Well, hi there! It’s time for the first episode of JebraWHAT!?, our new non-techy, ultra-friendly advice column for social entrepreneurs and non-profits managing their web sites on their own. We’ll be answering your questions about ways you can take control of your own web presence, keep your site updated, and integrate the technology that best supports your customers and donors — and hopefully, our answers will be as easy for you to understand as a cookie recipe.

This week’s question comes from one of our favorite clients, Andrea Friedmann of Vibrations Coaching, an intuitive life coaching firm that helps women — particularly women entrepreneurs — connect to their inner wisdom and move their personal and professional lives more into alignment with their true nature and long-term goals.

When you’re selling an intangible — like a service — one of the best ways to help potential customers imagine what they’ll be getting when they buy in to your product is through the use of evocative photography, which is something Vibrations Coaching does very well. A natural next step is to show people a small glimpse of what working together will be like, and Andrea wanted to put herself front and center on her site so that people could see and hear her in action. Now that she has an eye-catching front page video, Andrea is looking for more ways to use video.

Is it How or Why?

Sometimes a question like Andrea’s takes a little more parsing. The first thing I’d want to know is whether she’s asking about the technical aspects of adding video — file type, upload methods, hosting, streaming, etc. — or about ways to use video so that it has the effect she’s seeking. This is an important distinction. For today, I’ll assume she is looking for information on both.

How to Create Video for Your Site

I’ve talked before about all the things I do not do, and video production is definitely one of them. It is an art and deserves the attention of a real artist/professional. I was lucky enough to attend a fantastic talk by Michael Reynolds at CMSExpo a few years ago, and there are some excellent tips on homespun web video production in that link to his slides. If you’re going to shoot video yourself, I highly recommend following his instructions. He recommends using a company like Candidio to edit your video, if you have the means.

That said, assuming you’ve already shot the video, the really nice folks at Zencoder have written it all out in detail in their article about video formats for the latest version of the web’s backbone language, HTML. The big takeaway there is that, at minimum, your video should be in MP4 file format, meaning that the file extension — everything after the dot in the file name — should end in MP4. If you want to be sure that absolutely everyone can see your video, even people using devices and computers that are quite outdated, you’d need to have versions of your video in WEBM and OGG formats. That would require you to have a script running on your site that detected the kind of device each customer was using and delivered exactly the right file version to each one. If you have a custom site developed, with browser detection software installed, then the easiest thing for you to do is to have Zencoder transcode your video into all those formats for you.

If not, then MP4 is the best format for you. You can record it on your iPhone, even.

Where Should I Store the Video?

There are really just two main choices for storing web video. You can store the actual video file on your own server, in the same place where the rest of the files that make up your web site are stored, or you can store your video externally, in a video network. There are advantages and disadvantages for each.

Advantages of Storing Video on Your Own Web Server:

  1. Absolutely no advertisements unless you put them there.
  2. No reliance on an outside host to maintain their servers.
  3. No fine print or agreements to read.
  4. No external comments or inappropriate use to manage.

Disadvantages of Storing Video on Your Own Web Server:

  1. File sizes for video are large and could result in additional charges from your web hosting company.
  2. No one will “stumble on” your video while browsing through some large video network’s site.
  3. You will need to write your own browser detection scripts if you want them (see above).

If you choose to host your videos yourself, you may need to contact your hosting company to be sure that you have contracted for enough file space for videos, which are whopping large files. Also, a note to WordPress users that there are upload limitations in some themes and with some web hosts. Usually, they can be lifted, but it may take a support ticket or two.

Advantages of Hosting Video Externally:

  1. Some networks — **cough cough* youtube **cough cough** — connect very nicely with Google, and so hosting video there can improve your search engine rankings.
  2. People may “stumble on” your video as they browse the network.
  3. Easy upload process with all the technology handled by someone else.

Disadvantages of Hosting Video Externally:

  1. Advertisements — either accept them on and around your video, or pay a premium to have them removed.
  2. Limited length and/or content.
  3. Ceded control over downtime.

If you choose to host video externally, the big players in the field are:

That Seems Like a Lot of Work, So Why Would I Use Video on Your Site?

As we said above, the intangible is best sold with photo and video. If you can find ways to connect to your clients or donors using video, that can only be good. Here are some ways companies and non-profits video to capture attention:

Teach something! Demonstrate a skill you’d like your clients to have. It gives them a sense of your conversational style — especially important if what they’re buying is your consultation.

Give a tour! Make sure someone your customers will see guides viewers through a tour of your facilities. They’ll remember the voice and the face when they come to see you.

Describe a service you offer! Having a special sale this month? Offering a new service you think they’ll really love? Pitch it to them over video. Your enthusiasm is far more catching on video than in writing.

Well, Andrea, I hope I helped give you a better idea of how you can manage video on your site. It’s a big topic, so the resources linked above should give you more places to dig deeper.

Want to ask us a webby question and get a friendly answer? Send us an email, or reach out on Facebook or Twitter. Maybe it will be in our February installment of JebraWHAT?!