Is it possible to make a meaningful marketing impression in six seconds or less? Sure, you can say “Eat at Joe’s,” but will you even have time to mention Joe’s address?
Ever since Twitter unleashed Vine in January, the intriguing app, which lets users capture and share short looping videos of six seconds or less, has been a topic of much discussion among marketers. Will it inspire a new wave of online video marketing creativity, or will the videos be just too short and fleeting make a difference?
One thing’s for sure: the barrier to entry is virtually non-existent. Once you’ve downloaded the app (it’s only for iOS at the moment), all you need to do to create a video is press your thumb against the screen to record. Remove your thumb and recording pauses until you press again. So not only can you can create a six-second video, you can also include multiple scenes or even create crude stop-motion animation. The Vine app categorizes videos for simple searching, and users can push their videos out to Facebook and Twitter. (Interestingly, Twitter sets the audio as off by default; viewers have to click to hear sound.)
“Six seconds sounds like nothing, but count it out and you realize it’s more time than you think,” says Lance Ulanoff, editor-in-chief of Mashable. “It’s certainly enough to tell some very brief but high-impact tales.” An early Vine user himself, both personally and professionally, Ulanoff says marketers are already on board. “Companies see the value. A six-second Vine is highly portable and shareable, much more so than a 30-second-to-two-minute marketing message.”
Brands have been quick to use Vine, if for no other reason than its price: free. Some are also working on the somewhat cynical but probably accurate theory that many online consumers’ attention spans are already totally shot at this point, and six seconds is perhaps all they care to tolerate. In Vine’s first weeks, it was easy to find examples from companies as diverse at Toyota, Malibu Rum, General Electric, NBC (where Jimmy Fallon made an endless Vine), Gogo, Dove, Nabisco, Urban Outfitters, and Malibu Rum.
Michael Kelly, consumer communication manager of American Licorice, the makers of Red Vines, was an early adopter. “Twitter is a big part of our marketing mix to generate impressions for our brand. Vine has made Twitter a more visual platform. It’s an instant opportunity for marketers to offer little snackable bits of content.”
How can you make Vine work for you and your marketing message?
Brainstorm Vine’s Best Uses
First, the hard part: figure out what you can say to or do for your customers that fits in six seconds. Think creatively, and you may come up with lots of ideas:
- A quick how-to about a product or service
- A funny visual pun
- A time-lapse video of a logo’s evolution
- A quick video of your company’s timeline or milestones
- A brief company announcement
- A fast spin around company HQ
- The assembly of your best-known product
- Contests in which customers show themselves using your product
- Video testimonials
- Teasers for upcoming events or commercials
- A series of product tutorials
- Individual responses to customer tweets or Facebook posts
But Don’t Overthink It
Vine demands the same brevity that Twitter does, and it requires quick, Twitter-like thinking.
“It’s really just another angle to Twitter,” says Kelly. “You don’t want to overthink it too much. Sharing a Vine video is like sharing a picture, and the video aspect just makes it more engaging.”
He recommends that marketers try to segregate their Vine efforts from the typical marketing work that requires approvals from multiple layers of stakeholders and brand managers. To be relevant you have to be fast and willing to experiment, pushing content out to learn from the reaction and to measure impact.
Worry at Least a Little Bit About Quality
But just because it’s easy to make a Vine video doesn’t mean you’re absolved of caring about its quality.
“To create meaningful six-second messages, you need to spend a lot more than six seconds planning out your Vine,” says Mashable’s Ulanoff. According to the 2013 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report from the Content Marketing Institute, 64 percent of B2B marketers say they find it hard to produce enough content. To them, an easy-to-use solution like Vine may be a godsend, but it may also be a trap. Inundate your customers with time-wasting drivel, and you’re looking for trouble. Still, Kelly takes a casual approach. “What we’ve learned is that on social media, consumers don’t care as much about content being polished and having the same level of quality they see on TV. They just care about stuff being funny.”
Find the Right Environment for Posting
Twitter is the most obvious delivery system for Vine videos, but it’s not the only one. You can drop Vine videos into a blog, a presentation, a Facebook page, or an e-mail. The key here is to integrate Vine into the message delivery strategy you already have in place. If Facebook is your priority, put your Vine videos there. And always keep in mind that because these videos are usually recorded on shaky handheld smartphones with whatever ambient lighting is available, they will never be of the same quality as your million-dollar 30-second commercial and should therefore be distributed on the appropriate platforms. In this case, the medium is the message. Don’t send Vine videos to places where they will leave a bad impression.
Focus on Promotion
Early indications seem to be that Vine will be heavily used for customer promotions along the lines of “Send us your video, attach the appropriate hashtags, and you’ll be entered to win a free widget.” Then, collect the best ones and post them on your Web site or retweet them. Video-based promotion doesn’t get much cheaper. You might also use Vine as a tease, breaking up big pieces of corporate news or product launches into smaller pieces that come together over time like a puzzle. Social media has a spotty record with this style of marketing — the attention span factor comes into play — but it could be worth a try.