Earlier this month, I published my first YouTube Short.

I absolutely loved the process, which came as a surprise. You see, I’ve struggled with how to harness Shorts on my channel. I’m a long-form content creator by trade, and the idea of producing bite-sized videos has never really excited me. If anything, it has scared me a bit.

Despite this, I know how important they are. Research suggests that YouTube Shorts receive around 15 billion average views every single day. They are absolutely huge; I knew I’d need to get in on the act sooner rather than later.

This isn’t a guide on how to make YouTube Shorts, because I’m about as novice as it gets, but it is a behind-the-scenes glimpse into what short-form content means for long-form creators.

Here are five things I learned while creating and publishing my first ever YouTube Short.

1. They take longer than you think to make

I was a bit naive when I approached the production of my first YouTube Short. In fact, I’ll level with you – it was a last-minute decision.

The Playdate handheld console from Panic was my first-ever embargoed product and came with two embargo dates – the unboxing and the full review. The former, I decided, was perfect fodder for my Instagram audience.

And then it hit me. It was also the perfect excuse to create my first ever YouTube Short! So, I did – on the exact same day the idea popped into my head. Little did I know that it would take most of the day to create that video.

There were a few reasons for this:

  • I had to spend time refreshing my memory on how to actually publish YouTube Shorts;
  • the editing was far more intricate than in my usual videos;
  • I decided to time each cut to the beat of the music bed; and
  • the unboxing footage had been shot in a 16:9 aspect ratio.

The latter is where the majority of the time was spent because I hadn’t anticipated the effort required to convert the widescreen Instagram video edit into a vertical 9:16 video for YouTube Shorts. It involved re-cropping, reframing, and adjusting certain cuts to make the video fit perfectly within the Shorts form factor.

My Playdate unboxing Short didn’t take as long to produce as a regular YouTube video, but I have a newfound respect for consistent YouTube Shorts producers out there. It’s fun but hard work.

2. Letting go of your style is enjoyable

I’ve always said that if you want to be successful on YouTube, you need to be yourself. Imitating others, or attempting a presentation style you think your audience will love isn’t sustainable and won’t get you very far.

It’s why my videos are unlike anything I personally watch on YouTube. They’re not bombastic, there’s no fast editing, and I use limited sound design and on-screen graphics. They’re just… well, me.

However, I knew I’d need to switch things up for my first YouTube Short. My usual blend of gentle British waffle and reserved visual flourish wouldn’t cut it. Given the time constraints forced upon YouTube Shorts creators, I’d need to kick things up a gear.

This was, arguably, the most enjoyable part of the process. As much as I love creating my regular videos, it’s rather lovely – and, indeed, important – to step outside of one’s comfort zone occasionally and try something entirely different.

3. It CAN bring in new subs

My biggest concern about YouTube Shorts is the ability to develop a meaningful connection with your audience. Due to their brevity, I’ve never quite understood how a Shorts creator can build the community that inevitably comes with consistently creating regular YouTube videos.

Well, it appears I may need to reframe that thinking. To date, my Playdate unboxing YouTube Short has brought in 11 new subscribers to the channel. That might not sound particularly impressive, but when you consider that one of my recent longer-form videos with a similar view count has brought in just 15 new subscribers, it reveals the hidden community-building power within YouTube Shorts.

Clearly, they’re capable of bringing in new subscribers. My first YouTube Short has attracted the attention of 11 people who felt compelled to hit that Subscribe button, despite never seeing my face, hearing my voice, or being presented with anything close to my normal video narrative.

That’s actually pretty exciting.

4. Views build slowly

To date, my first YouTube Short has attracted just over 5,500 views, 60 hours of watch time, and has appeared nearly 80,000 times on users’ feeds.

The video has been live for about a month and a half now, and I’d refer to its growth as ‘slow and steady’. It’s encouraging, too, because it got off to a very slow start, and I’d originally conceded that it probably wouldn’t breach the 2,000 views barrier.

Not so. YouTube Shorts appear to have a pretty decent shelf life which isn’t that dissimilar to regular YouTube videos. Mine isn’t exactly what you’d call evergreen content, but it is product related, and interest in the video appears to be building in line with said product’s launch.

Dig further into the analytics, and things get even more interesting. Over 40% of the views originated from ‘browse features’ on YouTube, and nearly 40% came from YouTube search. Just nine percent were the result of the Shorts feed, which I found surprising; I was convinced that would be the main way people would discover my little video.

In fact, most of the stats for this video look and feel very similar to those of a regular, long-form video. Which, again, is very encouraging and rather comforting for someone who is far more at home creating the latter.

5. Thumbnails aren’t a thing!

Most successful YouTubers will tell you that the humble thumbnail is the most important element of any video. I agree. You could create the best possible video in your niche with the most ludicrously engaging story and perfect presentation, but if the thumbnail is crap, no one will watch it.

It took me a while to work out that YouTube Shorts places barely any importance on thumbnails. You can still create one, but most guides recommend that you simply choose the most interesting looking frame from the video itself, instead (this is an absolute no-go for regular YouTube videos!).

When you think about it, this makes total sense. The discovery method for YouTube Shorts (despite what my analytics say) is flick-watch-flick-skip-flick-watch. There’s no time for a thumbnail; viewers just want to see the video immediately and will make a judgement on whether or not to continue watching based on those first few frames.

This is both exciting and unnerving because even though you can kick thumbnail angst aside, it confirms how small the window of opportunity is for capturing the audience’s attention with a YouTube Short.

Wrapping up

I still have concerns over the ability to create a meaningful audience connection with this type of video content, and I wish YouTube would develop a better way to separate YouTube Shorts content from regular videos on channel pages. But this won’t be my last Short, because I loved every minute of it.

The biggest challenge for me is figuring out the direction I need to adopt for YouTube Shorts. Sure, I could continue with the unboxing thing, but that doesn’t sound particularly inventive, and my fear is that I’ll quickly get bored of that approach.

So, if you’ve got any suggestions for Mark Ellis Reviews YouTube Shorts, let me know in the comments. Go!

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