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Is Vine a breakthrough in video?

Every few months, there is a new “latest and greatest” in digital marketing. Lately, you might be hearing lots of buzz around Vine, the six-second video platform acquired by Twitter. Some of you snarkier readers might ask yourself what kind of breakthrough this is. After all, what is so revolutionary about limiting videos to six seconds? If six-second videos work so well, why don’t we just post six-second videos to YouTube? There is nothing forcing you to post longer videos on YouTube if six seconds really works. I think those questions miss the point.

The real point of Vine is not that it allows a marketer to post a six-second video. The point is that it promises the viewer that nothing will be longer than six seconds.

Compare this to Twitter. It’s the same point, actually. Is there something magical about 140 characters that makes it the right format? No, it’s just short. There was no reason that you couldn’t have limited your blog posts to 140 characters, if that short form just plain works better. If that sounds silly to you, try to remember that Twitter was originally referred to as a microblogging venue.

Vine, Twitter
Photo credit: clasesdeperiodismo

The breakthrough that became Twitter is that it was promising people that nothing would be longer than 140 characters, so people could indulge their ever-shortening attention spans to their hearts’ content. No worry that something long and boring would intrude. (It might still be boring, but at least it is mercifully short.)

Vines is the same idea, which is why it makes so much sense that Twitter bought it. Now, I am not sure if six seconds is long enough to do an effective video. We don’t have any evidence for it yet. But we had no evidence for 140 characters prior to Twitter–sometimes you need to take a stab at something. If there is a need, then people adjust and suddenly it seems like a rule of the universe that 140 characters just feels right.

Personally, I would have been more sure of a 15-second format, the way Tout has done it. We have a long history of 15-second TV commercials being successful, so we know something good can be done in 15 seconds. But you haven’t heard of Tout, have you? It could be that we’ll figure out how to be effective in six seconds, too. Maybe commercials have gotten down to 10 seconds, so it seems like the magic number is somewhere between six and 15 seconds.

Once you start getting below six seconds, you start turning it into a static image rather than a video, but maybe that is the ultimate short video–just an image! But we don’t have evidence that works better. YouTube has always been more popular than Flickr. In June, Vine passed Instagram in total Twitter shares. In response to Vine, Instagram (which is now owned by Facebook) added sharing of videos that same month, recognizing that there is something valuable about short videos that can’t be reduced to images.

Now, Vine is useful for a lot more kinds of communication than commercials, but I am trying to make the point that, while six seconds is arbitrary, we have lots of evidence that attention spans are growing ever shorter. The idea of Vine with the backing of Twitter might be something worth looking into.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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