Marketing, Video & Audio

10 Hottest YouTube Trends to Watch in 2021

From co-watching events to voice search, explore the top trends and new features set to take over Youtube this year.

Portrait for Kelsie Rimmer By Kelsie Rimmer
Posted 15 Mar 2021
10 Hottest YouTube Trends to Watch in 2021

2020 was a heck of a year for YouTube. Throughout the global pandemic, the world turned to video to replace in-person events and activities – and as a result, the platform's popularity has absolutely skyrocketed. In this feature, we'll explore the hottest YouTube trends emerging online in 2021.

With 300 hours of video now being uploaded to YouTube every minute and more than 2 billion monthly users, YouTube trends are constantly evolving – and with SO much video content being produced and promoted by creators across the platform, it’s more important than ever to stay ahead of the latest YouTube crazes to ensure that your content stands out.

Luckily, everything you need to streamline the creation of your next YouTube masterpiece is right at your fingertips! Envato Elements has the digital assets you need to create engaging YouTube videos for your channel.

From lower third templates to end screens and channel art designs, Elements offers the ultimate YouTube toolkit, including stock footage and motion graphics to enhance your video projects. Ready to go? Here are the top video trends and marketing tactics taking over YouTube in 2021…

1. Co-Watching Events

With many events going virtual over the last year, co-watching events have really taken off. People are sharing their viewing experiences to create a feeling of togetherness in the midst of social distancing. And with many streaming services now offering features such as ‘viewing parties’, we expect to see this trend continue well into 2021 and beyond. 

Taking this trend one step further, viewers are now even tuning in to watch their favorite personalities watch sporting events, concerts and other live events on YouTube – as seen in this Arsenal vs Newcastle | Watch Along Live by AFTV. More than a quarter of a million football fans switched on to watch a group of experts view the action as the Arsenal and Newcastle players battled it out, even adding their sporting analysis to the live chat.

"Sometimes what’s going on around an event is just as important as what’s taking center stage,’ explains Envato's video producer Eduardo Flores. "Whether it’s having a laugh at a comedy show, singing your favorite song at a concert or celebrating a last-minute goal with strangers at a football stadium, with co-watching events, you get to interact with other viewers through live chat and watch your favorite YouTubers provide commentary in real-time – making the watch party a communal experience that creates a sense of community and belonging.” 

If you want to ramp up the excitement for your YouTube viewers, make your sports videos stand out on-screen with this easy-to-customise Sport Night Opener by 333pix. Whether your channel revolves around home runs or slam dunks, a professional intro to each and every match will have you pumping up those channel numbers in no time. 

Or for more sports action, check out our roundup of the Top 10 Sports Video Templates!

2. Video On-The-Go

Short, snackable video content has become all the rage on social platforms like Instagram and TikTok, so it was only a matter of time before YouTube followed suit. And in response to mobile video consumption going up by 100% every year, YouTube has launched a range of features making it even easier to consume videos on the go.

Recently rolled out on mobile and desktop, the Chapters feature enables viewers to skip to key sections of a video, for efficient viewing. Similarly, YouTube Shorts are 60-second vertical videos ideal for creators who want to shoot short, catchy videos optimized for a mobile-viewing experience. Long story short – snappy, on-the-go video is quickly becoming one of YouTube’s hottest trends 

“With mobile devices dominating the online landscape, it’s changed the way the content hosted on YouTube is consumed – and the video hosting giant has realised that!” says Envato’s Video Marketing Specialist Jen McKinnon. “People are watching on-the-go and YouTube is now bending to that user preference by introducing features that optimise the experience for their busy users.

Yes, from a user perspective YouTube’s priority is to deliver content that is valuable to the consumer but the real motivation behind their algorithm is to get users to stay on the platform for longer. The more features and formats available to the everyday user, the more chance YouTube has of getting them to stick around, which is why we see feature releases like YouTube Shorts, which is YouTube’s answer to Instagram or Facebook Stories.”

If you want to give on-the-go video a go, a vertical video opener like Upbeat Instagram Opener by bubbledance is a great place to start. This edgy and instantly engaging template enables you to cut together animated text and video clips to set the tone for your video or channel. 

Don’t want to film a short video yourself? Check out Mixkit’s collection of Free Vertical Videos to start creating videos on the go!

3. YouTube Challenges

Have you got a competitive side? Then this trend is for you! From chilli eating contests, to makeup challenges, to viral dance routines, video creators are challenging themselves – and each other – more and more in a bid to entertain audiences. Typically, these challenge videos feature two people going head-to-head using a split screen format. 

The trend is well demonstrated in this Edit Race Series by Benny Productions – in which digital artists are challenged to outwit and out-edit channel owner, Benny Van Valen. Tasked with manipulating the same set of photos into a new image, the contestants’ Photoshop screens are positioned side-by-side to allow viewers to watch every stage of the process. Before their eyes, audiences watch as an ordinary photo is transformed into an entirely different composition. 

To try out the challenge trend in your next YouTube video, check out this easy-to-use Multi Screen Frames Pack by Media_Stock. You can use it to feature multiple people, or opt for a straightforward split screen.

And don’t forget to check out Episode 1 of Turbo Tips featuring Benny Productions to learn how to create a composite in Photoshop.

4. Highly Branded Channels

While YouTube was once a black hole of cats, fail videos and amateur makeup gurus, highly branded channels have totally taken over the platform over the last few years. 

“YouTube is no longer just home to cat videos and your cousin Jessica’s wedding video,” explains Jen. “People are making big money on the platform and, as a result, no matter whether you’re a big brand or an individual, in order to stand out the content from your channel needs to be instantly recognizable.”

Highly branded foodie channel Good Mythical Morning has amassed a whopping 16.9 million subscribers, and from their channel banner and logo to the branded coffee mugs on the hosts’ desk, they never miss an opportunity to remind viewers of who they are. The same goes for YouTube beauty guru James Charles, whose 25 million subscribers could recognize his channel at the drop of a makeup brush. Featuring a branded profile photo and banner, his channel immediately establishes what it’s all about.

If you want to take your YouTube channel to the next level, it’s important to first establish a strong visual identity. Creating a consistent brand for your YouTube channel and video content will help audiences recognize your work, leading to more views and more subscribers. 

Check out these fully customisable Fashion Youtube Banners by Gioraphics, these Top 10 YouTube Banner Templates or these MixKit end screen templates to see your subscriptions soar! 

5. High-Contrast Thumbnails

Want to reel in more views on your videos? It’s all in the thumbnail! While thumbnails may be small, they can make or break a video's performance. The more eye-catching the thumbnail, the more clicks and views your video will get. As a result, we’re seeing video creators increase the contrast in their thumbnails to make them really stand out. 

For example, videos uploaded by The Futur Channel are extremely click-worthy due to their block-color backgrounds, high-contrast images and impossible-to-ignore sans serif fonts. Meanwhile, Benny Productions’ edit race thumbnails are made to build anticipation. The high-contrast, ultra-saturated designs feature the Photoshop logo and a before and after of the edited images so that the content of every video is immediately apparent.

Customizing your thumbnail is a surefire way of attracting attention to your videos. In fact, according to YouTube, 90% of top-performing videos use a custom thumbnail. Grab attention with this Gaming Youtube Thumbnails Pack 07 by Odin_Design featuring retro fonts, futuristic backgrounds and reflective elements. Or learn more about integrating high contrast color into your next video with our Bright and Bold blog!

6. Voice Search and Hashtags

To get views on your YouTube videos, they’ve got to be easy to find! As Google is constantly striving to enhance user experience, it’s no surprise that YouTube has also introduced a number of features to make searching for videos easier. One of which is Voice Search.

By simply clicking the microphone icon next to the YouTube search box, users can now search for videos with their voice. This feature has seen a rise in long-tail keywords on the platform. Unlike the stem keywords which are typed into the search bar, long-tail keywords usually make a full sentence or question. As voice search continues to rise, creators should pay attention to these long-tail keywords as they are much easier to rank for.

“As much as YouTube may appear to be an entertainment platform or even a social network, it is a search engine first and foremost,” Jen notes. “And, just as Google grows, the search functions on YouTube are always developing, too. This year I’m predicting we’ll see voice search start making an impact on the findability of video content, with long-tail keywords beginning to see more search volume on the YouTube platform."

"While YouTube is not a social platform, it certainly borrows heavily from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter,” Jen continues. “The platform has, for a while, had hashtag functionality but, with the launch of hashtag landing pages in early 2021, I think this will be the year that the functionality will really take off, with creators trying to rank their content not only in the search results pages but on hashtag landing pages too.”

If you’re a content creator, it may be worth familiarizing yourself with Google’s latest ranking matrix, Core Web Vitals – one of our big Marketing Trends predictions pegged for 2021.

7. Gaming Livestreams

YouTube has become a major destination for gaming and eSports tournaments. Just last year, YouTube Gaming generated over 100 billion hours of watch time and over 40 million active gaming channels, suggesting that the gaming livestream trend is far from reaching game-over. 

Showcasing games like Minecraft, Fortnite and Garena Free Fire, livestreams allow gamers to broadcast all around the world, earning popular users hundreds and thousands of subscribers (and dollars) in the process. For example, SSundee is famous on YouTube for sharing Minecraft tips and Fortnite Battle Royale videos with his 16 million subscribers. SSundee’s uploads are now highly anticipated by his subscribers, who tune in again and again to pick-up winning tactics.

To create your own gaming channel and beat out the competition, this Gamer channel opener by Videostones will help you amp up anticipation. Or, try one of our 10 Best Gaming Music Tracks to set the mood for your livestreams. 

8. The Democratisation of YouTube

Thanks to platforms like YouTube, it’s now super easy for anyone to film a video and share it with an online audience. And as being a creator becomes increasingly accessible, we’re seeing more and more unusual creators gain notoriety.

Grandfather Tito Charly became an overnight YouTube sensation when he started posting videos of himself preparing Mexican dishes. Now, his weekly cooking sessions – filmed in Tito’s kitchen in Monterrey – have attracted thousands of views. Also proving that age is no barrier is Gamer Grandma Hamako Mori, who recently entered the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s oldest YouTube videogamer. Subscribers constantly tune in to see the 90-year-old unbox new consoles and livestream games such as Grand Theft Auto and Skyrim. 

The success of both of these mould-breaking creators shows that the democratization of YouTube is officially here, and it’s a trend that’s not going anywhere anytime soon. 

“When you think about it, YouTube is really just a massive broadcasting network where the audience are the executives calling the shots,” explains Jen. 

“With recording, editing and publishing video becoming so accessible to just about anyone, it really opens the door to notoriety for personalities who ordinarily wouldn’t get a look-in on your traditional broadcast channels due to the risks associated. With YouTube there is no risk. The audience is boundless and, through views, watchtime, comments and likes, a democracy is formed.”

9.  V-Tubers

While YouTubers and vloggers come dime a dozen, the rise of the V-Tuber – or Virtual YouTuber – is changing our perception of content creators. These computer-generated, anime-inspired avatars first rose to prominence in Japan, with Tokyo-based digital production company Activ8 bringing prominent V-Tuber Kizuna Ai to life.

One of the first ever V-Tubers, Kizuna’s A.I.Channel – where she shares her latest music singles, dance moves and thoughts on everything from fitness and dating to bubble tea – now has over three million subscribers. She even invites other VTubers to make challenge videos and has her own livestream gaming channel. 

Meanwhile, the second most-watched virtual YouTube star in Japan – pop star Kaguya Luna Official – contrasts Kizuna’s ultra-feminine aesthetic with her high-energy punk-rock performances and wicked sense of humour. Look out YouTubers – the V-Tubers are coming for you!

10. Docuseries

And finally, from Making a Murderer to Planet Earth, there’s no denying that we all love a good documentary series. As opposed to documentary films that last around 90 minutes, a docuseries allows filmmakers to dive deep into their subject matter and create hours upon hours worth of entertainment. Whether they’re released to audiences episode-by episode or dropped all in one go, docuseries are an incredibly captivating form of content – and they’re starting to trend on YouTube big time.  

For example, the Building a Brand Series by The Futur follows the Hamilton family as they embark on a mission to relaunch the branding for their brewery. 

While YouTube's recent four-part docuseries NikkieTutorials: Layers Of Me, lifts the veil on the struggles that popular YouTube beauty guru Nikkie De Jager faced throughout her rise to fame, and the challenge she faced coming out as transgender to her community. Already a phenomenal success, each tear-jerking episode has generated nearly four million views since it was published in January 2021. 

"On Youtube, I've been seeing documentary-style explainer videos being really successful recently," says Hakan from VideoMark.net. 'A huge advantage of using stock footage for these videos is that you don't even have to shoot them yourself – you can just apply a nice voice-over without even being on camera (perfect for those without much on-camera experience). These videos gather a lot of watch time and get suggested a lot on Youtube. Channels like PolyMatter or Alux amass millions of subscribers with this concept, however to pull it off you'll need flawless audio quality, so make sure to do your homework on that end."

A docuseries wouldn’t be complete without lower thirds to introduce the people within the real life story! Try these customisable Lower Thirds by _markon_, which are made up of 20 different designs to add a clean and modern look to any docuseries. 

And that does it for our 2021 YouTube trends! For more social and multimedia inspiration, check out our Video Trends and Social Media Trends predicted for the year ahead.