At the recent Festival of Marketing, we were treated to a talk by Ian Padgham, who describes himself as a video producer and artists and who has recently started working as a freelancer producing Vines for businesses. He talked about the way his experiences at the in-house video producer at Twitter, taught him about how the immediacy of social networks can help companies reach their audiences in a more engaging and authentic way and how to manage the perceived risks that social media presents.

What is a Vine?

A Vine is a short – six second long – looped video that anyone can record and publish using an app on their smartphone.

All you have to do to create a Vine is open the app, point at the thing you want to film and hold the record button for six seconds. Once you reach six seconds you have the chance to review the video and then publish it, posting it on social media networks with a single click.

On the app there is also the chance to tag your Vine and search for other Vines either by looking for hashtags or by looking at the categories that Vine has defined.

What is the point of Vine?

Vine is part of the same social network universe as Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and twitter (in fact it was recently acquired by twitter) but perhaps more importantly it part of a trend on social media towards brevity. Twitter has exploded in popularity thanks no doubt to the challenge of expressing an idea in 140 characters and Vine is taking that concept a stage further, challenging the user to create something interesting and meaningful in  seconds.

One other important aspect of Vine, along with so many other social networks, is the availability of creativity. The web now is, to some degree at least, a democratic environment. A teenager in his or her bedroom with a laptop and a smartphone can, with enough creativity and application, create something that engages with an audience in a way that many multi-million dollar corporations spend huge budgets and vast amounts of time trying to do.

What Vine means for businesses

At the most basic level, the importance of something like Vine for businesses is that is where your customers are spending at least some of their time. Certainly your customers might not actually be using Vine, but they are highly likely to be on some social networks and so that is where you need to be. To put that in context, 13 million people had signed up for Vine by June this year. Twitter did not say how many of them were active users, but the third-party service Topsy has estimated that, on average, Vine users post 12 million videos on Twitter every day.

The other important aspect of using something like Vine is that you are communicating with your customers using the same media they are. You customers are not communicating with one another using full page ads in running magazines or on billboards or through television advertisements. They are not even communicating with one another using beautiful, high quality, on-brand videos (although they may well be sharing them with each other). They are talking to each other using Facebook update, tweets and Vines. If you want to engage with your consumers, rather than talk at them, then  you need to be using the same media they are.

Your customers are already talking about you. You can choose to engage with them, or you can stand aside and hope that what is being said is positive. By delving into the world of social networks like Vine, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter, you can talk to your customers in the same way they are talking to one another, in an authentic and engaging way. That will almost certainly mean that you need to take a risk and remove many of the safeguards that traditional media allowed you to put in place – for example a Vine cannot be saved or edited: you point, record and publish, it is that simple. But if you can get past the need for as much control as you are used to having – and as we say, people are already talking about your business on social media, so you have less control than you thought you had anyway – then you will find that your communications with brands will experience more depth and richness than ever before. All thanks to 6 seconds of video… probably!


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