Friday, 9 November 2012

YouTube versus Vimeo: which one is best for Library marketing?

Video is a pretty essential format for marketing your library these days, and can be done surprisingly cheaply and easily. (I'll be writing more about this as part of a new column for Library Journal -UPDATE: this is now online here.) If you've produced your videos - whether they're tutorials, advertising, virtual tours or whatever - then where do you put them to maximise their impact?

The answer has to be to put them on a video sharing site. I've seen videos in weird formats on Library websites which are either available for download, or require Windows Media Player, or otherwise put a potential barrier in between the user and the video - this is COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE! Seriously, do not exclude a section of your audience by putting a video online that only works for some people - just stick it on YouTube or Vimeo and then you can embed it wherever you like, in the knowledge that it'll work for pretty much everyone with an internet connection, AND that there's the potential for people to discover it externally (as opposed on your website) as well.

So what are the differences between the big two video sharing sites, YouTube and Vimeo, and how should they play in to your marketing choices?

YouTube is...

  • Free to use 
  • The biggest video network - your potential audience is absolutely huge, and more importantly, they're already on the network themselves
  • Easy to use - you can probably shoot a video on your phone and upload it and tweet a link to it in less than 5 minutes
  • Unlimited in terms of the number of videos you can upload
  • NOT unlimited in terms of the length of the videos, at least initially - the maximum at the time of writing is 15 minutes unless you have a partner account. With the exception of putting a video up of a talk or workshop, 10 minutes is more than you'd ideally want for most marketing videos or tutorials anyway - people just won't watch that much. However, you can increase the limits if you verify via a mobile phone - here's how to do that.
  • NOT unlimited in terms of size of the files you upload - it's currently 2gig per video, which is less than it sounds for something like a virtual tour, but still much more generous than Vimeo. Link in the previous bullet point also tells you how to increase this limit to 5gig.
  • NOT lockdownable - as in, you can't limit access to a video to certain people or groups
  • NOT a place that brings out the best in humanity - your videos will be hosted on the same site as lot of pretty horrific stuff, and the comments in YouTube videos are often amongst the most despair-inducing the internet has to offer... 
  • Note also that as a Library you can turn off advertising in your videos - which is great - but you can only exert so much control over the 'suggested videos' which appear at the end of your own films. So any video that deals with loan periods can expect a suggested video or two from dodgy loan companies - it works on the metadata, so obviously it can't be expected to know whether 'loan' refers to something financial or book-related...   

Vimeo is...

  • Able to give your users better quality videos and so a better viewing experience
  • Able to offer longer videos - you can stick hour long vids up there if you want to (although I wouldn't recommend this in most cases! Plus there's file-size limits - see below - which stop your videos being too long anyhow)
  • Able to give you better analytics than YouTube - the built in stats have a bit more to offer in terms of actionable results
  • More customisable in some areas - for example you can put your own branding in to the player you embed into a website, whereas YouTube will always display the YouTube logo
  • Able to offer you a 'private' setting - if you don't want to open your video up to the whole world, then it's possible to lock it down to password access (and you can also lock-down a whole portfolio of vids with the $199 a year PRO account)
  • )A rather more... tasteful community. Unlike YouTube which is used by everyone, Vimeo has built a reputation as being somewhat artist driven, with more of an emphasis on quality documentaries and the like. It's risky to generalise, but the types of people who actually might use libraries are probably more likely to be found on Vimeo. The comments and community engagement are generally nicer / better. 
  • NOT completely free depending on how much you'll use it - there is a Basic account (free) and a Plus account (around $60 a year). Here is a comparison between the features of the accounts, but I'll talk about the limitations that matter most in a second
  • NOT keen on commercial videos - according to its terms and conditions, Vimeo requires you to have a Plus license for a commercial video. It's up to you to decide whether you think the 'marketing' aspect of your videos is outweighed by the fact that you're (presumably) a not-for-profit library and therefore could consider yourself non-commercial...
  • NOT nearly as popular as YouTube - this although this is offset somewhat by the nature of the user community, it does mean your videos won't rank to highly on search engines, which is a shame
  • NOT very generous with its upload limits - it's 500mb a month on the basic account, and even the Plus account for which you pay puts a yearly cap on

So: what does all this actually MEAN?

Different libraries will have different needs (when is that not the case?) but generally speaking, I think the restrictions Vimeo places on its Basic account mean that YouTube is the better option for most libraries. However, and this is the key point here, the two platforms are of course NOT mutually exclusive - you can have accounts on both, and even display the same videos on both. 

I would recommend using YouTube for everything and using Vimeo for particularly important videos (assuming you can get them in under the file-size limits) as well - and then embedding the Vimeo versions on your library website, for the cleaner branding, the reduction in dodgy user-generation content and so on.

Don't rule out getting a Pro account and using Vimeo more widely, however - with the Pro account it's probably the better option over all. We have a tendancy to think '$200 - we can't afford that!' but actually, in the context of multi-million dollar / pound budget, it's an absolute drop in the ocean. At my own institution we recently launched a YouTube channel which the stats tell us had 85 hours worth of views in its first month. It's hard to think of any other way we could achieve 85 hours of marketing to a captive audience in that time-frame! Marketing with video is hugely effective, and worth the investment.


  1. Very helpful, thank you. Any thoughts about viddler? They seem similar to vimeo.

  2. Viddler is much more business focussed (as is reflected in the pricing) - for libs I'd much rather see videos hosted on sites which are fully functioning networks, so as to enable serendipitous discovery by users and potential users...