How to make YouTube Shorts that work

Smartphones emblazoned with the YouTube Shorts logo

Short-form content is everywhere right now — Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram Reels, even Facebook has gotten in on the action. So it’s not really a surprise that video behemoth YouTube has now adopted a short format of its own. YouTube Shorts are videos that are sixty seconds or less, and unlike long-form YouTube videos that are best produced with a camera and editing software, these shorties can be filmed, edited, and hosted on the YouTube platform all through your smartphone. 

For content creators, this might be overwhelming. Do you really need to contend with yet another type of content to grow your audience? We think so, and here’s why.

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Why you should make YouTube Shorts

YouTube Shorts are new and shiny, and as a result, they’re being heavily promoted on the platform. That means there’s a good chance your Shorts will get views. If you already make short-form content, then it should be easy to create a Short to boost your views and take advantage of this new tool. But if long-form is more your speed, Shorts can be used as bite-sized teasers to direct new viewers to your more in-depth videos. 

But YouTube Shorts won’t be the new kid on the block forever, so it’s a good idea to put some practices in place that ensure your video clips will be as engaging as possible after they become just one more piece of content on the platform.

Best practices

  • Grab their attention immediately. The instinct to scroll away is strong, so grab audiences in the first five seconds if possible. The best way to do that is to tell viewers what the Short is about. Use a headline or title in your video, or even just a quick on-screen or voice-over introduction. Unless you’re revealing a shot of you about to base-jump off a skyscraper, chances are your video may not keep folks from scrolling without an intro.
  • Keep things concise. While TikTok and Instagram Reels allow videos of around 3 minutes, YouTube Shorts caps theirs at 60 seconds flat, which gives you less runway for rambling and forces you to stick to the point. If you can keep your video shorter, even better. The app automatically records in 15 second blocks, so it’s easy to keep track as you film. 
  • Have a goal for your content. Are you hoping to boost subscribers on your YouTube channel? Lead viewers to a more in-depth video on the same topic? Encourage people to visit your website or buy your product? Keep your goal in mind so that your Shorts are consistent and lend some cohesion to your video content.
  • Create something that keeps them coming back. Maybe your channel is known for being funny, or you give killer style advice.Think about what kind of content would resonate with your target audience and what would make them want to come back for more. If you can create something that viewers enjoy watching, they'll be more likely to stick around for future videos. 
  • Make it loopable. YouTube shorts loop automatically, so creating a video that loops cleanly can keep people watching for longer than 60 seconds. Plus, looping your content shows that extra bit of attention and care that elevates an unpolished video to a professional one. We recommend using an outside editor, like Descript, to line your frames up exactly for a clean loop. 
  • Aim for exclusive content (not recycled versions of long videos). In vertical videos, authenticity sells. Instead of chopping up existing content (with picture quality that may end up looking like an ad), film original content on your smartphone instead, and don’t worry about it not looking like your high-def long-form masterpieces. 

Ways to use YouTube Shorts

The beauty of this short-form video platform is that your concepts don’t need to be too deep or complicated. Something as simple as a behind-the-scenes look at your video setup or a day in your life can go a long way, especially if you have an existing channel with polished content. You can use Shorts to tease upcoming uploads, or give a heads up when people can expect the next video. 

Another easy approach is to engage in trends and memes, like an AMA (Ask Me Anything) tag or a viral dance. You can even ask questions of your audience and have them respond via their own Shorts. Calls to action, advocacy of a certain cause, and promotion of material or products is a no-brainer here, too. 

Last but not least, a simple way to maximize your Shorts potential is to repost short-form content you may already be making for TikTok or Reels and move it onto this platform. Videos that may have gotten modest views on TikTok can be seen blowing up on Shorts, and it makes sense to broadcast your vertical videos on as many relevant platforms as possible.

How to make YouTube Shorts

To make a YouTube Shorts video, be sure to download the YouTube app on your phone, which is available in both Android and iOS. On the YouTube homepage in the app, tap create (the “+”) button at the bottom of your screen to take you to the creator portal.

Once in the portal, you’re given a ton of options, like effects, music, speed, green screen and filters. The built-in video recorder breaks your video into 15-second chunks, but you can change the video length option by simply holding the record button. And if you want to erase the last section you recorded, but not the whole thing, you can always hit the “undo” button to remove the last 15-second section. 

Once you’re happy with your recording, tap next (a small check mark at the bottom right) which will take you to the editor page. Here you can adjust your recording length, add text, voiceover, or tweak the volume of your sound or music. Once you’re satisfied, hit next again. That will take you to the final page where you can add captions, choose your thumbnail, and select your audience before you tap upload. Be sure to use the tag #Shorts when you upload to make sure YouTube prioritizes your video in the Shorts category. 

And remember, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by editing on your smartphone, you can always edit in the Descript app on desktop — it’s an easy way to create polished short-form content, and it can automatically export in the correct format for YouTube Shorts.

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