Last week Twitter announced that it was shutting down the mobile app of their 6-second looping video app, VINE. Many were surprised, though the service had declined in popularity from its peak usage in 2014.
I was on board pretty early in Vine’s existence, and throughout 2013 and into 2014, I was a huge fan. That time is essentially a scrapbook of my daughter Stella’s first year of life. I captured her first steps on Vine.
I even made a Vine t-shirt because I couldn’t find one. I assumed any moment from the time I created it, Twitter or Vine would shut it down for copyright infringement. They never did, and since I put it out, I’ve sold 185 shirts and stickers.
As a consumer with ADHD, it was fast and easy to consume, and the talented and most committed earliest adopters rose in stature quickly, acquiring tens, or hundreds of thousands of followers quickly. In 2013, it was a perfect example of why everyone who uses social media should be an early adopter, with big rewards for committing to a service and pushing the boundaries of what it can do. Some of the attention felt deserved, with talented creators working hard to push limits right away. Some felt obnoxious and grating, but there seemed to be something for everyone – or at least everyone who could enjoy looping 6 seconds of video.
Those early adopters forged new trails, paving the way for a second and third (and likely more, I stopped paying attention after the first year) wave of users to come along and raise their profile as well. Suddenly, broke college and high school kids were getting offers from brands and more attention than they could have imagined.
Many of them had acquired millions of followers, and then suddenly, the rug was yanked out from under them.
Consider what that means for a minute. If you have one million + followers in a social media platform, you should be navigating a six-figure income from that. If you are not, then you either are not trying to make a career from content creation, or you are doing something wrong.
Check out Manon Mathews Vine account vs her Instagram account, which is where she is trying to send her Vine audience to:
That’s 2.9 MILLION followers on Vine, and 363k followers on Instagram. Not a bad Instagram following whatsoever, but still barely more than 10% of her previous audience. I would argue she is doing a lot better at transitioning than one of Vine’s most iconic personalities, Nicholas Megalis:
Again, check out NEARLY 5 MILLION Vine followers, and he has less than half of Manon’s Instagram following, and he has almost 35k subscribers on Youtube.
You work, and you work, and you succeed. And then it’s gone. This is the peril of “digital sharecropping”. Working hard and depending entirely on something you don’t own to provide for you. Manon has posted over 1000 vines to her account. Now she has to find a way to pull each one of them if she wants to save them and have them to use in some other space.
This is why ownership matters. This is why having a “hub”, something that is owned and controlled by you, is so important. Your social media accounts may become more popular than your blog or online space. These days, that is a very real possibility. But you cannot neglect the space you own to invest all of your time and effort in a place that could throw you out at a moment’s notice. Your hub should be a space where you can give your audience something extra for making the trip there, which will allow you to get their email addresses so you can reach out to them when you have big news to share with them. The people who follow you on your social media channels are mostly passive fans who can be hard to reach, hard to convince to leave the platform. The readers who you are able to convince to go visit your online “home” want more of you. Of those people, if you can convince that group to give you their email address to get even more content from you, those are committed readers. That is your tribe. That is your creative career’s ability to grow.
Vine is an important reminder to creators to work hard at your chosen platform, but to not place all of your effort in one place, especially when you do not own the place. My advice for anyone trying to make something for themselves online:
- Join new social media spaces early.
- Put the work in to see if it’s fun and worthwhile.
- If something is catching on, take advantage of it but don’t let everything else completely drop away.
- Set up spaces in several locations, but don’t spend time in places you don’t enjoy. You won’t get any benefits from spending hours of your life on a platform you hate.
- Connect with everyone you can.
- Be real, be valuable, be entertaining.
- Send them to your online home, find a way to build your email list of readers, either by asking politely or by offering them something they want and can’t find anywhere else.
If you spread your social media efforts across several different platforms, then it should make the sting of losing any one of them less of a big deal, and something you should mentally be prepared to face at some point over the course of your online life.