Last week, Twitter unveiled Vine, an app for iPhone and iPod Touch that lets anyone create and share 6-second looping videos. I checked it out. I made a few really bad 6-second videos. I watched a few other really bad videos—and a couple of really good videos.
Then I thought, "Wow." (Which is saying a lot. I’m not easily impressed.) Here’s the truth: I haven’t been this excited about a new social platform since I joined Instagram two years ago (and by “joined” I mean “became obsessed with.”)
First, a disclaimer: I am a sucker for content creation tools that are both intuitive and flexible. I especially love tools that are...
1. Stupid-simple in design.
2. Dumb-brilliant in their constraints.
3. Foolproof-flexible enough to have broad application.
More on that in a minute.
See Content Moments Everywhere
I try out a lot of new content creation tools. It’s my job, in part. But, more than that, it’s also part of my DNA.
I’m always looking for the tools that will delight me (as well as brands)—tools that will support and encourage the creation of really awesome stuff. The kind of tools that make us better at what we might do—to help hacks become craftsmen and craftsmen become artisans and artisans become masters.
Really good tools should help us see the elegance in the ordinary, to see potential where we used to see only the pedestrian.
The best tools allow us a kind of superpower to see content moments everywhere.
Of course, most tools don’t come close to doing that, and I shed them as predictably as a golden retriever sheds his winter coat.
Why? Because most content creation tools are invariably too difficult to use well. They require a geek gene (which I lack) or specialized knowledge (which I usually also lack).
Also, most tools don’t solve a real problem. They don’t provide utility. In other words, I’m not clear on what value they offer aside from a sometimes moment or two of fun. Most tools are inherently too constrained to use beyond a few one-off pieces of content.
It should be simple enough to devise a content creation platform or app that elegantly provides a canvas and a few well-chosen tools with an intuitive user interface, shouldn't it? Apparently not.
Instagram is a great example of a content creation app that meets all of my three-pronged sweet spots. (Wait—can a spot be pronged? Did I just horribly mangle a metaphor? Sorry.) And now, Vine does, too.
Vine is stupid-simple in design.
Creating good video is hard. Editing good video is even harder. Just as Instagram put wizard wands into the hands of us Muggles, allowing us to create and share photos that were beautiful and expressive, so Vine allows us to elegantly create short, 6-second videos through an intuitive interface. Watch a 30-second tutorial that plays the first time you sign in and you’ve pretty much got all the information you need to hit the ground running.
Vine is dumb-brilliant in its constraints.
No, you can’t make more than a 6-second video on Vine. And you can’t edit in any kind of post-production. In fact, you can’t make these short videos in anything other than real-time chronology.
All those are clearly constraining challenges. Or are they really clear opportunities? Just like Instagram, which gave everyone the same interface and basic toolkit for photographs, Vine democratically gives me the same gear on Vine that JJ Abrams has.
(If JJ Abrams were on Vine.)
(Which he’s not.)
That 6-second thing also does two more things.
- It forces content creators to "Keep It Tight," as my friend Tim Washer and I espouse. Vine bans video bloat by not allowing longer videos a single gasp of oxygen beyond that 6-second clock.
- It trains you to distill the essence of your story into something that respects your audience’s time. How many videos have you watched and abandoned because the producer seemed to have been paid by the second? Most digital videos beg to be shorter, punchier, tighter. A key to all good content is this, people: Edit, edit, edit! (Then, once more, EDIT.) As Faulkner said (paraphrasing someone else): “Kill your darlings.”
Vine is foolproof-flexible enough to have broad application. I think the best content creation platforms and tools are like Montessori schools: The truly talented content creators can leapfrog to the head of the class and wow us. All the while, the slow-blinking among us never feel too embarrassed.
In other words, it’s all creating content to tell a story.
Sharing history, in six seconds:
Henry VIII's six wives in six seconds #vine #history vine.co/v/bJDOgP7ZXF1
—HistoricRoyalPalaces (@HRP_palaces) January 29, 2013
Showcasing hot new stock:
Our 1st Vine. 5 new long sleeve polos just hit afpolos.com vine.co/v/bJTjL0Aj3ex
—Alial Fital (@alialfital) January 29, 2013
Telling your back story:
Our 2nd @vineapp experiment: stop motion 1969 denim. What should we #Vine next? vine.co/v/bJ6QQYKuDgz
—Gap (@Gap) January 28, 2013
Delighting your fans:
Can you name this song...? vine.co/v/bJjdTLBnwx1
—Paul McCartney (@PaulMcCartney) January 29, 2013
Like giving a sneak peak:
Guy Kawasaki is tomorrow's guest on The Work Talk Show vine.co/v/bJjjEW0UlF6
—DJ Waldow (@djwaldow) January 29, 2013
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FREE VIRTUAL EVENT ON CONTENT
Check out the keynote presentation at Digital Marketing World: Content Marketing with me, Nick Westergaard of Brand Driven Digital, and Ben & Jerry's Mike Hayes on social media's visual revolution. We'll be talking Vine, Instagram, Pinterest, and more about how to tell your story visually. Register here for the Feb. 8 event.
Ann Handley is chief content officer of MarketingProfs, author of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Ridiculously Good Content, and co-author of the best-selling book on content marketing, Content Rules. Ann co-founded ClickZ.com, one of the first sources of interactive marketing news and commentary.