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How important is online video to a business?

By the time you finish reading this blog post about 120 hours’ worth of video will have been uploaded to YouTube. And YouTube only represents about 55% of all online video. If you decided to sit down at your computer and watch back-to-back every single video uploaded to the Internet in the past 24 hours you would not move from your computer for18 years. If you wanted to watch all the videos that had been uploaded to only YouTube in the past year would need to live for a further 3,620 years assuming you did nothing else other than watch videos.

Clearly, online video is immense. But that makes it easy for businesses to get hooked into the video world, assuming that all this vast amount of video means that people want it.

Just because lots of video is uploaded and millions of hours of it are watched each month does not mean necessarily it is a vital business tool. The vast majority of what is watched on YouTube is “entertainment” – funny videos, material from TV and so on. Another highly watched and shared category is news clips – especially of breaking news. Even though there are plenty of business videos, they are amongst the least watched and the least frequently shared items.

Research also shows the length of videos that get the most views. They fall into two camps – the short videos lasting three minutes or less and the very long videos, often more than an hour long. Those in between these times get much fewer views.

In your working day you can spare a couple of minutes to watch a video. Or if it lasts an hour or more you probably book a time in your diary to watch it later if it is important to you. But those videos that last 15 or 20 minutes, they are too short to watch later and too long to watch now. Many business videos fall into this time category, making them even less popular than they might be.

Against this, consider a blog post. You can read around 600 words – a typical blog post – in under three minutes. Yet in 600 words you can convey much more information than in a three minute video on YouTube. For the same time frame, you get more material across if you write, rather than video. Not only that, written material potentially has more psychological authority, meaning it has more influence.

Furthermore, studies have shown that people prefer to read rather than watch videos in business settings. Reading a web page does not distract other colleagues in the office. The flashing images and the sounds can be quite troublesome in open plan offices, for instance. Indeed, this is one reason why many corporations ban YouTube in the office.

The result is that if you concentrate on video you limit your impact by reducing the number of business customers who could potentially see your video and missing out on the people who prefer to read. Furthermore, research shows a higher conversion rate in terms of sales and leads from text than from video.

This doesn’t mean you should not use video, but it is about priorities. Online video is really useful – but text should be your primary focus if you want to engage most people.


Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who helps businesses understand how their customers use the web so that they can provide websites that truly and deeply engage people. He is the author of “Click.ology: What Works in Online Shopping”. See grahamjones.co.uk and http://click.ology.biz.

Graham Jones Internet Pschologist

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