In 2019, Katie Carson found herself at the year’s biggest event for YouTube creators, brushing shoulders with the platform’s top stars.
It was a party at VidCon, the annual convention that draws top talent from YouTube, Twitch, and TikTok.
“There were lots of very, very famous—as in mainstream media famous—people there. And it was really, really bizarre, as I’m, you know, sipping on my Sprite in the corner, to see Tana Mongeau walk by with her posse,” Katie says.
For Katie, it was all strange and unexpected. She had started her soap business, Royalty Soaps, as a teenager, making hand-poured cold process soap from her parents’ house in Texas.
She didn’t set out to be a YouTube star, but that’s exactly what happened. Katie now has more than 880,000 subscribers on the platform, and her biggest hit has more than eight million views.
Her decision to use YouTube for business contributed to a huge boost in sales to the point where her video views let her know how much soap to make for a new collection. Her YouTube channel has completely transformed and grown her shop in ways she couldn’t have imagined, and she’s happy to share what she’s learned along the way.
From soap to stardom
Katie caught the soap bug when she was 16 and took a soap-making class for homeschooled teens like herself.
“I just really loved it,” she says. “I talked to my parents, and I said, ‘Hey, I think this is something I really want to pursue.’”
After a full year in the class, Katie bought all the ingredients needed and started producing soap at home. When she was 17, she launched Royalty Soaps as an online business. She chose to start her business online because it meant lower start-up costs and skipping the fees that come with selling at fairs. She started on Etsy but then outgrew it and switched to Shopify, where she’s been selling ever since.
When it came to social media, Katie didn’t go in with a specific plan but decided to try everything and see what stuck. She launched Royalty Soaps on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube within the same week in 2013.
Initially, she didn’t even intend for her YouTube channel to be part of her marketing strategy. She started the channel as a way to connect with other soapmakers she’d met on Facebook who were posting video content to show where they work.
“My original goal was just to connect with people within my own community,” she says.
Her first videos were more inside baseball—testing scents and reviewing soaps from other makers. But as she started to post videos of herself making her soaps, she started to attract new viewers. Plus, she loved doing it.
“That was my primary motivator: this is fun, it’s a cool way to connect with people,” she says. “Maybe this is a way that I can reach other people in an entertaining way, to learn more about the craft I’m really passionate about.”
Turning views into sales
Katie was not an overnight YouTube success—it took posting consistently and fine tuning her video content to get to where she is.
As she continued to post, her subscriber count crept up and she started earning money from her YouTube channel itself. And then, when she had around 15,000 subscribers, she started seeing a clear correlation between views and sales. She’d look at her analytics and see 90% of the visitors to her shop were coming from a link on YouTube.
“Every single time, we’ll see a spike in sales once a video goes up."
“That’s when it became clear that this is something that’s actually influencing the revenue here,” Katie says.
She also made some smart decisions, like tapping into trending topics that play well with search engines. One of her first big hits was showing herself making a soap inspired by the Unicorn Frappuccinos from Starbucks that were all over social media.
“It did almost 12 times better than anything else I had done. And I was absolutely shocked, because it was kind of a video I had thrown together at the last minute,” she says.
Another hit was a video of her reacting to viral soap hacks that has more than eight million views.
“The growth was rapid after that, far bigger than I could have ever anticipated. It was very, very fun and very surprising,” Katie says.
These days, she can strategize her inventory around how her videos are performing. For example, every year she does a Secret Soap Series, where viewers have to guess the collection’s theme. Those videos do really well, so she knows to produce more soap. It’s the same for her videos leading up to the Christmas season.
“The more videos that we put out during that time, the more sales, and it’s linked every single year—it's never failed, never been wrong,” she says.
The rest of the year, there remains a clear link between her videos and her sales.
“Every single time, we’ll see a spike in sales once a video goes up. We see general buying trends depending on how popular the YouTube series was,” she says.
That also means her operation has grown from a team of one to a rotating team of up to 10 people, including her friend Karoline, who helps with marketing, and her brother Kenny, who often appears in videos.
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How to use Youtube for business: 7 steps to getting started
Getting started on YouTube as a business can seem daunting. With so much content already on the platform, how can you make yourself stick out? And what if you don’t know the first thing about making video content?
In her eight years on the platform, Katie has learned a lot about using her YouTube channel for business and has some advice for how you can start posting to promote your business.
1. Stick with it and be consistent
If Katie had been discouraged by the views on her first videos, she wouldn’t be where she is today.
That’s why it was important for her to find another motivation to keep posting. For her, it was the fun of sharing her passion and connecting with viewers. People often comment on how much they like watching Katie’s videos because of the joy she brings to each one and how soothing and satisfying it is to see the soap being made.
That motivation meant she kept posting on a regular basis, even if the view counts weren’t high. YouTube’s algorithm rewards consistent posting, watch time, and good thumbnails. Posting clickbait for the sake of getting a video up won’t cut it, so continuing to post thoughtful, entertaining content is key.
“I was consistent with my upload schedule, because making a difference and bringing joy to others in the form of a video, which I enjoyed creating, was worth me staying for,” she says.
Part of what helps her stay on schedule is that she’s developed a formula for her soap-making videos, which show her mixing the batter, choosing colours, adding decorations, and cutting the bars. Fans know they can expect something they can enjoy and Katie has clear direction for a new post.
2. Experiment with different formats
Soap creation videos are the bread and butter of Katie’s channel, but she also branches out to try new formats.
Reviewing viral soap hacks, as she mentioned above, proved to be a hit. She also created a Royal Creative Academy playlist to teach new soapmakers the craft. In other videos, she tests at-home soap making kits or makes soap with her daughter.
There’s no guarantee that a new format will work, but you never know when trying something different will go viral.
3. Streamline the creation process
Katie is active on YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram, posting videos on all three platforms. That could mean a lot of extra work, but she’s figured out how to simplify the process.
“Whenever I film, I try to get as much content from one session as I can,” says Katie.
When filming a video for her YouTube channel, she’ll set up a phone as well to capture video she can edit for TikTok and Instagram. By recording the whole soap-making process this way, she has plenty of material to use on various platforms in the right format. She got the idea from streamers who set up different devices to stream on Twitch, YouTube, and TikTok all at the same time.
“Typically what I try to do is get as much content for all the social medias all at the same time, and then supplement as needed throughout the month,” she says.
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4. Learn as you go
Katie didn’t start off as an expert in video editing software and shooting and she still doesn’t consider herself a wiz. But, she’s been learning with each video she posts and taking the time to teach herself new skills.
She uses sites like Skillshare (which sponsors some of her videos) to learn new techniques, but she also relies on her audience for feedback.
“I asked people a lot, ‘Do you like this angle that the camera’s at?’ and then I would get feedback,” she says.
For example, people had commented on how loud her stick blender was, so she learned to mute that section and add music on top of those clips.
That also means you don’t need a professional setup to get started. Like Katie, you can start with whatever equipment you have and upgrade as you get more comfortable.
5. Be your authentic self
Talking on camera came pretty naturally to Katie. She said she loves to talk, and her bubbly and kind personality certainly helps.
“I think everybody benefits from you just being yourself, on camera and off camera.”
If you’re more hesitant, Katie recommends just talking to the camera the way you’d talk to a best friend. Viewers look for authenticity on YouTube, so don’t try to mimic other stars, just try to be yourself.
“Don’t hold back any part of your personality. Even if your personality is more subdued and calm, there are going to be people who gravitate more toward that style,” she says.
She didn’t want to be one person on camera, then have someone bump into her in real life and realize she’s totally different: “I think everybody benefits from you just being yourself, on camera and off camera.”
6. Let YouTube be part of your revenue
It takes time and consistency to grow a YouTube channel, but once you do, new opportunities open up.
As a member of YouTube’s Partner Program, Katie receives a portion of the ad revenue for commercials that appear before and during her videos. While soap sales are still the majority of her business, the extra revenue is certainly welcome.
One of the potential hiccups here is that there have been times when YouTube cracks down on content and demonetizes videos that violate community guidelines. Luckily for Katie, her content is always—pardon the pun—squeaky clean.
She’s also been able to secure brand deals. It started with brands offering free products in exchange for coverage, but now she’s able to produce brand-sponsored videos. Those opportunities have grown as her subscriber count has gone up.
7. Set boundaries
Social media can be a vicious place, and YouTube is no exception. Between obsessing over comments and stressing yourself over uploading new content, being a content creator can become overwhelming.
That’s why it’s important to set an upload schedule that makes sense for you and your bandwidth. This will let viewers know when to expect new content and also stop you from stretching yourself too thin.
“Don’t do this at the expense of your own mental health,” Katie says.
“This should very much be something that you enjoy, in and of itself, regardless of what happens.”
Go forth and create
Katie says YouTube has been a wild ride, and one that she feels “blessed and humbled and grateful” to have had. She’s essentially grown from being a teenager to an adult with YouTube and Royalty Soaps.
Recreating Katie’s massive success is a tall order, but with her advice you can begin to carve out your audience and find your own joy in creating content with YouTube for business.
“I’m still a little bit taken aback even now and very, very humbled and grateful that people would be entertained by what I produce,” she says.
“It’s definitely something I know a lot of people would like to achieve, and not many people do, and I don’t take that for granted.”