More than ever before, internet users are looking for quickly consumable information and entertainment that can be accessed across various devices. It is, therefore, no surprise that to add to the already popular short-form content platforms such as Snapchat Stories, TikTok and Instagram Reels, YouTube has created its own version: YouTube Shorts.
Despite the benefits of using video content to increase brand awareness, most marketing strategies focus on the more conventional digital channels such as Instagram, Facebook or Twitter rather than YouTube. This may be because of the sheer variety and volume of content that YouTube offers, making it difficult to define the platforms’ audiences and most effective uses. With YouTube Shorts in beta testing in India and the US, we ask if it will create enough excitement for brands to re-evaluate their use of the channel within their digital marketing strategies.
What Are YouTube Shorts?
YouTube Shorts are short videos created within the YouTube mobile app and can be up to 60 seconds long, or the same length for vertical videos made outside the app but given the hashtag #shorts. These short-form videos are designed to compete with popular short-form content platforms, including the prolifically popular mobile platform TikTok.
Currently, YouTube Shorts are set to have their own “shorts shelf” carousel within the app where users can scroll an algorithmically chosen feed, with creators’ shorts also sitting in their channel library alongside traditional long-form video content. However, since testing is still being done with beta forms rolled out in some locations, not all features and set ups will remain permanent.
An essential feature of YouTube Shorts includes a multi-segment camera which allows several videos to be shown together in the same frame. This is also a prominent feature on TikTok’s creation platform. Similarly, YouTube Shorts creators can access a music library provided by the platform to use in their videos, much like TikTok.
However, a unique feature is remixing audio from other creators’ videos (unless those creators are specifically opt-out of allowing their content to be used). Editing features include captioning tools, inserting clips from phone galleries, controlling video playback speed and basic colour correction filters. YouTube, as ever, is planning to introduce more features as the platform progresses.
How Can YouTube Shorts Work For Your Brand?
One study by Think With Google states that “50% of consumers claim that online video helped them make a final purchase decision“. This makes video content highly desirable for brands as it can directly affect the path-to-purchase journey.
An advantage of YouTube Shorts is that it makes video content highly accessible, whether for the creator or consumer. This accessibility is achieved through a focus on content created and viewed through mobile devices. The app has an inbuilt YouTube Shorts camera meaning that creators do not need access to expensive and specialist equipment to post high-quality content. This can benefit brands from both the creation and reach perspectives.
It is also hoped that Shorts will help to diversify YouTube content to include more short-lived popular trends and ideas that long-form creators don’t see much value in. This will also help to draw in Gen-z creators and with them their often large audiences.
Video Search Engine
As previously mentioned, the vast amounts of content on YouTube can be overwhelming for brands when considering how to include the channel in their digital marketing strategies. However, by viewing the channel as a video search engine where consumers search for content based on their interests, we can build a clearer picture of how to place content in the right way. The vastness and variety of audiences that use the channel mean that as long as you optimise your content, for example, by making sure the titles of your YouTube shorts contain relevant keywords, you will attract the correct users.
Since YouTube Shorts will be added to your channel library as well as the designated Shorts shelf, they will be accessible to anyone at any time. Whilst many short-form content platforms see a significant turnover of popular videos that can disappear as they decrease in views or even on a timer, YouTube Shorts allow people interested in your brand to view your content forever.
The main advantage is that this creates continuity for audiences who are new to your brand or channel. Furthermore, whilst YouTube Shorts can act as a quick way to boost immediate views for your content, by being stored alongside long-form videos, they can lead users to more detailed content and help to connect them to your brand.
Test The Waters
Creating long-form video content can be a big investment in both time and resources. It can be daunting to put so much energy into untested ideas that you hope audiences will connect to. This is where YouTube Shorts can be an excellent tool for testing new content or brand image concepts. Shorts are fast and easy to make, and brands can quickly identify whether content has hit the mark with their consumers whilst taking only a small risk.
As seen with other similar platforms, content that doesn’t meet audience expectations can be bypassed on the scrolling feed meaning that unsuccessful ideas can have minimal impact on the consumer. However, the other side of the coin shows that popular content can rise quickly and often transcends the targeted audience, thus reaching new potential customers. YouTube Shorts are, therefore, a simple way to quickly test new ideas and gain strong data as to their audience effect.
There are some concerns about the amount of control that creators are given when uploading shorts. Traditionally, creators had control over the thumbnail image for their videos; however, with YouTube Shorts, the thumbnail is simply a random screen-grab of an unspecified part of the video. This means that brands have less control over how their content is initially presented to their audience.
Additionally, despite some videos not being designated as shorts by creators, either by using the shorts creation camera or using the shorts hashtag, some videos are automatically included on the shorts shelf. This is problematic as brands don’t yet know enough about YouTube’s selection process for Shorts, which may lead to frustrations about a lack of control over where videos are featured.
A major concern for many is around the uploading of popular TikTok videos to the YouTube Shorts shelf. It is often not even the original creators of the TikTok content that are re-uploading it to YouTube Shorts to gain fast followers. This creates many issues, especially since plagiarism and unoriginal content will devalue the platform for both brands and audiences. YouTube has not currently confirmed that they have a way to address these problems.
Will Brands Choose YouTube Shorts?
There is no doubt that consumer behaviour is shifting towards convenient content experiences. YouTube Shorts provide a strong, well-established platform with vast audiences and an accessible content creation tool. Whilst there are some concerns, with extended testing and improvements over time, YouTube seems to have blended both long and short-form content so that brands can utilise it effectively.
Furthermore, one figure claims that around 90% of consumers have discovered new brands via YouTube. With omnichannel marketing becoming more integrated into digital strategy, YouTube Shorts provides a great way to test your brand on an already well-established video content platform.
Written and researched by Paige Elford, Digital Marketing Graduate