Little Dot Studios: 10 ways to make the most of YouTube Shorts

by | Jul 13, 2023 | Feature

Earlier this year, Google-owned YouTube announced that its short-form platform YouTube Shorts had hit 50 billion daily views. There’s been no update since – but there’s no question that Shorts has become the most potent rival to TikTok in the digital-first short-form sector – ahead of both Meta’s Reels and Snapchat.

The growth in YouTube Shorts took on added significance in February 2023 when Google announced it was switching on Shorts monetisation for creators. While the amount of money on offer isn’t yet huge, this represents a new opportunity for digital-first creators seeking to build a sustainable business through their content.

Against this backdrop, leading digital-first company Little Dot Studios (LDS) recently published a comprehensive guide into how to derive value from YouTube Shorts. In 2022, LDS delivered over 24 billion views for its clients and partners across short-form, vertical video platforms – so it is perfectly placed to understand this rapidly growing ecosystem. The full LDS guide is available on the company’s website, but here are ten useful takeaways for brands and creators targeting Shorts.

What are Shorts? YouTube Shorts are vertical, short-form videos up to 60 seconds in length, says LDS. Launched in 2020, they were developed as a response to the growing popularity of TikTok and Instagram Reels. LDS notes that “there is no minimum time requirement for the video format. Creators can make their Shorts as brief as they like, depending on the content and the desired impact. The key is to create engaging and easily consumable content within the allowed duration.”

Why do they matter? According to LDS, “attention spans are growing ever shorter and social media is packed with content for audiences to discover and engage with. Exploiting all available channels and content options is necessary to get the most engagement possible for their content. YouTube Shorts has gained traction and presents a massive opportunity to connect with audiences in a fresh, innovative way.”

Are they the same as TikTok? There are similarities, says LDS. But there are also key differences. “YouTube Shorts is a feature within the YouTube platform, while TikTok is a standalone app specifically designed for creating and sharing short videos. Both offer creative tools like filters, music, text overlays, and speed controls. But the user experience and specific features vary. The algorithms of the two platforms likely work in a similar way, but with differences that can impact best practices for videos.”

Target audiences: According to LDS, Shorts can help brands and creators reach both new audiences and engage more deeply with existing subscribers. On the first point, Shorts enable creators and brands to tap into new audiences who prefer consuming short-form content. As for the latter, “creators and brands can use Shorts to engage with their current subscribers in a different format, sharing quick updates, behind-the-scenes footage, or bite-sized content that complements longer videos”.

Additional advantages: LDS notes that Shorts is: “a low-pressure environment for creators to experiment with new ideas, styles, or formats without investing significant time and resources into producing longer videos”. Shorts are easily consumable and can be leveraged “to cross-promote other content or platforms, driving traffic and engagement across their entire online presence.” Also of note, says LDS, “YouTube promotes Shorts in various locations, such as the Shorts shelf on the homepage and within search results, which can increase the chances of discoverability for creators.”

The impact of algorithms: Like most tech platforms, explains LDS, the way the YouTube algorithm works has not been made public. “But the recommendation system on the platform provides some clues. Generally, YouTube takes a few different factors into consideration, including user watch history and ongoing engagement levels with a specific piece of content. Metrics such as likes, comments, shares, and watch time can impact the visibility of a Short. Videos with higher engagement might be more likely to appear in users’ Shorts feeds. The algorithm may also consider a user’s viewing history, preferences, and interactions with similar content. Shorts that align with a viewer’s interests and previous engagement may be more likely to show up.”

Production best practice: LDS has produced a huge array of content for YouTube. Its key advice in terms of production is as follows: keep it short and engaging, only use the vertical format, create high-quality content, be creative and utilise In-App features. The studio also stresses the importance of “creating descriptive titles that accurately represent your content and are likely to capture viewers’ attention”.

Ways to make content stand out: The LDS guide offers insights for both brands and creators. For brands seeking to engage, the studio warns that “producing top-notch content is only half the battle”. Ways for brands to make content work harder include: “showcasing products or services, sharing behind-the-scenes (BTS) content, driving traffic (audience) to other content, collaborating with influencers and capitalising on trends and challenges”. LDS says fast turnaround content production and using Shorts as paid media are also ways for brands to expand reach and engagement.

Prioritise engagement: It’s vital to remember social is an immersive, interactive, real-time medium – so it needs to be treated as such, says LDS: “Encourage viewers to like, share, comment, and subscribe to your channel. Clear ‘calls to action’ can help boost engagement and audience growth. Respond to comments, answer questions, and interact with viewers to build a strong community around your content.”

Track the data: LDS also tells brands and creators to “keep an eye on your YouTube Analytics to understand your audience’s preferences, watch time, engagement, and other metrics. Use these insights to improve the effectiveness of your Shorts.”

Little Dot Studios’ comprehensive guide to YouTube Shorts can be found here

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