Why Vine struggled for a place in a shortform video world... and why the stars it created won't have the same difficulty

RIP Vine. Loved, but ultimately not loved enough, the six second video sharing app goes the way of Betamax, Phreadz and Meerkat in the video format graveyard. There’s been a nostalgic outpouring of love (if that’s possible for an app that’s only been in the public consciousness for four years) for Vine, but services can’t grow on love alone.

It’s doubtful too many brands will be ripping up their social media strategy off the back of Vine’s sunsetting last week. The platform was fun, it had its uses and occasionally a piece of creative or a campaign was perfect for Vine. Mostly, though, you’d probably go to Instagram or Twitter itself if you wanted that audience. And with a greater push on live video from both Facebook and Twitter, it’s hard to see where Vine fitted in the new social video landscape.

Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images

Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images

There’s been plenty written on Vine’s demise but it always felt like there were three key areas of Vine that were both strengths and weaknesses. The first was the creative format, the second was the community on the platform and the stars that grew out of it, and the third was the monetization (or lack thereof).

Creatively, the six second looping format was a real challenge, but plenty of people saw the potential and created entertaining and compelling content. Vine stars such as Zach King and Joe Chapman understood how to push the restrictions to their limits.

The trouble was very few brands or regular users thought in quite the same way. Creating beautiful or engaging Vines took a lot of effort. For your average user, Instagram, Snapchat and even Facebook, YouTube and Twitter offered a much easier video experience. 

You can also replace the words average user in the previous paragraph with brands. At first, there were a raft of often very creative offerings from brands, but once Twitter launched its own native video solution, Vine became a very niche offering from a creative perspective. Occasionally it fitted a campaign but more often than not it was easier and cheaper to use a different platform.

Unlike other social platforms, Vine’s high entry level meant it became much more of a broadcasting platforms. It wasn’t a place to see what your friends were doing, but more about finding the right Vine stars to watch in a quick hit.

This had a weird effect of making Vine about the talent rather than the social element of the platform, more so than YouTube, and more akin to a traditional broadcaster who needs to keep hold of their talent.

Vine star Zach King

But while some Vine stars could earn up to $200,000 per Vine, many of them started to gravitate towards other platforms. Instagram’s 15 second looping video opened up a similar format but to a wider audience. Snapchat, YouTube and Facebook also became more compelling formats.

Finally, the monetisation element. Aside from promoting a Vine on Twitter there's never really been a compelling reason for brands to spend on Vine.

It's a classic 1,2,3: competitors taking your best elements, community stars migrating to other platforms and no obvious way to make money.

In some ways, I suspect Twitter had realised this some time ago. I'd fully expect the looping six second format to live on as a creative option within Twitter, while their Niche influencer platform addresses many of the issues of stars working elsewhere (plus the analytics dashboard is very detailed).

Does this mean shortform video no longer viable?

Video definitely isn't going anywhere. Facebook is pivoting into a video first platform. Twitter (and by extension Periscope), like Facebook, is betting heavily on live video. Instagram and Snapchat do what Vine did only better. 

Brands who are investing in video (not only shortform) are probably heading in the right direction for now, or at least until networks decide to pivot again. That said, you still won't get away with pushing the same content onto each network (not that you should anyway).

The most interesting element is probably the influencer marketing element of Vine. Since its launch, Vine has proved a fertile creative platform and one that unsurprisingly a lot of brands have seen value in.

As a result, a lot of individuals were able to build their careers out of Vine. Many of them have expanded their profiles and now have presences on all of the major platforms, so to that regard, it’s doubtful the demise of the platform will hurt their earnings.

But as losing Vine removes one outlet for brands it doesn’t make the process any less simpler. Should brands simply ask the former Vine stars to post across all their new platforms? Do the micro influencers that started to emerge through Vine have value? Will the loss of Vine as a community mean engaged followers move onto other platforms (assuming they’re not there already).

As social gets smarter, brands need more robust proof of ROI beyond vanity metrics. In that regard Niche and its cross-platform dashboard may just be one of Twitter's smartest acquisitions in recent years.

As for Vine itself, there have been frequent rumours of buyers (including Porn Hub, of all people). The format itself is easy to love. The big question is could another owner make it both relevant at a mass scale and profitable?