Photo of computer server with lights and cables.

100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Of that 100 hours, there will surely be scads of cat videos, some poorly shot ice bucket challenges, an embarrassing moment or two, some awesome AND terrible video blogs and pretty much anything else imaginable.

So with all of this content filling each and every nook and cranny on the biggest video hosting site on the planet, how does a company differentiate their content from a vlogger downing a spoonful of cinnamon (don’t try it — it’s super gross), or more important, is YouTube even the best option for business video?

We'll take a look at commercial hosting, why to use it and when. We’ll look at who the players are, and after all of that, we’ll see if we can draw some conclusions.

As a first step, it’s a good idea to define what a business video is. Business, corporate or commercial video refers to videos which are shot for the purpose of aiding business, either through internal means (training, internal promotion, etc.) or external (marketing, external training, etc.). This work can involve, but is certainly not limited to, corporate profiles, web and television commercials, event videos, philanthropic coverage or whatever else a company needs captured and shown internally or externally.

Whether shot in-house by the social media guru on an iPhone or handled by an externally sourced production team, business video refers to basically anything relating to — and produced for — a company.

If a video is produced for a company, as opposed to being for personal gain, it would be important for the produced video to be put to work in such a way as to benefit the company.

While the allure of higher views and more exposure which generally come with using YouTube can be attractive, how beneficial is that exposure? How many of those views are targeted? Is YouTube too big and too varied to be an appropriate tool for companies using video for projects? How many YouTube views are going to convert to a sale, or to a new hiring prospect? 

Maybe some. Maybe a bunch.

When facing the threat that your corporate video will get buried among all the cinnamon gulping and ice pouring, it certainly helps that YouTube is owned and operated by the biggest, and arguably best, search engine company in the world. Searching shouldn’t be a problem.

It also allows for up to 4K video hosting and playback, which isn’t a widely used standard outside of pro productions. It’s certainly gaining steam, but the majority of the masses haven’t made the jump yet.

Heck, looking at all of this, maybe it is a great place for business videos. It’s certainly universally preferred for video in general. The majority of us would choose YouTube as upload destination number one for our hilarious pranks or video blogs.

So, does this mean YouTube is the best answer for hosting corporate videos?

Let’s take a look at commercial hosting, why to use it and when. We’ll look at who the players are, and after all of that, we’ll see if we can draw some conclusions. 

Why Use Commercial Hosting

Video hosting for business has been a bit of a moving target over the years. The big hosting companies such as YouTube and Vimeo have had evolving rules regarding videos for the purpose of selling a product or promoting a service.

When the rules were tight the options were few: use commercial hosting, or risk content being taken down or leading to a ban on a consumer hosting site.

Well, that was then and this is now. Commercial video appears pretty much everywhere. In fact, with all of the big players getting in on viral marketing, it’s getting difficult to differentiate personal and commercial. After all, it’s just as fun to watch Jeff Gordon do the Harlem Shake with his race team as it is to see some random person in Wichita do it. The fact that Jeff was selling Pepsi at the time almost didn’t register, aside from subconsciously making us thirsty for delicious sugar water.

So with marketing angles blurring lines all over the place, what is the point in using a commercial hosting company?

Well, for one thing, most businesses aren’t Pepsi. In fact, 100 percent of all companies — save Pepsi itself — aren’t Pepsi.

This isn’t to say that companies shouldn’t indulge in fun, viral marketing projects. Quite the opposite, in fact. Viral campaigns can put a small company on the map, erase borders and turn annoying Canadian pop singers into international icons.

For most small production companies, corporate work is going to consist of more traditional marketing tools. Bread and butter videos, such as corporate profiles, promotional videos, training videos, recruiting videos, testimonials, case studies, conference and event videos, executive profiles and so on.

Most organizations are looking for things that they maybe can’t find with consumer tools. White labelling, deep analytics and tracking, automatic multi-format transcoding, collaboration, client login with permission controls, clip comparison, as well as a wealth of services: captioning and transcription services, uptime guarantees, as well as convenient phone and online customer support and, of course, technical assistance.

Looking at these types of features, we can already see a few cases where a more business-oriented decision might make sense.

But, does great service and support outweigh the sheer brute force of YouTube’s up-to-4K hosting and playback, ingrained social features, universal recognition and integrated Google Analytics?

Let’s take a look at who else is competing in this space and see who comes out on top. 

Don’t Hate the Player

While there are literally dozens of business hosting companies available, there are a few who stand out for smaller production companies looking for hosting.

Screen grab of WistiaOne that consistently rises to the top of the list is Wistia. Their ever-evolving feature set, contemporary approach to support, vast training library and cool production blog centred around a powerful encoding and playback engine have been a recipe for success.

Keeping customers happy means adding features with real value. Wistia accomplishes this through features like custom video playlists. A Wistia user can take a series of videos, and embed them all in one player. They even have multiple player options.

Individual video players can also be customized heavily. Custom thumbnails, infinitely adjustable player colors, collaboration tools like commenting within the Wistia framework, customizable controls, branding options, social media integration and more.

Turnstile is a unique tool Wistia has developed where the player will ask for viewers’ email addresses either before or after a video, depending on the preference of the video administrator. Turnstile integrates with popular email marketing tools to directly pass new leads to email lists. Similarly, clickable calls to action make showing more videos or converting potential clients simple as well.

Uploaded videos are conveniently transcoded to multiple popular formats for later download, and the players themselves use both Flash and HTML5, so they are sure to work on any device at any time.

Director of Partnerships at Wistia, Kristin Craft said: ”Wistia is a video hosting company for businesses. We're a group of people who are passionate about video, marketing and knocking our customers' socks off! With detailed analytics, including engagement graphs and individual viewer heatmaps, the Wistia application can help you measure and improve your video efforts. Wistia also allows you to fully customize your video player, so that you can control how it looks, feels and functions on your website. Lastly, Wistia provides post and pre-roll calls to action, video SEO tools, closed captioning, social sharing options and other features that will drive traffic to your business's website.”

Wistia has packages priced from free for an entry level account up to $200 monthly for a Small Agency plan where it’s possible to host multiple clients and give each separate logins.

Another big player in video hosting for small business is Vimeo. While also a contender on the consumer side, Vimeo offers a Pro plan with high weekly upload limits and player customization options to make it attractive to commercial customers.

Vimeo Pro offers some killer features for their $219 annual fee.

Some features include FTP and Dropbox integration, HTML5 encoding for universal playback compatibility, unbranded or custom branded players and arguably deeper analytics than YouTube.

Uploads are capped at 20GB weekly with up to 1TB of storage per year, so space shouldn’t be a concern.

Transcending feature lists and pro/consumer comparisons, Vimeo Pro has for some time now been a top choice for video pros, small digital agencies as well as millions of consumers (more than 100 million users, with 400,000 paying customers by end of 2013). While not on the same volume level as YouTube, Vimeo offers highly professional and cost effective hosting for business, as well as a simple transition from their consumer offering.

Quick mention should be made of a startup in the production video space which will compete not for hosting, but for many of the other feature sets of the aforementioned companies.

Screen grab of Frame.ioFrame.io is a production-specific platform launching this year (beta release coming soon) offering optimized uploads, large scale storage and project organization tools, access control for clients, and that’s just the normal stuff.

Clip comparison is a feature colorists, audio pros, motion designers and editors will love — clips can be viewed side by side with audio toggled on and off for either or both clips as they play. There are advanced file sharing options as well, including a unique presentation mode to show clients their latest marketing asset.

Social features, annotations and video marking (make a comment below a video, pin that comment to a time in the video and circle a problem or point to a highlight) will make Frame.io a must-have for any size video production company. Pricing isn’t yet public, but Videomaker will keep an eye on Frame.io over the coming months.

Screen grab of KalturaNew business hosting options pop up every day, and enterprise solutions such as Brightcove and Kaltura continue to grow despite a shrinking margin between low-cost “business” hosting and higher-priced “enterprise” hosting.

At the risk of offending some very popular business hosting options, the consensus is that Wistia and Vimeo Pro are giving YouTube the most competition for business video.

YouTube for business is always an option as well. With an ecosystem boasting more than one billion unique visitors each month, six billion hours of video watched every month, an advanced monetization program with more than a million creators in the program and the best video SEO program out there — it helps to own the SE in SEO — YouTube makes a compelling case for video hosting, whether for personal or business use.

So, with all of that said, who wins? 

Conclusion

Well, no verdict is going to be 100 percent correct over another, but perhaps the best answer for business hosting is to consider it part of a larger media strategy.

Got a company profile video? Use frame.io for collaboration with the client, YouTube and Vimeo for access to their huge ecosystem and host it on a website using Wistia or Brightcove. It will certainly help with directed analytics, and heck, more eyes are usually better when it comes to external marketing. Uploading copies directly to Facebook doesn’t hurt either.

Properly priced videos aren’t cheap and therefore, getting the most mileage possible for a client is essential. Clients are looking for value overall, and that can mean more than simply delivering a nice video online.

The one certainty which can be gleaned from this exercise is that few professional options are truly free, so it is important to educate clients on the value of finding a decent permanent online home for their content. Storage, universal accessibility, detailed analytics, rich features and SEO tools all add up to something worth paying for.

It’s easy to eat small costs, but eat too many and the meal goes sour. Sell a hosting subscription or social media plan with a monthly fee to ensure that clients receive the ongoing benefits of professional hosting.

Your production company will look better for it in the long run.

Russ Fairley is a writer and an independent producer.

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