Navigating YouTube's Link Updates

The implications of YouTube's changes to links for creators, their brand partners, and viewers.

YouTube

Today’s Edition

  • YouTube changes how creators can share links

  • European TikTok users gain control of their “For You” feed

  • Illinois paves the way with protection for child influencers

Following the launch of new creator tools for Shorts, YouTube has announced several link updates. Let's explore the updates, their implications, and how creators and their brand partners can adapt.

As of August 10th, the clickable social media icons on desktop channel banners have been removed. From August 31st onwards, links in Shorts comments, descriptions, and the vertical Live feed will also become non-clickable. The rationale behind these changes is to curb misuse, such as links leading to malware, phishing, or scams.

While some linking capabilities are diminishing, YouTube is introducing alternative ways for creators to share links safely.

Prominent Clickable Links on Channel Pages

Starting August 23rd, creators can add prominent clickable links in a new section on Channel Pages near the Subscribe button. They can add up to 14 links, including websites, social media accounts, newsletters, merchandise sites, courses, and more, provided they adhere to YouTube's Community Guidelines.

Connecting Shorts to Other YouTube Content

By the end of September, YouTube will enable creators to link their Shorts to other YouTube content, such as long-form videos and live streams. Creators can add a link to both new and existing Shorts through YouTube Studio. This link will appear in the Shorts description with a play button and, when clicked, will redirect viewers to the linked video.

What Creators Lose, What Creators Gain

A Preferred Method for Sharing Links Is Now Gone

YouTube’s decision to remove these linking capabilities has caused some disappointment in the creator community. Creators rely heavily on links in comments and descriptions to direct viewers to branded content links, affiliate links, and other income-generating destinations.

Broader Linking Opportunities

On the flip side, YouTube's move to counteract the issue of harmful links will benefit both creators and audiences. Channel Links provide a broader linking opportunity than the previous method as well. This adjustment aligns YouTube more with Instagram and TikTok, where “link in bio” setups are standard.

A Seamless Bridge Between Shorts and Long-Form

By allowing creators to link their Shorts to other YouTube content, YouTube is enabling them to fully utilize the discovery benefits of Shorts and seamlessly drive viewers to their longer-form videos, as well as to other Shorts. This empowers creators to use Shorts both as an appetizer and a companion to their other videos.

Here are some specific ways creators can use it:

  • Podcasters can link a key segment of their podcast to its full-length episode.

  • Influencers can tie together sponsored Shorts with an accompanying sponsored long-form video.

  • Travel bloggers can connect a condensed version of their vlog to the entire vlog.

  • Fashion creators can link several 'Get Ready With Me' videos together to form an episodic series.

It Could Be More Than Safety

Restricting links in Shorts might not be just a safety measure. It could be a strategy to keep people on YouTube through ongoing Shorts consumption and related long-form content by limiting the opportunities for viewers to be directed elsewhere. Given the new linking challenges, these changes might also be YouTube's way of encouraging creators to use its Affiliate Shopping program rather than third-party platforms.

How Creators Can Adapt and Navigate Changes

For creators, especially those focusing on Shorts, adaptation will be key. One strategy is to relocate links typically shared in comments and descriptions to Channel Links, complemented by a strong call-to-action in videos and captions. Just like on Instagram and TikTok, creators will have to guide viewers to check the link in their bio.

Another shift is Shorts creators leaning more into long-form videos since links remain clickable in those comments and descriptions. The ability to directly connect Shorts and other YouTube content provides an added incentive for creators to produce accompanying long-form videos for their Shorts too.

Changes in link-sharing features on social media platforms have become more frequent in recent times. While some alterations, like Instagram’s Multiple Links or LinkedIn's URL on Profile, have benefited creators, others have made it more difficult. For example, LinkedIn recently did away with Clickable Links, and TikTok imposed restrictions on linking to app stores for certain users. Recent reports even suggest that X is throttling traffic to specific links. Overall, these highlight the need for creators and marketers to stay agile and be creative in the way they drive their audiences to desired destinations.

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European TikTok Users Get Choice to Opt-Out of Personalized Recommendations

In compliance with the Digital Services Act (DSA), European TikTok users will soon have the option to opt out of personalized content recommendations in the "For You" and "LIVE" feeds. Instead, they'll see popular videos in their area and around the world. In addition, content from creators they follow in the "Following" and "Friends" feeds will be displayed chronologically.

Why it matters: TikTok's success largely hinges on its personalized recommendation algorithm. If a significant number of European users disable recommendations, the platform will likely experience a dip in usage and engagement, potentially impacting its advertising business. This could also affect the visibility of smaller creators who have the potential to go viral through the "For You" feed. While TikTok has stated that there are no plans to extend this opt-out feature to other regions, the decision isn't surprising. Yet, with this functionality now available, some might question why it isn't being offered to users worldwide, especially given the platform's ongoing challenges with bans. 

TikTok Begins Letting Creators Link Videos to Podcast Episodes

TikTok is now enabling select podcast creators to upload their podcasts to the platform via an RSS feed. After linking their RSS feed, creators can select an episode and choose videos to link to the podcast. Viewers are then able to listen to the full-length podcast episode directly from the linked videos

Why it matters: Expanding on its previous test of a native podcast feature, TikTok is streamlining the journey from a viewer watching a podcast clip to listening to the full-length episode by adding an integration. The platform is filled with video podcast segments that garner millions of views, but this doesn't always lead to listeners tuning into full episodes, often because they need to switch to third-party platforms like Spotify. This feature helps reduce that friction.

To enhance the podcast experience further, TikTok could introduce a dedicated feed, similar to the one it launched for STEM, enabling viewers to browse all podcast content. Additionally, a dedicated podcast hub, akin to New Music, could spotlight trending podcast creators and their content to aid in discovery.

Instagram Tests Group Mentions for Stories

Instagram is testing a Group Mentions feature for Stories. This feature lets users tag a group of people with a single mention, rather than tagging each person individually. Once created, anyone who is tagged under it can also use it.

Why it matters: Tagging other accounts in Stories is a common practice for users, but it can be time-consuming and tedious when sharing multiple Stories. Group Mentions provide an easier and faster process, which is beneficial for scenarios such as traveling with friends, attending events, influencer trips, and really any time when people are sharing a lot of content featuring many people.

YouTube Tests A “For You” Section on Channel Homepages 

YouTube is testing a "For You" section on Channel Homepages. When viewers navigate to a creator's channel, they will encounter a curated mix of content, tailored to their interests. This includes long-form videos, Shorts, and live streams, determined by their viewing history. After the testing phase, creators will have the option to disable the "For You" section if they prefer. They can also choose the types of content they want to feature within it.

Why it matters: The "For You" section on YouTube offers a discovery mechanism reminiscent of TikTok, but it's tailored for individual viewers. Given the diverse range of content that creators produce—varying in format, topics, and languages—the conventional, uniform approach to Channel Homepages is becoming outdated. With this dynamic content section tailored to individual viewer interests, creators can offer a more personalized experience, potentially boosting viewership and subscriber rates.

Threads to Introduce Search and Web Features

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that "search and web" features for Threads would be rolled out in the upcoming weeks. Although he did not provide specifics, it is likely that users will be able to search for posts using keywords and access Threads through web browsers.

Why it matters: Given the decreasing popularity of Threads, Instagram is swiftly introducing new features, such as a Following feed and follower account sorting. A search feature will enable users to find content that resonates with their interests without relying exclusively on the feeds. Providing web access to Threads presents a practical alternative, especially since Threads supports text posts of up to 500 characters. This will appeal to users who find typing long posts easier on a computer or laptop.

Illinois Becomes First State to Regulate Child Influencers

Illinois became the first state to pass regulations to protect child influencers. Set to take effect on January 1st, the law stipulates that influencers under the age of 16 must be compensated if they appear in at least 30% of a video or online content within a 30-day span and an adult, such as a parent or caregiver, receives payment. The adult is then obligated to allocate funds into a trust account, which the child can access upon turning 18.

Why it matters: This is a significant step forward in providing more protection for child influencers, similar to the protections that exist for child actors. While Illinois may be the first state to enact such a law, it's not the only state pushing for regulations for child influencers. Washington has also proposed a similar bill, but it has been stalled for the past six months. Although Illinois' bill lacks some of the robust components found in Washington's proposal, such as the ability for child influencers to request the deletion of content featuring them, it's still a victory. This advancement will push for more much-needed regulations, especially since some parents showcase their children in questionable content aiming to go viral.

What I’m Reading

  • This festival is Coachella for Black influencers. Brands want in. (Washington Post)

  • As social media platforms weigh up user experience vs. monetization, marketers struggle to keep up (Digiday)

  • 51% of creators make less than $500 per month: New influencer data (Business Insider)

  • Breaking Barriers: Why we must close the influencer income gap (American Influencer Council)

  • What TikTok’s e-commerce launch could mean for marketers and content creators (Digiday)

  • DTC founders as influencers — behind the marketing risk and rewards (AdAge)

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