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Marketing with Vine

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Vine is the mobile social network that lets people share short (six-second) videos from their smartphones. Major businesses such as Bacardi, Doritos, General Electric, Lowes, and Target are already marketing on Vine. In this article, author Michael Miller shows businesses why Vine is important, and how they can use Vine’s six-second videos to attract and connect with customers.

Vine is a mobile app that lets users shoot short videos and share them with friends and followers. It’s also a burgeoning social network, similar to Instagram, that encourages “re-vines” and sharing to both Twitter and Facebook.

As a social network, Vine is of particular interest to forward-thinking marketers. In fact, many businesses are already using Vine to promote their products and brands.

Understanding Vine

Vine is an interesting beast, part mobile app and part social network. And the videos that users create run the gamut from pedestrian mini-home movies to short but brilliant works of art.

The app first. The Vine app is available for both iOS and Android devices. (But not Windows Phone or Blackberry.) You can view and shoot Vine videos from any Apple or Android smartphone or tablet, although smartphone use is the most prevalent. You cannot shoot or view Vine videos from your PC, at least not from Vine’s minimalist website. There are some third-party sites for viewing Vine videos, but if you want to create a video, you have to use the Vine app on a mobile device.

People use the Vine app on their smartphones or tablets to shoot short videos, called vines. And by short, I mean really short – six seconds maximum. That’s not very long at all, which actually works in Vine’s favor. The shortness lends an immediacy to most videos, much the way Twitter’s 140-character limit makes tweeting a more direct means of communication. The minimal length also means that the video files themselves are relatively small, which makes for quick uploading and almost immediate viewing, even on slower 3G connections.

That doesn’t mean that the typical vine is a straight six seconds of shooting. Vine enables users to incorporate multiple shots in their vines; users press the screen to start shooting and release the screen to stop, over and over until the six-second limit is reached. This means you can create sophisticated videos with multiple camera angles – and even stop-motion videos, just like some of the cartoons you watched when you were a kid.

What you can’t do is edit a Vine video. Once you start shooting, you either have to continue until the time limit is up or scrap your work and then restart. You can’t edit together multiple takes or incorporate fancy transitions or special effects. Any special effect you incorporate has to be created in-camera; that’s part of the immediacy thing.

Once you shoot a video, you add a short text description (this is what powers Vine’s search results) and upload it to the Vine network. Like Twitter, you can accumulate Vine followers who see your videos in their home feeds. Anyone watching you video can then “re-Vine” it, essentially sharing it with their followers. In this fashion, Vine videos can go viral. You also have the option of posting your Vine videos to your Twitter and/or Facebook feeds.

Why Vine Matters for Marketers

All this sounds interesting, but not necessarily important to marketers. Until, that is, you remember how important Instagram can be. Like Vine, Instagram, on the surface, appears to be a simple app (in Instagram’s case, for shooting still pictures). But because of the sharing component, Instagram has become a viable social network for mobile users, and thus of vital interest to progressive marketers. Vine, with its own sharing component for its videos, is also a budding social marketing medium.

(By the way, Instagram has responded to Vine by adding video capability to its still photo functionality. Instagram’s videos can be up to 15 seconds in length, however, which creates a much different opportunity from what you get with Vine’s six-second videos.)

Some numbers. Vine, the company, was founded in June, 2012, and launched publicly on January 24, 2013. Just three months after its release, the Vine app became the number-one free app in Apple’s United States App Store, used on eight percent of all iOS devices – more than double any other video app. In its first six months on the market, Vine’s user base grew to more than 13 million users, and the user base reached 40 million by August of 2013.

Like Instagram, you can assume that the typical Vine user is relatively young and exceedingly mobile – a very desirable demographic. These young people are using Vine because it’s fun and it’s cool, in a way that Facebook no longer is.

Vine was so compelling from the outset that it got itself acquired before its official launch. Twitter paid $30 million for Vine in October, 2012, which explains the close coordination between the two networks. (Instagram is owned by Facebook, in case you were wondering.)

How to Market with Vine

Given the attractive demographics and potential viral nature of Vine videos, it comes as no surprise that many companies are embracing Vine as a way to promote their products and connect to their customers. It’s all a matter of how you use the six seconds available to you.

For example, Lowe’s has created a series of how-to vines for its DIY customers, showing how to do basic tasks in a step-by-step fashion. General Electric uses stop-motion animation to present its various products and services, as do Samsung, Target, and the Gap. You can also find creative use of the six-second format from Puma, Dunkin Donuts, Oreo Cookies, and other brands.

The key is to embrace the six-second format, and the ability to incorporate multiple shots. Here are suggestions on how you can use Vine to promote your brands and products:

  • Present customer testimonials. Six seconds isn’t very long, but it’s long enough to capture some happy words from a satisfied customer.
  • Give a product tour. Shoot your product from a few different angles, like a mini promotional video. Don’t bother describing the product as you shoot, however; let the visuals tell the story.
  • Show your product in action. You only have six seconds, but that’s long enough to capture a few shots of your product in use, doing something of interest to potential customers.
  • Show before and after. Another good use of Vine’s multiple-shot potential is to show before and after shots of what your product or company can do. For example, if you run a landscape company, show an ugly-looking yard and then the much more attractive yard after you’ve applied your landscaping expertise.
  • Create a how-to video. You can’t get too complicated, but you can show how to perform basic tasks (using your product, of course) in three or four very short steps.
  • Tell a story. Vine enables you to tell short stories through three or four different shots. Maybe it’s a story about a happy customer, or about how your product saved the day. They have to be short shots, but effective.
  • Provide a behind-the-scenes look. Take your smartphone onto the factory floor or into your offices to give customers a (very short) look at how you do what you do.
  • Get creative. Some of the best advertising is just plain entertaining, and Vine lets you be as entertaining and creative as you want. Some of the most entertaining videos on Vine incorporate stop-motion animation, using inanimate objects to convey a simple message or just bring a smile to viewers’ faces. Tap-tap-tap that screen to express your creativity – and entertain potential customers.

However you approach Vine, realize that it can be an increasingly important part of your social marketing mix. Vine is so cool it’s hot, and the more creative you can be in your six-second videos, the more followers and potential customers you’ll attract.

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