YouTube: How to Broadcast Yourself

Upload videos or start a live stream in seconds

There are two ways to use YouTube to share videos. Broadcasting yourself on YouTube, also called live streaming, is when people can watch you on YouTube, live, as you're recording. You can also upload videos you've already created and edited.

To get starting with YouTube live streaming or YouTube uploading, you have to have a YouTube account. If you're able to comment on YouTube videos, or you have a Gmail account, then you already have a YouTube account (Google owns YouTube). Otherwise, make a YouTube account now so that you can upload videos and broadcast yourself online.

However, just having a YouTube account and uploading lots of videos, isn't enough to take advantage of all that YouTube broadcasting has available. You also want to make sure you're configuring your video information, setting the correct privacy options, and promoting your video to get noticed by viewers.

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Record Your Video

Picture of someone recording a video on their smartphone

Hermes Rivera/Unsplash 

YouTube works through mobile devices and computers. Either way, you need a way to get your video to YouTube's website.

If you're live streaming, your device needs a camera. Phone and tablets can stream to YouTube because they have a built-in camera and support the YouTube app. The same is true for computers and laptops, but if you don't have a camera built-in to your computer, you can buy a webcam.

If you're not live streaming, and just need to upload a video to YouTube for regular streaming purposes, or for video backup, you just have to upload the video to YouTube (see Step 3 below).

Videos that are located on a device that doesn't support the YouTube app, like some phones and digital cameras, can be uploaded to YouTube, too, but you have to first copy the video files to your computer so that you can use your web browser to upload the video.

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Prepare Your Video

Picture of a video editor

Kyle Loftus/Unsplash

If you're uploading a video you've already recorded, you want to make sure it's exactly how you want it to appear when people stream your video on YouTube.

You can edit YouTube videos with free software to clip out parts you don't want people to see, to add a voiceover or music in the background, or to overlay text, a watermark, or a logo.

YouTube is a video streaming service, but that doesn't mean that it accepts all types of videos. Check YouTube's supported file formats page for the most up-to-date information on which types of videos you can upload. Common formats like MP4, AVI, MOV, WMV, and FLV are supported, as are formats such as WebM and MPEGPS.

Not only that, most recorded videos are huge in size, so compression is something to think about so that it takes less time to upload the video to YouTube. You can usually compress a video with a video editor or video converter.

Video files you upload to YouTube can be as large as 128 GB or up to 12 hours in length, whichever is less, but only if you verify your YouTube account. Otherwise, the YouTube video limit is 15 minutes.

If you're broadcasting live on YouTube, you can't do the type of editing supported for non-live videos, for obvious reasons. For example, because your visitors will be watching you in real time, you can't clip out parts you want to erase​ or replace the audio with custom music.

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How to Broadcast Yourself: Upload Your Video

Screenshot of the YouTube upload page

 Gretchen Siegchrist

Now that your video is fully prepared, you can upload it to YouTube. You can do this through the YouTube mobile app as well as the YouTube website from a desktop browser.

If you're in the mobile app, look for the camera icon at the top of the app to record live video or to upload an existing video. Similarly, from a computer, as long as you're logged in to your YouTube account, you can click the camera icon at the top of the page to upload a video to YouTube or to start a live broadcast.

When uploading a video you've already recorded, YouTube has to process the video before anyone can see it live. You can control the video privacy if you want the video to go public or you want it to remain private when it's done processing.

Uploading YouTube videos can be a very slow process, especially if the video is really large. The whole process will eat away at your network bandwidth and might make other things run slower, like video games, video and music streaming, etc.

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Enter the Video Information and Privacy Settings

Screenshot showing how to edit a YouTube video's description and video information

 Gretchen Siegchrist

While you wait for your video to upload and to be processed, enter information about your video in the text fields. You can do this now or do it later, but if you fill this information out now, you can make sure that it's ready to be published when it's done being processed.

Start with the Basic info tab. Think about the title, tags, and description of your video. This information will help make your video visible to people who search YouTube. Use clear, specific, and informative terms and descriptions.

There's also a section on this page to set the thumbnail for your YouTube video. You don't have to configure a custom video thumbnail because YouTube will pull one from your video automatically, but you do have that choice here.

Click the drop-down menu to the right of the title field to select the privacy setting for your video. This determines who can see your video and whether it appears in searches, news feeds, and on your YouTube Channel.

There are three settings for privacy on your videos: 

  • Public: Your video can be discovered through searches, it can be shared, and it shows up on your channel and in your subscribers' news feeds. This is the setting you want to use if you want to build an audience and reach the largest number of people.
  • Unlisted: Your video can be reached and shared with the video's URL, but it doesn't show up on searches, on your YouTube Channel, or in your subscribers' news feeds.
  • Private: Only you and the people you specify can view private videos. The video cannot be shared, does not show up in news feeds, and does not appear on your channel.

After you fill in the basic info, click Advanced settings. It's here that you can disable or enable comments on your video, allow viewers to rate your video, submit the video to a specific category to organize it on YouTube, set the recording date, allow or disallow embedding, and more.

You have to keep the upload page open or YouTube will cancel your video upload. 

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Customize Your YouTube Channel

Screenshot of the customization settings for a YouTube account

Gretchen Siegchrist

Your YouTube Channel is where viewers can find all of your videos and information. It's your little home on YouTube for sharing your videos, and fans can subscribe to your channel to keep up with your latest videos.

There are lots of ways you can customize your YouTube channel, including adding images and text​ and changing the layout to reflect your personality or brand and to make your channel stand out.

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Promote Your YouTube Video

Picture of the US map with pins on it

Joey Csunyo/Unsplash

You can upload dozens or even hundreds of videos on YouTube that never seem to get much attention. An essential goal for most YouTubers is to get more video viewers and grow their audience.

By promoting your videos and interacting with other YouTube users, you can begin to get people to watch and comment on your videos and subscribe for updates.

It will take a little while, but with time you can become a YouTube star.