Vine Just Made Twitter A Stronger Social Network

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Vine, in case you missed it, is a standalone iOS app from Twitter that lets users create short, 6-second videos that run on a loop.

Users record by holding their thumb against the screen, and stop by releasing. The short clips can then be threaded together and shared on Vine itself, Twitter or even Facebook.

Here’s how a silly video-sharing app (which has been done before, by the way) makes Twitter a stronger social network.

Content Generation

Since Twitter launched, it’s never had a non-text platform for media creation. Sure, you can take photos within the app, and Twitter tapped Aviary to add Instagram-like filters to that process, but this is Twitter’s first standalone product that lets users share in some way other than a tweet.

Twitter is a network based around media. Despite its brevity by nature, a lot of content passes through Twitter’s network, including, but not limited to, pictures, videos, websites, etc. The vast majority of that content is not Twitter’s, though it’s that same content that places such a high value on Twitter’s ad revenue stream through Promoted Tweets, trends, etc.

Rather than let Facebook’s Instagram push all the juicy content through Twitter’s real-time network, the company has decided to build its own, new Instagram. Vine is Instagram for video.

This has been done before by companies like Socialcam and Viddy, but the numerous companies who’ve dipped their toes in the cinematic pool have found the water a bit chilly. Twitter, a trusted and massive brand, is sure to pick up more of an instant user base, thus making Vine more attractive to even more new users. No one likes an empty room, and every video-sharing app until now has been just that.

Creation Vs. Consumption

Twitter’s ads are valuable because of the number of eyes on its network at any given time. Eyes come for the content. Sometimes that ends up being tweets (usually about real-time, live events). Sometimes it’s pictures from Instagram or videos from YouTube. And then, of course, there are the links to wonderful articles (sometimes about technology).

When Instagram turned off Twitter Cards integration, essentially eliminating Twitter’s ability to embed Instagram photos directly into the stream, a huge chunk of Twitter’s visual appeal went out the window. Sure, Twitter has its Photos feature, with Instagram-esque filters powered by Aviary, but does that compete with Instagram’s level of engagement? No.

By adding Vine content to Twitter directly, I’ve actually found that Twitter’s a slightly nicer place to be. Yes, it’s been just one day and most of the Vines are pretty bad, but it’s something I’ve never seen before on Twitter. It’s a video — a cute, quick-cutting, clearly amateur video of my friend, or my friend’s dog, or my friend’s hand. I can’t explain why I’m drawn to it, just like I can’t explain why I spend an astounding amount of time looking at pictures of food on Instagram. All I know is that my eyes like it.

What I don’t like, however, is browsing through Vines in the Vine app. It’s loud! (Users have the ability to include sound or mute sound in their Vines.) It’s also old. Vine uses an almost identical UI/UX to Instagram, complete with the stream, likes, and comments, and I already have one of those. In fact, I’m already on plenty of social networks and am somewhat offended each time a company asks me to join a new one.

But this actually works in Twitter’s favor. People only need to use Vine for sharing, not necessarily for browsing. They have Twitter for that. Want to share a video instead of Instagram a photo? Just hit up the Vine app and share via Twitter. You don’t have to go back to Vine until you want to share something else (or you want to check your likes, you narcissistic bastard!).

And perhaps more importantly to Twitter’s revenue stream, Vine works like Instagram in that it actually coaxes a bit more information out of its users than Twitter. People are much more likely to share their location alongside a photo (like on Instagram) or a video (like on Vine) than they are with a simple text tweet. In essence, Vine makes people more comfortable sharing location, which is just another (very powerful) metric Twitter can use to target ads.

Photos Are So Over

There is no such thing as a social network without photos, and if there is, it shouldn’t exist (It’s like bad credit car loans – nobody wins in the end!). The human fascination with photos is a powerful thing. Even a non-revenue-generating Instagram is worth $1 billion.

But Twitter was late for this very important date with photo destiny. After failing to acquire Instagram for $500 million, the company turned to Photobucket for serving up pictures and video. But the content was never owned by Twitter. Meanwhile, Facebook upped the ante and bought Instagram, thus owning this generation’s library of photography.

So Twitter was like, “Let’s just build our own Instagram!” They launched Photos, which let users take and share photos from right within the app. They even let Aviary power filters for Photos, so it felt a little more like Instagram. To this day, I’ve never used an Aviary filter in Twitter. The short version of the story is that Twitter was way late to the photo-sharing game, and quite possibly missed the boat.

So instead of spend a lot of time and energy and money on either building or buying yet another photo-sharing venture, Twitter up and decided to skip that fight entirely. It’s been thought for a while now that the human fascination with photo-sharing would eventually make the logical step to video. It was all a matter of when.

Instead of fighting a battle they’re already losing, Twitter is starting a brand-new war over video, and they’ve already set up camp near the battleground and polished their weapons. Are you ready for a fight, Facebook?

More UGC = More Eyes = More $

Vine isn’t expected to replace Instagram’s presence on Twitter, nor is it meant to replace YouTube or Flickr or anything else. That’s why it’s a relatively new form of media — a self-made video rather than another filtered photo.

As it stands, it doesn’t generate any revenue either.

Rather, Twitter is giving its users yet another way to push cool stuff through the network. Any user-generated content, including Vine videos, Instagram pics, etc. is very valuable in terms of advertising. If a social network has a high volume of user-generated content, it’s generally believed by advertisers that said social network has an engaged, attentive audience. In turn, any ads on said social network increase in value as more UGC is shared.

It’s beautiful Silicon Valley math at its finest.

Twitter already has tons of UGC flowing through its network, which is why it’s supposed to bring in over $1 billion in revenue over the next year. The only problem is that almost none of that UGC is Twitter’s, as I mentioned before. Vine simply acts as an aid to Twitter’s greatest weakness: being a true social network as opposed to being everyone’s favorite platform.