Vine, the new six-second video-sharing app from Twitter, is -- in a word -- exploding. Industry reactions are all over the place: from envisioning a new standard for online video advertising to questioning whether Vine's "porn problem" is merely a blip on the radar or a more persistent, damaging issue.
But I'd like to point to a different implication: the future of real-time marketing.
Why, you might ask, is Vine "more" real-time than other social apps and services -- say, for example, YouTube? After all, on YouTube, anyone can record a video and publish it instantly. So, in that sense, it is, technically, real-time.
Here’s the difference: YouTube isn’t designed to be a real-time medium. Twitter, on the other hand, with its 140-character limit, is. Its constraints naturally, and near-automatically, lend themselves to real-time.
Six seconds, like 140 characters, is real-time by design. And that’s why it’s so important to contemplate from a real-time marketing perspective.
The Medium, the Message, and the Marketer
A good way to think about all of this is through Marshall McLuhan’s now-ubiquitous, but no less profound, maxim: “The medium is the message.”
Six seconds doesn’t convey a message of “depth,” or “insight,” or “conversation.” Rather, it conveys now, breaking, and ultimately, real-time. And because it’s being launched through Twitter, by Twitter, Vine naturally builds a cultural pattern, a habit, of associating “six seconds” with “real-time.” Six seconds allows you to test -- quickly. To experiment. To take risks at a fairly low cost, financially and with reputation.
Six seconds is enough time for a customer service rep to, right after a phone call, record herself saying “thank you,” or holding a cute sign that reads “thank you” -- and not just smiling statically in an immovable picture, but dynamically adding that human je ne sais quoi that can mean the difference between a customer thinking “nice” and exclaiming, “Oh, that’s adorable!”
Six seconds isn’t, in and of itself, a necessarily profound number -- unless Vine was looking to replicate Hemingway’s six-word story in digital form -- but it forces new constraints on old formats. Those constraints, in turn, create new cultural habits and norms: just think of how the 140-character limit has forever changed the course of culture.
And marketing is nothing if it's not being culturally relevant.
The Real-Time Marketing Opportunity for Brands
Vine’s new cultural norm is this: real-time, micro-form creativity. When we see a “vine” now, we expect to be surprised, delighted, intrigued, moved -- but whatever it is, we expect to see something creative.
For any brands involved in content marketing, this should be seen as a new -- and inviting -- playground. In fact, brands are already jumping on the swing sets.
If you have a new product launch, for example, instead of, on one hand, simply taking an Instagram shot, or on the other, creating some kind of preview video of some length in some format, you now have permission to make a fun, intriguing six-second montage that leaves people wanting more.
Or you can make it easier for fans to submit content and co-create a globally crowdsourced story in real-time. You can record and share your employees’ quirky personalities in a matter of minutes. You can give creative updates on campaigns, projects, and initiatives.
You can build suspense for an event. You can share what’s happening at that event, while it’s happening. You can share your six favorite photos, or your two favorite moments, or the three funniest laughs, from the event after it’s over.
See, this is the trend. Vine doesn’t kill traditional, long-form creativity. But, like all new constraints that become cultural norms, it will force marketers and content creators to innovate with less, to tell a bigger stories in smaller containers -- to become, well, more real-time.