It is far too early to say whether or not microvideo sharing platform Vine will evolve into something of consequence to communicators. Judging by the feed at VinePeek, at the moment it seems to be full of test shoots, as early adopters experiment with stop motion – moving things around their desks, or offering their cats and dogs six seconds of fame.
Tellingly, quite a few brands have been quick to establish a presence, though mostly in a “we can play with this new thing, too” sort of way.
Vine has significance for strategic communications theory and practice in that it further illustrates the shift to visual imagery in online discourse. As YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram have shown, people enjoy sharing images. They are easy to consume, and can be easy to generate.
Whether or not a picture is worth a thousand words, imagery is often far more effective and conveying feeling and emotion than words. Striking images work well in advertising, in that they can grab attention and be memorable, but it is challenging to convey complex or nuanced messages.
Stephen Waddington has identified 10 ways brands can use Vine, suggesting “Vine is to video what a tweet is to text,” and arguing that “six seconds is sufficient time to tell a story and start a conversation.”
He also believes the simplicity of Vine “makes video crowdsourcing a real viability for brands. Ask your audience to engage with you via a Vine post.”
Designers know that movement catches attention, and that people are intrigued by the unexpected. The most striking Vines so far include those using stop motion illusion – objects appear or disappear, people float on air – or letters and words emerge to tell simple stories. Others, of course, engage directly with primal emotions – babies, pets that are either cute or amusing.
There will be a rush to create Vines that ‘go viral’ (and PR pitches will include “we will create a Viral Vine”). Some will discover, perhaps painfully, that it is easier to gain attention than effectively create dialogue.
The challenge for communicators, and for those who try to theorise persuasive communication practice, will be to interpret and explain the language, culture and iconography of these new discourses.
At an operational level, Vine provides a further piece in the ever-richer social media mosaic, another link in the storytelling and relationship chains. Vines may provide linkages between fragments of content, or they may amplify the fragmentation of organisational discourse.
Such linkages are more likely to be explained by theory that emphasises the importance of values than less flexible notions of publics.