Ripened Thoughts on the Demise of Vine

The looping-video social network Vine is about to go away, due partly to shifts in Twitter's strategy and partly to larger changes in the market. Vine's unexpected closure offers much in the way of lessons for associations.

Social networks are frustrating. Especially when they disappear seemingly out of nowhere.

The impending shutdown of Vine certainly wasn’t expected by many social media fans. But let’s be clear: The six-second looping video network was fun for many content creators and users but didn’t make a whole lot of sense on its own as an engagement platform for marketing. It wasn’t going to replace YouTube, Instagram, or Snapchat—in fact, it can be argued that all three of those platforms borrowed some of Vine’s best features and made them their own.

Structurally, Twitter designed it to augment its own platform, rather than simply letting it live on its own. As a result, it had a big splashy launch, but despite the enormous success of some of the platform’s most popular users, it was eventually left to die on the … well, y’know.

For associations, the network was more of a modest utility than a regular outlet—one that came into play only once in a while but offered an opportunity to think creatively about video. Some associations did try interesting things with the platform. Among them:

But these experiments, while notable, generally didn’t lead to long-term usage. For example, the Country Music Association, which owns a major awards show that would seemingly lend itself to Vine-friendly moments, hadn’t updated its account in more than two years.

The potential of the platform, instead, was left to creators—not those looking for another marketing base.

A Creator’s Platform

To me, the tale of Vine is better explained not by associations that tried it once or twice (and eventually moved on to greener pastures) but by users like Gretchen Lohse. During the past six months or so, Lohse and her musical partner, Thomas Hughes, have gained a significant audience on the network through their project Carol Cleveland Sings. The duo turned those six seconds into looping moments of well-planned brilliance:

They were just getting started and gaining prominence through Vine, where they have more than 150,000 followers as of this writing.

“Vine was its own art form,” Lohse told Fast Company. “It was really refreshing and different than the other apps that are out there. It opened up this whole new world of art for us.”

Lohse, who joined the network for creative reasons, caught fire on the platform kind of late. Many of its biggest stars, like Logan Paul, say they’ll miss Vine as well—but they’ll likely not feel the pain as much, as they’ve moved onto other things.

“To be honest, all of us are doing such bigger things now that none of us are super worried or anything,” Paul told CNNMoney last week. “I wish I could say we’re all crying, but no, we’re just hanging out.”

Maintaining Value Isn’t Easy

Paul’s comments in particular highlight two things for me that can translate to the association space: one, the challenges of protecting a unique community and, two, the importance of keeping your most valuable users engaged and happy.

Vine may have made Paul famous—to the level where he’s doing movies and showing up at awards shows—but he stopped using the network months ago, instead moving to networks where more money could be made. (You know, influencer marketing and all that.)

Obviously, there’s a difference between a private community and the giant social networks that an online personality calls home. But the dynamic is the same. Ultimately, the people make the network, and when they feel like they’re not getting a lot of value out of it, they leave.

Vine was unique to a degree, but it wasn’t the only game in town. Instagram now does most of what Vine did at its launch, and while the platform could have added new features to work around this failing, it didn’t.

Networks where people communicate require unique value to draw people in. If that unique value isn’t there, your community may struggle to make headway in the long run.

That’s what happened to Vine, amazing as some of its videos are. That’s what you should ensure doesn’t happen to your own community.

When the Mission Changes

The other point I’ll bring to light here is this: Vine is clearly a casualty of its parent company’s struggles (as highlighted by the layoffs that occurred at the time Twitter announced the network’s closure).

In many ways, Twitter has long had the opposite problem from Vine: It’s a massive network full of inherent value, but the value is so disjointed that it’s difficult to get a read on network’s ultimate goal. (Publicly traded companies without mission statements? Must be tough.)

Recently, Bloomberg revealed a memo from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in which he called the site “the people’s news network,” possibly the best explanation of Twitter’s mission thus far.

Vine doesn’t fit into a mission that narrow, and its shutdown may be for the best for Twitter. Sometimes during such a recalibration, things people love get thrown by the wayside. Clearly, this happens in the tech space, but Twitter’s handling of the situation—basically saying it would host the videos created even as it shuts down the service—is noble.

The lesson here: If you find yourself similarly having to end something of value to a segment of your members, handle that closure with care.

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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