youtube shorts ideas

15 Viral YouTube Shorts Ideas

Whether you’re a professional who makes videos as part of your work, an amateur YouTuber, or even just a viewer, viral videos are often lots of fun. As a professional or a YouTuber, having your videos go viral can be a huge accomplishment. From a marketing perspective, a viral YouTube video means that your brand message is spread widely in a short time.

Likewise, YouTubers enjoy viral shorts because it means that they’ve done great work, and there’s a good chance that they’ll get a lot of new subscribers. And, of course, YouTubers with monetized channels will make plenty of money from viral YouTube Shorts.

That said, creating a viral video of any length can be challenging. Some people get lucky, especially in mass-appeal niches like pets and animals. However, in many cases, content that goes viral was painstakingly created in a manner that maximizes its chances of going viral. You can see many of my content tips in other articles, but they are mostly dedicated to long-form videos.

In this article, we’ll talk about YouTube Shorts ideas that can, and often will, go viral.

What are YouTube Shorts?

YouTube shorts are vertical videos that are of 60 seconds or less. Sometimes, these are clips of longer videos, but because of the requirement that they are filmed vertically, this is less common than it used to be. Nowadays, most creators make shorts separately. This is true, even if it only means turning their phones vertical for a minute to get some candid footage.

Shorts can be created on your phone and directly uploaded to YouTube. You’ll also see people repurpose TikTok videos as shorts on YouTube, as well. Both methods provide vertical videos, but if you post on TikTok first, zero will be a TikTok watermark on the video. Additionally, you may be unable to monetize the short due to certain Google policies.

Why should Businesses Create YouTube Shorts?

Why should Businesses Create YouTube Shorts?

Despite requiring extra effort, creating YouTube Shorts can be very helpful for your brand. This is unsurprising when you consider that shorts, in general, are highly popular. However, that isn’t the only reason that you should add shorts to your content marketing strategy.

YouTube Shorts are a great way to increase your channel views. Many people will watch shorts because they’re bored. In this case, they’ll scroll from one to another. And if you’ve ever scrolled through Shorts yourself, you’ll see that topics can change rapidly, even as they often conform to your watch history. As people discover your content through Shorts, you will gain both watch time and new subscribers. 

In addition, YouTube is strategically pushing Shorts to compete with TikTok. This means that YouTube is putting a lot of resources into this feature. And at the same time, many brands are behind the curve when it comes to publishing Shorts. This means that your brand can potentially enter the Shorts arena almost at ground level.

Finally, consumers are adapting quickly to the short-form video media format, so climb aboard the train or get left behind. Remember, if you’re not publishing Shorts now, somebody else will get the eyeballs first.

Further Reading: The 11 Types of Short-Form Video You Can Leverage TODAY

What Topics are Best for YouTube Shorts?

Before we get into YouTube Shorts ideas, let’s talk about topics. YouTube is a large place, and there’s a ton of new material being published every day. For this reason, it’s important to choose the right subjects if you want your Shorts to go viral.

Unfortunately, when it comes to YouTube shorts, there are no magical formulas. Therefore, you never know what may click with your audience. Certainly, analytics such as your top performance numbers can help. But a lot of things change when you switch from long-form to short-form videos.

Although experimentation is the name of the game, there are some common themes and topics that go viral more often. These often revolve around humor, reviews, stories, travel, pranks, memes, and similar niches. The beauty of Shorts is that they let you present an idea quickly, so you can’t waste your time. On the other hand, it also means that people see the entire message before they get bored.

15 Viral YouTube Shorts Ideas

With all of this in mind, let’s look at some of the best YouTube Shorts ideas. Many creators have used these to achieve viral status for their videos. And while Shorts is a recent addition to the YouTube options, and we, therefore, don’t have a lot of long-term viral Shorts, I believe that the time will come.

No matter which options you choose, remember that the most effective content is often memorable. And while YouTube Shorts techniques are rather different from shooting an advertisement for TV or online consumption, many of the principles of brevity and memorability still stand.

Let’s look at some great ideas that can inspire you.

1. Funny Shorts

YouTube video

Humor has a universal appeal. Making short, entertaining videos that put a smile on people’s faces is an easy way to go viral. Some ideas for funny videos include meme videos, pranks, behind-the-scenes bloopers, or even just silly skits.

Of course, with funny videos, you have to be careful about brand voice and industry appropriateness. Some companies use humor to great effect all across their marketing campaigns. For instance, auto insurer Geico produces commercials with a very offbeat sense of humor. On the other hand, you will usually not see the humor in law firm advertising.

Keep in mind, though, humor can be extremely silly or very subtle. You might find that there’s room to laugh even in the B2B space.

2. Motivational Videos

YouTube video

Not all YouTube Shorts ideas need to involve an entertainment factor. Short motivational videos can help you stay motivated when things get tough. They can also inspire others to follow your lead. You could talk about how you overcame adversity, what it takes to succeed, or anything else that may inspire your audience. 

From a branding perspective, motivational videos are great when you’re trying to improve people’s perception of your brand or hire new employees. A great example of the latter recently involved Amazon demonstrating how their associates use employee benefits to advance their careers.

3. Educational Videos

YouTube video

If you’re good at something, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t share it with the world. After all, people love to learn new things, and whether your expertise is serious or creative, people want to hear about it.

 So, if you’ve got some tips and tricks up your sleeve, share them in a video! This might be as simple as showing someone how to do something they’ve never done before, or it could be more complex, like teaching someone how to make a new product.

This YouTube Shorts ideas example isn’t limited to everyday people, either. Many brands benefit from creating tutorials or collaborating with an influencer to make them. These videos frequently increase sales significantly as people discover new uses for a product. And if you want something to go viral badly enough, you might consider something especially new or compelling that grabs people’s attention.

4. Product Reviews

YouTube video

If you love a particular product brand, why not create a review video to show off its features? It doesn’t need to be long; maybe just a few minutes will do. Many consumers, and even B2B buyers, will use these reviews to help them decide what they want to buy. And as a brand, product reviews are very valuable for internal research since you can see what people think about your product.

Keep in mind that this is another one of the YouTube Shorts ideas that can be developed alongside an influencer marketing campaign. In this case, you’d probably sponsor the video or give them an affiliate link that rewards their success.

Because of the short format, product reviews in this context can’t have very many points. You might choose two or three things that are great about a product and mention them. Or, this might be a good opportunity to differentiate your brand from its competitors.

Further Reading: The Power of Customer Reviews in Marketing Videos

5. Niche Relevant Tips, Tricks & Hacks

YouTube video

Showing viewers how to do something is another great idea. Maybe you’re a pro at making cupcakes but don’t know how to bake bread. Or perhaps you’re a photographer but struggle with taking photos outside during the summertime. In either case, creating a tutorial video is a great way to teach others. And if you do a good enough job, there’s a decent chance that your tutorial can go viral.

For a brand, these tips and tricks don’t always have to involve your product directly. They might be related to your niche without direct product placement. For instance, seasonal activity tips might not mention the brand but feature ideas. One example of this can be family vacation ideas put out by a car company. People often travel in their cars, but the car itself isn’t necessarily central to the message.

Why does this work well for branding? Sometimes people like to get something of value from a brand without an overt sales pitch. If nothing else, they’ll appreciate what you have to say.

6. How-To Videos

YouTube video

There’s a saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, a moving picture like YouTube Shorts is worth a lot more. Often, a short video can present more information in 60 seconds or less than a blog post. Or, for that matter, a print or banner ad. In addition, a brief how-to video is more likely to be shared all over the internet.

There are many ways to create a video. You can record yourself talking through the steps, or you can ask someone to film you while you demonstrate the process. Either way, this type of video is perfect if you’re trying to explain a complicated concept to someone.

Further Reading: 15 Useful Tips on How to Get More Views on YouTube Videos

7. Creative Short Films

YouTube video

You may already have a bunch of creative ideas lying around. Why not turn those into short films? There are plenty of tools online that can help you edit together a short movie. Once you have one, upload it onto YouTube and see what happens. Often, videos go viral just because they are creative.

Try and think about this, too — one of the most effective ways to market a TV show or movie is with a short preview. You can capitalize on this principle by showing people what is to come. But the best part of this idea is that you can literally do anything that your personal or corporate branding allows without taking yourself too seriously.

8. Unboxing Videos

YouTube video

This is one of the most popular YouTube Shorts ideas with influencers who have an appropriate niche. Unboxing videos are a fun way to get people excited about a product. They’re also an effective marketing tool because they give potential customers a chance to see exactly what their purchase looks like.

One of the reasons that this technique can go viral is that the unboxing process builds a certain level of anticipation. Everybody knows what it’s like to get a package containing something we’ve ordered. But let’s face it, gift-giving season or birthdays also build excitement because we typically don’t know what’s in the package. Especially with influencers who get free stuff, it’s easy to move from suspense to excitement and discovery.

9. Behind the Scenes Shorts

YouTube video

Doing a behind-the-scenes video gives you a chance to show off the fun, unseen aspect of your business or service. Whether you’re filming a cooking demonstration, recording a band playing live, or shooting a wedding, these videos incite much curiosity.

The fact is that for many consumers, a company can be a faceless monolith. But the fact is that lots of people work there, people who have stories. And at the same time, if your company has a community service commitment or is involved with social issues, a behind-the-scenes video is a great way to show that off.

Want to use this technique to the greatest effect? Consider using a bit of humor. For instance, if people see your employees having fun, it’ll give them a positive view of how you treat your employees. Considering the current environment, making this case can give you an edge over the competition.

10. Brand Story

YouTube video

Telling your unique brand story in short-form content can be a challenge. However, if you’ve got a knack for storytelling, why not give it a shot? One way to do this might be to share one of your company’s core values. That can be especially effective if your core values and your brand story are compatible with each other in some way. For instance, there are a lot of brands that cater to special groups, such as vegans or those who object to animal testing of cosmetics.

In other situations, your organization’s brand story may be an integral part of its work. This is true of a lot of nonprofit agencies, for example. Especially in this situation, one of the best YouTube Shorts ideas is to use the brand story as a segue into other Shorts about different aspects of your work. Not only can some of these Shorts go viral, but even if they don’t, there’s a lot of shareable content for your supporters.

Further Reading: Brand Video: 10 Examples, 10 Types & 6 Tips to Inspire You

11. Travel Videos

YouTube video

Whether you’re planning a business trip or a relaxing weekend away, travel videos are a great way to showcase places you’ve visited, activities you did, and sights you saw on your trip.

12. Before and After Video

YouTube video

If you sell a product that solves customer problems, you might want to showcase that by creating a before-and-after video. It doesn’t matter what niche you’re in, as long as your product or service solves a specific problem with noticeable before and after results, you can turn it into a quick YouTube short video. 

YouTube video

Following your industry trends closely and then making shorts to share with your audience is a great way to stay relevant and keep your content fresh, relevant, and engaging. And while this is one of the more challenging YouTube Shorts ideas, it can actually be pretty easy to find a topic. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many business owners posted brief YouTube videos about the precautions they were taking. Similarly, we saw a lot of PSAs about steps we could take to protect ourselves.

Of course, we needn’t limit ourselves to current events. For instance, new product announcements are great material for YouTube Shorts. In this case, you might show the product and quickly site its features. For extra impact, post a link to the product page on your website. Is the new product an answer to the competition? You might highlight the difference between your product and competitors. There’s a lot of room for creativity here.

14. Bust Myths and Facts

YouTube video

Debunking common myths related to your niche or industry in short and precise video formats has great potential to garner views. In fact, if the myth you’re trying to bust is especially common, you’ve already put your video in line to go viral potentially. That’s because YouTube is a big search engine, and people will often go there to get information about industries and products.

Similarly, you can talk about a fun fact in your industry. We see this technique used a lot in the medical field because people frequently have questions about common ailments. For instance, one pair of dermatologists that have a YouTube channel together love to produce shorts. Usually, these are tips and tricks, but they can also be quick facts about dermatology conditions or answer frequent questions.

The best part about this approach is that you can also help establish your brand as an expert in its field. This is true whether you’re an individual YouTuber brand or represent another brand. In other words, this is one of the YouTube Shorts ideas that can help establish your reputation in addition to simply going viral. The possibilities are endless.

Further Reading: 20 YouTube Statistics to Base Your Video Strategy On in 2024

15. Repurpose Your Long-Form Content

YouTube video

Long-form content, such as blog posts, ebooks, and full-length videos, can easily be turned into shorter, more digestible videos. This also helps you reach new audiences who wouldn’t normally consume your longer content. At the same time, you’ll help fill your content calendar with a lot less effort. I’ve talked at great lengths about the importance of keeping a content calendar, but it also discussed repurposing things a great deal.

Remember, short-form content is sometimes the best advertisement for more involved content. For instance, you can advertise your whitepaper or lead magnet this way. Perhaps, you can take a few seconds of your instructional video and post it as a short, much like you see with cinema previews. If you can use the slip feature of a video editing program or even the native YouTube Creator Studio.

Further Reading: How to Effectively Record Livestream Video and Repurpose It for Social Media

How can I Make My YouTube Shorts Go Viral?

As I mentioned above, one of the important ingredients of a viral video is quality. Nobody is going to watch and pass on a video that doesn’t seem compelling. Likewise, if it’s too glitchy, then most people won’t want to pass it on. The major exceptions to this rule are niches that, by definition, are less professional.

Here are some other suggestions:

  • Focus on relatability to a certain audience. Typically, this will be your target audience for the brand, but it could also be a group you’re trying to expand your reach for.
  • Utilize popular sounds in a unique, creative way. Sometimes, the unexpected makes people think about content differently. Or, the uniqueness of a video can make it more shareable, even if just for the novelty.
  • Increase production of the number of videos you create to allow for testing, seeing which videos succeed and which ones struggle. This involves both A/B testing and your social media analytics tools.

While none of these suggestions guarantee success, they will increase your chances of going viral. And in the meantime, the quality of your content should go up.

Further Reading: YouTube Shorts Looping: How to Do It and Why It Increases Video Views


Many YouTube Shorts ideas that can make an individual account go viral also have the potential for success with a branded account. That’s because videos can be compelling in many of the same ways regardless of subject matter or content creator. However, as always the two most important things to remember are to create quality content and to keep it consistent with your brand voice. Otherwise, you’ll start to dilute your branding. Then, not even viral videos will make a positive impact.

Hero Photo by Nicolas Solerieu on Unsplash

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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.

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