If you are my age-ish and you are feeling the YouTube peer pressure to make YouTube shorts in order to gain subscribers and remain relevant, you deserve to hear the truth.
You need to see the real statistics of how YouTube shorts ruined my channel and decide if you want to avoid this pitfall or if you’re going to cave in to the YouTube peer pressure just like I did.
Do I need to be making shorts? Why? What are the results? How much time does it take? Is it easier? Is it faster? Will I be able to push out more content at an easier rate? Does it take less time to edit? Is it going to be more effective at growing my brand? And I couldn’t answer that question because I wasn’t making them myself.
YouTube has been highly encouraging creators to make shorts ever since the feature rolled out a few years ago. In February, they even enabled revenue sharing with tons of creators insisting that short form vertical videos are the way of the future. It’s easy to get seduced by the idea of making YouTube shorts when the videos that show up on your homepage are getting hundreds of thousands or even
millions of views.
These videos are much easier to produce and require less editing since they’re so short. The trending audio can’t be that hard to find and even I can handle pointing to the beat of the music. These videos are so simple. If the young kids can make YouTube shorts, surely I can do it. But is that really true? Oh it’s hard to believe I was ever that naïve!
Then in the summer of 2023, with all of the encouragement from all the creators out there, I decided to get serious about it and I declared it to be the summer of shorts! I spent months learning as much as I possibly could about making shorts so that I could increase my brand awareness and reach a new audience. I reached a new audience alright! That summer, I published 85 videos, where 83 of them were shorts and two were long form. I got 139,000 views and gained almost 700 subscribers.
Sounds like a huge success for a small channel right? Wrong! Let’s just say it was a huge waste of time.
In fact, I really wish that future me could go back in time and talk to the old me that said, “Hey, I have an idea” and say “No, don’t do it!”
Before I can show you my disastrous results, first I have to let you know that I really knew my audience very well. I had done extensive research not only surveying my viewers but also looking at the people who bought my program as well as the people who chose not to buy my program. And this was key to helping my small channel grow. I needed to know who I was helping and who was watching so that I would be able to determine what their problems were, what their questions were, and help them be able to solve those problems.
Do you study your viewer demographics? How well do you know your audience? If you struggle with this, I have an ideal customer Avatar worksheet to help you get started right away because it’s super important. My audience was mainly small business owners mostly women over the age of 40 who had been in business for an average of 8 years. My audience wanted to use video marketing as a strategy to attract new clients but they didn’t want to spend all day on social media making stupid videos where they were dancing and they were like pointing at the text that pops up on screen. They certainly didn’t want to be doing that multiple times a day.
But YouTube was heavily promoting shorts. They were showing up on the shorts shelf. They were showing up on the homepage. They were showing up in my feed all the time. They enabled monetization so that creators could make money from their shorts. They changed the requirements for getting into the YouTube Partner program and shorts were being pushed out into the news feed at a far faster rate than additional long form videos. You could publish a 10-minute long video and maybe get a couple hundred views in the first two days, whatever your typical was.
But you would make a short and put it out there and it could get a thousand views in the same period of time. It seemed like YouTube really wanted creators to be making shorts. And if we resisted, were we going to be penalized at the time. I didn’t really enjoy consuming short form content, so I certainly didn’t want to be forced into creating it myself.
However, my subscribers and my paying coaching students were desperate for answers. They all wanted to know. Do I need to be making shorts? Why? What are the results? How much time does it take? Is it easier? Is it faster? Will I be able to push out more content at an easier rate? Does it take less time to edit? Is it going to be more effective at growing my brand?
So I decided to use my own channel as a test subject. I dipped my toes into the world of shorts by repurposing my long form videos into vertical short form content. I would find sections of videos that were already published on my channel where I said something incredibly insightful or funny or a really valuable nugget and I would reformat the video into a vertical orientation. We’d slap some captions on it. We’d maybe add a little bit of background music, and boom, we had new content.
But this was not a great strategy because I filmed those videos horizontally. So in order to make them a vertical video, you have to zoom in in order to get that vertical orientation and it was just an extreme closeup all the time, which really was not very flattering. Half the time, the b-roll got blown up and now we were looking at someone’s ear and the text that was baked into the video was running off of the side.
It took a lot of extra editing in order to make it not look terrible. But I knew my students needed more. I was going to have to actually try and create short form content from scratch for the purpose of making it a YouTube short. My students needed to know if this trend was worth their time. Enter my brilliant idea: the summer of shorts!
I roped my assistant Katie into helping me because she’s much younger than I am and she probably watched that kind of stuff and knew what was popular and trending music and all of the stuff that I had zero clue about. So the plan was, we would record a vertical video and we would be able to post it on multiple platforms. We could upload it to YouTube as a short. We could upload it to Instagram as a reel. We could upload it to TikTok – not all on the same day though.
This way, one piece of content would get staggered out over multiple platforms. Genius, right? How hard could that be? Every time I think that phrase to myself “how hard could it be?”, I picture that meme of, some guy in the South going, “Here, hold my beer!”
First, we created a place where we could list out all of our ideas for video topics. We used a Trello board. Katie researched what was working well on YouTube but also on the other platforms. I also added ideas to the list and she added ideas to the list and told me what she wanted me to record. Then I batch filmed videos twice a week. I tried all different formats. Some I filmed in the kitchen, some were outside, some I filmed in my office, some were face to camera, some were b-roll with music, some were voiceover, some had trending audio, some had trending music.
Different types of text formats color schemes, keep the watermark, delete the watermark, use a hashtag in the title or not, which time of day was best, how many times each day to upload – we tried all the things and we watched the results. In fact, we poured over the analytics the first 30 days. The views were way up! It was really exciting to log into the dashboard and see comments like “These videos were getting a lot more views!” right out of the gate.
They were getting a lot more impressions than my long form videos. But the swiped away rate was not very good.
YouTube was showing my shorts but people were only clicking on them half the time at best. And I really feel that the level of engagement from people that are watching YouTube shorts is just not the same as people that are prepared to watch a 10 or 20-minute long video. People who watch shorts are expecting to be entertained and they want that quick dopamine hit.
Let me ask you. When you are watching YouTube shorts, are you looking for information or are you just mindlessly scrolling? Do you click on a short with the intention of learning anything or are you just trying to kill time? Why do you watch YouTube shorts?
I find myself watching them now first thing in the morning when I’m half-awake drinking a cup of coffee. I’m not really doing anything yet. I’m just waking up and I am truly mindlessly scrolling. I’m clicking on whatever is being suggested to me in my home feed based on stuff that I’ve watched before and usually they’re all extremely entertaining or really cool recipes because I can’t cook to save my life and I have to look for a recipe for pretty much everything I make.
As an informational channel, I had a really hard time coming up with ideas for videos that I could deliver in 60 seconds or less. I would come up with a concept that I wanted to discuss and there was simply no way I could cram it into 20 or 30 seconds. I would record the video. It came in at 2 minutes long. I would try to speed it up without making myself sound like one of the chip ads.
And it would still be too long and then I’d have to figure out which parts to cut in order to make the video come in at less than 60 seconds long. This took so much energy with editing way more than I ever anticipated. I swear it took longer to chop it down to the appropriate length than it did to usually edit a full-length horizontal video based on our analytics.
The second month, we decided to work more on titles and the hashtag strategy. We were trying to see a theme between the length of the video. Which ones were performing best? Should they be on the shorter side? Should they be on the longer side? Did we need to use trending music in the background?
I started getting more creative and I would make skits where I played multiple characters. Hopefully you can tell that I have a sense of humor and I don’t take myself too seriously. I am totally okay with laughing at my myself and I really enjoyed making videos where not only could I get my point across but they were actually fun and people would enjoy watching them. So imagine how annoying it was when the video would get a ton of views in the first 24 hours and then it would just come to a dead stop – time after time after time.
Now this wasn’t the thing that ruined my channel. It just really ticked me off. I don’t know what to call this. When this happens, it’s like the opposite of the hockey stick of death. Remember back in third grade when we were learning a long division and you would draw that long division thing and this was about the time when it started to get really exhausting. I was spending way more time to plan, film, execute, and edit these short little videos than you possibly think. I figured a 50-second video would be super easy to pop out multiple times a day, and that was not the case.
Because the videos were so short, we committed to doing a minimum of one upload a day during the week. But usually, it was more like two or three. These videos were way more complicated to plan than any long form video. Then one day, I was shocked when I looked at my AdSense revenue and I saw how much money I had made from all of these shorts!
In fact, I made a short about how much money I earned from making shorts, or rather, how much I didn’t make because, spoiler alert, it was a $1.85 from all of those videos that I had made six more months’ worth of shorts. Maybe this time I could get a Venti Frappuccino.
Are you kidding me? I embarrassed myself. I danced. I pointed. I did all of the things that I hate to do because I wanted to try it and see if it would actually work. I spent hours looking for stupid trending audio.
The thing that ruined my channel was that it completely changed my audience.
I started getting comments like “Has anyone ever told you you are a Gilf?” At first it was kind of funny although really embarrassing, although it was a bit of an ego boost. But then it started happening more frequently because remember, my audience was business owners mainly women over the age of 40 and my new audience was guys aged 18 to 24! The years that I spent building this audience and creating content that would appeal specifically to them was destroyed in 90 days!
The good news is that after I saw the results, I was able to pivot and change my strategy. And now I have rebuilt my audience right back to where I wanted it to be. You can absolutely start a YouTube channel in your 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond. I was 46 when I started my channel and it was truly the best thing I ever did. If you want to learn the right way to start a YouTube channel, watch this video.
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