While it’s undisputed that video is a necessary component of any content strategy, there is debate as to where this content should live.
YouTube, once considered the reigning king of video, has faced increasing competition from Facebook’s video platform, while “serious” videographers swear that Vimeo is the only source they trust. At the other end of the spectrum you have Instagram’s 15-second video option and the even more micro Twitter-backed Vine.
So, which one do you choose? The options are dizzying, and they can all seem like great choices in their own way. But when you really come down to it, the answer is simply that it’s not that simple: It depends.
To better understand where to publish your videos, it is first necessary to understand the current online video landscape. We’ll focus on the five most-used video platforms: Vimeo, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Vine.
Each platform caters to different audiences and needs, and a convenient organizing principle is to gauge each platform based on the level of attention the content demands from the audience. In a recent blog post, I visualized where these different platforms fall on a spectrum from least to most attention.
If deciding which platform to use depends on your audience’s attention span, then using this guide will help frame our line of questioning going forward. Here’s a breakdown of each platform and which type of video content it’s most suited for:
Of all the content platforms we’ll be discussing, Vimeo is by far the most “serious.” People who typically browse Vimeo have higher attention spans and are more focused on quality than viewers on any other platform. You should consider publishing your content on Vimeo if you have invested in high-quality production or if your video requires a good deal of customer attention.
As if to cement its reputation as a provider of high-quality, professional-grade content, Vimeo recently announced a big push to encourage its community to create programming that contends with Netflix and Amazon.
However, Vimeo’s relatively small audience and lack of focus on search means that users are not as likely to stumble across your content by browsing Vimeo itself.
Vimeo allows you to upload lengthy, full-HD videos, and the website’s interface is clean and highly customizable. In addition, Vimeo is free of any advertising, which allows you to maintain clean, branded content. The confluence of these factors means that Vimeo is the best option if you are producing high-quality video and would like to host it on your site or blog.
YouTube is the 800-pound gorilla of the pack, synonymous with online video over the past decade. There is good reason for this dominance.
For starters, YouTube claims a massive audience of over 1 billion unique viewers a month. Its focus on search increases the likelihood other viewers will discover your video. YouTube is also incredibly flexible with embedding options; a YouTube video is equally at home on mobile, desktop, Facebook, or your blog or website.
This flexibility and reach doesn’t come without drawbacks, though: The very aspects of YouTube that make it attractive to content marketers are, paradoxically, downsides as well.
For example, YouTube’s massive audience also means there is a staggering amount of content competing for user attention. In addition, YouTube’s focus on search is really driven by the advertising aims of its parent company, Google. Even if you don’t place ads in your videos, YouTube still shuttles users toward content that does.
The combination of these factors means any video uploaded to YouTube will have to be fairly compelling to avoid getting lost in the noise. It might not need to be of the greatest fidelity or go particularly in-depth, but it does need to be of high enough quality to grab your viewer’s attention and hold it.
Although YouTube enjoyed a long, uncontested reign as king of online video, Facebook has recently challenged that authority. Seemingly out of nowhere, Facebook video has gained content marketers‘ attention and is posting some truly impressive numbers.
Although most commentators claim that Facebook and YouTube are fighting on the same grounds, I would argue that the services appeal to very different audiences.
As mentioned earlier, YouTube is built and maintained by a search company. This means video discovery on YouTube is largely fueled by search or search-based recommendations.
Facebook, on the other hand, wants to grab ahold of the video market centered upon social sharing. Viral YouTube videos used to get their start by being shared on social networks. Facebook’s main aim is to cut out the middleman for these viral videos and, instead of driving traffic to YouTube, simply keep users on Facebook.
This has shaped Facebook’s strategy in a fundamental way: It is almost impossible to search for videos on Facebook. Instead, Facebook wants you to come across these videos via its social-recommendation feature. The autoplay feature allows a video you may not have noticed to grab your attention before it fades into the constantly updating news feed.
Facebook places few limits on the length of your video, but just because you can post a 15-minute video doesn’t mean you should. The attention span of the typical Facebook user maxes out at around three minutes. With such statistics, you’re lucky if they even notice your video at all.
However, brands releasing quick, light, and engaging content can benefit dramatically from living on Facebook. Any interaction a fan has with your video will help it spread across the vast social network.
These last two platforms are so extreme that they almost live in a category of their own. Based on their incredibly short length, these videos are almost comparable to images. In the case of Instagram, the videos play second fiddle to image content; in Vine’s case, the ultra-short, looping form factor makes them more like GIFs with sound than true videos.
The main question concerning Instagram Video and Vine is which of the two you should choose.
Instagram Video allows you to tap into the much larger Instagram audience and gives you more editing flexibility (the extra nine seconds doesn’t hurt, either).
Vine, on the other hand, might not have as large of an audience, but those who do use the platform are loyal and tend to reward creativity by sharing and liking Vines roughly twice as often as Instagram Video users. Integration with Twitter, Vine’s parent company, also helps.
Instagram will probably be your best bet here, especially if you already maintain an Instagram account. However, if you have a particularly talented and ambitious team that can get creative within Vine’s platform constraints, you may find success there.
All of this should serve as a primer to understanding how the video landscape looks and identifying the best platform for your video content. But at the end of the day, it’s up to you to choose what’s best.
Which platforms have been the most successful for distributing your video content? Share your thoughts below.
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