Top Vine Creators Can Reach Communities Larger Than Entire TV Networks, Says Vine’s Jason Mante

Vine exploded onto the video scene 3 short years ago and now captivates the attention of 200M+ users around the globe. With over 1.5B daily content loops, there’s no denying this platform is entertaining the mobile masses.

In the early days, many wondered how 6 seconds could keep the attention of a solid user base for an extended period, but the platform’s proven innovation track record is clearly paying off as user numbers and content loops continue to grow.

Previously in this Vine series, we’ve spoken with Vine creators, from stars like Jerome Jarre and Zach King, to the master craftsmen Pinot and Jethro Ames. This time around, I’ve been fortunate enough to go to the source. Jason Mante is Vine’s Head of User Experience and is extremely well positioned to share insight on what works on Vine, how music has impacted the platform and what the future looks like for Vine.

Unruly took some time out to sit down with Jason to discuss these topics and more.

Here’s what he had to say:

How have things at Vine changed since you launched 3 short years ago?

Put simply, one of the biggest themes would be clarity. Clarity around what people want, what we’re doing, what kind of value we offer, where we sit in the world and what we want to do moving forward to make sure we can make all those things better and better.

It’s been a really interesting transition for the last couple years. It’s been a short amount of time to see a lot of change. And to be part of something as big as mobile video in the way that we are is really exciting. We’re happy to be able to be some of the people that are helping push what defines that and move that forward.

How has the introduction of music to the platform changed things at Vine?

There are a couple of things that are really exciting for us. Most of them are in line with our initial hopes for Vine and the music features. One of the most amazing things about Vine is that songs, ideas or personalities can live outside of the platform for quite a long time and nothing really happens, and then all of a sudden things blow up.

The focus was to build on a lot of the organic behaviour that we’ve already been seeing. We build tools that allow people to do what they already want to do and have been doing, in an easier way. That, in turn, allows people viewing the content to have an even better experience.

Audio being added to content gives extra depth, it creates additional framing, and it lets us give track information to people who are always asking ‘what’s that song?’ in the comments. It’s been really exciting to hone in on something people have very clearly been asking for already.

The best part of this is that we’re adding functionality that really excites the community and pushes what ‘creating with audio’ actually means. That’s why the ‘Snap To Beat’ functionality was something we were so excited about. We were setting out to solve a problem that no other product has. No other product has seamlessly looping audio and video — that just didn’t exist before. I’m excited about how much people love it and the kinds of things people are making.

How are you going to grow and maintain this audience?

We’ll continue to work on products and features that do two things:

  1. Continue a clear sense of narrative around what we do and what we are – an entertainment product. You’ll see things from us that speak to that.
  2. Continue to help people understand the value of Vine, period.

That could be speaking to the creators and helping them understand that they’re reaching millions and millions of people every time that they create something — many of them bigger than entire TV networks. The impact that content has. Something goes viral and becomes a big thing. Duck Army is a great example of this. When you say “duck army” everyone instantly knows what that is.

There is immense value to the kind of cultural impact that comes from Vine. We want to help viewers understand that they can tune into Vine to see new, upcoming and amazing content that often blows up and becomes a trend.

We’re really excited about all the different ways we can help build value in our products. Music on Vine is a great example of these focuses coming together. It’s something the community was already doing, it’s had massive cultural impact and it’s focused on entertaining people. At the end of the day, we want to help people make amazing music-related content and have millions of people around the world watch it.

With very engaged big audiences comes brands and marketers who want a slice of the action. Do you have any advice for brands who want to partake and who want to be authentic alongside very popular viral content?

Sure. Make good content.

I know it sounds silly and it might sound like I’m joking, but that’s it. Honestly. There are no tricks behind it. The brands and companies that do well on Vine are the ones which think about creating compelling, entertaining content that is there to be entertaining content, and it just happens to be attached to their name. That’s it.

It’s not about, “how do we do the right thing so we can make an ad on this or that”, it’s about making something that, on its own, people will want to see and has value. Then that other stuff can come along. Then people can think about associating it with your brand. It’s not about doing the other first. Doing it the wrong way, doesn’t often end well.

If you look at the demographic, our audience is very aware of this world of advertising. Young people are often quite resistant to inauthentic messaging and content. So the brands that do it right think really smartly and take their time and pay attention and think about the platform ahead of time. They don’t think, “How do we just shoehorn this thing in at the end?”

Nike did tonnes of research and wanted to ask us lots of questions that had nothing to do with advertising. They just wanted to know cool stuff about how to make great content and who’s doing interesting things. And they make amazing content that people want to watch on its own. It’s got nothing to do with whether it’s Nike or not. People want to watch it because it’s great.

Do you think teaming up with a popular Viner is a good starting point for any brand?

We are not actively involved with any of the relationship management between the talent that’s on Vine and brands. Twitter did acquire Niche and they do offer that service.

Working with talent is one of the many ways that companies choose to be involved with Vine.

If you boil it down, I think a lot of time, companies are looking for the key to relevancy, and I think the default has been to work with Vine talent. That’ is one path and it works out in really excellent ways, but it’s definitely not the only way to go about doing it. To go back to the example I gave with Nike, they didn’t do any of their content creation with Vine talent and they’re doing an amazing job. NBA’s Vine account is incredible and they’re not working with Vine talent either. They’re just doing stuff that’s authentic and relevant to the audience. That’s it.

I don’t want to sound like a broken record but it really is about making valuable, entertaining content. It’s a lot easier to make entertaining content that stands alone and that people are excited about and then turn it into an ad than it is to take an ad and then turn it into entertainment content.

If you start at the core piece of value, the thing that’s great that people are excited about, there are all kinds of other ways to make value from it.

At our last count there were 9 Vines a second being shared on Twitter. What is it about Vine content that makes it so shareable?

I’m not sure there is a single answer here. I think a couple things go into it. One thing that’s really interesting about Vine content is that it can be seen as a single unit that can be shared and reframed, and when you see that content, it can feel like you’re looking at something different. Here’s an example; there’s a dog that’s dancing on a table. One person could say, “that’s my puppy dancing on a table”, while somebody else could take that exact same Vine and say “me when my mum brings home chicken nuggets”.

Because the content’s been reframed, there’s now another facet, another view on a piece of content. I think that’s really exciting to people. This is something that’s been done with photos in the past. The objective characteristics of the format allow for that in a lot easier way. It’s not as easy to say, “this is so me” and then share a two-hour movie. It doesn’t make any sense to do that. So that’s one part of it.

Secondly, viewers are also no longer just viewers sharing a piece of content. They are now active participants. They’re using a piece of content that someone else has made as a piece of self-expression for them. I think that’s really unique and really exciting.  

And then there are some more objective things, like we have an excellent relationship with Twitter, obviously. Vines playback and look amazing on Twitter and that’s something we’re really excited about. And I think above everything else, people get excited about being part of the conversation and when they see things blowing up and they want to share them with the world, they do that, and they know that’s just part of the game when it comes to Vine.

Brands can obviously promote Vines through Twitter, is that as far as it goes so far with monetization? Is there any sort of roadmap for bringing promoted content into the Vine feed?

I would say that one thing that we’re really excited about is continuing to help our creators make amazing content. Do we have any specific plans to create an ad unit in Vine? No. But that’s not to say that we’re not thinking deeply about how to make sure that Vine is around for a long time and that our creators are happy and continue to be really excited about making Vine the primary place they put their content.