Most agree that mobile video clips need to be short — but the question is: how short? Most also agree that a mobile video app must enable users to express themselves creatively — with that, the question is: through what means? In their quest to become the “Instagram for video,” many apps have figured that creative expression meant stylistic video filters. But as it turned out, the creative mechanism that drove mobile photo adoption didn’t end up driving mobile video because video is a different medium with a different set of challenges. Enter Twitter’s recently launched Vine mobile video app.
Vine videos (or “Vines”) are capped at six seconds — just about the time it takes to read this next sentence. While such a short take might seem too clipped to be meaningful or valuable, it’s about what you can actually fit into a six-second video that makes all the difference and unlocks the potential of mobile video for the first time.
Vines can range from continuous six-second clips to frame-by-frame animations, time-lapse productions, and short scenes. In other words, you can pack a lot into a six-second Vine, because Vine uniquely enables videos to be shot as a series of short clips as opposed to just one. To create a Vine video, you tap the screen to start recording and release it to stop. You do this again and again until the six-second limit is reached. Then all of those clips are stitched together as one. These cuts are to Vine what filters were to Instagram. They give users tremendous creative control and range, such that the most mundane of moments can be transformed into short stories — or, at the very least, a piece of content worth six seconds of your time.
In addition to providing the right creative tools, Vine solved the consumption problem. With other mobile video apps you have to choose to watch each individual one by tapping it. It may not sound like much, but imagine if you had to tap every Tweet or status update to read it. Because Vines are so short, they can automatically play in your activity feed and then loop automatically like GIFs. This makes it very easy to consume a lot of Vine content, which is essential. Plus, since Vine records the ambient audio for each clip, the repetition makes for curiously interesting audio loops.
As such, Vine has not only cracked the code on mobile video. It has created an entirely new medium. The question for brands and local businesses alike is how to leverage it as a marketing channel. Since Vine has only been available for a month or so, marketers are still very much in the experimental phase. In the following, though, I offer a few ideas about how to test it and what to look for as it matures.
Dawn of the Six-Second Commercial
Vine as a marketing application logically leads to this conclusion: a shorter commercial spot format — in particular, one that consumers can easily produce. So just as Taco Bell crowdsourced Instagram photos for its Doritos Locos TV campaign, brands will do the same with Vine. And the results will be stunning. Brands will provide the incentive that unleashes a tidal wave of creativity around a particular brand experience, which will generate tremendous insight into how consumers interpret a brand. You can imagine Home Depot crowdsourcing Vines about its customers’ home improvement projects and giving the winners both cash rewards and national airtime.
Hyperlocal Video Experiences
For restaurant, retail, and hospitality brands, Vine offers the same place-tagging functionality as Instagram (i.e. you can tag Vines to places via native Foursquare integration). This allows Vines to have local context and enables discovery at the local level. As a result, there are many opportunities for these companies to create content as well as to engage with local customers.
For example, a restaurant may want to produce a Vine for the special of the day that includes the chef, the food, the interior, and the exterior of the restaurant, complete with its place tag and relevant hashtags. More than ever, marketers will want to approach Vine as visual storytelling. And just as every story has a beginning, middle, and end, so should every Vine video.
If you’ve already built a strong following on Twitter, then Vine is a like a plug-and-play app for your Twitter strategy because the two are so tightly integrated. You’ll naturally build a native following on Vine if you become active, but it’s not as critical if you’ve already invested in Twitter. Unfortunately, though, Vine and Facebook do not play well together due to Facebook’s rivalry with Twitter.
Managing the Vine Channel
As with Instagram, consumers will be creating a tremendous volume of brand-specific content (earned media) through Vine. You can see this happening in the mobile app today by searching for hashtags like #starbucks and #redbull. In the short term this is the only way for brands to monitor this activity and to engage with consumers by liking and commenting on their Vines. I’d expect for Vine to release APIs soon that will unlock a lot of this value and enable brands to manage the Vine channel more efficiently.
Given that Vine has been the #1 mobile video app since the second week it was released and the fact it’s owned by Twitter, large brands and small businesses alike can feel confident with a marketing investment in Vine, even at this early stage. This isn’t a hot new app that may not achieve scale or could be shut down or acqui-hired in a few months. It’s definitely here to stay, and first movers will reap the benefits of exploring and mastering this new medium as quickly as possible.
Rob Reed is founder and CEO of MomentFeed, a social marketing platform built specifically for multilocation brands. The MomentFeed platform provides an integrated solution to manage Facebook, Foursquare, Instagram, and Twitter at the local level as well as Graph Search optimization. Reed’s background is in marketing and journalism, and he is the founder of Max Gladwell, an independent blog on social media, sustainability, and geolocation. He can be reached on Twitter.