on them. There is no denying that the path to fame and influence is still available and likely will never cede ground as a tool for content creation.
A sleeping dragon that has awoken and is barely spreading its wings — 3D modeling is better, faster, and stronger than it has ever been with the ease of access with tools like VRoid Studio, Blender and Unity. There is variety to how to go about this, which is great for choice and different utilities and expanding opportunities for content and branding for both you and your persona. I highly recommend subscribing and watching the VTuber Tutorial playlist made by PHIA to get started and following Miko on Twitch to see a whole new interactive medium of VTubing/VStreaming come to fruition.
Having a 3D model can vary in price depending on what utilities you want your model to have, what kind of aesthetic you are aiming for, what kind of content you are looking to make, and so much more! It can be free if you are willing to learn how to make basic models in VRoid Studio or more complex, industry-grade models in Blender (there are a ton of free, high-quality tutorials to learn Blender on YouTube and elsewhere online and can look amazing on a resume) to triple and quadruple-digit commissions. It’s a lot of work, but can be rewarding and a ton of fun!
The new kid on the block that galvanized the VTuber/VStreaming scene to prominence right now and will continue to grow in popularity in the foreseeable future.
This is a trendy option for good reason. It is the middle road option between PNG and 3D and has its own charm and flexibility that has a focus on 2D animation being animated in real-time via face tracking and Live2D’s software. Similar to what was said for 3D, this also has a similar market price for commissioning Live2D technicians and artists to animate your persona. Similarly as well, you can also learn how to rig your model for free and with time and patience, maybe you could also have a side hustle providing technical commissions! Here is a resource by Brian Tsui, one of the most prominent Live2D technicians out there, providing free tutorials for us mere mortals to consume.
Pick A Subclass
Unless you’re the mascot of a corporation like Kizuna AI, we’re going to have to address the elephant in the room: agencies. If you’re reading this article, your interest in VTubers and VStreamers likely was sparked by one of the talents scouted by Cover Corp and their brands, most likely Hololive. There are other agencies such as Nijisanji, VOMS, and much more based in Japan. I have done an analysis of Hololive’s success that I encourage you all to read.
At the time of this article being written, Hololive and Nijisanji both have applications for English Vtubers to apply to have a chance to join their teams. Applying to these applications is how you become scouted talent.
Here’s what to expect from these applications (for reference for those viewing this article in the future when these mentioned applications are long closed):
- Be conversational (preferably Native) in English and/or Japanese
- Be an adult (18+)
- Be able to dedicate time every week (at least 3 times/week) to streaming
- Be able to consistently create content every week for a year
- Be willing to grow as a singer (these are “idol” agencies after all; preferably be good at singing)
- Be able to provide your hot mixtape in the form of a few music videos alongside a self-introduction
- Be able to get ahead of the crowd with the following prior experience:
A. Streaming experience
B. Video and audio editing experience
C. Game commentary experience
D. Basic graphic design experience to create at least thumbnails and assets
8. Be able to provide a sizable average live viewer count
9. Be able to list other experience and skills that you have (the more, the better)
10. Be able to provide a portfolio to back up all of these claims in the application
11. Be able to make time for a more frequent streaming schedule than the bare minimum (corporations love exploitation after all, even better if you do it yourself!)
12. Be able to tell these agencies why you want to join, what you hope to achieve with them, and be sure to have questions ready to go for these agencies to answer for you
From what I know, this is more or less what to expect from a Hololive, Nijisanji, or other agency application as well as advice that I obviously included in these points. To summarize the message I included in said advice, like any job application, you want to be able to stand out from your competition for the position. I’m unsure about one’s ability to have salary and benefit negotiations during the process, but let’s assume that there is little-to-no wiggle room with such opportunities. Due to the exponential increase in popularity with VTubers and VStreamers, being a previously experienced content creator with some level of competence, success, and clear consistency is what these employers are looking for rather than people without experience (exceptions could very well be made to this rule as usual with any rules of thumb).
Do not be discouraged if you do not make the cut to proceed further in the application process! Below I will list other options for you to consider moving forward!
The bread and butter and life of every community and industry: indie. The benefits of being indie are: you make your own schedule, freedom of expression, you get to make content for specific niches that aren’t normally considered and thrive anyways, the list goes on. The downsides are abundant as well such as usually not having the initial capital and resources that agencies and other corporations have in terms of advertising/paid content, hiring workers to handle most of the heavy work for talent, etc; more competition if you choose to be competitive**, much more reliant on luck to breakthrough, etc.
I have been an indie content creator for roughly 4 or 5 years (I don’t even know anymore, what the fuck is time anyway). I have had my own ups and downs, my own moments of rock bottoms, my own moments of viral success, my own communities and fans that I’ve gathered, influenced, and had great memories to share. I even have a degree in Social Media Marketing and dozens of certifications collecting dust! I’ve consulted and managed brands for a college, different firms, individual creators, and my own brand over the years. I can tell you with experience that this path is tiring as sin and I question often why in god’s name am I still doing this? Then I realize that not only am I good at what I do because I kept with it for so long, but I also can be myself and be confident that at least some people will appreciate and take value in what I have to say and participate with me in a learning process for various different topics and events that happen to us all in various fandoms. The social aspect of social media is what makes indie content creation worth it despite its taxing and overwhelming nature.
Previously for the Agency applications, I listed things to expect when filling out the application. A lot of things that are expected make for fantastic, realistic goals to strive for in your journey with building your brand and finding your community. If you have already done your due diligence with following the guidance provided in the resources I’ve provided thus far and/or you are already a rather seasoned content creator like I am, then you should know by now that achieving most of the goals expected of VTuber talent is quite intimidating and tough to achieve. That difficulty is paramount to growing not just in numbers, but as a creator. When you know your limitations and your strengths, it becomes easier to figure out what makes you unique. Finding that uniqueness is something I will elaborate on further in the guide.
**I mentioned a downside to being an indie content creator is competition if you choose to compete. I mention this as a downside because if you are hyper-competitive, it will come off as slimy and overly-aggressive, which drives people away from you. In an area like VTubing and VStreaming, these micro-fandoms and communities are like a small town. Everybody eventually gets to know everybody with enough time and participation. Word gets around fast in small towns, even faster on hellscapes like Twitter where obscure assholes can be blacklisted and ostracized. Think what you want about that quality, but it’s just what it means to be human: to be social. Being anti-social hurts you if you are trying to grow your audience. Much of your audience literally will be these very communities that you need to be on good terms with. Given the primary interest in Vtubing, you need to keep in mind how obscure this interest still is despite its explosive growth. You are utilizing anime or furry aesthetics (an admittedly obscure, acquired taste that normies still don’t fully understand), you are apart of content creator communities (obscure by nature of it being filled with hobbyists, small businesses, and enthusiastic amateurs that took time to fall down this rabbit hole of a scene); and if you’re reading this, you likely don’t have a very high reach, engagement rate, or sizable audience anyways. In short, be nice and cut the hyper-competitive crap out. Life isn’t a race, it’s filled with chaos and we’re all coping together.
You may end up being indie not by choice, but by necessity. There’s nothing wrong with that! Below I will continue to explore options with you!
3. VGroups and Communities
You have nothing to lose with creating communities, groups, teams, etc social units. What you gain by default is camaraderie and maybe even friendship with other creators who you can reliably collaborate with. What you lose out on are missed opportunities if you don’t know what you’re doing or have hard-to-break anti-social issues and tendencies.
Let’s say you’ve done your due diligence thus far. You’ve got your account set up and optimized, you’ve joined communities and have done a lot of networking and maybe even gained a few hundred followers from networking alone, and you’ve also got some published content under your belt. You may not have your niche squared off as nicely as you want yet, but that’s alright. You’ve got the ball rolling and you’re growing as a creator, as a lifelong student, and you’ve even got some fanart made of you by now either by commission or by fan submission. You’re on your way to becoming an established Vtuber!
Now the next step is socializing with your content and putting time aside socializing your brand! How one goes about this depends on the goals of the group and community, but all great ideas start with a small number of people involved.
Communities and groups can be hosted on Discord, Slack, Telegram, group chats, Signal, Facebook Groups, Reddit, Twitter, and many more services that are sufficient enough to keep people talking to each other. Setting up your group and community is up to preference and goals. One need not believe that having a group or community is an either/or situation. This is your project. Do whatever is most convenient for you.
To elaborate on what I mean by “missed opportunities” would be cross-promotion and integration. Cross-promotion would involve a consistent reminder to audiences that you, your group/community entity, and your collaborators are all working together and encourage audiences to merge together. Creating a consistent brand together with your group or community will encourage others to join if they can and in turn continue to grow your social network — making growth easier for everybody involved (meaning actively contributing to the community rather than just extracting from it). Integration would include sharing and embedding resources as many places and spaces as you have available. If you have a Discord, a Facebook Group, a blog, an email newsletter, your promotional campaign for every collaboration or community event ought to be promoted wherever you can to inform your collective audience to support these promotions. This is starting to sound like an official business/agency, huh? Well, that’s because that’s what you need to do to compete for a potential audience’s attention away from corporations exclusively or exploring new potential audiences that are untouched still.
This all applies if your focus is general to what’s expected: casual chatting, video games, art streams, whatever trends that are set by trendsetters like Hololive. Below I will finally discuss finding your niche and make a case for why you shouldn’t just follow trends.
Finding Your Hole
One of the benefits I’ve listed for taking the indie route is uniqueness and free expression. What if I told you that this could benefit you if your dream is to be a part of a VTuber agency? That probably wouldn’t shock many people given Haachama’s existence, but finding a niche that you already excel at is a part of what makes you…you. Everybody is good or knowledgeable about something. Perhaps you’re a writer, cosplayer, a musician that doesn’t sing, a cook, a gardener, a prepper, a historian, a scientist, an engineer, etc. A good set of rules of thumb that I have learned the hard way and with confidence in my expertise in this subject is that if you are interesting (even in your own way), people will be interested. If you build it, they will come. If you are confident in yourself, people will be confident in you. These sound like vague maxims, but I promise you that if you don’t try and allow fear to control you, then you will never know how far you can go, even if you fail.
Chotto a minute, take risks just to fail?!?! Are you wasting my time??
No, I’m not and I’m dead serious. The secret to growing is learning how to fail, learning from your failure, learning from others' failures, as well as simutaneously not allowing failure to control you. You can’t learn much from other’s successes because their individuality, their conditions,and situation, their efforts and time spent to get where they are aren’t immediately available for you to analyze. You cannot compare everybody’s success to your future. You must learn to let go of your ambitions and aspirations that you depend on and learn to live without effort (aka Wu Wei). When you learn Wu-Wei, you will not only defeat any burnout and rock bottom moment, but you will also learn how to discover your niche and learn how to excel at it by letting your own uniqueness and the niche itself teach you how to proceed before even starting your journey.
From the Ashes
I have given a lot of descriptions of what Vtubers and VStreamers are, what it takes to be a content creator, and what it takes to grow as one. None of this sounds like numbers, graphs or fame, does it? Well, now is the time to discuss the numbers with a bit of storytelling to illuminate boring numbers.
Let’s say that you haven’t done your due diligence and are following people at random or somehow have the money for ads galore, or god forbid you’ve got a bot auto-following people on your behalf. In about a month or two, you’ve amassed a few thousand follows doing the Follow-4-Follow strategy or having strictly paid campaigns. Your follow numbers will continue to grow at a steady pace on your given platform (typically Twitter, Instagram,and Facebook). Half a year has passed and you’ve reached 10,000 followers! Wow! Exciting stuff, right?! Then you try to create content and…lo and behold you have 3 average viewers for a 4-hour stream, <100 views on every YouTube upload, and stupidly low engagement rate in proportion to the reach you’ve paid for or follow count you’ve amassed.
“What gives? I have 10,000 followers on Twitter, Instagram, etc. Why are all my numbers so low?” Bob says in a panic.
“Well, Bob, you’ve not only been detected for spam on the social media networks that you’re a part of, but you’ve also tried to take a shortcut and never built a loyal audience that actually knows who you are and knows what you do. If you’ve paid for your audience, then the people who were most likely to be loyal audience members have blocked you from an ad blocker or personally blocking your account for having a targeted ad campaign that shows up on their feed nonstop every day. Congratulations, you’ve wasted half a year of your life or tens of thousands of dollars on paid reach to never have sufficient engagement rate to match. I hope that you are proud of yourself.” I said in return.
I have had clients before that had refused to listen to the advice that they paid me for and ended up like Bob. There are literally tens of thousands of content creators out there that are just like this. They are a dime a dozen and you’ve probably encountered them at some point and promptly avoided them. Long story short, you don’t want to be like Bob.
Let’s say that you have done your due diligence following the advice given in this guide and did some heavy experimenting to figure out your niche and audience. Here’s how Alice’s journey would ideally play out.
Alice takes some time to learn about herself or perhaps comes into the idea of content creation already knowing her limits and talents as well as knowing her uniqueness as it is. She has done the work to dispel spooks and has learned how to live life with Wu-Wei as a part of her lifestyle. Let’s say that Alice wants to become a light novel writer and thinks correctly that becoming a vtuber will enhance her marketing strategy. Let’s also assume that Alice is building her brand as a vtuber while writing her book at the same time. Alice finds a Vtuber named Plot Bunny who then invites her to her community: Writing With Plot Bunny, a community of vtubers who are writers! Curiouser and curiouser! Alice unironically falls down the “rabbit hole” and gets to know everybody in this curious writing community and proceeds to follow and subscribe to them all on their social media. Alice also decides to follow some people she’s simply interested in and takes sufficient time to get to know them in their communities unrelated to writing, contributes, and befriends people in that community.
Alice the following days that week finds a surprising amount of support coming her way from the writing community she befriended and contributed to in return. Alice is ecstatic and starts commissioning an artist who also is a Live2D technician. The commission price is $1000 for what Alice wants, which is to be a Ninja, Zombie, Alien, Cyborg, T-Rex Monster Girl Waifu, it’s been her dream ever since she was a small youngling after all! Alice cries and laments her inability to afford the commission. Her new friends come up with a plan and set up a fundraising event for Alice and other community members like Alice who are in need of commission funds free of charge, without interest, no strings attached. Alice is prideful and says that she does not accept charity. The community retorts that this is not charity, but a mutual assistance effort that everybody in the community wants to contribute to. Alice brightens up and accepts the invitation to participate in this mutual assistance event.
Preparing for the mutual assistance event, Alice used what money she does have to commission for a simple PNG design of her Vtuber so that she can participate in her community’s event. She commissions a small artist for $20 and is happy with the work done, tipping the artist for a job well done. Alice makes a new friend with the artist and they follow each other on Twitter. Alice double checks her video tags on Twitch and YouTube to make sure that she is accurately signaling to Twitch and YouTube that she plans on live-streaming Minecraft. The event lasts for a week and the event is a pretty decent success! The fund goal was $10,000, they made $6700, about ⅔ of the amount, which is absolutely impressive for a small community to punch above their weight.
“How did that happen?” Alice wonders.
Alice asks the community to post their insights to a discord chat and Alice starts to analyze what is going on. Alice sees that out of 15 streams, the average view count on Twitch was 566 while YouTube the average view count was 390. She notices as well on Twitter that her reach and engagement rate for the posts and threads she tweeted out about the event went relatively viral. Alice wonders why this is and noticed that some of her mutuals retweeted some of the threads and tweets about the event and also saw that a solid number of her mutuals decided to raid the community streams. Alice realizes that the effort she put into befriending and contributing to different communities and being an active, supporting,and generally wonderful person to be around seems to have paid off since she is mutuals with influential influencers and communities. Alice also notices as a result of this event being as successful as it was, she has gained hundreds of new followers from all of this hard work she put into the event and community building that she has done. As Alice continues to tweet, she realizes that her engagement rate has gone up a whole 4 percent from 0.6% to 4.5%, which means that relative to the number of people that she reaches, about 4.5% of people who sees her tweets actually takes time to engage with it in some way (like, comment, retweet, engage with it in other ways). What this means, Alice realizes, is that she actually has people noticing her and wanting to talk to her! It shows, after all, with every tweet she makes having more people talking with her more than it did before the event. Alice informs them about Plot Bunny’s community as well as the other communities that she’s a part of as well as informing her new loyal audience about her book that she is writing. She continues to garner interest by continuing to produce content and continuing to remind people about her book and continues to contribute to communities and provide free advice and support to others who were like her before her popularity came to her. Alice is happy that she became a vtuber even if the days are long and not every video, stream or tweet gets a lot of engagement or attention every single time. Alice has seen the fruits of her labor bloom once and is eager to continue to succeed by setting her KPIs in small, manageable, realistic goals that she can easily reach in a reasonable amount of time.
Do you see the difference in mentality and approach between Bob and Alice? Alice’s journey is just one hypothetical case study that is rather common among content creators. Bob’s is also common, but tragic. These are the kinds of things that you should consider when moving forward with being a content creator.
In VTuber communities, we have a thing with debuting our VTuber models. Take advantage of this culture and cherish this beautiful celebration while it lasts. I have never in my days seen such widespread, consistent positivity in any sets of communities and fandoms over creations and promotional material.
Do not be shy with hyping up your VTuber model. Debut and re-debut as much as you want. There is no limit to how you can do this. It is simply wise to debut every time you have a major change to the model in design or in a transition from one medium to the next (e.g. Live2D to 3D).
Be flexible enough to live life day by day, but be ambitious enough to make your mark. I emphasize finding your uniqueness and niche so much in this essay because the possibilities granted by being a VTuber are endless!
If you are a history or science buff, then there are unique communities that can welcome your presence as you revolutionize that entire side of content creation. Imagine a cute anime girl talking to you about the Fall of Rome and Caligula’s fuck ups! Or imagine a cute anime girl teaching you how to use a Geiger Counter and the science behind pop culture moments. There’s a world of possibility to work with besides video games, ya’ll!
This is gonna be a Chungus tip that I’ll outsource to other sources that you can read on your own time. I am essentially parting knowledge given to all Business, Marketing, etc majors that is readily available online. What you need to look into for your own brand are the following:
I’ve covered a lot in this guide from introducing you to the different types and paths of being a vtuber to the realities of social media and how to navigate it. I’ve also provided a wealth of resources that are clickable all-throughout this guide ready for your attention and study. To think that this is all scratching the surface in about 5000 words is just mind-blowing. Perhaps you already knew all of this, especially the information provided in the resources provided.
If you believe that I have missed crucial information that folks of any experience or success ought to know, please do tag me on Twitter “@criticalreikan” with your suggestions so that I can make a list for a second guide to accompany this one.
If you found value in this guide, I implore that you share this with whomever else can find value in this guide and its resources. If you are kind enough as well, please consider tipping me on Ko-Fi and following me on Twitter!