The Closure of Vine: Innovate or Die

With a collapse almost as sudden as its rise, last week Twitter announced it had axed its 6-second video sharing service, Vine.

Having worked on many social media campaigns in a former life, Vine was never included as part of a strategy. Heck, it was never so much as a momentary consideration. It’s not that its format wasn’t suitable for our clients – we only need to look at the creative ways brands are reaching younger audiences through Snapchat – but because it didn’t have an advertising model and lacked the targeting capabilities of other platforms.

Brands found value through the app by working with social stars such as singer Liane V and pop-rap duo Jack and Jack who had amassed huge followings to create sponsored content. While these partnerships were successful, brands found it increasingly difficult to weave their story into a piece of content in six seconds. As Mark Book, director of Digitas Studios said, “We have seen success with stop-motion and live events that tell a larger, real-time story, but those opportunities are few and far between.”

Vine was game-changing when it arrived on the scene in January 2013, however its demise was due to its lack of innovation. While other platforms beefed up their video offerings and Snap Inc, formerly Snapchat, took Gen Y by storm, Vine did…well…nothing. Instagram launched its Stories feature this year, Facebook has now put video firmly first with its live streaming capability, the acquisition of Oculus Rift and 360 degree video.  All the while these platforms have been adapting their technology to keep up with the market, Vine never re-invented itself and subsequently stagnated. Without adequate resources from Twitter, Vine spent a year and a half trying to get something as simple as music looping to launch in the app, while Snapchat added new features every two weeks.

Two years after Twitter had acquired Vine, it launched its own native video product allowing users to upload videos up to 30 seconds long. A month after that, the platform added live-streaming app Periscope to its video offering. There didn’t seem to be one coherent video strategy and this confused creators: when should they use Twitter video and where did Vine fit in?

US-based actor Greg Davis Jnr rose to fame on Vine after sharing comedic 6-second clips. It wasn’t long before he was earning a six-figure salary, capturing the attention of corporate sponsors such as Coca-Cola. He produced Vines until the app’s closure when most of his peers had left for pastures new at YouTube, Instagram and Snap Inc. These platforms offered more opportunities for exposure and revenue-sharing, but more importantly, they protected creators from online abuse.

Former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said himself in 2015, “We suck at dealing with abuse.” The company’s reluctance to tackle trolls, allowing them free reign to harass everyone from journalists and celebrities to casual users put off brands such as Disney who felt that the “bullying and other uncivil forms of communication on the social media site might soil the company’s wholesome family image.”

After talks between 21 Vine creators and Twitter about product changes including protection against online abuse broke down, they left in their droves to other platforms. Viewership fell dramatically and advertisers had no incentive to help the company monetize. Twitter cut nine per cent of its global workforce and closed Vine for good.

Despite its sad demise, the biggest takeaway from Vine’s closure is that it’s short, snackable format taught brands the value of succinct, impactful and spontaneous content. It planted the seed of creative risk-taking that will continue to blossom across the media landscape.

By Bella Foxwell


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