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What are YouTube Shorts?

What are YouTube Shorts?

YouTube is the world’s biggest video-sharing site, with over 2.6 billion monthly users worldwide. Started in 2005, it is known for horizontal long form video content and is often considered the second-largest search engine, coming in after Google (which owns it). The meteoric rise of vertical short-form video content on platforms like TikTok and Instagram, however, has led to the video giant launching YouTube Shorts.

What are YouTube Shorts and how should you be using them? Read on, as we discuss these questions and take a look at the vertical short form video platform from YouTube.

What Are YouTube Shorts and How Are They Different?

YouTube is famous for its horizontal long form content, with users uploading more than 500 hours of video content per minute as of 2022. What are YouTube Shorts, then, and how are they different from the main platform? YouTube Shorts is the newest addition to the YouTube universe and allows creators and users to record, share, and view vertical short form video content up to 60 seconds long. It was introduced in 2020 and continues to find its footing, competing primarily with TikTok and Instagram Reels.

YouTube Shorts accounts are able to be used on their own or in association with a primary YouTube account. With statistics showing short form video content being upwards of 2.5 times as engaging, creators are creating standalone media as well as using YouTube Shorts videos to drive viewership and new subscribers towards their long form content channels.

Where Do You Find YouTube Shorts Videos?

The YouTube Shorts portal is found in a variety of locations on the YouTube platform. These include:

  • Dedicated tab on the desktop YouTube site
  • YouTube Shorts tab on the mobile app
  • Recommended YouTube Shorts videos on the platform homepage
  • Smart TVs using the YouTube app
  • YouTube app on Apple TV or Google TV/Chromecast

Knowing how to increase the visibility of your channel using YouTube Shorts is essential for creators looking to boost their viewers and subscribers. Consider YouTube Shorts to be a preview to long form content that introduces new and existing viewers to your brand.

In addition, Shorts that have been created can be found by searching someone’s handle, or directly on their YouTube channel’s homepage if they’re using a customized layout.

YouTube Shorts Editing Features

While creators have always been able to publish shorts on YouTube, the launch of the YouTube Shorts platform dedicated to vertical short form content puts the video-sharing giant in direct competition with TikTok and Instagram Reels. Similar to the other platforms, YouTube Shorts offers a number of unique creator editing features in its toolkit including:

  • Ability to record and upload directly from your phone
  • A music and sound library
  • Screen effects and filters
  • Manual or auto captions
  • Adjustable video speed

Record and Upload From Your Phone

Similar to TikTok and Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts videos can be recorded and uploaded directly from the creator’s phone. This is great for shooting content on the go without the need for a full setup. You can also upload existing videos from your phone. The appeal for recording live is that YouTube Shorts allows you to start and stop recording multiple times then stitch together those recordings for the final product. This method also makes it easy to create “fast cuts” to keep users engaged with minimal effort.

Portrait/Vertical Mode Only

Unlike the main YouTube platform, YouTube Shorts follow suite with displaying in vertical mode only. This means you’ll want to consider how you’re shooting your content so it can take advantage of this format. Cutting a horizontal, 9:16 trailer from long form content and posting it at 16:9 is challenging, especially if you want to maintain 4K resolution. You can, however, post vertical, 9:16 video to YouTube, filling the screen for users viewing on their phone, making it great for YouTube and YouTube Shorts media. Vertical YouTube Shorts videos also make using the content for Google Ads easier when targeting mobile users.

If you do intend on having media posted that’s best viewed horizontally, you can add a few seconds in the beginning recommending the viewer rotate their phone for maximum viewing enjoyment. This may lose viewers as they’re scrolling, so it’s not encouraged.

Up To 100 Characters for Title Length

Similar to YouTube, YouTube Shorts allows you to create a title of up to 100 characters in length. The full 100 characters won’t display when viewing it on the app, however, so keep the most important and relevant words near the beginning.

Up to 5,000 Characters for Description Length

YouTube Shorts also allows up to 5,000 characters for creators to include a description that lives underneath their video. Widely considered the second-largest search engine in the world, knowing how to optimize YouTube Shorts description to work in conjunction with hashtags and titles has a major impact on searchability, reach, and engagement

As of right now, creators only have access to add a description from YouTube Studio channel dashboard on desktop, or the YouTube Studio app.

Video Limit of 60 Seconds

YouTube Shorts videos are currently limited to 60 seconds in length, whereas Instagram Reels may be up to 90 seconds and TikTok has been rolling out updates allowing videos up to 10 minutes long (up from 3 minutes). Shorter videos typically perform better, meaning YouTube Shorts content creators have more than enough time to create engaging media to boost their engagement and drive viewers to their channels. 

Note: The default length is set to 15 seconds, so be sure to adjust it if you plan on having a longer video. If you’re using music from the YouTube library, your Short will be limited to 15 seconds total.

Videos Stay Live Until Removed

YouTube Shorts are not ephemeral like Instagram Stories, which means there’s no limit as to how long they stay live. This means Shorts are constantly able to generate traffic, engagement and new viewers once uploaded.

Like any other YouTube video, Shorts will stay live once published and be accessible unless the creator decides to private or remove them, or they’re removed for a platform violation.

Videos Automatically Loop

Just like on TikTok and Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts videos loop automatically. This gives you the opportunity to create videos that tie the beginning and end of your media together in a way that seamlessly loops for viewers. It keeps viewers engaged, entertained, and increases views.

Video Visibility

Creators will have the same control over the visibility of their Shorts as they would regular YouTube videos. Visibility options include,

  • Public: This is the default setting. Anyone using the YouTube platform can view a public video or find it using the search function.
  • Private: Videos are not accessible to the general public through search, or a direct link. Only those who are invited and have a YouTube account can view it.
  • Unlisted: The video is not accessible from a creator’s channel or via search. It can be viewed by anyone through a direct link, and viewers are not required to have a YouTube account to access it.

Music and Sound Library

The YouTube Shorts editing toolkit also gives content creators access to a music and sound library. This enables you to keep on top of the current trends while also giving access to a range of music from big labels like Universal and Sony. Keep in mind that the licenses to use these sounds come from selecting them on the app, meaning uploading existing videos with copyrighted music may result in content being taken down or banned. Additionally, music licensing may change over time, so uploading video with music already attached puts creators at risk of being sent violations by Google in the future.

Screen Effects and Filters

Like TikTok and Instagram Reels, the YouTube Shorts editing toolkit includes being able to choose from various screen effects and filters. This lets you control the look and vibe of your content and jump on current trends. One of the most popular effects from TikTok, the Green Screen effect, also exists in the YouTube Shorts editing toolkit.

Manual or Auto Captions for Accessibility

Creating accessible content gives you greater reach and affects searchability via YouTube SEO. Like the long form content, YouTube Shorts videos can display captions on screen for viewers. These captions may be added manually or using the auto captions feature.

Content creators looking to improve efficiency for adding captions to YouTube videos often look to third-party apps like the captioning app MixCaptions. This app gives you greater control over editing, styling, and formatting captions for your video. The auto caption function has a much higher level of accuracy compared to native editing tools and burns captions on to the video directly (called open captions).

3x Adjustable Video Speed

The native editing toolkit for YouTube Shorts videos also allows creators to adjust recording speed by 3x in either direction. This can be used creatively to speed up or slow down video recordings and tell your story how you want.

Using YouTube Shorts With Your Regular Channel

Content creators have taken to using YouTube Shorts in tandem with their regular channel to increase engagement and drive traffic using methods like:

  1. Using Shorts as trailers to drive viewers to their channel.
  2. Using Shorts to create teasers for regular YouTube videos that have a premiere date set. This can improve reminder notifications on the main channel.
  3. Cutting large YouTube videos into smaller segments for Shorts to generate ongoing traction and freshness.

Trailers: One way they’ve done so is by creating YouTube Shorts videos and using them as trailers for long form content on their regular channel. These shorts on YouTube have to engage viewers instantly and make them want to see more so they click over and subscribe. 

Driving Viewers to Premieres: You can also use shorts to create teasers with a premier date for long form content to increase reminder notifications to your audience and build up excitement to what is coming up next on your channel.

Repurposing Content: Creators looking to generate ongoing traction or refresh viewership for larger, long form content also cut longer videos down into small segments to share via YouTube Shorts. This is perfect for reinvigorating the traction you saw before and breathing new life into content that has been live for a while. It’s also an ideal time to translate captions to reach a new audience.

Monetizing YouTube Shorts

What are YouTube Shorts if not another potential method for content creators to monetize their media, as well? Announced in 2022 and as of February 1st, 2023, content creators will be able to join YouTube's Partner Program to monetize their media. Where some creators were previously able to make money from content via the YouTube Shorts Fund, the new revenue sharing model is meant to be different. At its launch, creators who accept the Shorts Monetization Module will receive payment based on their allocation from a Creator Pool. 

There are specific criteria for joining and monetizing your content at this time, including having a minimum of 1,000 subscribers, certain view requirements, and creating unique content for the YouTube Shorts platform (you can’t repurpose video from another social media platform).

Since monetizing YouTube Shorts videos is a new endeavor, there’s no doubt there will be changes as it continues to evolve. The most up to date information for monetizing YouTube Shorts is best found directly on Google and YouTube.

Best Practices for YouTube Shorts

Editing videos for the YouTube Shorts platform is just as crucial to their overall performance as on TIkTok and Instagram Reels. Some of the best practices for this video sharing platform include:

  • Using trending sounds and music
  • Taking advantage of recording options, effects, and filters
  • Creating video content at the ideal length
  • Optimizing titles and video descriptions
  • Editing videos to play seamlessly on loop
  • Adding captions to video for increased reach and engagement
  • Checking YouTube Shorts analytics to see which content is performing best

Using the best content creation tools to keep up with current trends will keep your content relevant and allow you to produce media more efficiently. From tools for writing short form content scripts to monitoring the latest trending music, sounds, and hashtags, content creators need a well-rounded toolkit of their own to establish their voice and build an audience.

YouTube Shorts videos are directly competing against short form video platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels. The added ability to drive viewers and subscribers to long form content more easily is also appealing as it makes monetizing content more effective on YouTube Shorts vs TikTok and other platforms. The introduction of YouTube Shorts monetization furthers its competitive ability, making it the platform of choice for many content creators and brands.

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