Every creator dreams of massive success. Sensations like “Gangnam Style” and the “It’s Corn” song are prime examples of how going viral on YouTube leads to a flood of new views and attention, which can give creators a serious boost. Yet while some creators one hit wonders find their fame fleeting, others manage to stick around in the public eye.
So what do creators who have lasted more than a decade on YouTube have in common? They’ve outlived internet trends and cultural shifts, and demonstrated the necessary business savvy to extend their brands to mediums beyond YouTube. Here’s how six creators have stayed relevant for the long haul.
The “It’s Corn” song was inescapable online this summer. But you might not know that the audio used in several million short-form videos was created by longtime YouTubers the Gregory Brothers, who joined the platform with their channel Schmoyoho in 2006. The band is on a mission “to create a cosmic dance party that brings world peace to all.” They’ve made a name for themselves across the web with goofy songs (what they call “songify”-ing) made from serious audio clips including presidential debates and news interviews. You might recall “BED INTRUDER SONG!!!” being one of the biggest YouTube videos of 2010.
What you can learn from Schmoyo: Though a lot of their content follows the same formula, its flexibility allows them to ride out and capitalize on cultural trends and shifts, making the most of viral moments. Over the years, they’ve demonstrated that they can (and will) songify virtually anything. The result: A channel with evergreen entertainment value.
Irish YouTube creator Jacksepticeye, also known as Seán McLoughlin, built a lasting channel by focusing on his passion. In 2012, he started out by posting voice impressions, but found more traction with “Let’s Play” videos, where he plays video games and offers improvised commentary. Poking fun at himself and his Irish accent—each video begins with “Top o’ the mornin’ to ya, laddies”—he’s built a sizable following thanks to his off-the-cuff jokes and celebrity guest stars.
What you can learn from Jacksepticeye: Combining his excitement for gaming and his comedic stylings, “Let’s Play” videos have since become the hallmark content of McLoughlin’s channel. He credits his success to his enduring enthusiasm for the content of his videos: “I still like to think I’m just that kid who’s just enjoying having fun recording video games,” he says.
3. Lilly Singh
Lilly Singh’s career is a master class in branching out. Singh got her start online in comedy, making low-budget, one-woman sketches about her South Asian-Canadian upbringing and heritage under the moniker Superwoman. Twelve years later, she has international tours, many brand partnerships, a production company, and a late-night host gig under her belt.
What you can learn from Lilly Singh: In an interview with fellow creators Colin and Samir, Singh shared that a long-term career requires both planning and passion. It’s important to choose a focus that offers enough range and flexibility to last, she cautions: “If your passion is sensational vlogs, you have to think about how long you can do that,” she said. But she recognized that going viral can sometimes overwhelm creators and distract from their long-term goals: “If you’re having a hot moment on YouTube, it’s really hard to have that foresight.”
iJustine created a character on YouTube and turned that character into a brand. Fifteen years ago, the tech lifestyle creator first went viral with a short video of her leafing through her 300-page iPhone bill. Since then, she’s focused on unboxing and reviewing Apple products, but her videos blur the line between tech and comedy.
She toes the line between goofy improv and subtle satire, mocking her own online image as a pushy, superficial version of herself whose life revolves around a luxury brand. In between her enthusiastic opinions, she delivers deadpan quips to her audience: “I would like to thank you, I would like to thank me, I would like to thank Jenna for going to get my Starbucks.”
What you can learn from iJustine: iJustine hasn’t been afraid to try new types of content and see what resonates with her fanbase. She was one of the early adopters of lifecasting, or 24/7 livestreaming, and has since published videos reviewing all kinds of tech, interviewing tech executives like Tim Cook, and showing off antics with her friends and dog.
But one thing remains the same in every video: She’s created an enduring character that helps her blur the line between tech and comedy content. At the end of the day, it’s her dry wit and off-beat perspective on the products that keeps viewers coming back for more.
The SlowMo Guys are up for filming anything in extreme slow-motion, from giant water balloons to melons to geysers. They’ve created a channel with impressive longevity by showing their audience a particular perspective on the world. It’s easy to see its widespread appeal: No matter your age, the rippling, otherworldly mess created by slowed-down explosions creates a child-like sense of wonder.
What you can learn from The SlowMo Guys: Despite the wide variety of their subject matter, the SlowMo Guys have stuck around by not changing up their formula much at all. This captivating concept protects their channel from the changing tides of internet culture. If it can be filmed in slow motion, it’ll make for great content.
Hank and John Green, AKA the vlogbrothers, celebrated 15 years on YouTube in 2022. The pair got their start by posting vlogs as a way to communicate with one another (instead of texting) and eventually branched out into evergreen videos offering their earnest curiosity and sincere opinions on everything from giraffes to geopolitics. This sincerity built an enthused fan community across platforms, and has since fueled a veritable YouTube empire.
What you can learn from the vlogbrothers: The vlogbrothers turned YouTube into a career by engaging their growing fanbase with group challenges and projects, creating a unique online subculture among fans. They also made smart business decisions to reach numerous demographics: Their animated educational channel CrashCourse is a staple study resource for younger viewers, while SciShow serves up novelty science content. Meanwhile their merch company boasts offerings from dozens of different creators.
But despite all this newfound success, they’ve never neglected the channel that brought them a following. Even now, with several companies, books, and YouTube channels between them, the brothers still regularly post vlogs to one another, offering their signature perspectives on the world.
These six creators span a variety of genres, but when it comes to making YouTube a career, they have a lot in common. All of them have created channels with long-term appeal that stretches past one or two viral videos. They’ve developed a consistent tone that fans can expect across years’ worth of videos. And each of them has created a channel that invites fans to return again and again for their specific take on a wide array of subjects.
But there’s another key element they have in common: Business sense. These creators took advantage of key opportunities in their career to diversify their income, which allowed them to ride out the ups and downs of popularity online. As Singh succinctly worded it: “Every creator is a businessperson.”