Thanks to smartphones, the average person today has the attention span of – oh look, a squirrel! Consumers’ attention is fragmented across multiple screens and platforms, so marketers are in a kind of arms race to keep up, establishing footholds wherever they can.

Vine, Twitter’s 6-second video application, has proved enormously popular. Savvy brands have already begun to establish themselves on the platform, because marketing needs to be where the eyeballs are – even if they’re only there for a few seconds at a time. Here’s how to make those seconds count.

#1 The Picture is the Frame

Among many other choice turns of phrase, G. K. Chesterton once wrote: “Art consists of limitation. The most beautiful part of any picture is the frame.” In other words, limitations give artists focus. That’s why poetic forms like haiku and the sonnet are so enduring; the form provides structure, and the constraints challenge the artist to greater creative heights.

This is not to say that your Vine has to be perfect, timeless art – the video equivalent of “Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds.” Take inspiration from Tumblr GIFs and stop-motion animation. Mixing stop-motion techniques with (slightly) longer shots can also be effective – Dove, for example, mixed techniques with their very first post on the platform.

Since Vine videos play over and over as long as they’re on the screen, Vine makers can exploit the loop to give the appearance of an endless sequence. Nike Football (Soccer) recently used this feature to clever effect in this Vine promoting the brand’s new Magista line of cleats. Featuring Spanish midfielder Andrés Iniesta, the endless sequence of passing is cheekily captioned “Iniesta could do this all day. #Magista.”

To get its followers on the platform engaged, Target has made effective use of the tap to pause function in a Vine that’s an endless loop of summer activity roulette(and, of course, the Vine highlights the products you might need to engage in these activities.) The brand has turned the basic functions of the platform into a creative opportunity. Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, but Target’s example shows that clever marketing can do a lot with six seconds.

#2 Make Multiplatform Connections

At a fancy restaurant, the chef will often send out an amuse-bouche before the appetizers are served – a tasty tidbit designed to charm and tempt the diner, and give a sense of what the cuisine is all about. Think of Vine is as the amuse-bouche of your social media menu.

If you’re producing video content, you can maximize returns by using it in different ways on different platforms – by posting a six-second morsel on Vine and other social media, a blog post with a series of GIFs on Tumblr, and a more substantive video on YouTube, for example. Don’t post the same exact content on every platform at the same time, except in exceptional circumstances, or you’re not providing users any incentive to follow you on multiple platforms. But posting variations on a theme on at least a few platforms gives your followers a chance to explore what you’re offering in more depth.

Oreo and GoPro get used as examples of good social media practices in a lot of these types of articles, but it’s not because they’re bribing writers (or if they are, they certainly aren’t bribing me. Feel free to hook me up with some cookies and cameras, guys! I’m willing to relax my high ethical standards in this one instance!) Seriously, though, these are two brands that really get the culture of the various platforms they’re operating on.

Look at GoPro: I can barely stand to watch videos like this, because I am sensible enough to never jump off a perfectly decent cliff. But they sure do show off the kind of cool footage you can capture when you have a camera mounted on your helmet, your bike, your hula hoop (seriously) or your board – like this slice of surf nirvana.

You can see similar videos on the brand’s Instagram and, of course, on their high-energy YouTube channel. The brand has built a strong social media base on all these platforms by highlighting great video created by users of its product – which, in turn, demonstrates the quality of the product itself (see #4).

Now, GoPro seems like a pretty natural fit for video marketing on social media platforms. After all, they make cameras. You know, the stuff you make video with. But Oreo is a bit of a surprise – who would have thought that this venerable cookie brand would end up being such a social media powerhouse? (They must have hired some smart cookies. HA!)

On Vine, Oreo is a master of the six-second form. Their videos are like quirky little haikus – see the Vine below, in which the milk is merely an illustration, or this slightly surrealist vision. The aesthetic carries over to Instagram, but shows a consideration of the slightly looser constraints of the 15-second format: the Oreo, on Instagram, goes on 15-second journeys.

Whether by repurposing content across different platforms, or carrying the same thematic threads across platforms, or both, it makes a lot of sense to make sure your social media is cohesive. Just because consumers’ attention is fragmented across multiple platforms doesn’t mean your brand identity should be. And since Vine is built to be shared across multiple social media platforms, it’s a great tool for helping to manage that identity.

#3 Timing is Everything

Timing can be the difference between a piece of marketing becoming signal or noise. Successful brands track trending topics, and keep an eye out for opportunities. Some events, like the Super Bowl or the World Cup, even lend themselves to advanced planning.

For example, this M&Ms Vine reenacting a kickoff return with candies standing in for players (and a peanut for a football, naturally) is something that the brand could easily have planned in advance. Having a stable of responses to draw from can help brands participate in larger conversations about events in a timely manner.

Many viewers are drawn to large sporting events because of the hype surrounding the commercials that make their debut during games such as the Super Bowl. And traditional media spreads this interest further by running post-game commentary on the efforts, both successful and failed, of marketers.

The same dynamic is at work on social media; people following the game on Twitter are also in many cases waiting to see what brands will do as they interject their messages into the conversation around the game.

Detergent brand Tide even managed to get coverage in advance of the big game; their strategy of avoiding TV spots in favor of social media, and Vines in particular, got them some press. Brands who plan this kind of social media responsiveness are improving their chances to not only have their content shared during the event, but for it to have a second life if it’s picked up and used as an example in post-game dissections of brands’ efforts.

#4 Start a Series

Turning visitors into followers is hard work. One way brands can engage viewers and get them coming back is by starting a series. Whether you’re providing entertainment or useful information, sustaining a series of videos around a broader theme encourages people to stick around in a way that haphazard posting does not.

Oreo, for example, has a series of “Oreo magic tricks” organized under the hashtag #Oreomagic, which features the cookies as props in sleight of hand magic tricks. Others on Vine have adopted the hashtag and have gone on to post their own six-second magic tricks using Oreo cookies.

This past spring, Target created a clever campaign that allied the brand with popular Vine artists. Organized around the hashtag #unPopthebox, the series began when Target sent boxes full of goodies to family-friendly Vine artists, and asked them to make a Vine using the items in the box.

The Viners each made a video of themselves opening the box, and a video using the objects. This simple creative challenge was perfect for the six-second medium, and, by tapping into the larger Vine community, the series generated views which the brand wouldn’t have gotten from its followers alone.

#5 Show, Don’t Tell

Writers live and die by the mantra “show, don’t tell.” When you’re marketing using Vine, you have the opportunity to literally show your Twitter followers, instead of telling them. Think about the message you want to convey: is it something you can show with a video instead of telling with text?

One brand that recently missed a perfect opportunity to use Vine to get an important message across was Graco. On July 1, the carseat manufacturer Tweeted about a recall of belt buckles on some of its popular infant seats. The Tweet linked to more information on the Graco web site.


Those who clicked through to the web site were assured that swapping out affected carseat buckles for new ones would be a simple process. Here is where a Vine would have been the perfect communication tool: a six-second video showing parents how to swap out the buckles would have provided proof of just how easy the process is.

Samsung, which is clearly putting a lot of thought into how it approaches the platform, created a perfect “show, don’t tell” Vine to introduce followers to its new K Zoom phone. The final shot simultaneously provides a humorous resolution to this six-second story and, as the camera zooms in on the cake thief, demonstrates the quality of the lens.

Many brands are still finding their legs with Vine – if they’re using it at all. But clearly, Vine offers a lot of opportunities for brands when it comes to social video. Because Vines are so easily shared across multiple platforms, a solid Vine strategy has the potential to make a big impression with audiences. Successful brands have already learned that in six seconds, you can say a lot.