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Digestible, meme-able, and super fun to watch, the new YouTube shorts video format is growing exponentially after having been launched worldwide last year. A reported 1.5 billion logged-in users watched videos from the platform, quickly rivaling the 1 billion users browsing TikTok during the same time period.
So, what’s the deal with this content opportunity, and is it for you? We get into the fast facts about YouTube Shorts and what you need to know before diving in.
At first glance, YouTube Shorts look incredibly like TikTok videos (or even Instagram's version, Reels.) The portrait-oriented videos feature everything from cooking hacks to practical jokes to inspiration for stressed-out students. Limited to just 30-seconds in length, the videos are used by influencers to get the same type of buzz that competing short-form content currently gets, but the videos are housed inside the YouTube platform – not a standalone app.
Those utilizing shorts hope to both find a new way to communicate with existing YouTube fans and perhaps funnel new subscribers to their longer-form videos through this addictive format.
At first glance, these videos may seem a lot like other short-form video platforms out there. Since YouTube Shorts are hosted on the YouTube platform, however, they have some unique perks you won’t find on those competing channels.
For one, YouTube’s search potential is massive. Just type in “how to change oil” from the Google search box and see what pops up. Videos are separated out first, right after the rich snippet result, and the majority of hits go to YouTube’s growing platform. How shorts will be prioritized compared to the longer videos isn’t yet known, but with some clever keyword strategy in the title and description, you could boost SEO in big ways you won’t be able to with TikTok.
YouTube’s description box is also much more robust than the few lines of text description you get with TikTok, but users will have to click the three dots on the video to access it. For those hoping to boost affiliate earnings with clickable shortened links, YouTube seems to be the place to be.
YouTube has a few other neat features that mirror regular YouTube videos, such as the ability to edit after posting and display settings that keep adult content from being accessed by those under 18. It's also incredibly easy to watch and read descriptions from a desktop, giving older users who won't download a dedicated app just to watch shorts a way to join in.
As of this writing, Shorts can’t be longer than 60 seconds, while TikToks can be up to 3 minutes in length. Is this really a negative? We’re not sure, since longer videos can just be posted as regular YouTube videos within the YouTube ecosystem, with access to the same analytics, editing, and audience tools of the larger YouTube platform.
For those who want to access videos, like, and comment from within the same simple app, YouTube may feel a bit clunky. Yes, you can watch YouTube Shorts from within the YouTube app, but it doesn’t have the same feel as being fed non-stop, bingeable bites like when interacting with TikTok. How this may adapt over time is unknown.
There's also some concern that influencers may create entirely new channels for their Shorts, separating them from regular long-form videos as a way to reach new audiences. This could actually be a benefit, however, since fans of short-form content may look up their favorite influencer and see what else they’re up to. Either way, YouTube benefits, as viewers stay within the Google-owned site.
There’s no question that YouTube Shorts can work for brands and influencers. Just check out the views on top shorts using the search term #shorts and see what pops up. With top videos getting millions of views, it can definitely get your name out there in an affordable way. These tips can help:
1. Include your brand logo very early on, and then again at the end of the video, so that viewers understand immediately who created the content.
2. Use looping to give your viewers the satisfaction of watching over and over again. Start filming your videos with the final shot to achieve this effect. (Don’t forget the audio!)
3. Check your data. We can't always guess what videos will do best, but the robust YouTube analytics dashboard can give you clues. Do people like your videos as well as watch them? Where are they coming from? Which ones are getting shared the most?
4. Use those keywords. Unlike TikTok, which delivers content to viewers in a more “spoonfed” manner, we see Shorts as having the potential to be highly searchable. How can you break into the top video stats? One way may be to think about your titles and descriptions as a breadcrumb trail to help new viewers find you quickly.
Competitive video platforms aren’t going away, and YouTube Shorts aren’t meant to fully replace them. With the power of Google and its data to give brands an accurate view of who’s watching (plus that amazing SEO benefit), the potential of the YouTube Shorts platform shouldn’t be ignored.