The Decline of Vine

Twitter-Kils-Vine

 

Vine, the social network that burst onto the scene in 2013 with its videos limited to just 6 seconds apiece, is dying.

User engagement has tanked, and many of the top Vine celebrities (ahem – “Viners”) have abandoned the platform in favor of better distribution and greater visibility on Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat.

This should serve as a warning call to marketers and would-be social media influencers everywhere about the dangers of investing too heavily in any one platform, as well as the speed with which new platforms can rise and fall.

For an illustration of that rise and fall, see my thoughts on Time Inc.’s odd decision to buy the long-defunct MySpace this spring.

Just as LinkedIn killed the effectiveness of Pulse as a distribution channel with a single algorithm change last year, so too can the fickle nature of social media users abandon platforms seemingly overnight.

This is particularly noteworthy with regard to Snapchat, which is essentially this year’s Vine, the social media platform du jour among Millennials and Generation Z.

Background

Vine was founded in June 2012 and was acquired by Twitter that October, prior to its official launch in January 2013.

This acquisition made sense, as Vine, with its 6-second limit, was essentially a video analog to Twitter’s then 140-character-limited micro-blogging platform.

Vine turned out to be a perfect platform for young comedians and creatives to show their stuff and build an audience via amateur video shorts.

By December 2015, Vine had 200 million active users. At one point that year, it was estimated that 1 in 4 teens was on the platform.

Greatest Hits

Among the more viral videos or memes to have come out of vine over the last 3.5 years are:

The Vine Resume (Dawn Siff)

This was thought to be the first-ever 6-second resume.

Siff’s Vine resume gained her media coverage in Mashable, Fast Company and New York Magazine. More importantly, it helped her land a job with The Economist Group. Two years later, she now works as a contract producer for Google.

Damn Daniel

High schooler Daniel Lara’s charming good looks and sartorial style made him such a viral sensation rapper Jay Z even referenced him in a rap this summer.

 

Ryan Gosling Won’t Eat His Cereal

The story of Ryan McHenry, who started the aforementioned (and genius) meme, took a sad turn when he died of cancer in May 2015. He was 27 years old.


In response to news of McHenry’s death, Ryan Gosling himself published a video tribute, in which he finally ate his cereal.

Top Reasons For Vine’s Decline

1. Executive Exodus

This year, most of Vine’s top executives have left. Key players who have departed since January include the:

  • General Manager
  • Head of Engineering
  • Head of User Experience
  • Head of Data Science
  • Head of Business Development and Operations
  • Editorial Lead
  • 3 Senior Product Managers

While that in and of itself does not mean a brand (or platform) is doomed, it is a tell.

Key talent tends to stay with good and growing companies.

If top executives are looking for greener pastures en masse, they may be privy to flaws in the company that are not yet visible to the general public.

And, of course, executive leadership is key to a brand’s growth. Without a strong captain at the top, it’s tough to right a sinking ship.

2. Longer Videos

Vine essentially cried “Uncle” on June 21st when it announced it would now allow videos longer than 6 seconds – videos could be as long as 140 seconds, to be exact.

(Slow clap for the 140 love. Recall that Vine is owned by Twitter, the platform where messages were formerly limited to just 140 characters.)

This expansion was an obvious play to combat the erosion of Vine’s market share that came from Instagram’s introduction of 15-second video clips.

Not only was the capitulation to longer video contrary to the entire ethos of Vine, but it was reminiscent of the sort of weak play made by the now-defunct Blockbuster Video when it announced its own video streaming service a full year and a half after Netflix had pioneered that space.

Too little, too late, guys.

3. Top User Exodus

Research firm Markerly recently released a report that found that more than half of Vine’s top users had not posted any videos to the platform since Jan. 1.

Specifically:

  • The top 1% of Vine users have 15,000 followers or more.
  • There are 9,725 users in that group.
  • 5,094 of those 9,725 (or 52% of them) have not posted on Vine at all in 2016.

4. Better Alternatives

We know that top losers have abandoned Vine. The bigger question is why?

I mentioned the answer at the top of this post: Instagram and Facebook have caught up.

Facebook has far more users, better reach, and better engagement.

And Instagram has far more users, a 15-second video capability, and an entire suite of video editing tools that Vine does not.

These are clear examples of the second mover advantage, as Facebook and Instagram here actually did not merely catch up, they surpassed the original.

Just as Facebook built a better social networking platform that no one was asking for in the era of Friendster and MySpace, so too can late entrants learn from the mistakes of their predecessors and soon dominate a market with a better product.

Apple was able to enter the mobile phone market in a way that spelled the end for Nokia, whose “Walkie Talkie” phones were once the most popular model.

Similarly, if Princeton University, for example, were to open a law school, there’s little doubt it would be considered a top 30 school within a decade.

Finally, as if to underscore this point, yesterday Instagram introduced “Stories,” essentially a direct copy of Snapchat’s signature service, as the content in Stories disappears after 24 hours.

Conclusion

The withering of Vine is an important reminder that what is hot in social media today may not be tomorrow.

Brands should not necessarily rush to adopt the hottest new platform, no matter how disruptive or transformative it seems.

But most of all, the lesson here is not to bet the bank on a single distribution channel.

As in many aspects of life, diversification is key.

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