There was a time when short videos were the norm on YouTube. Unless you were prowling around the platform back in the 2000s, you might not know that YouTube videos were once limited to 10 minutes. That’s because back then, most videos people would share on the internet were typically short. From “Double Rainbow” at three and a half minutes, to “Numa Numa” at just over a minute and a half.
Today, YouTube is a very different platform. Hour-long video essays and multiple-hour live streams are common (videos can be up to 12 hours long). The platform also has over 2.7 billion active users in 2023. And it has to compete with TikTok.
While TikTok might only have about half the amount of active users YouTube does, that number grew by about 10 times in five years. So it’s no surprise that YouTube released its own short-form content tools to stay competitive.
If you’re a content creator, you’re likely familiar with YouTube or have been thinking about creating your own channel. It’s a huge platform, and there isn’t really anything else like it. And now that YouTube Shorts isn’t just a new feature, but a really successful one, it’s time to consider adding it to your content strategy. Who knows, your next Short might just go viral!
Need some inspiration? Read on for a list of engaging YouTube Shorts ideas that’ll help you grab those eyeballs.
What are YouTube Shorts?
Shorts are YouTube’s answer to TikTok’s meteoric rise over the past few years. As TikTok became the most popular social media platform, beating out the old standbys, everyone else rushed to create their own “TikTok killer.” Meta released Reels for Facebook and Instagram, and YouTube launched Shorts.
A YouTube Short is a short video of 60 seconds or less. Much like on TikTok, you can add trending sounds, write captions, and make other edits to your Shorts right from your phone. No desktop apps or editing software required.
YouTube Shorts have their own dedicated feed on the platform, allowing you to scroll through them endlessly — just like TikTok. You’ll also find them on YouTube’s homepage and in search results.
Why you should make YouTube Shorts
How about the fact that YouTube Shorts rake in 50 billion daily views? And because people tend to swipe through many YouTube Shorts in a single sitting — instead of watching just a few longer videos — there’s a better chance viewers will come across your content if you make Shorts.
YouTube Shorts also work well as promotional material for longer YouTube videos. Many YouTubers use them to share the highlights of their videos, and encourage viewers to go watch the rest on their channel. And if you create Shorts that go viral, you could get an influx of subscribers too.
Now, let’s dive deeper into how you can do that.
27 YouTube Shorts ideas to help you go viral
No matter your content niche, there are many ways you can use YouTube Shorts to reach a wide audience.
Some of the ideas you’ll find below are better suited to some niches than others, while others are more universal. And if you’re selling digital products — or offering some kind of service — you’ll find ways to use Shorts to promote them, too.
1. Reuse existing content
If you’ve been creating YouTube videos for a while, you’ve likely got a decent backlog of content. And it’s probably fair to say that some of that content doesn’t perform as well. The good news? You can always give that content another shot by repurposing it into Shorts.
Pick a video and watch it a few times to get the essential points, then edit it into a Short. You can then add a link back to the original video for viewers who want to see the full video.
2. Share clips from your livestreams
This is already one of the most popular ways to use YouTube Shorts. No matter your niche, if you do live streams, you’ve got plenty of content to create Shorts from.
For example, many podcast creators would share interview clips with high-profile guests. Meanwhile, gaming streamers tend to share their live stream highlights via Shorts.
3. Create previews for gated, members-only videos
Film a short teaser that will tell your audience what your exclusive content is about, what they’ll get out of it, and how they can get access to it. Make it engaging, and it has a good chance of going viral!
4. Share behind-the-scenes clips
Whatever niche you’re in, you can give your audience — and people who are just scrolling through their Shorts feed — a behind-the-scenes look at your life as a creator.
Give them a peek at your content creation setup, a glimpse at your editing work, or any other part of your creative process you think will interest them.
5. Create unboxing videos
Unboxing videos are some of the most popular content on YouTube, and they’re perfectly suited to Shorts.
Start with a quick shot of the product you’ll be unboxing, then dive right in! With snappy editing, you can easily unbox any product in a minute or less.
6. Show off your products
Do you sell merch? Or maybe you have an online storefront full of digital products? You can create a quick promotional video for your store with YouTube Shorts, walking the audience through your best offerings and what makes them different from the competition.
One caveat: Make sure not to make your channel only full of this sort of promotional content. You need to engage people with content that’ll interest them, not just content that pitches to them.
7. Show yourself packing orders
Here’s another idea for creators who sell their own products: If you’re selling something physical, whether it’s merch, books, or makeup products, why not film yourself packing orders?
This idea works double-duty: you can show off your products all while assuring your audience that they’ll be shipped safely. Combine this with another idea on this list — like a Q&A or a before-and-after video — to make the content all the more engaging.
8. Show a before and after
This idea is applicable to just about any niche. All you need is a strong contrast between your before and after shots — whatever they are — and some snappy editing.
For instance, show a before and after of your latest makeup tutorial, your upgraded gaming setup, a home renovation, or whatever fits your channel.
9. Share a how-to video
If you’re a creator educator, then how-to videos are a natural fit for you. Brainstorm a few things you can teach your audience in about a minute, and you’ll have a batch of ideas for Shorts. Break things down into a few easy steps, record yourself going through them, and you’ll have a great Short in no time.
10. Create UGC (user-generated content)
Today, many brands pay UGC creators to create organic-looking content that promotes their products or services. UGC is different from pure sponsored posts, in that it’s not really supposed to come across as ads. If you run a business and you’re looking to reach a wide audience, getting some UGC created for your YouTube Shorts could be a great way to do so.
11. Introduce your team
Whether it’s your editor, your PR team, or your first and best supporter (hi mom!), introducing your team to your audience can be the basis of a fun, dynamic Short. Ask them a few questions about themselves — maybe even submitted by your audience — and make them the star of the show even if it’s just for a minute.
12. Hold micro Q&As
If you already have a decent-sized audience, you’re likely getting questions from your followers often. Don’t want to dedicate a whole video to answering them? Make a Short!
While you’ll probably only get to one or a few questions in each Short, some especially spicy questions have the potential of going viral all on their own!
13. Participate in a trend
While you’ll want to ensure most of your content appeals to your core audience, there’s nothing wrong with going after a trend every once in a while. YouTube Shorts can be made so quickly that you won’t lose much even if you’re not successful in going viral, and you can always try again on the next one.
14. Try creating a multi-part series
One thing that short-form specialists do to give their content every chance to succeed is to create them in series. That way, you can cover more complex topics in Shorts, even if you go over the one-minute limit. You also have a better chance of turning a casual viewer into a subscriber if you pull them in through multiple pieces of content.
15. Show off your best life hack
From how to get the last bit of ketchup out of the bottle to getting Sharpie off of your kitchen counter, TikTok is filled with life hack videos. So why not bring them to YouTube Shorts?
If you can find life hacks that fit squarely within your niche, you could potentially hit the viral payload when people start sharing them.
16. Share mini vlogs
While YouTubers tend to think of vlogs as hours-long odysseys, other creators have mastered the art of compressing a day in their life into quick snippets perfect for YouTube Shorts. So try it out yourself! Film a day in your life. Use some clever editing to carve out the most interesting bits, and stitch them together into a Short.
17. Show your humorous side
Ever wanted to try your hand at comedy? Some of the most popular Shorts are the ones that make people laugh, so you could absolutely go viral with the right punchline.
Try keeping your skit close to your niche, otherwise you might create such a disconnect for new viewers that they won’t subscribe to your channel.
18. Motivate your audience
Motivational content is huge on YouTube, and you can easily get a motivational message across in 60 seconds or less. For this to work, try and pull your inspiration from a true story. If you stick to the same kind of message everyone else is already saying, your Short probably won’t get much traction.
19. Capture your story in 60 seconds or less
Does your content or business have an interesting story? Filming a quick Short that introduces new subscribers to your channel is a great entry point for the rest of your content. And if the story is particularly inspiring, it could go viral, too!
20. Share clips of your travels (or your time off)
Unless you want to deal with creator burnout, you’d better be taking time off! While you shouldn’t be thinking about content while you’re traveling, you can capture a few snapshots or clips of the highlights and quickly upload them as Shorts to stay in the back of your audience’s mind.
21. Debunk common misconceptions
In some niches like science and law, there are many myths and misconceptions that make you want to pull your hair out. You can turn this into an opportunity by creating a content series that addresses these myths — confirming or busting them — and publishing them through Shorts.
22. Share facts and trends about your niche
One step removed from debunking myths is proactively sharing facts about your niche. One of the most valuable kinds of content on YouTube comes from experts explaining essential parts of their field to the layman. If you’re an expert in something, this is a great approach for going viral with Shorts.
23. Share customer reviews and testimonials
If you sell a product or service, reviews and testimonials are essential for creating new business and keeping the customers you already have. Capture these in a shareable way — like reading written reviews or sharing clips directly from customers — and upload them as Shorts.
24. Record a day in your life
Vlogs are one thing, but a-day-in-the-life videos are a genre of their own. Instead of vlogging around a specific theme or a special day, take your audience through a regular day in your life. It makes for great short-form content.
25. Give a tour of your office or creator setup
Depending on the kind of content you make, this could be as simple as getting a few shots of your desk and describing the equipment there, or as complex as going through a custom workshop or studio. You don’t have to go into the specs of everything you’re showing off, but mentioning the makers and models will be appreciated by your audience.
26. Share product and sales updates
If you’ve got a business that’s operating smoothly, your audience will probably benefit from regular updates about your new products and sales. Even if they might not be the most likely Shorts to go viral, updates about popular products can still find an audience and gain traction organically.
27. Share gift ideas
This one makes more sense around gift-giving seasons like the holidays, but you’re likely to attract viewers looking for birthday gifts too. Let’s say you are a beauty creator, you can be your community’s go-to resource for makeup and skincare gift ideas by sharing them via Shorts.
You’ll go viral Short-ly
YouTube Shorts are shaping up to be one of the best vehicles for channel growth, and the content you post to that feed has a great chance of getting you a ton of views. Remember to create content that properly bridges the gap between your core audience and potential new subscribers, continually experiment with new ideas, and repeat any experiments that work. Create consistently, and before long, you’ll rack up those views — and maybe even go viral!
Ready to earn big with YouTube? Check out The Leap’s free YouTube Shorts Monetization Guide and start raking it in.
What topics are best for YouTube Shorts?
The best topic for YouTube Shorts is whatever is most likely to resonate with your audience while capturing the attention of potential new subscribers. That’s because your Shorts need to work double-duty: they should entertain your core audience, while appealing to people who haven’t subscribed to you yet.
The exact topics that you choose for your Shorts should stick close to your niche while having wide appeal. Here are a few examples of topics for some of the most popular niches on YouTube:
- Beauty: Before-and-after of makeup tutorials.
- Finance: Debunking common finance myths.
- Tech: Unboxing the latest gadget.
- Fashion: Quick try-on hauls.
- Cooking: Tutorials for quick and simple recipes.
- Fitness: Filming your workouts and compressing them into an easy-to-follow plan.
What should I post on YouTube Shorts?
That all depends on your niche, the size of your channel, and the kind of audience you’re creating for. There’s not really a one-size-fits-all approach to creating YouTube Shorts, though there are a few things any creator can try.
Here are some best practices to guide you:
- Post content that can appeal to both your existing audience and new viewers. If you want to go viral, you need to target users who are endlessly scrolling through their Shorts feed, and capture their attention immediately. But you don’t want to fill up your audience’s feed with irrelevant content, either.
- Post content related to your niche. Even if it’s tempting to jump on every trend you can, you’re not going to build a steady following if your Shorts are completely unrelated to what you’re spending most of your time posting on your channel.
- Check the competition, but don’t copy them. Look at what creators in your niche are doing, find out what works, and think about how you can put your own spin on it.
How can I make my YouTube Shorts popular?
One important thing to remember is that while most creators think they need to check off a few boxes to appease the all-powerful algorithm, you really just have to create Shorts people want to watch. That means you should focus on creating content that your audience — and potential subscribers — will want to watch.
But if you want boxes to check off, we can give you those too.
While there’s not a lot of data from YouTube about what makes Shorts popular, others like YouTube growth expert Paddy Galloway have shared their own. Based on what we know, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Posting Shorts when your audience is more likely to be on YouTube will give them the best chance to perform well.
- YouTube Shorts between 50-60 seconds seem to get the most views.
- The first few seconds of your Shorts need to hook the viewer for the Short to perform well.
- Shorts that loop perfectly increase your overall watch time.
The best way to make your YouTube Shorts popular is to get really good at making them. That’s something that’ll come from creating them consistently.
Can you monetize YouTube Shorts?
Absolutely! While you can’t really slip in a mid-video ad, all the views you bring in through Shorts will help you qualify for the YouTube Partner Program. As long as you’re part of the YPP, you’ll get a share of the ad revenue your Shorts generate. That’s really the only way you can directly monetize Shorts.
That said, you can also treat them as a way to promote other aspects of your YouTube channel, like Youtube channel memberships and YouTube Live — each with different ways to monetize your content.
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