How to Use Short-Form Videos for Social Media Success

Learn how to create and share effective short-form videos.

Eva Fellner
By Eva Fellner

Short-form videos have taken over the internet. From TikTok to Instagram Reels, social apps utilize short-form videos to entertain and delight audiences everywhere – and it’s not slowing down anytime soon. Predicted to see the most growth in 2023, more people than ever before will be watching and creating content on these channels. Professionals have begun to sense the shift and, in return, have amped up their short-form video approach, with approximately 90% of marketers already using short-form video, maintaining or increasing their budget in response.

Should you use short-form video in your strategy? Aside from the fact that it’s one of the most (if not the most) popular forms of media right now, short-form video also has a high potential for viral content and the highest ROI of any other media format. So, if you’re ready to engage broader audiences, generate leads, and drive conversions — read on!

Know Your Audience, Know Your Platform

The first step in any successful short-form video strategy: know the capabilities and usages between video-sharing platforms and adjust your plan accordingly. You wouldn’t push out the same content you post on LinkedIn to Twitter, would you? Create stellar content on each short-form video-sharing platform by immersing yourself in the content and knowing the current trends. Produce quality videos that speak to each platform.

Next, identify the audiences you hope to reach on social – whether it be TikTok, Reels or YouTube Shorts – and then ask yourself: What kind of content do they want to see on this specific platform? While optimizing your short-form videos for each platform is the first step in creating quality content, the next step is honing in on your target audience. Understand why they use the platform and what content they hope to see there.

While short-form videos may have several cross-platform similarities, considering the nuances of each and further identifying trends specific to your target audience will help you create engaging content, gain followers and establish a solid social presence.

31% of marketers use YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels
Credit: 2023 State of Marketing Report, HubSpot

Optimize for Each Channel

Optimizing short-form videos for specific target audiences will take time and research. To help you get started, here are a few platform-specific tips that nearly all creators should know and implement to help perfect their content strategy.


The app that kickstarted the short-form video craze has continued to grow since its launch in 2016, with 672 million downloads since 2022. Delighting and entertaining audiences worldwide, here are a few essential tips and tricks to hacking the algorithm and creating content that sticks.

  • Hook your audience. TikTok users gravitate to the platform for bite-sized, entertaining content (AKA, attention spans are short nowadays!). Studies have shown businesses that get their key message across within the first three seconds of their video have higher success rates and click-through rates (CTR). While the optimal length of your video depends on your content and audience, try and cut through the fluff and keep your videos relatively short and sweet. That being said, longer videos are OK, too – tell your story and ensure the first few seconds captivate the viewer.
  • Understand trends on TikTok and polish your content with a trending sound, a few relevant hashtags and auto-captions for accessibility. Plus, remember to interact with your audience. This will not only help your content go further but also make it more engaging.
  • Be consistent. When it comes to growing your audience, consistency is key. Try and maintain a regular posting cadence to help attract new followers and keep your current audience interested. Be careful not to over-post, however. TikTok doesn’t reward those who post the most videos daily but rather the quality and relevancy of your content.

Instagram Reels

Social media superstar Instagram released Reels in 2019 in answer to the growing short-form video craze. While it may seem that TikTok content can be cross-posted to Instagram, there are key platform differences to consider when making content for each.

  • Optimize the length of your Reels. With a max video length of 90 seconds, Instagram Reels must fit a strict time slot compared to TikTok. Creating content here requires more strategy to keep your messaging within the allotted time. Hook your viewers early and find creative ways to tell your story – every second counts.
  • Engage with trends on Reels – cross-posting from TikTok to Reels won’t always work! Trends vary from platform to platform, so ensure you’re not posting trending content from TikTok to Reels (or vice-versa). This goes for trending audio and hashtags, too.
  • Feature people in your Reels. Studies have shown that Reels featuring people perform better than Reels without a friendly face. Remember: the more favorable a video is to your audience, the more favorable it will be to the algorithm.

YouTube Shorts

Launched in 2020, YouTube Shorts is one of the newer short-form video platforms. An extension of the video-sharing platform YouTube, Shorts uses a slightly different recipe regarding engagement and visibility.

  • Create content that shares similarities with other shorts in the niche audience you’re trying to reach. Look at the content, hashtags and title keywords your competitors are using – YouTube recommends content to users based on topics they’ve expressed interest in.
  • Increase engagement by hooking the audience in the first 3-5 seconds, posting high-res videos, and creating content that users will want to share with others.
  • Trends are key to higher visibility and engagement (just like TikTok!)—spot trends amongst your target audience and implement them if they suit your brand story.
  • Direct viewers to watch your full, longer videos by giving them a piece of what to expect, and what kind of content you produce and sharing these bite-size clips to encourage the viewer to check out their channel.
Credit: 2023 State of Marketing Report, HubSpot

Cross-Platform Tactics

While a great strategy focuses on the specifics of each platform, there are a few best practices across the board regarding a more general approach to short-form video.

Use Humor

Yes, informative content is great for telling your brand story, but most don’t flock to platforms for serious content. At its core, short-form content is meant to entertain! Even though brands and businesses may be hesitant to incorporate humor into their social strategy, humor is one of the best ways to elevate your status and win over your audience. Not every video you post has to be funny, but consider implementing humor to promote your message and brand while entertaining your audience. After all, that’s what these platforms were meant to do.

According to Marketing Dive’s ‘The Happiness Report’ found that 90% of people are more likely to remember funny ads, and 72% of people would choose a humorous brand over the competition. Despite this, only 20% of brands report using humor in offline ads and 18% report using the tactic in online ads.

Make Your Content Accessible

Elevate your viewer experience by creating accessible content. Adding features such as auto-captions, visual aids, and adjusting the volume of your video makes content more inclusive and can even boost your video’s engagement. While you may be catering to a specific audience, consider avoiding exclusive terminology that prevents others from watching and enjoying your videos. Amplify your videos by making them easier to consume, and watch your audience engagement increase.

Be on the Lookout

Social media is social. To make great content, take some time to exist in the space you want to create in – watch and learn more about the platform, the creators and the users. Do a deep dive into the audiences you want to reach and consider what makes them want to follow you. While you may be promoting your brand or business, be genuine! Users are susceptible to ads and likely won’t want to interact with your content if you’re trying to shove a particular product or service down their throat. The bottom line? Don’t be too serious; add value to their feed, optimize for each platform and watch your social presence grow.

Stay Engaged

Engagement is the lifeblood of any content strategy. It’s what tells you whether your content is resonating with your audience, and it’s what helps you build relationships with your viewers. When your content is engaging, people are more likely to share it with their friends, which can help you reach a wider audience.  

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