Any seasoned marketer knows that video is proven to be one of the most effective content tools brands have to hand. Studies show that quality video content brings more people to your site, keeps them there for longer and increases the likelihood that they’ll become a customer. So, for today’s marketers the question is no longer shall we do video, but where shall we host it?

This decision frequently boils down to two options: invest in your own paid-for online video platform (OVP) or stick to a free (or nearly free) video player like YouTube or Vimeo. Here, however, a third choice is often overlooked: do both.

As the adage goes, you get what you pay for – but how does this apply when deciding between YouTube and ‘YourTube’? What makes the two options so different, and why might you need both?

All eyes on YouTube

The biggest advantage of both YouTube and Vimeo is their popularity, which makes them effective platforms for building brand awareness and getting eyes on your content. With more than 1 billion average worldwide monthly visits, YouTube is one of the most trafficked sites on the Internet. It’s also the second most popular search engine, next to Google. While Vimeo is not as popular as YouTube, it still draws more than 100 million average worldwide monthly visits.

With such large audiences, YouTube – at its core a social network – also offers brands a ready-made community with which to engage and facilitate a conversation around your content.

These are certainly powerful advantages. For these reasons, lots of marketers think free players are the way to go because they can reach and engage with millions of viewers without impacting the marketing budget, and to a certain degree they’re right. However, though these platforms are brilliant from a brand awareness perspective, there are trade-offs to using free players exclusively.

The high cost of free

While free players are a great way to build and promote a video presence at no cost, brands often find they ‘pay’ a high price in other ways. While you’ll be able to reach millions, when your content lives on someone else’s site you give up the ability to manage how viewers interact with your brand and what type of viewing experience they have.

As you’ll no doubt be aware from your own experiences, on free platforms like YouTube, anything goes. A viewer could see competitors’ content or ads pop up next to your videos, or the recommended videos that appear in the ‘Up Next’ section could be completely off-message for your brand and not something you’d want to be associated with.

And the problems might not be limited to just the content around your video – a third of YouTube users report that buffering interrupts at least half the videos they watch, prompting them to abandon the video altogether.

The final key trade-off: using a free OVP as the only hosting solution for your brand means that your content is also effectively building someone else’s platform, driving their website traffic and growing their brand. Not only do both YouTube and Vimeo also limit your company’s branding and customisation options on your channel, but additionally, when you embed their player on your site, their branding shows up, which can hurt your brand’s credibility.

Premium player, premium ROI

To overcome some of the disadvantages of free players, premium OVPs offer brands the opportunity to own and control the video experience, giving audiences a much more in-depth interaction with the brand and ultimately driving tangible return on investment (ROI) for their efforts.

Embedding videos on your own site through a premium OVP – rather than YouTube or Vimeo – means viewers are engaged in your branded environment without the distractions. With no ads, competitive noise, or third-party logos, your brand can take centre stage. Integrating video into your site like this also improves SEO because your brand ‘owns’ the video file.

Premium players also tend to have a more complete suite of metrics than their free counterparts. Advanced real-time analytics allow you to track viewership at an individual level and analyse how much of the video people watched and what they did afterwards. Feeding this information into marketing automation platforms can really help to identify when viewers convert to leads and more effectively track ROI and campaign outcomes.

Blending the best of both

So, the answer to the question of whether to choose a free or premium OVP is actually quite simple: you should use both, but tailor how you use them based on their individual advantages.

In this way, a blended video strategy could combine the social-sharing strength of YouTube or Vimeo to build brand awareness with the capabilities of a premium OVP on your own site to boost SEO and grow your business.

You’ll end up getting the best of both worlds – the result of which is an optimised video marketing strategy that delivers on reach, ROI, flexibility, functionality and support.


By Sophie Rayers, director of marketing for EMEA & LATAM at Brightcove

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