Social media companies are always rolling out new features for their audiences. These days, many of those “new” features are actually old features cherry picked from other social platforms. For example, Instagram and TikTok both have recently sniped BeReal’s dual camera feature, and YouTube itself has introduced Shorts as a response to TikTok. But good ideas can often work regardless of platform, and that’s what’s happening with YouTube’s newest feature: Handles.
As YouTube describes them, handles are “a new way for people to easily find and engage with creators and each other on YouTube.” Every YouTube channel will have its own unique handle starting with an “@“ symbol, just like on other platforms including Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. This change means users will be able to easily tag a creator’s handle within YouTube video descriptions, comments and posts to better link to those channels’ pages.
Now, before you go and try to grab “@Blackpink” thinking you’ll be able to ransom it off for big bucks to the ultra-popular K-pop group with over 82.4 million YouTube subscribers, know that you’re probably wasting your time. YouTube channels have had custom URLs for years now, and YouTube is already reserving those URLs for creators as potential handles. Plus, this service is rolling out gradually over the coming weeks, so you’ll be at the mercy of YouTube as to when you can add your own handle to your channel.
How much will this change the YouTube experience for creators, brands and audience members? Not much. At least, not initially. YouTube hopes that handles will create better discoverability within YouTube itself. So when your favorite YouTube personality does a collab, they can tag their collaborator in the description rather than copying a bulky URL. And that increased discoverability and lower barrier to entry should help channels grow over time.
From a more selfish, business perspective, a move like this also helps YouTube further compete with TikTok and Instagram Reels in the short-form video realm with Shorts. YouTube Shorts already acts like these other platforms with its mobile-friendly vertical aspect ratio and 60-second maximum video length. If you’re on YouTube and are thinking of augmenting your content with a TikTok or Instagram account, YouTube hopes that this new feature makes it more likely that you’ll just stay in their ecosystem instead of branching out to a competitor. If you’re already big on TikTok or Instagram, then why not share your content on YouTube Shorts as well to broaden your audience?
If you’re a brand or a social media manager running a YouTube channel, be on the lookout for this small update. It could pay some dividends for you, but it’s also a vital step for YouTube as a platform moving forward.