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YouTube Shorts: what are they and how can you best use them?


YouTube Shorts: what are they and how can you best use them?

Short form video content is all the rage in 2021. But it wasn’t always the case.

When we waved goodbye to Vine way back in 2016, we thought we had seen the back of short form video content, with longer vlogs becoming more popular.

However, TikTok rose to the height of popularity in 2020 as the place to watch short, funny videos which are between 15 seconds and one minute in length. And now the platform has 689 million monthly active users worldwide (source: Oberlo).

Instagram, always keen to get in on the action, was next to follow suit, launching its Reels feature in the UK in August 2020.

So it was only a matter of time before the internet’s biggest video giant, YouTube, stepped in, announcing the launch of a new feature called ‘YouTube Shorts’ in September 2020, starting with a testing phase which took place in India.

When it comes to video content, YouTube is the original and best. It is considered to be the pioneer of the industry and is well known for constantly updating and evolving the platform, to keep up with ever-changing viewing habits.

So what exactly are YouTube Shorts? And how can you best use them for your business?

What are YouTube Shorts?

YouTube Shorts allows video creators to upload videos of 15 seconds or less and add effects to their content, pretty much in the style of TikTok or Reels.

You can create and edit videos within YouTube, rather than the traditional model of editing outside the platform and then uploading (although you can still do this too).

You can also adjust the video speed and choose a music overlay through the platform.

Instead of the traditional landscape format, these videos are uploaded in a vertical format, with a 9:16 aspect ratio. The video takes up the entire screen, making for an immersive video experience.

This is designed to better suit mobile viewers, who are more likely to consume this short-form content.

There are already over 1 billion views of YouTube videos on mobile per day (source: MerchDope).

How is YouTube Shorts being rolled out?

YouTube is rolling out Shorts features gradually, as Shorts is still in a beta phase.

Shorts are likely to be available to larger accounts first, so some features may not be available to you to start with. YouTube are looking to roll out Shorts during 2021.

YouTube Shorts has a dedicated shelf on the app’s homepage, where users can specifically watch these videos.

Why is short video so popular?

Short video is particularly popular with a younger demographic.

Tiktok’s Head of Product Marketing (Europe), Kirs Boger, believes this is down to attention spans, noting that “Gen Z typically have an attention span of just 8 seconds; a few seconds shorter than millennials, who come in at approximately 12 seconds” adding “It’s no surprise then, that short-form video has seen its popularity surge in recent years, with these generations leading the way in consuming it.”

We all now have shorter attention spans than ever before and short videos are well suited to the way in which we consume content in 2021. Watching a short video does not require a big time commitment.

Why should you use YouTube Shorts right now?

As with any new social media feature, there is less competition on YouTube Shorts at the moment.

As an early adopter, you will get more cut-through than you would on your usual videos, as you are not competing with as many others.

Social media platforms are always keen to push their new features too, getting them in front of more people and so you may benefit from this and get more reach and engagement than you would with a more established platform.

Shorter videos have higher retention and therefore you are likely to get more people watching your Shorts in their entirety, compared with many of your longer videos.

While TikTok has quite a niche audience, with lots of younger viewers, YouTube’s audience is much vaster and more varied. There’s a video for everything on YouTube!

This means that most brands will be able to create relevant content for Shorts and engage with their chosen audiences, which they may have otherwise found difficult to reach on TikTok.

So if you have not already, it is a good idea to add YouTube Shorts to your video content strategy.

What kind of content works best for YouTube Shorts?

The kind of content you should use for YouTube Shorts will, of course, depend on the nature of your business.

Have a think about any content ideas you have had that would not warrant a 10-minute-long video but would still be beneficial for your followers.

Try some behind-the-scenes content; a piece of news which is relevant to your audience;  announcements or a couple of top tips for using one of your products.

Repurposed content

If you have already been using TikTok or Instagram Reels, then you may be able to repurpose videos from there with a few slight tweaks.

You may even be able to reduce longer form videos with some careful editing, to make useful video content that you can use for Shorts too.

But be careful of what might be thought of as duplicated content. Recently, Instagram started to penalise videos which were uploaded to Reels from TikTok, so this is something to be aware of.

You should also be mindful of the music that you use in the videos. Some of the music which is available through TikTok may not have crossover rights for use on YouTube.


You could use also Shorts as a teaser for longer form video content.

Why not make a shorter version of one of your long videos? If you get this right, your audience will be intrigued and so will come through to your main channel.

User generated content

One great way to use YouTube Shorts is to work with influencers to create content or upload content from customers who already use your product or service.

Could an influencer do a quick Q&A; a short review of your product or make an announcement on your channel?

This is a great way of getting new content as well as reaching new audiences. 

As with all of your video content, you should ensure that your Shorts are on brand.

The key to a successful Short is ensuring that your content fulfills the promise that you have made at the outset.

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