How YouTube Shorts passed 1.5 billion monthly users, according to star influencers

TikTok has led the charge when it comes to short-form video, but YouTube is gaining ground, according to its parent company Alphabet (GOOG, GOOGL).

YouTube Shorts recently hit 1.5 billion logged-in monthly users, according to the company, a milestone for the video platform's short-form feature that launched in the U.S. in 2021 to compete with TikTok.

Caleb Marshall, who runs the dance fitness YouTube channel, The Fitness Marshall, told Yahoo Finance that YouTube has put its own spin on Shorts and provides key value-adds — specifically that the videos can be used as a marketing tool, a way for users to get to know you, and a way to build community quickly.

“I think the most surprising thing has been that somehow because of the way YouTube works, short-form can still be community-driven," Marshall said. "You can still build a fan base that’s loyal and knows you.”

Marshall, whose channel has about 4 million subscribers, explained that short-form videos on social media appeal to followers because they can see moments in an influencer's life that would otherwise get buried.

For instance, in one live stream, Marshall lost his engagement ring as he was leading a fun, energetic routine to Cardi B's "WAP." As he pointed to his ringless finger, a look of anxiety mixed with mirth crossed his face.

Caleb Marshall mid-livestream, provided by The Fitness Marshall.
Caleb Marshall mid-livestream, provided by The Fitness Marshall.

It was an instance that might have gotten lost in the longer workout video, but Marshall used YouTube Shorts to pull the moment, and it went viral. For Marshall, it was a moment of authenticity, fear, and humor that he was able to share with his current fans while perhaps finding new ones. (Marshall eventually found the ring.)

“I feel like what Shorts and even YouTube generally has brought me is that I feel I have permission to show my joy or just get excited about things," he said. "I’ve learned to be really unapologetic about that. People are craving those moments of silliness and joy in that short-form concept. … We’re all searching like ‘tell me there’s something good in the world, tell me there’s something to smile about,’ and that’s so easily accessible on Shorts.”

'Funny, relatable snippets'

Marshall and two of the platform's other top influencers — Jaserah (who prefers to go by just her first name) of "SimplyJaserah" and Cassey Ho of 'Blogilates' — say that Shorts has undoubtedly helped them grow their businesses. It has also allowed them to show their audiences new sides of themselves.

For example, Jaserah has a massive audience on Instagram, where she runs a modest fashion lifestyle brand. Her engagement with her audience on YouTube has always been distinctly personal, she said. For a while, her channel primarily focused on the difficult divorce she went through in 2016.

However, as she started doing Shorts, she noticed her channel growing.

“On YouTube, I transitioned to more funny, relatable snippets," she said. "It’s more like ‘struggles of a hijabi’ or ‘being a brown child in America’ — and I do sprinkle in a ton of modest fashion, like hijab tutorials and hacks. It’s about being light-hearted and entertaining.”

That shift was a chance for Jaserah to start a new chapter in both her career as an influencer and her life.

“I thought, you know, I’m going to turn the page and try something more light-hearted, and that’s when Shorts started playing a huge role on my channel," she explained.

Jaserah, provided by Simply Jaserah.
Jaserah, provided by Simply Jaserah.

Meanwhile, Shorts has allowed Ho of Blogilates to showcase her growth as a multi-hyphenate. With more than 6 million YouTube followers, she's become a fitness guru as well as a full-fledged entrepreneur and product designer.

Her channel started when she moved from Los Angeles to Boston for her first job after college. Her Pop Pilates students were worried about losing the only one they knew at the time who was teaching pilates to pop music, so she took to YouTube.

At the time, “people were teaching Pilates slow and classical, and it wasn’t fun," she said. "So, I thought, okay, I’ll upload it, record a ten-minute workout, and put it up for them. It was literally for 40 people, and that was the beginning of Blogilates.”

Now more than a decade later, Shorts has given Ho an opportunity to share a different part of herself with her audience. She shares the product design process for her brand Popflex in her Shorts, which has revealed a whole world of new possibilities.

“Things are constantly being developed, and I want to get closer to my audience so they can see that process,” she said. “I don’t want to overdo it, of course, so I’m always thinking about how to evolve this content so it stays fresh.”

Cassey Ho, provided by Blogilates.
Cassey Ho, provided by Blogilates.

Popflex has grown beyond Ho's YouTube audience and is now available at Target.

For influencers, these short-form videos serve all kinds of business purposes. But in the end, they agreed that they're at their best when they're, above all else, fun.

“That's the beautiful thing about Shorts,” Marshall said. “I’m not really selling something to them. I'm just showing them what they're missing.”

Correction: A previously published version of this article stated that YouTube Shorts had passed 2 billion logged-in monthly users. In fact, it's 1.5 billion.

Allie Garfinkle is a senior tech reporter at Yahoo Finance. Find her on twitter @agarfinks.

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