Becoming a successful YouTuber is an incredibly desirable goal in 2021, and with all the history, money, and time that has gone into YouTube content, a fairly complex one. There are just so many different components to a top YouTube channel.

You have thumbnails, channel art, watermarks, end cards, descriptions, tags, titles, playlists, Shorts – not to mention your video content itself. And on top of all of this, there’s another component of your YouTube content that can help viewers get acquainted with you, your content, and your brand: the channel trailer.

Your channel trailer will start playing automatically when new users view your channel, so it’s an effective way to present the world with a concise overview of what viewers can expect from you. In this article, I’ll go over all the most important parts of a great YouTube channel trailer and how anyone can create one that turns viewers into subscribers. Here’s what you should know:

  1. What are YouTube channel trailers?
  2. Create a new video
  3. Use content you’ve already made
  4. Hook the viewer early
  5. Keep it fairly short

1. What Are YouTube Channel Trailers?

YouTube gives creators many ways to appeal to new viewers, so it might get a bit confusing. The YouTube channel trailer is a pretty significant one, though, so it's important to know. On your channel page, you can control three main things that your viewers will see: your profile picture, banner image, and "video spotlight," which is either a channel trailer or a featured video.

Screenshots of the Vanity Fair YouTube channel, one as a non-subscriber and one as a subscriber.
As you can see, the channel trailer for non-subscribers is far more prominent than the featured video for subscribed viewers. 

Essentially, you can choose a video you've published to display near the top of your channel when new viewers come to your channel page. To make one, go to your channel, select the Customize Channel button, and you'll see sections for channel trailer and featured video.

These two videos appear in the exact same place, but they behave completely differently. When viewers who aren't subscribed to your channel, the channel trailer is shown prominently and begins playing automatically, with its entire description shown. On the other hand, when subscribers visit your channel page, the featured video will appear at the top of the page, but viewers will have to click on it to visit the video page. Needless to say, the channel trailer is far more important when you're trying to grow your audience.

2. Create a New Video

YouTube makes you choose a video from your channel’s existing content, and it seems awkward to publish a video to all your followers that’s meant as an introduction to your channel for new viewers, so you might think you should use a video you’ve already published as your channel trailer.

Screenshots of the channel trailers from the YouTube channels of Karen Civil and Drumeo.
If you're trying to form your YouTube identity, it helps to be direct with your audience and tell them who you are from the beginning. 

However, YouTube allows you to use unlisted videos as your channel trailer, so you can easily make a video to use as a trailer without it interfering with your regular content – just make sure you upload it as Unlisted. This way, you won’t have to compromise. You can make a channel trailer video directed specifically at non-subscribers, while leaving your usual YouTube strategy exactly how you want it.

3. Use Content You’ve Already Made

Doesn’t this invalidate my first point? No, not quite. I’m talking about supercuts, montages, highlight reels, best-of’s – whatever you want to call them. If you’ve already produced a decent amount of YouTube content that you’re proud of, take some time to go through the videos you think give viewers the best impression of your channel.

A screenshot of a channel trailer compilation being constructed in the Kapwing Studio.
Chopping up old content to create your channel trailer can save a lot of time and show viewers what to expect from your content. 

This can be an arduous and time-consuming process with most video editing programs, so I recommend using Kapwing to create your trailer video. In the Kapwing Studio, you can upload all the YouTube videos you want to use by pasting their links in the uploader. When you’ve added every YouTube video you want to use in your trailer, you can clip your favorite moments and arrange them in the Timeline. When they’re ordered the way you want, you can add transitions, upload any music or sound effects from your device or using links from the web, and add anything from custom text to auto-transcribed subtitles.

4. Hook the Viewer Early

When people are watching your videos, it’s because they clicked on them specifically. But if they’re viewing your channel trailer, they probably just wanted to check out your channel in general. That means that if you want to keep them on your channel homepage, you need to grab their attention in the first few seconds of your channel trailer.

Screenshots of the channel trailers from Anthony Fantano and Austin McConnell.
A direct address to your viewer is a good way to grab their attention – if you do this in every video you make, like Anthony Fantano, you'll have plenty of good intros to choose from. 

If you have a lot of previously published YouTube content to pull clips from, then you should have a few options in mind. What’s your favorite moment from your YouTube videos so far? What is the funniest thing viewers would see from watching all your content? What attention-grabbing scene will make casual viewers continue watching? Whatever you decide to use at the beginning, remember that it will auto-play when people come to your channel, so you can use the element of surprise.

5. Keep It Fairly Short

YouTube collects viewer data from all your videos, and this still applies to your channel trailer. The truth is that almost no one who watches your channel trailer is there to watch it all the way through, so you should make it short enough to hold their attention for most of the video.

A screenshot of view duration analytics on a YouTube channel trailer video.
Don't use a 20-minute vlog as your trailer video – YouTube collects viewer analytics. 

If you find yourself trying to trim down a long video introduction or select which highlight clips to take out of your compilation, try to think of what really needs to be in your channel trailer, rather than what you should remove. Does it grab the viewer’s attention, showcase some of the most entertaining moments of your YouTube catalog, and give non-subscribers a taste of what they can expect from your channel? Your trailer doesn’t need anything more than that.

Conclusion

There are dozens of components to a great YouTube strategy in 2021, and your channel trailer isn't the most important one. But if you're trying to grow your channel with engaged subscribers, your YouTube trailer can make a big difference with relatively low effort, especially if you use content you've already produced.

If you're interested in more tips and tutorials on creating great video content in 2021, check out the Kapwing YouTube channel, where we post multiple new videos every single week. And while you're here, read some related articles on growing your YouTube channel with digital media:

Everything You Need to Know About YouTube Shorts
How to Share Twitch Streams on Social Media
How to Add Any Music to Your YouTube Videos
A Comprehensive Guide to Making YouTube Thumbnails