Susan's 5 questions for Soldier Knows Best
Susan: You first started making videos in college when you were in the Army ROTC. Soldier Knows Best was an early tech review channel on YouTube and today you have more than 800K subscribers. What inspired you to launch your channel?
Mark: What inspired me to launch my channel was when the first iPhone was released in 2007, I was going from being a broke college student to getting my first military check, and I was hesitant on if I should spend the money on it. I started reading reviews online from all of the major tech publications, but it was when I watched a 20-minute video review from some guy in his living room on YouTube that I made my decision to buy it. It was clear to me that this person wasn’t looking for fame or to make a lot of money, they just wanted to share their experience with the phone. Now, you have to remember, the iPhone wasn’t as popular as it is now, and I was usually the only one with it in every room that I was in. I got asked a lot of questions about it, so I decided after training one day to make my own YouTube video review and now here we are.
Susan: What advice would you give to veterans who might be interested to pivot to a career in tech or to start their own YouTube channel?
The great thing about YouTube is that you can make and upload videos anywhere in the world and the sooner you start creating content, the faster you’ll start to get better at it.”
Mark: My advice to any veterans looking to start on YouTube would be to start right away. The great thing about YouTube is that you can make and upload videos anywhere in the world and the sooner you start creating content, the faster you’ll start to get better at it. Like many things in the military, repetition is the key and getting in front of the camera as many times as possible will get you more comfortable at being a creator and let you start growing your audience sooner. For the business side of things, veterans should look into programs like Boots to Business, which is part of the DoD Transition Assistance Program that aims at teaching entrepreneurship to soldiers getting out of the military.
Susan: This year we’ve seen digital trends on the rise, from shopping online to livestreaming. What trends are you most excited about when you think about the future of content creation?
Mark: It’s definitely livestreaming. There’s just something about it that allows creators and viewers to connect more organically together versus a video that you upload. I’m able to answer questions or just laugh at their funny comments in real time, and it let’s the viewers feel that they’re sharing this moment with you. I’ve also started doing shows of me giving advice for online shopping with my viewers and that allows me to use my knowledge on consumer tech in a way that can help someone save some money or just find the right product for them. It’s exciting to see YouTube start to explore with shopping/affiliate tools on the platform because this is another way creators can generate income and get that bag, as the young people would say .
Susan: You’re a member of the #YouTubeBlack Voices Class of 2021, a grant program dedicated to investing in Black creators and artists, and you were also a part of the grassroots #YouTubeBlack movement. How have you seen the community evolve over the years?
The thing that sticks with me is the legit feeling that YouTube wants to learn about our unique experiences on the platform and improve our experience.”
Mark: Being a part of #YouTubeBlack over the years has honestly helped keep me motivated as a creator by connecting me with other Black creators that I’ve admired for a long time and with some I’ve met at various YTB functions. The community has grown into a place where we are learning from each other and listening to what each person is going through. YouTube is a big place, and it’s not uncommon for creators to feel alone or not heard. The #YouTubeBlack Voices Fund has not only helped combat those things with financial support to give us the tools and equipment to better our content, but the thing that sticks with me is the legit feeling that YouTube wants to learn about our unique experiences on the platform and improve our experience. This community has a strong foundation, and I can’t wait to see what we can build on top of it with each and every creator that grabs the tools it provides and starts hammering away.
Susan: In your local community, you're working with an organization that helps young people learn how to become entrepreneurs. You pay it forward through your channel and also in real life! How does your work on YouTube contribute to the ways you give back?
Mark: Making videos for around 15 years on YouTube has allowed me to get good at sharing my thoughts and experiences. I’ve gotten much better at public speaking and with listening to what people are going through. Now because I have these tools, when I’m invited by teachers to talk to high school students about making money online or when I work with organizations like Independent Youth and their TrepStart program by providing technical support or talking with young entrepreneurs, I’m able to transfer what I know to others a lot better. To sum up my experience over all of these years of being a creator, YouTube has made me better at being me.