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There was a time—not all that long ago—when it was a matter of course to upload all your videos to YouTube. Marketing mavens believed that YouTube was the best—and perhaps only—shot at reaching customers with video content. Some folks still think that’s true. After all, YouTube is the guilty pleasure of millions of people around the globe who visit the site to get their fix of silly cat videos or learn how to make sleek paper airplanes. Customers therefore have an understandable affinity for YouTube.
So, for a time, businesses used the service to host all of their videos—from sales presentations and explainers to customer support and even employee training.
Today, the sands have shifted and there are compelling reasons to forego YouTube (or at least use it solely as a secondary platform) in favor of a video hosting company like Vidyard, Wistia, Vzaar, Vidcaster, Brightcove, or Kaltura. These platforms make it possible to virtually host the videos on your site, without having to go to the trouble to build and operate your own video server.
Why should your business make the switch to a video host? There are three primary reasons:
1) You want to keep your customers on your site. Why direct them to YouTube where they may become distracted or, even worse, see an ad for a competitor? Is hosting your video on YouTube worth the increased risk of losing that potential customer?
2) YouTube doesn’t offer the level of analytics your company needs. You want to keep track of demographic data to really understand who your audience members are, where they’re from, and what they like best (and least) about your videos. Video hosting companies offer a plethora of useful metrics tools giving deeper insights than those provided by YouTube.
3) You want to sync your videos with marketing automation platforms like HubSpot, Salesforce, and Marketo or email list services like MailChimp.
4) SEO Link Juice. Google and its legion of Search bots love video players. Video connotes high-quality content which is to be rewarded in the search results. You don’t want to waste this opportunity by having your video live exclusively on YouTube which doesn’t pass on any juice to your domain.
We hope these points collectively make a compelling argument to ditch YouTube as the primary home for your videos. But we do not advocate migrating away from YouTube completely. Here is a deeper dive on this subject.
If you are ready to make the switch look for these 10 must-have features when comparing video hosting companies. While each service caters to a slightly different segment of the marketplace, they share many of the same features and functionality. When comparing your options, be sure to look for…
Unbranded Video Player: With YouTube and some free video hosts, the video player is branded with someone else’s logo and color scheme. That’s a distraction; look for video players that can be customized to match your branding.
No Ads: You don’t want a host that serves ads or other suggested videos to your video player because those unwanted distractions could hijack your customer’s attention. Be sure to always keep the focus on your content.
Easy Copy & Paste Embed Codes: Each video host should offer a simple solution that allows you to copy and paste your videos’ embed codes directly into your site (often the blog), or elsewhere. Embed codes for emails are another great feature, as emails with videos virtually embedded in their bodies earn much higher click rates. In one study, Wistia found a 300% increase in click-through rate compared to emails without video.
CTA Functionality: Look for companies that offer easy ways to create clickable calls to action within the video—either pre- or post-video or even a pop out during a certain section of the video.
Thumbnails: You know that little picture that shows a freeze frame from your video? It’s sort of like the cover of a book and that image may entice a potential customer to click and watch your video. Most people call them thumbnails. You want to be able to select the exact image displayed. Look for hosts that give you the power to select your own thumbnails. (YouTube gives you three random freeze frames to choose from and, more often than not, they all stink. On YT you could also upload your own pic – but the preferred method is to just pick a frame from the video itself; many B2B players offer this; YT does not.)
Integration: Your choice of video hosting company may depend on the suite of programs with which it integrates. Here it’s important to remember that your video hosting platform is a secondary consideration with shopping for a CRM or marketing automation platform; those come first; those are the integral pieces of software for your marketing and sales team. Pick a video hosting platform that plays nice with the larger pieces of software already used around the office.
Flash & HTML5: Many of the companies we’ll talk about below encode all videos as both Flash and HTML5 so your videos can play everywhere—web, mobile, and tablet. Their servers also auto-detect a user’s bandwidth and then deliver the best quality video possible with the least amount of buffering.
Domain Restriction: If you want full control over where your video is viewed, be sure to use a host that offers domain restriction. It stops your video from playing on sites and domains you specifically restrict.
Analytics: The real power behind these hosting companies is the vast amount of metrics they can provide. Look for options like engagement graphs and heat maps that show which parts of your videos were watched, re-watched, or skipped altogether. You’ll also want robust audience and historic data so you can see, over time, how your customers engaged with your videos.
Documentation & Education: Finally, look for a company that offers oodles of documentation of its own product so your team can hit the ground running and get up to speed. It also doesn’t hurt to have access to a library of training videos, informative blog posts, and community message boards.
There’s a wide range of companies offering their services specifically to businesses so you’ll want to set aside some time to review your options and decide which is best suited to deliver your videos. All the companies below offer most of the important backbone features that we’ve discussed thus far. So, what makes each of these hosts its own unique snowflake? Let’s find out.
Small Business Focused
Wistia is known for its extensive Learning Center packed with useful video tutorials that offer tips on everything from how to light your videos to shooting video with an iPhone to scripting.
Some of Wistia’s call-out features include Turnstile, its email collector that can funnel viewer email addresses to your email list service; the fact that its videos are watchable from within a tweet; and the ease with which you can capture and embed video thumbnails into any email.
The company offers a free monthly plan with a Wistia-branded player and very basic analytics but you can store up to 50 videos. Your bandwidth can’t exceed 200GB. If it does, you can upgrade to a paid plan or pause your video for the rest of the month. The company’s Small Business plan is $25 a month and offers tons of analytics, including Wistia’s famous heat maps that show what parts of your videos have been watched, watched again, or skipped. This plan includes unlimited videos and 200GB of bandwidth (extra bandwidth starts at 33 cents per GB). You can also spend $100 a month for the Teams package so you can share videos, privately or publicly, get feedback, integrate with your marketing automation software, and have both unlimited videos and users. A High Volume plans are also available ($300/month for 1TB of bandwidth, $750/month for 5TB, $1,500 for 15TB, and $3,000 for 50TB).
U.K.-based Vzaar’s top-notch security measures cover everything from password protection to domain control (so you control which domains can display your video and which can’t) to RTMPE (encrypted video stream that prevents unauthorized downloads) to HTTPS embed codes.
Vzaar offers some power-user functions like bulk uploading of up to 10 videos at one time as well as a Dropbox Uploader. Just drag your videos to the Dropbox and they are automatically uploaded on your behalf.
Monthly pricing for Vzaar is really scalable so you’ll find a package that fits with your changing needs. Packages and prices start at 250GB bandwidth and 100GB storage for $20/mo (Express), 500GB bandwidth, 250GB storage for $40/mo (Professional), 1TB bandwidth, 500GB storage for $160/mo (Business) and 5TB bandwidth, 1TB storage for $400/mo (Enterprise).
All of these packages—with the exception of the Express plan—includes the Pro Toolkit that includes password protection, SSL security, subtitles, player language controls, API uploads, RTMPE streaming, and white label embed codes (CNAMES).
This Canadian company—which lined up $18 million in new funding in January 2015—is known for its ability to identify and track individual video viewers (agnostic of where he or she is watching the video) and its ability to push viewing activity data into marketing automation and CRM systems for better analytic insights.
Like Wistia, Vidyard also offers robust—and free—documentation and training materials. In fact, you should check out its Video Marketing Institute that offers advice ranging from how to effectively plan for a video project to maximizing video distribution on your own website to qualifying and moving leads through the funnel with video.
Vidyard has some strong analytics options so you can attach an identity to your viewership, check their attention span throughout the video, know the geographic region of your visitors, and note their click-thru behavior. In fact, Vidyard even offers real-time tracking of some data. Also, don’t miss the company’s email gates, which you can place at the beginning or end of a video with a custom call to action to collect email address. You can even prompt an action with a pop out during the video itself. Finally, this host allows you to do an A/B test of your splash screen images.
Starting at $12,000 per year, Vidyard integrates with a variety of services like HubSpot, Marketo, and Salesforce.
Vidcaster makes online training and subscription-based video sharing extremely easy. Use your videos for lead generation, employee onboarding, video subscriptions, training, certification, online courses, premium content, and customer support.
If you’ve been dreaming of creating a powerful online training center but just don’t have the IT backbone to help get you there, go with Vidcaster. It’s got complete video site templates that can be set up quickly so your training site—for employees or customers—can launch quickly and without the additional expense of IT staff. Robust registration options allow you to control access—paid or free.
There are three packages to choose from: Basic ($500/month for one site, up to 50 videos), Pro ($1,000/month for one site and one staged environment and unlimited videos), and Enterprise ($1,500/month for multiple site licenses and unlimited videos).
Brightcove is generally regarded as the leader when it comes to streaming live events. Want to broadcast your CEO’s presentation live on your site? Brightcove makes it easy.
Another cool feature in this use case is curation within the video player. So while you stream your CEO’s presentation live you could also feature other relevant videos on-demand within the player itself.
Brightcove is also widely lauded for its app which gives users the ability to create and upload videos from mobile. Users can queue up several uploads from their phones directly to the company’s cloud-based storage on Brightcove.
Kaltura is recommended for two groups of people. First, educators appreciate the integration with learning management systems like Blackboard, Moodle, Brightspace, Canvas, and Sakai. It’s also a good option for more technically- minded folks or business owners who can hand off management of Kaltura to their on-site techie who can handle this open source online video platform.
Kaltura offers three paid versions—SaaS, On-Prem, and Cloud—as well as the free, open-source Community Edition that is open-source, and self-hosted and can be found at Kaltura.org.