When Twitter snapped up and promptly launched the six-second video app Vine in January this year, communications professionals were quick to jump on board, producing a wide range of content for brands.
Three months later, Vine's popularity shows no signs of abating. Considering how many brands in the past have used caution when adopting a new social media tool, as was the case with Twitter, what has driven such rapid usage this time?
McDonald's was one of the early experimenters with Vine, launching a tic-tac-toe stop motion video to promote its new menu item, Fish McBites.
"We are always looking for new ways to have fun through social channels," says Rick Wion, social media director at McDonald's "and when someone from GolinHarris came up with the concept to use it as part of the launch, it seemed a natural fit - a new platform to go with a new menu item."
Wion says the video was the most popular piece of content the brand posted on Twitter that day and following its success, McDonald's has used Vine to post clips in real time including its annual "Flavor Battle DJ competition" in February.
While posting videos isn't new for social, the native mobile shooting, editing, and posting of videos through Vine is very simple. "It provides a quick and easy way to add video content to our channels and, most notably, extend engagement opportunities via Twitter," he says.
Dana Zemack VP, LaunchSquad, says Vine's simplicity makes it appealing to communications professionals, offering a more accessible route for creating content than highly produced videos.
"In this era, every company should be creating content," she says. "Vine is totally DIY, making video more accessible than ever and good for people with short attention spans."
The format capitalizes on the popularity of the animated GIF, which took off last year and got consumers used to short-loop content. Zemack says because a Vine video is so short, viewers can see it over and over again, which can help a brand really drive its message.
But with any new content tool, brands run the risk of producing content just for the sake of it, and could fail to engage their target audiences.
How to use Vine
• "Constraint inspires creativity," according to Vine's founder Dom Hofmann. Communications professionals must ensure the video pushes creative boundaries, rather than being content for the sake of content.
• Be relevant. By tying a Vine video to a cultural event or talk in the Twittersphere, brands can make sure their messages resonate with targeted audiences.
• Experiment and adapt. If a video does not engage the desired audience, make another and take account of what does and does not work, then fine tune the strategy.
Mindy Shaltry, senior associate brand manager of Wheat Thins at Mondelez International, who has overseen the rollout of Wheat Thins Vine videos, says that to make a video relevant, it cannot be posted in isolation and needs to form part of a connected marketing strategy, which looks at what is happening in the social media community.
However, she says brands should be prepared to experiment. "We took the approach to test it out and learn what works and what doesn't because it's simple to make videos and we can adapt them very quickly," she says.
While this fail-fast approach seemingly works well for Vine, communications professionals need to exert a level of caution, especially when experimenting with any new social media tool.
Vine's launch was marred by a porn scandal, when within a week of its launch, illicit videos were uploaded and through a technical error became "editor's picks" on Twitter.
Zemack says this should not be a major concern for PR professionals because Vine has become known as a "huge creative outlet," which still "overshadowed" the porn scandal.
It is too early to tell whether Vine has the potential to start a new movement and transform the way video is created and consumed or it will become another app that ends up on the social media trash heap.
"Whether it takes hold and has real staying power will depend on the users it attracts," says Wion. "If they stick around and keep coming up with great content regularly, Vine could become an essential part of the social media world."