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What Ever Happened To Vine?

Omar Akhtar
Vine website

Are Vine’s 15 seconds (or rather six seconds) of fame up?

The Twitter-owned 6-second video messaging app hardly gets mentioned anymore, especially in conversations about digital engagement, advertising or content marketing for brands. It wasn’t always like this. Back in 2014, Vine was seen as the video content marketing platform for brands. 38% of brands were using Vine for brand marketing or advertising, while 60% were using or considering using Vine influencers to promote branded content. However, the number of brands using Vine has plummeted to 10% in 2015, and the downward trend continues.

A big reason is competition from other apps. It seems that everything Vine can do, some other platform can do better. Instagram has a bigger audience, with a similar video platform that makes it much easier to discover relevant content, and, it’s also done away with limits on video length. YouTube continues to be the place to post (and advertise) longer, in-depth video, especially for B2B firms. Snapchat owns the field when it comes to personal communication through video, which is what Vine was originally envisioned as. Twitter itself seems to be focusing on building the live-video platform Periscope as its signature investment in video.

Vine continues to chug along, catering to its die-hard community of quirky video creators and the teens who adore them. The new breed of Internet “celebrities” it gave birth to continue to churn out highly entertaining content everyday, even if they are now spreading it across multiple social media platforms. But it's apparent that the platform just isn't what it used to be. With so many other platforms offering better chances for ad money and the lure of younger, hipper audiences, it's no surprise that Vine creators aren't posting as often, or creating as much exclusive content for the platform. 

Arguably, Vine doesn’t need to be in the headlines as much as its competitors. It isn’t expected to generate revenue directly, so it isn’t under immediate pressure to grow or monetize its audience. It doesn’t offer any display or native ad options for brands looking to promote their content. The only money it makes is through Niche, the agency Twitter acquired last year which helps broker deals between companies and Vine celebrities who can create custom content to promote brands. However, even that well is beginning to dry as brands begin to question the real impact of social media influencers, especially when compared to the exorbitant amounts of money they’ve been throwing at them. 

The lack of a robust plan for making money doesn’t mean Vine is going away anytime soon. What makes Vine so unpalatable to marketers is exactly what makes it so compelling to its community of users. By getting acquired by Twitter, Vine is freed from the tyranny of having to constantly prove user growth to satisfy the demands of any VC overlords. With no push for a mass audience, there’s no incentive to create solutions for advertisers, or even brands who want to promote their own content, for example, by paying to get it featured in the recommended Vines feed. This frees up the Vine developer team to do what it does best, which is cater to its weird, obsessive and extremely loyal community of users. All the innovation on the platform is done to make the experience better solely for creators and their audience. 

Ultimately, the best way to think of Vine is a channel for entertainment, nothing more, nothing less, and any brands that still wish to engage customers on it would do best to remember that. The best way to think of Vine comes from General Manager Hannah Donovan in a recent interview with Variety. As Donovan puts it, “At the end of the day, Vine is not a tool. It’s a toy.”