One of the best parts of working at YouTube is being part of the creator economy and enabling next-generation media companies to make the innovative content people love. At the Made on YouTube event in September 2022, we announced that over the past three years, YouTube has paid $50 billion to fuel the global creator economy. It’s inspiring to see how these entrepreneurs are growing their audiences and businesses, while also experimenting with new tools and formats.
Take Cassey Ho, for example. You might know her better as Blogilates, the world’s most-watched Pilates instructor, who has made Pilates and wellness accessible to millions of people for more than a decade. During that time, she also became the CEO and lead designer of her own activewear company. And over the past year, she started using YouTube Shorts to give fans a behind-the-scenes look at her design process, and to share fitness tips, quick recipe ideas, and more. She does this all while continuing to post long-form workout videos daily.
Streaming across different screens, video lengths, and creators is at an all-time high.
Ho’s willingness to innovate and embrace new formats in creative ways makes her beloved by millions. By adapting her content to be multiformat, she’s also demonstrating a deep understanding of how viewers discover and watch videos today.
That’s because people now move seamlessly between screens, experiencing worlds of content made of what they love, fueled by creators who are experts in what’s relevant. In fact, streaming across different screens, video lengths, and creators is at an all-time high. Whether the content is long, short, mainstream, or personal, YouTube isn’t just the platform that matters to people, creators, and culture. It also matters to brands.
How can brands ensure that they are taking full advantage of a multiformat approach? Here are three key things to do.
Give Shorts a go
You’ve seen the dances. You’ve heard the viral audio samples. And you’ve probably been fooled by a “cake or fake?” clip at least once. If video is the breakout medium of the past few years, then mobile short-form vertical video is the breakout format. What’s one thing all those short videos have in common? Creators who are constantly shaping and reacting to trends. Viewers can’t get enough of them.
Since its launch in 2021, YouTube Shorts is now home to 1.5 billion monthly active users and earns more than 30 billion daily views.1 While it’s a mobile destination, Shorts also fuels discovery across formats and screens. Creators who upload both long-form video and Shorts on YouTube see longer overall watch time and subscriber growth. According to YouTube’s latest Culture & Trends Report, 59% of Gen Z — the world’s largest generation — agree that they use short-form video apps to discover things that they then watch longer versions of.2
Do as creators do: Use multiple formats
While viewers favour their mobile devices for short-form vertical video, they’re increasingly turning to another familiar place for long-form online video from their favourite creators. In fact, TV is YouTube’s fastest-growing screen today, with watch time continuing to level up. As of January 2022, on average, viewers are watching over 700 million hours of YouTube content on TV daily.3 The growing popularity of connected devices tells us that the old distinctions between network TV, digital, streaming, and mobile video are fading.
Some of the shortest videos on YouTube last only a second or two, whereas the longest video on YouTube right now would take you about eight days to watch. Seriously. So what’s the perfect length and type of content to keep viewers engaged?
59% of Gen Z use short-form video apps to discover things that they watch longer versions of.
We’ve spent years studying and refining best practices for effective storytelling via short-form and long-form content on YouTube, exploring what makes content “good,” and defining the ABCDs of effective YouTube creative. We also look to creators. Since the earliest days of video sharing on the internet, they’ve experimented and optimised the length of their videos to find the sweet spot of audience attention. Because of this, they’re a strong indicator of what works on YouTube.
Right now, creators of all popularity levels are using short-form video as the latest space to experiment with new approaches and engage viewers. South Korean girl band Blackpink, for example, created the #PinkVenomChallenge on Shorts to promote the release of their latest music video, “Pink Venom.” The group’s multiformat marketing approach helped them set a new YouTube record: Pink Venom garnered 90.4 million views in its first 24 hours, becoming the third-biggest 24-hour music video debut of all time.
Other creators like fitness instructor GrowWithJo and dermatologist Dr. Dray have discovered that Shorts help them expand their existing YouTube channel audience and balance out their long-form content. GrowWithJo shares quick workout tips and tutorials on Shorts, inspiring viewers to also check out her long-form exercise videos. Meanwhile, Dr. Dray complements her in-depth skin care content with Shorts that offer bite-sized advice, such as quick answers to questions like “What age to start retinoid?”
As brands experiment with short-form video, they should keep in mind the automated tools that make creation easy.
Another way creators experiment is by giving their Shorts a distinctive style that stands out from other video formats. They might use built-in effects and filters, try different editing styles, or add popular audio samples. On top of this, they tend to use short-form video to capture content that’s emotional in nature, whether delivering joy, high drama, or laughter.
All of this experimentation with short-form video makes creators an excellent resource for actionable Shorts-related tips. We often look to creators’ learnings and insights when developing tools, templates, and creative best practices for making vertical video ads on YouTube. Here are some of our favourite creator tips for building successful Shorts.
- Hook attention immediately. The Korean Vegan, a U.S.-based cooking creator with 889,000 subscribers, stresses the importance of immediately hooking your audience. “The first one to two seconds are the most important. They’re the equivalent of the thumbnail in long form. That hook better be visually, audibly, and intellectually irresistible.”
- Connect with Gen Z. The team from Shorts Break, a lighthearted comedy channel from India with 13 million followers, uses Shorts to reach younger audiences. “The short format [has] proved pivotal in receiving thunderous applause from our audience. Gone are the days when good content was only available through three-hour-long movies. While such concepts still prevail, Gen Z and millennials are more inclined to consume quirky, quick, quality content.”
- Embrace action. Chewkz, a comedy creator in the U.K. with 2.2 million subscribers, recommends getting right into the action. “I catch attention in the first second of Shorts by making really nice visuals that catch viewers’ eyes. And I also try to start in the middle of the action, so [the viewers] want to follow that all the way through.”
As brands take inspiration from creators and experiment with short-form vertical video, they should keep in mind other creative considerations and the availability of automated tools and templates that make video ad creation easy.
For results, think full funnel
To take advantage of this new evolution in content and user experience, marketers should think more expansively about their video campaigns and build for a range of ad lengths and screens. They can use this opportunity to break from the traditional one-size-fits-all approach to video ads by, instead, adapting creative assets to the look and vibe of the ad environment, whether it’s in-depth, long-form video or casual, short vertical videos.
Marketers should think more expansively about video and build for a range of ad lengths and screens.
This combination of video ad formats is a recipe for success on YouTube. After all, adding vertical video to the mix gives brands a new creative canvas to tell their story and expand their multiformat strategy on YouTube, which helps drive the results they care about. Plus, Shorts can help brands show up alongside culturally relevant, creator-driven content that viewers love.
Marketers should also use Shorts as a new way to achieve lower-funnel campaign goals. Because YouTube is a source of inspiration along the shopping journey, short-form video can easily help turn viewers into customers. And brands can now add vertical video assets to Video action, App, and Performance Max campaigns, which automatically scale to Shorts. Early testing shows that adding a vertical video asset to Video action campaigns delivers 10% to 20% more conversions per dollar on YouTube Shorts compared to landscape videos alone.4
Creators have been at the forefront of multiformat content experimentation, and have seen their YouTube presence and viewership grow exponentially as a result. As creators and viewers change their habits in how they develop and consume content, marketers can find similar success by studying how people move from screen to screen to watch different video formats, following creators’ tips on how to engage audiences with Shorts, and using multiformat content to drive results across the entire funnel.