El Diamante student McKenna Salazar makes living on YouTube sharing her teenage life
By Reggie Ellis
VISALIA – In her last semester before graduating from El Diamante High School, McKenna Salazar knew she was going to have to get a job this summer. What she didn’t know is how lucrative her everyday life could be by not getting a typical teenage, part-time gig.
In January she launched her own YouTube Channel “Kenna Marie”, taken from her nickname and middle name, and began posting regular videos about her room, trips with friends, and her hair and makeup routine. In March she was approaching 10,000 subscribers and received her first check from YouTube as a content provider for $216.24. Since that time, Kenna has amassed nearly 1 million viewers and her checks have doubled each month.
“I was really surprised by how it skyrocketed,” Kenna said.
Her most popular video was posted three months ago and offered instructions on how to build a YouTube Channel into something that generates advertising revenue. Three months later, the video, titled “My First Youtube Paycheck + How To Have A Successful Channel In 2019!” In it, Kenna explains how she was able to launch a channel and see such a rapid rise in her views and her advertising value. Step one of her plan was to sign up for Google Ad Sense, the primary funding stream to connect advertisers with content creators. Her first goal was to reach 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours of total viewing, YouTube’s threshold for funneling advertising your way. She also offered insightful tips such as being prepared for people to comment, good or bad, on your videos, don’t think success will come overnight, and to use high quality videos and images that look more professional than amateurish.
“I had wanted to do that video for a long time,” Kenna said. “I am so interested in the business side and watched videos on other people’s experiences and how they did it.”
Patrick said McKenna was strategic in her approach to content. She made longer videos, between 8 and 20 minutes, to help her reach viewing hour thresholds. She planned a back to school video for this month to give teens time to shop before the fall semester starts in August. She also made and stuck to a weekly upload schedule to ensure her channel always had fresh content and commented on other YouTubers whose channels she liked in the hopes that people interested in similar content might like what she wrote and click through to her channel.
“I’ve tried to make suggestions about what might make a good video, but she doesn’t ever use them because she knows what her audience wants a lot more than I do,” Patrick said.
“I really liked that it inspired a lot of people to get their own channel started,” Kenna said.
The episode was uploaded on April 7 and had more than 933,000 views as of press time. In order to receive payments as an independent contractor, Kenna had to use her parents tax information because she was under the age of 18. Her income is tracked by Google Ad Sense which will issue her a form 1099 at the end of the year to file with the IRS. And yes, McKenna took the time to understand all of this and how it works.
“On her third check she had made more than her sister did during an entire summer of working a minimum wage job,” Patrick said. “She no longer needed a job, she had one.”
Kenna said she, like many people considering YouTube Channels, was reluctant to have videos of herself open to criticism by classmates, mean teens, and online trolls. She said it took her six years to get over her fear before finally starting her channel in January.
“I thought people would make fun of me or judge me for it but it has surprisingly been all positive,” Kenn said.
Kenna describes her channel as teen lifestyle, concentrating on teen fashion, her everyday life, or her feelings on things happening in her life. She said her favorite videos are mini stories about her day.
“The ones I really enjoy are just blogs about my day,” she said. “A regular day doing something fun.”
Patrick said one of his favorites was when Kenna let the car in front of her in the drive-thru pick her meals for a 24 hour period as part of a personal challenge. The result was a fun video where Kenna, a self-described picky vegetarian, had to eat her first leg of fried chicken, her first cheese burger, and some sous vide egg bites.
“In reading the comments online, people really like how down-to-Earth and approachable she is,” Lisa said.
But Kenna’s content doesn’t come without parental controls. Patrick and Lisa both had reservations about allowing their daughter to have such a public presence online and actively sharing details of her life with an estimated 3.2 billion Internet users worldwide. Patrick was concerned with the negative feedback and how it might affect Kenna emotionally. Lisa was worried about her daughter’s physical safety. So the parents came up with a few ground rules: 1. Don’t disclose your location; 2. Start recording before putting the car into gear and stop recording after putting the car in park; 3. Make them aware of any requests for people to meet her in person; 4. Any clothing sent by business has to be pre-approved by Mom. The last one was necessary when an Australian-based clothing line, Princess Polly, began sending Kenna their clothes to model on her “Summer Try-On Haul!” episode.
“I give her all of the credit,” Lisa said. “She knows what type of content that her viewers want on YouTube and she continues to show that people like her content. She gave the world something it needed or wanted and was able to find success doing something she loved. She is an entrepreneur in every sense of the word.”
Kenna said most of the aspects of making the videos were easy to learn, such as setting up her camera in the right lighting, proper camera angles, and video editing. The hardest part, she said, is continuously coming up with content to keep her channel current.
“I never want to come across as copying someone else’s channel,” Kenna said. “The goal is to always be original.”
Patrick and Lisa no longer talk about Kenna getting a job this summer or while she is away at college. They do remind her that YouTube success doesn’t mean she can hold bypass a college degree. Kenna said she is planning to follow in the family tradition of attending Cal Poly Pomona in the Los Angeles area to study either film or marketing, both of which she will have a lot of experience heading into her major.
“She’s teaching us about this job, not the other way around,” Patrick said.