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Vine: How can brands get social engagement in six seconds?

29th Jan 2013
Managing editor
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Experts share their thoughts on how brands can use Twitter's new Vine app to engage with users.

Last week Twitter announced its entrance into the video sharing arena, with the introduction of Vine, a mobile app that allows users to capture and share short six-second looping videos.
Currently only available on iOS, but with plans to bring it to other platforms in the future, iPhone and iPod touch users can download the free Vine app from the app store, recording videos and sharing them on the Vine network itself and Twitter.
Already dubbed the ‘Instagram for video’, initial response to the innovation has been generally positive – though with a few caveats.
“I think Vine is a perfect fit with the Twitter medium - pithy, snappy little jewels of captured moments and thoughts,” says Tia Fisher, marketing manager for social media management agency, eModeration.
“The looping nature could be irritating, but it's not difficult to hit the close button. As we attempt to craft elegant and memorable retweetable tweets, so it will be with video. I have to put the obvious warning here about inappropriate content: that's going to be all too easy to produce and publish. I do hope the lowest common denominator doesn't spoil this new toy. The terms don't seem too concerned with sexual content either.”
Sure enough, within days, Twitter was in hot water over pornographic content on Vine, with users already voicing concern about the volume of porn being shared.
But despite this initial hiccup, Kelda Wallis, new business manager at social media management firm Tempero, adds: “As the creation process is relatively straightforward, there's no reason Vine shouldn't be popular, as services such as Viddy have already seen tens of millions of users publishing tiny clips. Integration with Twitter means the potential audience is huge and the medium is perfect for such bite-sized content.”
Hugh Burrows, head of digital at 3 Monkeys Communications, also suggests that the launch of Vine taps into a wider trend. "The resurrection of GIF’s through mediums such as Tumblr and Buzzfeed demonstrates that people have a desire for short video," he explains. "As content streams become more rich and chaotic, users want short and sharp content that engages them and as social video continues to grow, it is only natural for it develop into a micro format. Keek is a great example of how the youth of today are creating short video messages on their smartphones that are quick to upload and share through their social networks."
Puppies and football managers
In a blog, Twitter said: “Like Tweets, the brevity of videos on Vine (six seconds or less) inspires creativity. Now that you can easily capture motion and sound, we look forward to seeing what you create.”
And brands have wasted no time in contributing their creations, with Urban Outfitters the first brand to make a Vine – playing it safe with a cute video containing puppies. Brands such as Gap soon followed suit.
Experts are unsurprised that brands have descended on the new innovation.
“When viewing these super short video, because they are on a continuous loop, a viewer actually sees the video that you create at least two or three times, which is a perfect opportunity for brand or product recognition and placement,” notes Mark Pearson, founder/chairman at “The key will be to create engaging, fun or viral videos without just creating an advert for your company. So subtle brand or product placement within a short and snappy video is how I see businesses can benefit best from this new Twitter channel offering.”
Red Ant CEO Dan Mortimer adds: “You only have to consider the success of image sharing services such as Instagram to see that there’s a real appetite for a social/visual experience. And brands have been quick to capitalise on this – Marmite ran a very successful Christmas campaign using photos of fans to promote its product, for example, and Calvin Klein and Coca Cola have both used animated gifs as part of their digital advertising activity. So Vine – effectively one step up from the animated gif – is likely to attract a degree of brand attention, at least initially.
“The beauty of digital is that it’s always renewing, always evolving, and this allows both users and brands to experiment with innovation, without too much investment of resource or time. As the new wave of personalisation, relevance and focus on consumer experience starts to emerge this year, I expect to see some highly creative uses of Vine over the coming months. Succinct brand messages represented visually will undoubtedly lift existing Twitter campaigns, and the litmus test of engagement will be if brands can encourage their fans and followers to respond in kind.”
Engaging or irritating?
Indeed, the challenge will be for brands to find ways to create something genuinely compelling and engaging within the constraints of the format – and not something that will merely irritate the viewer. So how can brands achieve this? What approach could they adopt? And how can they measure its success?
“From the point of view of brand-generated content, the six-second limit to each piece of video content poses an obvious challenge. But on the flip side it also creates an opportunity,” says Chris Chamberlain, head of marketing at HTK Horizon. “Some of the best examples of creativity are generated where there are significant constraints in place. But how can brands create the type of content that people will love to share? The user of humour, of amazing ‘stunts’, and tapping in to the unexpected can all play a part.
“Thinking about the user-generated content opportunity, the challenge is one of control. Once such campaigns go ‘viral’ they take a life of their own. How do brands react appropriately to the social conversation in order to project the brand image they desire? And how easy is it to monitor video-based content compared to the written word?”
“I’m sure we’ll see some smart brands experimenting over the next few days to find what works well,” adds Mark Cluer, MD of PMA Digital. “Six seconds isn’t long, but it’s long enough for a micro-sized ‘how to’ film, or to show a teaser for a new product, or to get consumers to submit their brand-related Vine videos for Twitter competitions. It’ll be really interesting to see how creative brands can get in six seconds.”
“Unsurprisingly, short-form porn seems to be an early leader in Vine usage, but I don't think brands should get too involved in that,” suggests Graham Hodge, head of branded content at global marketing and technology agency, LBi. “Joking aside, a quick hello or soundbite or dance-move from a celeb at a sponsored event or an ad shoot would be a quick win. Teaser content feels like an obvious opportunity: sneak peeks of new products and taster clips from ads could be loaded into a promoted tweet with a link to the full video on YouTube.
“As with any sort of content venture, it's the piss-off factor that brands need to watch out for. Even six-second clips make a demand on someone's attention, so they better be good and relevant. I'm guessing that an ill-judged Vine will lead to more Unfollows than a boring tweet. I'd advise brands to resist the temptation to do it just because it's there, and instead take the time to think about how people use this medium and what they might have to offer in the way of relevant content.”
Amanda Phillips, managing director at Volume, agrees: “I can imagine the six-second looping content may become irritating for some users, and as it’s not immediately apparent if they will be clickable, measuring the effectiveness of these videos could prove tricky.”
The ultimate challenge
As with other emerging social platforms, the key will be for businesses to consider if there’s anything in Vine that will work for them, says Steve Richards, MD of Yomego.
“Rather than racing in and throwing resources at a new app – any app, not just Vine – brands need to work out how it could fit in with their wider strategy and overall business and social media aims. We’re now seeing some great uses of Pinterest by brands – but it took a critical mass of users and chance to see how those users really interacted with Pinterest before it became worthwhile for brands to invest time and money in. Vine may be the same. If content is generally low-quality and take up is low, then brands may decide it’s not for them.
“With brands just having got their collective heads around video and images in social, it might be some time before there’s a critical mass of brands mastering ‘Vines’. It will take good examples of Vines working for brands before we see a wider uptake. I’d imagine there’s great potential in using them as previews of other content.”
But there certainly is an appetite for short and easy-to-consume soundbites, as proven by the popularity of Twitter. So in this age of increasingly short user attention spans, and the rapid consumption of information, Vine certainly has the potential to be a success with the public. And if users flock to it, you can be sure that businesses will want to capitalise on its popularity.
“It’s encouraging to think that Vine could kickstart a new generation of ‘micro-vlogging’ and breathe life into creative challenges or user-gen content campaigns that may hitherto have been considered by consumers to be… well, just too much of a faff,” says Burrows.
“The implication here for brands is that alongside YouTube, now well-established as the home of branded online ‘TV channels’, we may start to see the emergence of ‘ultra short-form’ video as a means of consumer engagement. Perhaps this might take the form of a competition to make the shortest ad ever, to tell a story or joke in six seconds, or to crowdsource vox pops or video installations. And if campaigns and projects using Vine are hashtagged, it’ll be very easy for brands to identify those who are most likely to be engaged by a uniquely challenging creative project!”
So, yet another social channel for brands to toil with. Quite how much success can be achieved with such a limited format remains to be seen – but Vine has certainly delivered a new marketing conundrum for companies to consider.
“As a brand, the opportunity to unleash your creative, quirky side is limitless,” concludes Raman Sehgal, founder of Ramarketing. “It’s almost like Vine has set the ultimate challenge – who or what can produce the best, most captivating campaign in only six seconds. Will it go the distance? Totally depends on all the creative folk out there, personally, it’s exciting me right now but will it next week when I’ve watched hundreds (they are only six seconds after all)? The jury is out…”

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