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There are three things you can say for sure about Vine, the six-second video social network acquired by Twitter. One, Vine has more than survived its first year since launch: the video app has matured into a 40-million-user mainstay among the 10 to 22-year-old demographic. Two, within that niche, in some cases it’s become a way to make a living for highly creative and influential users. And three, it’s a space where brands and businesses stand to push boundaries and grow audiences — if they understand what Vine does best for brands.

“It’s extremely powerful,” says Evan Aaronson, founder of Boomopolis, regarding Vine and brand outreach. But he’s found that companies struggle to understand what the short-form videos can do.

“What generally happens is these business contact me and they’re initially a little bit gun shy,” Aaronson says. “They want to understand, what is it? They end up dipping their toes in the water a little bit — they spend a little bit of money — and then after they see the results they tell me that Vine is amazing, and they can’t believe how well it did for them. And then they quadruple their spend.”

Let’s dig in to what Vine does for brands and how it creates the enthusiasm Aaronson sees from his clients. We’ll turn to some examples of brands using Vine to great effect, and then look at some advice you can incorporate into your first (or renewed) efforts with Vine.

Businesses that are breaking out with Vine

Vine has only been in the spotlight for about a year. Twitter scooped it up from a tiny shop of startup developers in October 2012, before Vine had even launched, and then presented the app to the world in January 2013. Within six months, it held the top spot in Apple’s App Store.

While some have been slow to adopt Vine, huge brans like Major League Baseball have been tapping into mini-videos for the past 14 months in some aggressive and innovative ways.

“There’s a huge opportunity, in that it’s a very interesting kind of viewer that looks at Vine,” Erik Reitmeyer, social media coordinator for MLB Advanced Media, told Sports Business Daily in March. “There are a lot of different ways that you can tell a story on it, so we’ll go a little off brand and just experiment.”

Brands can conduct a Vine campaign in smaller ways — and with successful results. Here’s a trio of cases that run the gamut from modest-size businesses to up-and-coming larger players in the Vine ecosystem. Each of them has a lesson to teach.

Example 1: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

This booming small business has nailed some of the key ideas that can drive a successful Vine-and-brand pairing: tell a story, keep it simple and don’t force your videos to be traditional ads. On the company’s Vine page, six-second shorts make Jeni’s delicious products the star. By going behind the the scenes, these videos show the quality and care that is put in to each dessert. No surprise they’ll also leave you craving sweets.

 

Example 2: The Hunt

Let’s talk about user-generated content. Vine is a hotbed of opportunities for brands in that some of the funniest, hippest, and most resourceful creatives are among a brand’s own audience. Style-advice app The Hunt has leveraged its smart and fashion-conscious followers by offering in-Vine promotion and prizes for the best user-created videos. “A bunch of kids will make these Vines about The Hunt or about a specific feature of The Hunt,” says Aaronson. From there, re-Vines can generate a reach of up to 30,000 users at a time, each following the original Viner and helping to further spread the brand’s message.

Example 3: Thomas More University

Vine works with all kinds of brands. The product that a university offers is certainly more abstract than ice cream or clothing, but Viners love an original idea. Thomas More University gets that, and their stop-motion style videos bring the concept of learning and computers together in clever explorations of what the school creates for technology students.

What brands need to know about Viners

Early data suggests Vine’s average user is 20.2 years old. So the sweet spot for brands, according to Stephanie Schwab, principal at Crackerjack Marketing, is often products and ideas that will reach young people.

“Given the demographic, fashion and retail brands have done extremely well with Vine, as have food brands,” Schwab says. “Oreo, Dunkin Donuts and Taco Bell are some of my favorite food brands on Vine. And Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom and Marc Jacobs are great for fashion.”

Beyond making their own content, or tapping their own audience, one way that brands can reach the young and the hip is to bring on known Vine influencers.

A swiftly growing market, what are typically youthful super-users — meaning that they are 16-26 years old and have Vine followers in the 250,000-plus range — are paid to create Vine videos promoting a product, event, or other idea to their base. Some influencers, says Aaronson, clear more than a quarter-million in earnings annually. Brands can get into the influencer game for as little as $1,000, he says, or they can spend tens of thousands on a campaign.

And then there’s Vine Messages. The new component, announced in April, allows Viners to send the videos they make as private direct messages to both users and non-users. What it means isn’t as clear to experts such as Aaronson — at least, not yet.

“I don’t know if it means much for brands but it certainly means a lot for Vine,” he says, “in terms of people sending messages to people not on Vine — and that person not on Vine may go ‘oh, what’s this?’ … and then they’ll become aware of Vine.”

If those new discoveries lead to new users, then brands can reap the collateral benefit of the newly added ranks. But they’ll still need a Vine-specific strategy to reach them. Let’s turn to some tips that can get that ball rolling.

Tips for brands looking to grow their Vine audience

If you’re starting your own Vine efforts, pay attention to these key concepts along the way. No matter what you’re brand’s budget, the following advice will help you craft a smarter strategy.

1. Follow what’s trending on Vine. Brands should pay attention to the popular songs, phrases, and other sharable ideas that are getting traction on Vine. Incorporating trends, when appropriate, and looking at the tags of those trends so they can use them in their own Vines, will lead to more people finding their brand.

2. Create real-world interactions with Vine. Using Viners to make public appearances at brick-and-mortar businesses has been vastly under utilized, according to Aaronson. Grand openings, festivals, movie premieres — having a Viner announce that they will be at your establishment to meet their fans not only stands to get a huge number of people in the door, but also to make a ton of teenagers aware of your business.

3. The audience is the audience. Businesses can get hung up on the actual influencers they reach out to for a Vine campaign, worrying about which one is better for their brand. But the audience demographic of each individual influencer only varies a little bit. Barring an obvious style or background conflict, focus instead on how many followers you want to reach and then evaluate the engagement of an influencer — how many likes, re-Vines, and comments they’ve garnered in past efforts.

Finally, note that in Vine you’re not able to include clickable links, so the way businesses can tell if a Vine campaign is working is either by implementing a coupon code or isolating the campaign so you’re not doing any other big promotions simultaneously. When the campaign runs, brands should note the increase in incoming traffic or sales. Many businesses aren’t crazy about not being able to track their Vine campaign more precisely, but when you see that spike, you’ll start to appreciate how Vine can bring new audiences to brands that want to get noticed.

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