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The Long and Short of YouTube #Shorts

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Illustration of the new YouTube Feature #Shorts

Posted on 01/21/2021 at 10:43 AM

Why Short-form Videos are the Future of Content Strategy...

If you have a comprehensive digital strategy, video content already factors into it. If not, it should. If so, you may want to take a look at short-form video content (30 seconds or less) and how it may factor into your 2021 strategy. Google recently (quietly) started featuring short videos from various platforms in search results for some users. Results included those from TikTok and Instagram Reels but will also begin featuring the results of a new type of YouTube Content called #Shorts.

Illustration by Global Reach featuring Video feeds in Google Search Results

What are YouTube Shorts?

Shorts (or #Shorts as YouTube likes to call them) are a new form of video content currently being Beta tested by YouTube in India.

Why India? Because in June of 2020, India banned the popular short-form video content app (and social network) TikTok. This left a void in the content market for the more than 200 million Indian TikTok users. A void that YouTube was more than happy to fill with an extension to its already popular video platform. 

According to YouTube at the time of launch...


"We’re beginning to test a new way for you to watch Shorts, a new short form video experience that lets you create short videos right from the YouTube mobile app. We’ll be adding a Shorts icon to the top or bottom row of the mobile app that makes it easier for you to tap and watch Shorts on YouTube." 


"Those who are in the experiment [Beta Testers] will either see a Shorts icon in place of the Explore tab (with the Explore icon moved to the top row) or will see a Shorts icon in place of the Cast icon in the top row (casting can still be done in the player while watching a video). This experiment is available to a small group of users in India using the YouTube app on Android and iOS while we gather feedback."

- YouTube Help, December 14, 2020

As expected, the "experiment" has seen huge success and growth in users, leading many to speculate how these videos fit into Content Creator's overall YouTube strategy, and how they will affect analytics. After all, let us not forget who YouTube's parent company is...

Illustration created by Global Reach to feature YouTube, the 2nd largest search engine on the internet.

The Global Roll Out of #Shorts and The Shorts Video Shelf

Though the extra functionality of a button via a specific #Shorts logo in the app to create videos specifically for Shorts is currently only available in India, all users can start creating shorts, and should! In fact, all around the world, YouTube consumers are noticing a row of shorts appearing on their feed. YouTube calls this featured content region "The Shorts Video Shelf," and if is being populated with short-form videos that the algorithm has deemed may be interesting to the content consumer.

How to Create YouTube Shorts Without Functionality in the App

To start creating YouTube Shorts (without needing the feature in the app), Creators need to upload a video that meets the following three requirements:

  1. The video must be vertically shot

  2. The video must be short (60-second or less)

  3. The video must include the hashtag #Shorts (capital 'S') in either the video's title or description 

Hashtags have always played an important role in YouTube video optimization, and now it appears YouTube is showing exactly how. The platform's curation staff is closely monitoring #Shorts and how it is used in short videos both on YouTube and on other platforms such as Instagram.

Instagram post by YouTube Creators India featuring Reels

Getting featured on the Shorts Video Shelf gives content creators a massive boost of exposure if the attention is capitalized on properly, creates a whole new audience. Many creators are concerned about how this new content may impact things like watch time and monetization.

What about Money and Analytics?

As of now, Shorts cannot be monetized. In the future, this may change.

The good news is that the YouTube algorithm doesn't differentiate between monetized videos and non-monetized videos, so monetization, either way, doesn't impact your organic reach. Simply put, monetization doesn't factor into the algorithm, according to YouTube.

As for analytics, views of Shorts factor into your channel level view count just like any other video view. They are not filtered in any way. 

Graphic of YouTube going Viral.

Many YouTubers understand the Holy Trinity of Viral Content, Click Through Rate (CTR), Retention, and Watch Time, and may be concerned about how views of Shorts impact these key metrics. According to YouTube, if you upload a lot of shorts, your average view duration may go down, but the good news is that this will not count against you. The algorithm's machine learning has been programmed to account for the types of videos on your channel being consumed. 

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The algorithm is most interested in what types of content viewers are engaging with, how they're engaging, and types of content they find valuable. Google, YouTube's parent company, as the mission of organizing the world's information and providing the best experience for users. It makes sense that the YouTube goal of providing and recommending content that resonates with users. This will better keep them on the platform and consuming more content!

Ready for Shorts?

Are you ready to add YouTube Shorts and other short-form content to your digital strategy? You should be! Remember, it is okay and recommended to repurpose longer content into smaller digestible pieces of content and share across multiple platforms. Experiment, test, and try new things. You may find that your go-to platform is YouTube. Perhaps it's TikTok. Maybe your community is on Instagram and Reels is the best approach. Understanding your audience, where they are, and the types of content they consume is key to figuring out where to start. Every company, brand, and individual's content strategy and goals are different so they require a different approach. That said, it's easier to integrate video than you might think. Want to learn how?

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