Looking to get into YouTube Shorts and build a Shorts presence for yourself or your brand?
You should probably consider it. Shorts is the fastest-growing content type on YouTube, and is now driving over 50 billion daily views in the app. Built in the mold of TikTok, Shorts leans into the growing trend towards more succinct, attention-grabbing clips, and it could be a valuable pathway towards increased brand awareness and perception.
If you can create good Shorts content.
This will help. Today, YouTube has published a new interview with Shorts Product Lead Todd Sherman, in which Sherman answers some of the most common questions about Shorts, including how they’re using hashtags, how often you should post, the Shorts algorithm, and what’s coming next.
There are some interesting notes. Below are some of the key highlights.
On the Shorts algorithm
YouTube advises that creators should “think audience, not algorithm” within their creative process.
Sherman says that the Shorts algorithm is different to the regular YouTube feed, because it’s an entirely different format, with different consumption behaviors.
“For example, on long form, a lot of the times people are choosing which video by tapping on it on their phone, or clicking on it on the web, and that choice is something that drives a lot of engagement. On short form, people are swiping through a feed, and discovering things as they go. That's one important difference.”
The variance means that YouTube can’t use the same explicit usage indicators as it does in the main feed, so the algorithm is focused more on engagement elements, while the Shorts feed is also broader reaching, meaning that YouTube has to match more content to Shorts viewers.
In essence, this means that YouTube is getting smarter about showing users what they like, based on what they watch, factoring in watch time and re-watches, along with likes, shares, and comments. A big part of that comes down to entity recognition, and YouTube is still building its algorithm to highlight more content based on these measures.
How Shorts views are counted
Sherman says that Shorts views are not measured when a Short appears on screen, but are more aligned with actual viewer interest.
“What we try and do with a view is have it encode for your intent of watching that thing, so that creators feel like that view has some meaningful threshold that the person decided to watch. It doesn't mean it's their favorite video ever, it just means that they are deliberately watching it.”
Sherman says that YouTube doesn’t publish its actual calculations on this, in order to stop people trying to game the system.
Extending Shorts length
Sherman says that this is not something that they’re considering, as YouTube already has other long-form options. As such, Shorts will remain 60 seconds max for the time being.
Sherman says that the Shorts team has opted not to add specific thumbnail creation tools for Shorts because most Shorts views come from people swiping through the Shorts feed, which means that most people won’t see your thumbnails anyway.
YouTube has added the capacity to select a frame from your clip as the thumbnail, but there are no plans to add custom thumbnail options.
Sherman says that hashtags are not required on Shorts, but they can be helpful in certain application.
“Sometimes a hashtag can be associated with a real world thing that's happened, like an event, and you wanna’ associate it with it. Other times they're focused on topics, and I think in both those cases, creators should consider using them.”
So not exactly concrete advice on whether hashtags offer any value, but they may be worth experimenting with, in terms of trending discussions and/or niche topics.
Sherman says that there’s nothing in the algorithm that dictates expanded or reduced reach if you post more Shorts, but he advises that there can be negative impacts for posting lots of lower quality clips.
“If you generated a bunch of relatively lower quality videos and then posted those, and got meager engagement on them, that energy is probably better spent in just making a better video and fewer of them.”
So quality over quantity is, in general, the better approach.
Deleting and re-uploading to maximize reach
Sherman also addresses the suggestion that deleting and re-uploading a Short can help to boost its reach.
Some creators claim that re-uploading can effectively re-trigger the algorithm to expand your distribution, but Sherman says that this is not a great strategy.
“I would not advise that. I've heard people talk about this as like a growth hack on Twitter or something [but] I think that there’s also a risk that it gets seen as spam in our systems.”
The future of Shorts
Looking ahead, Sherman says that Shorts will integrate AI elements, though he’s fairly vague on what exactly that means.
You would assume that this would incorporate AI creation tools of some kind, generative elements that can assist in your process, but we’ll have to wait and see what YouTube has in store on this front.
It’s an interesting overview of the current stats of Shorts, and how to best approach Shorts engagement, which could help guide you in your efforts to make the most of the option.
You can view the full interview clip above.