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Your Top 3 Video Distribution Questions Answered


As a head of production, the business of getting video in the hands of an audience is something I ordinarily leave to our clients. The issue is, though, that marketing professionals – my main points of contact – tend to focus on other areas and are at a loss when it comes to video distribution.

Though traditionally not within the remit of a creative staff, the questions I get more than any others are about exposing video to the widest possible audience. Using a combination of independent research and common sense, I’ve come up with a few answers to three of the most frequently received questions about video distribution. I’ve found that sharing the answers not only makes my life a little easier, it’s also proven quite useful to content marketers as well.

Question 1: Should we host or post?

In other words: “Just where do I put the thing?”

You have two choices, more or less:

  • Host it on your site with a player like Vimeo or Wistia
  • Post it to YouTube

While you can do both, it’s seldom advisable. You don’t want YouTube to cannibalize potential hits (and other actions) from your company’s online home. The truth is that each approach has advantages and disadvantages.

People use YouTube every day. They’re comfortable with it, and if they’re looking for video content, it’s their first port of call. Every day, people collectively watch hundreds of millions of hours of videos on YouTube, and if your clip is highly shareable, it could gain traction. On YouTube, you also can add metadata to your video to make it easier for this huge audience to find. On the other hand, YouTube has zero interest in your content. In fact, it prefers when people don’t watch the entire video because it means viewers are flitting from YouTube-hosted video to YouTube-hosted video, and therefore watching more ads.

Hosting the video on your site automatically limits your video’s total reach. But there are advantages – quality over quantity, after all. You can:

  • Optimize the video’s landing page for search engines
  • Include other videos in the playlist (encouraging visitors to stay longer on your site)
  • Include calls to action
  • Hide valuable video content behind sign-up forms, helping bolster your subscriber lists

And, from a technical perspective, if you’re a stickler for visuals, players like Wistia allow you to fix the resolution of your video – unlike YouTube, which automatically downscales for slower connections.

The better answer to host or post is …

  • YouTube for brand awareness, profile-raising goodness
  • Your own site for lead generation

It’s the difference between going fishing with a big net or with a customized angler’s rod. You’re hoping to catch big numbers with enough of those being the viewers you want – or you’re hoping to target only the viewers who would work for your business.

Question 2: Which social network should we use for video?

This is a tough one. With so many conflicting surveys about the best channels for social media lead generation (and general marketing activity) it’s hard to know what to believe. A study quoted in this Forbes article put Twitter firmly ahead of the B2B competition; a study from Econsultancy crowned Facebook the B2B winner; and a report from LinkedIn’s Technology Marketing Community found that, surprise-surprise, LinkedIn was the only game in town.

The answer …

As a rule, the best channel for social media engagement is the one where your target audience is. In most cases, this will be one of “the big three” – Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn – and wherever you post it, you’ll need to take a specific approach. The video’s accompanying social post should be tonally appropriate for the network.

Twitter’s 140-character limit is an obvious concern: links, video or otherwise, occupy 23 characters, leaving 117 characters for your message. This isn’t necessarily to your disadvantage: statistics from HubSpot indicate that posts with fewer than 100 characters receive 17% higher engagement.

Brevity also is encouraged on those networks without limits: Facebook posts with 40 characters receive 86% more engagement than longer updates, and LinkedIn posts between 16 and 25 words receive more shares on the whole.

Embedding videos in a social post is simple, and usually preferable to linking to an external video; you don’t want to make your prospects do more work than they have to. If you’re cross-posting to multiple networks (i.e., Facebook and Twitter), there’s an argument for using YouTube because you don’t really want to divide and conquer when it comes to view counts, and YouTube-hosted files embed with both platforms easily enough.

Automatic playing of videos on social media have proven to be a point of contention. Facebook and Twitter use silent autoplay, which has removed much of the user annoyance associated with video autoplay and has led to a 58% increase in engagement.

But autoplay also muddies the value of social view counts as a video content marketing metric. You don’t really have a perfect sense of who’s actually watching the clip vs. who’s scrolling by it without a thought. Autoplay complicates things further for promoted posts, which have the same viewing metric problem but at a potentially higher price. If a viewer “watches” three seconds of any Facebook or Twitter video, the company is charged. You could end up paying for functionally useless views.

Autoplay on social networks needs to be considered at the outset of the video creation and the content tailored appropriately. (For example, do you need to include animation or text overlays to ensure that the viewers get the message regardless of whether they hear the video?)

Question 3: Should we incorporate video in email?

When it comes to things like email, people tend to be a little confused about or skeptical of its value. Often they ask if they should even bother to email the new video to their prospects at all.

This trepidation is not entirely inexplicable. A report from McKinsey indicates that email is losing some ground to social media as a distribution platform of choice. It also doesn’t help that Outlook, Gmail, and Yahoo don’t support HTML5 video, meaning the recipient always has one more click to watch it.

The answer…

Don’t neglect email distribution for video. It’s still a useful medium. The same McKinsey report indicates that it’s a far more effective way to generate leads and customers. If you’re already doing email marketing, good video content will yield measurable improvements. Research from Email Uplers illuminates its specific value: a 55% improvement in click-through rates.


Source: Video Email Infographic

You’ll also want to autoplay the video in the email – always, without exception. You typically can use an image link within the email – a frame from your video with a play button imposed over it:


With this email marketing, you really want to host the video on a dedicated landing page (complete with calls to action) on your site. It gives you superior control over the experience and could be the beginning of a successful customer journey if you can funnel the viewers into other parts of your site. It also means you can gather metrics on how well the video works as a content marketing asset, enabling you to know the most successful length of video, type of video, and video content for your targeted viewers.

Looking to score big points with your target audience? CMI’s 2016 Content Marketing Playbook has tips, insights, and ideas that can help increase your success with 24 of the top content marketing tactics.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute