YouTube Shorts: What We Know About How They Work

Are YouTube Shorts the golden ticket to creator success? How do you even make one? Those are valid questions, so here’s everything you need to know about the new feature!

How do you get discovered on YouTube, especially as a new creator? In the past, we at vidIQ answered that question by saying, “Focus on your audience.” Whether it was posting evergreen how-to videos or addressing in-demand topics, we knew YouTube success came from answering viewers' search queries.

However, content aside, there are two best practices that creators have always been true about dominating YouTube. If a creator wanted to give the best viewing experience or profit from mid-roll advertisements, their videos had to be:

  1. At least a few minutes long
  2. Uploaded in landscape

Now those requirements are changing.

Months ago, YouTube introduced a new section in its app called 'Stories and Short Videos.' This shelf sits below any video you’re currently watching and only shows vertical videos of less than 60 seconds.

We weren’t sure how that would affect YouTube, a platform that champions lengthy, landscape videos, so we ‘tested’ the shelf and shared our findings in a blog titled, “Can You Get 1 Million YouTube Views By Making Short Videos?” Our answer to that question was ‘maybe’ because to our dismay, the Stories and Short Videos shelf houses unpredictable content. Creators got thousands of views if their short video landed on the shelf, but there was no way to ‘make’ a video appear there using keywords, titles, or any kind of strategy.

Nonetheless, YouTube’s relationship with short video content is getting clearer. On September 14, the platform announced a new feature called YouTube Shorts, which lets creators upload videos of 15 seconds or less by segmenting clips, adding music, and incorporating special effects. Of course, you’ve heard of that before - it’s basically TikTok and Instagram Reels, except this time, it’s coming from the pioneer of online video.

To learn more about YouTube Shorts, watch our video explaining the feature and how it works.

Now that you have some background details, it’s time to take a closer look at YouTube’s newest, boldest feature. Here’s everything we know about YouTube Shorts and why you should test them on your channel.

How YouTube Shorts Work

Right now, YouTube Shorts is in beta mode. That means only select users, which for now happens to be YouTube’s Indian audience, can fully access the feature.

The rest of the world isn’t restricted from posting YouTube Shorts, though. The platform is letting all creators participate by adding the hashtag #Shorts to vertical videos of less than 60 seconds. Additionally, YouTube is testing a section on its homepage to highlight videos created from the shorts camera, plus any vertical video up to 60 seconds uploaded to the platform.

By the way, those are important requirements to remember when making YouTube Shorts. Your video has to be vertical, less than 60 seconds, and include the hashtag #Shorts in the title/description.

We recently posted a #Shorts video on YouTube, and it’s a great template to use when you test the feature for the first time. Check it out below! You’ll discover how popular YouTuber MrBeast is using YouTube Shorts, plus tips for creating your own:

Essentially, YouTube Shorts is a new version of YouTube Stories. And on the homepage of the mobile app, YouTube already has a dedicated shelf for these stories. The only problem? It's restricted to creators with more than 10,000 subscribers. So hopefully, YouTube Shorts will give every creator a chance to excel at short-video making - if that’s where the platform is heading.

Is YouTube Shorts Working For Creators?

YouTube Shorts is a bold new feature, and we’re excited to see how it affects creators. Can they get more views in less time? Does it expose them to new audiences? These are the questions we want to answer, so let's investigate!

The same day YouTube Shorts was announced, we used the hashtag #Shorts to search YouTube for videos of less than 60 seconds. We wanted to see how many views these videos were getting and how many subscribers the channels posting them had. To do that, we typed ‘#Shorts’ in the search bar and filtered the results to show videos posted in the past 24 hours. Here’s what we found:

In the screenshot above, you’ll see a few channels testing the Shorts feature. Ninja Monkey, a channel with 2k subscribers, used the hashtag #Shorts in both the title and description of its video. But unfortunately, the video only had 15 views, which isn’t great for a channel of that size.

Scrolling down, we spotted another channel with 5k subscribers testing Shorts. Their video had two views within 13 hours of uploading - even grimmer than Ninja Monkey’s results.

We kept scrolling and found more channels posting Shorts and getting almost no views. The only channel we could find that had any success was Nurture Knowledge. This 112-subscriber channel got almost 400 views within 17 hours of uploading a Short. You can see this in the screenshot below:

That’s better than what we’ve seen, but not exactly mind-blowing.

This is all based on one day of data, which was the same day YouTube announced the Shorts feature. So of course, we know there’s more testing to do.

We Need More Research Around YouTube Shorts

I think it's clear now that YouTube wants to take a huge slice out of TikTok's pie when it comes to the short, vertical video market. But there’s just one problem. YouTube already established itself as a different video distribution platform. And the way they're implementing these new tools is confusing for creators.

What creators want to know is how to maximize these new tools as quickly as possible. Because in six to 12 months, everybody on YouTube will probably be making Shorts. By then, the window of opportunity to research, understand, and create quality Shorts that compete at a high level may have passed.

Adding to that concern, there are still many unknowns about YouTube Shorts, especially:

  1. How to get your content seen on the shelves consistently
  2. How to monetize videos under 8 minutes
  3. Should you create a Shorts channel to protect your main channel’s Watch Time?
  4. Or should you post Shorts to your main channel and hope everything works out?

We don’t have the answers to these questions, so we’ll keep testing the feature. If we crack the case in the future, you’ll be the first to know!

Want To Learn More YouTube Tips and Tricks?

If you want to take your YouTube channel to the next level and get more views on YouTube then make sure to download vidIQ for more subscriber insights. Join over 1 million other users and use vidIQ to help you research YouTube, analyze videos, audit your own channel, and take actionable steps click here to install now!

And if you’re really serious about growing your YouTube views and subscribers, sign up for exclusive access to the vidIQ Academy and learn how to launch a successful YouTube Channel in just 30 days.