It was the future once.
Vine’s six-second video clips ushered in a new era of content creation and helped spur the rise of many micro-celebrities, who quickly garnered large audiences and caught the attention of big brands. But all was not well. With engagement rates faltering, 18 of Vine’s largest influencers staged an intervention, offering Vine a series of product suggestions and original content in return for 1.2 million a piece. Discussions soon stalled, the influencers left and a few weeks later Twitter announced it will shut down the platform in the coming months.
Where did it all go wrong for Vine? And what can this teach brands, social media platforms and marketers learn about the value of online influencers?
Before answering that, it’s worth taking a step back to consider Vine’s exponential growth. In 2013, the selfie had already achieved cult-like status, with the global phenomenon being awarded the Oxford Dictionaries’ ‘Word Of The Year’ award. Vine spotted this huge opportunity and by allowing users to use their front-facing smartphone cameras it rode the wave, exploding in popularity. This critical product iteration helped a number of previously unknown content creators become wildly popular, perhaps most notably Logan Paul. He boasts to date four billion looped Vines and thanks to his meteoric rise on the platform was once paid over $200,000 by Dunkin’ Donuts for one day’s work on a promotional video.
Competitors soon took note of Vine’s success and implemented their own video innovations. Instagram, which up until that point had only been a platform focused on still images, introduced 15 second video clips in 2013 and by the next year Facebook had adopted a “video-first” approach.
For the next few years Vine’s product innovation was to be stagnant. In fact, it stuck rigidly to its six-second format right up until July 2016, extending its limit to 140 seconds, which whilst welcome, was too little too late. Yet perhaps more detrimental than its difficulties in keeping up with the pace of innovation from competitors was Vine’s approach (or lack thereof) to courting content creators.
Consider its competitors. Facebook launched Facebook Live exclusively to influencers in 2015, almost a full year before rolling it out to average users. Twitter’s - Vine’s owner - launched Engage, an app designed with the sole purpose of helping influencers to interact with their fans and build a bigger following. Vine failed to keep up and didn’t adapt it business model around the rise of influencer marketing.
As Vine continued to struggle - in vain - to develop a mutually satisfying revenue sharing component, its influencers asked to be paid for posting in 2015. Even as these talks came to nothing, bosses at Twitter may have already been raising concerns about the future of the video platform. What makes this lack of influencer-centricity confusing is that during the same year, Twitter acted on the need to pay its influencers for their content by launching Open Amplify, which gave them a cut of ad revenue.
With no working revenue model and engagement rates dropping fast, it is little wonder that Vine’s best home-grown creators looked elsewhere to nurture their online audiences. Marketers simply began shifting their money away from Vine and influencers were tempted by the proactive approach of Vine’s competitors and the promise of increased engagement, with that Vine’s fate was sealed.
What does this episode tell us about the nature of social media and online influence? The fortunes of social media platforms are now so closely associated with influencers that the success of one is fast becoming dependant on the other. The world is only big enough for a few huge social networks and those who do challenge the big players must differentiate early and quickly if they’re to this prove their worth with consumers, brands and influencers. Without a strong differentiator many more will find it difficult to muscle in on Facebook and Instagram’s dominance.
By Solberg Audunsson, co-founder at Takumi
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