Will Twitter Video Doom Vine?

Late last month, Twitter announced the rollout of its new native video feature, which allows mobile users to shoot, edit and post video clips up to 30 seconds long from right within the social network’s iPhone and Android apps. This capability will surely bring more videos to more users’ feeds than ever before, but what will it mean for Vine, the shortform-video-sharing network already owned by and fairly well integrated into Twitter?

Twitter acquired Vine in late 2012, before the service even went live, boosting speculation at the time that Twitter was soon preparing to launch its own in-house video service. Instead, Vine went live to the public just over two years ago, and today its 6-second looping videos are played over 1.5 billion times per day. Many of these loops take place right within Twitter itself, and the two user bases enjoy significant overlap no doubt helped by the ease of joining Vine with an existing Twitter account. How many users Vine has is unclear – the last number they revealed was 40 million, back in August 2013.

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Now it turns out that Vine’s easy integration with Twitter was only an initial ­– and an incomplete – realization of the latter’s ambitions with respect to video on the platform. And the launch of native video on Twitter is only the latest development reinforcing the notion that 2015 is shaping up to be a huge year for video in the social space.

Having laid the groundwork in 2014 with updates that encourage content publishers and advertisers to bypass YouTube when seeking out eyeballs on Facebook, that particular social network stands poised to dominate the critical area where mobile, social and video overlap. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself has acknowledged that video is a big part of the network’s short- and long-term growth – after all, it only took about half a year for video views to jump from 1 billion to 3 billion daily on Facebook.

Strategically, video is important to Twitter for the same basic reasons it’s important to Facebook: watching videos keeps users engaged with the platform longer, and also makes the platform more attractive in the first place, both of which can result in higher usage rates and thus greater appeal to advertisers. With video becoming more important in the modern social-media stew, Twitter couldn’t merely stand by and watch the likes of Facebook and Instagram evolve and improve their own video products.

But what about Vine? Its problems, as far as being useful to Twitter, are primarily twofold: One, its standalone app and separate (if nevertheless simple) sign-up process will always be a deterrent to some among Twitter’s existing user base; and two, the 6-second time limit on vines imposes practical limitations on the feasibility of both pre-roll and standalone advertising. Even in 2013, Vine’s gif-sized loops were seen as perhaps as much liability as asset. Around the same time, Instagram had just launched its own video feature, and advertisers were quick to voice their excitement and compare Instagram favorably to Vine both for its greater video length – 15 seconds versus 6 – and larger built-in user base (130 million at the time).

Fast-forward to today, and it’s easy to imagine that Twitter sees a better opportunity to satisfy not just users but also advertisers – who currently, of course, supply the lifeblood of the company – through a more tightly integrated, longer-form video capability.

Ultimately, the question of whether Vine remains viable for marketers – and certainly, brands have put the platform to good use during its young life so far – will depend on whether it remains appealing to users. How many of Vine’s current users were only there because they had Twitter accounts, and will now be happy to stay inside Twitter for all of their video shooting and sharing needs? Certainly some decline in Vine’s active userbase is bound to occur. Brands that are using Vine currently should keep a close eye on their metrics to watch for any drop-off; at the same time, giving video a shot on Twitter would be a smart move for any brand looking to expand its content-marketing efforts and take full advantage of the latest developments in the space.

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