Withering on the Vine

With the demise of Vine, will short videos wither away or do consumers now want bite sized films?

Every five seconds, 2,090 KitKat fingers are consumed worldwide, six hours of YouTube content is created and 8,666 Snapchats are sent. With just one extra second, you can also learn how to tie a Windsor knot, how to grill steaks or even how to apply your make-up for date night, thanks to a series of six-second video tutorials. That’s less time than it takes for the current world record holder to solve a Rubik’s Cube.

This is the fast-paced world shaped by Vine since its launch three years ago, and will ultimately be its legacy, following its closure by owners Twitter. Vine’s revolutionary six-second video format initially left many baffled by what they could possibly achieve in such a short time. What can possibly be communicated in six seconds?

Quite a lot it turns out. Emergency drainage and plumbing company Dyno used the channel to great effect, creating Six Second Saviours, a series of short Vines that demonstrated how to unblock toilets, showers and sinks. Dyno wanted to connect with customers, whilst also making them aware of its service abilities.

The strategy halved negative sentiment towards Dyno as it recorded the largest increase in positive brand sentiment among its competitors in the six months to December 2015.  Mentions on social channels increased by 86 per cent and more than 8,000 people were saved by the Vines in the 11 months leading to February this year.

‘No one wants to talk about plumbing and drains, until you have a disaster and need Dyno,’ says Simon Rutherford, managing director of agency Cubaka, who worked on the campaign. ‘Our challenge is to make people care about this brand before their disaster once every seven years.’

During its initial research, before attempting to establish a Twitter presence of its own, Dyno found that there were thousands of people looking for a plumber, but that 98 per cent of these requests went unanswered by professional plumbers.

Dyno took this opportunity to use Vine and jump into people’s conversations on Twitter. (Vine was the natural choice: it was acquired by Twitter in October 2012 for a reported $30 million, four months before its actual launch.)

However, Vine’s demise came as a surprise to no one watching the way Twitter worked with its purchase and the introduction of its own native video in early 2015. Vine founder Rus Yusupov tweeted (somewhat ironically, given the platform he chose to air his views on) on the day of the closure announcement Don’t sell your company!, as many commentators noted the lack of investment put into the channel.

‘It’s been on the cards for a while. Twitter hasn’t prioritised it. When was the last time you saw an update?’ says Katie Buckett, co-founder of consultancy OneFifty. ‘This is what happens when you don’t move with the times – social media moves so fast.’

Buckett notes that it is not that short-form video is on its way out; it’s just that Twitter’s level of interest in the platform dwindled as it focused more on its live streaming service Periscope.

Darren Jones, studio and social media manager at the Post Office, which was one of the first brands to start using Vine in late 2013, agrees. ‘It worked well but we felt that investment from Twitter didn’t keep up. We steadily moved our efforts elsewhere.’

The Post Office began using Vines for competitions, but it soon became a resource for communicating other messages, such as its Sunday opening times, of which awareness was low. Specially-made stop-motion Vines were created to support the Post Office’s #LoveSundays campaign on Twitter, making eye-catching tweets that also demonstrated the company’s modernity.

Jones is clear that Vine helped revolutionise the way that the Post Office communicated. ‘It made communications much more vibrant,’ he says. ‘It was revolutionary for short-form video. It made communications more attention-grabbing and gave us a different way of communicating. It changed perceptions of us as a brand.’

Rutherford, too, recognises that Vine had an impact on communications as a whole during its brief tenure. ‘I feel like the creative industry owes Vine something. We learnt something from them, which is how to be properly creative, when you’ve only got six seconds to communicate.

‘I thought it was quite silly when it first came out – what can you get across in six seconds? – but then magic and comedy accounts started appearing, showing that people can be genuinely creative. What we did was pull that into brand work.’

O2 is another organisation who used Vine to communicate complex messages quickly and effectively. It used the channel to tell customers about offers, new tariffs and share videos of live events, such as the premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which O2 customers were given the chance to attend through a competition.

‘[Vine’s benefits were its] accessibility and ability to respond to real-time moments,’ says Kristian Lorenzon, head of social media at O2. ‘We didn’t have to brief an agency. Simply by using the Vine app, we could get out a message in minutes.

‘Vine itself was revolutionary when it launched. It drove creativity within brands and within people. There are people who made a living from it. It shaped the new normal of content, with clear branding, being succinct. It helped us to think as publishers, giving us the tools to edit and animate, tools that were previously only available with specialist software.’

But what’s next for brands, now that Vine has gone?

‘We use Instagram more now,’ says Jones. ‘Owned by Facebook, it makes sharing a lot easier. Vine wasn’t very shareable. From an advertising perspective, Vine and Twitter don’t talk together. You couldn’t retarget people who had watched one of your Vines. Facebook allows us to do that.’

‘Video has been adapted by all major platforms now,’ says Lorenzon. ‘Snapchat has incorporated augmented reality with its filters becoming more and more popular, and we’ve seen with the success of Pokémon Go that people are keen to interact.

‘Facebook has invested a lot of money in Virtual Reality and 360 degree video. These types of formats are likely to become a lot more normal and a lot more interactive. People will be able to immerse themselves a lot more in content. It’s not just going to be your big brands.

‘It [Vine] opened everyone’s eyes as to the future of content and what people are willing to share. Sites like LADBible and Tasty are built upon the mantras of short, punchy, interesting content.’

‘Vine kickstarted it all,’ adds Buckett. ‘It does make me wonder whether Twitter bought it to get the inside look.’

Twitter has not abandoned its video efforts with the closure of Vine, but its short-form video capability has also, as noted by Jones and Lorenzon, been replicated by the likes of Snapchat and Instagram, whose short video limits (ten and 15 seconds respectively) are nothing compared to Vine’s six seconds.

‘What Vine gave us was discipline. How do you stay disciplined when channels give you 30 second upload limits? The Internet is a very impatient place. People don’t have a lot of time. It showed us how to be creative in six seconds.  Just because you have 30 seconds doesn’t mean you should use them all.’

‘It’s been taken to a new level,’ says Lorenzon. ‘Not just brands but platforms continue to innovate in terms of customer behaviour. Every time you open Snapchat, there is something new. It’s always learning.’

‘[Vine] has definitely played a role,’ acknowledges Buckett. ‘MySpace was huge once upon a time but it’s played its role. Perhaps there will be a time when Facebook and Twitter don’t exist. It’s the evolution of how people communicate.’

So it may be gone, but it’s not forgotten. Vine proved that six seconds is more than enough time to communicate a message, so perhaps the more pertinent question is what to do with all that spare time. Perhaps it’s time to master that Rubik’s Cube.