With the rising demand for bite-size videos sweeping the socialsphere, YouTube Shorts continues to prove that it deserves to stand among the likes of TikTok and Instagram Reels.
Within months of its launch in July 2021, YouTube Shorts was dismantling norms and breaking records. Today, it’s hailed as the fastest growing content type on YouTube and boasts an impressive 50 billion daily views (a number we can’t quite comprehend, either!).
Considering its success, YouTube Shorts offers a viable avenue for creators looking to achieve a multitude of social media goals. From growth and revenue to visibility and traffic, knowing how to leverage YouTube Shorts is essential for anyone looking to level up their social media game.
In other words, if you’ve not yet begun your YouTube Shorts journey, but are active everywhere else—particularly YouTube itself—then this is your sign to start.
Luckily, YouTube is the gift that keeps on giving. To help Shorts creators, old and new, the platform has published an interview with Shorts Product Lead, Todd Sherman, in which the most common Shorts questions are answered (in detail, too). What’s even luckier is that we have dissected the interview’s key talking points and presented them to you in this article. We’ll touch on the algorithm, hashtag use and a myriad of other aspects to help you learn how to leverage YouTube Shorts, as well as what creators can expect to see in its future.
What’s changed? What remains?
As with most social media platforms, success with YouTube Shorts is an amalgamation of success across various aspects. Think, the algorithm, video length, hashtag use, volume e.t.c. Each aspect is equally important. Once you start to nail each and every one, you’ll know how to leverage YouTube Shorts as a whole.
But what does success in each sector look like?
Let’s break it down.
Getting to grips with the algorithm
In short, YouTube’s long-form algorithm is the same as the Short’s algorithm in the sense that creators are encouraged to “think audience, not algorithm”. Where the two differ, however, is in their key indicators responsible for pushing certain content.
YouTube videos are typically manually selected by the user, but YouTube Shorts aren’t. The user scrolls through a continuous Feed of new content and the engagement indicators (such as watch time, likes, shares and comments) it picks up along the way get fed to the algorithm to help tailor the next scroll. And so the cycle continues.
Essentially, this means YouTube is getting smarter about showing users what they like.
As a creator looking to learn how to leverage YouTube Shorts you can influence a user’s algorithm in many ways. High quality content tends to stop users in their tracks as opposed to pixelated videos. This increases their watch time and indicates to the algorithm that they enjoyed that particular content type. Similarly, including a CTA – such as “comment your favourite…” or “share this to a friend”- is a great way to encourage engagement and, thus, sway the algorithm in your favour.
Extending Shorts lengths
Sherman reveals that YouTube Shorts will remain 60 seconds max due to YouTube already offering long-form options. For now, lean into the short-form video format and all it can achieve.
Custom thumbnail options
While custom thumbnails are an essential part of creating long-form YouTube content, Sherman informs us that there are no plans to enable this feature through Shorts. The decision was made based on the fact that users typically swipe through their Shorts feed, meaning they won’t technically see thumbnails anyway.
Creators do still have the option to select a frame from their video as the thumbnail, however.
The correct hashtag usage
Here’s what Sherman had to say about hashtags.
“Sometimes a hashtag can be associated with a real world thing that’s happened, like an event […] Other times, they’re focused on topics, and I think in both those cases, creators should consider using them”
Despite the underlying ambivalence hidden in that message, we say go for it! Creators looking to learn how to leverage YouTube Shorts can harness the power of hashtags to help insert themselves into trending topics of discussion, help categorise their content and create custom hashtags that will later serve as an associating link.
And no, we don’t mean how high or low a user’s volume is set.
Here, Sherman refers to the volume of content published to the Feed. As with most things, quality over quantity is the correct approach here.
As established, the YouTube Short’s algorithm looks to engagement indicators to tailor a user’s experience. Lower quality content means less engagement and, therefore, less chance of continually appearing on the Feed of your target audience. Knowing how to leverage YouTube Shorts is knowing how to adopt the perfect balance between quality and quantity.
The future of YouTube Shorts
We understand the concern – particularly among OG YouTube creators – surrounding the cannibalisation of long-form video content, but Sherman reassures us that the two are entirely different entities.
Rather than looking to YouTube Shorts as a replacement, it should instead be viewed as an accompaniment. Not only can users directly subscribe to a channel through Shorts itself, but YouTube’s Remix feature also enables the ability to turn long-form videos into Shorts; both valuable features for channel growth.
To round off the interview, Sherman alludes to the integration of more AI elements. While he doesn’t specify what that means exactly, we can only assume that this means the incorporation of some form of AI creation tool. Whatever it may be, it will be launched with the intention of aiding those creators looking to begin their journey towards knowing how to leverage YouTube Shorts.
Until that day comes, our advice to creators is to dive into the world of YouTube shorts, taking all that we’ve discussed above with them. Knowing how to leverage YouTube Shorts will drive the success of future posts and, thus, the future of a creator’s online presence.
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