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Digital Marketing
Aubrey Berkowitz

Rusting on the Vine: Lessons for TikTok on Digital Go to Market Strategy

What does the life and death of the social media platform, Vine, teach us about Digital Marketing, user behavior, and the importance of digital Go to Market strategy?

Learning from Vine’s Failure to Develop a Digital Go to Market Strategy

TikTok is everywhere in the news right now. Influencers, security concerns, solving murders—TikTok involves nearly every aspect of day-to-day life for some users online. Brands spend a fortune to reach users and advertise on TikTok and engagement is through the roof. Doritos will be casting a Super Bowl dancer via TikTok. The platform is booming but with an uncertain future. 

But the basic principles that make TikTok a success existed once before. Long before TikTok, in 2013, a social media platform called Vine launched. Vine allowed users to submit and upload short video clips to the platform and share to their followers. At its peak, Vine had over 200 million users. It was a global success. 

But by 2016, Vine was gone. 

What happened? How could a platform in the span of 3 years go from 200 million users to nothing? 

The answer in short is that Vine failed to correctly monetize the platform and create revenue streams that ensure sustainable long-term growth. Vine failed to have a long-term digital Go to Market strategy that encompassed not only their product, but their competition, target audience, and the overall market space Vine operated within. 

The full answer goes a little deeper and provides clarity key lessons for brands, businesses, and thought leaders. 

Let’s start with what Vine did right as a platform.

grapes on a vine representing vine before its lack of a digital go to market strategy caused its failure

The Growth of Vine

Vine allowed users to create six-second videos alongside practical effects, music, and other functionalities to increase the quality and engagement of videos. As a result, users created content such as music, videos, and other comedic shorts that provided access to content providers that previously never would’ve had the reach. Careers were started on Vine. The case can be made that Vine started the modern day influencer. 

By the early 2010s, it was clear to the major social media players (Facebook and Twitter) that video and photo form content was the future of social media. Each would make a different bet, but the success of YouTube had yet to be adapted to shorter form content that could more easily be shared on social media. 

Facebook and Twitter responded accordingly and in turn, with Facebook acquiring Instagram, and Twitter acquiring Vine. In 2012, Twitter acquired Vine for $30 billion before the platform had ever launched. And for a while, it really, really paid off. Twitter correctly predicted that the power of user generated video content was a completely untapped form of social media. 

Vine Got Big—Now What?

The question that still remained, however, would be most critical. How do brands and thought leaders leverage a platform that only provides six-second video intervals? How does a brand capture a user in six seconds and take a potential customer through a user journey that converts? The amount of “brand equity” needed to build to convert a user in six seconds is substantial. 

Social media management for brands needs to be a targeted exercise that fits within a long-term digital Go to Market strategy. Social media strategies that have no focus or relevant calls to action destroy brand credibility and waste substantial time for smaller brands as well as speaker thought leaders. 

For a company like Vine, which is free to download, the revenue has to come from brands and advertisers that can leverage the platform to reach users and engage. That simply cannot be done in six seconds. So Vine tried to adapt. 

Choking Out Vine

Meanwhile, another major player emerged on the scene: SnapChat. 

SnapChat allowed for longer videos as well as collecting information on location and behavior that the company then sold to brands and advertisers. Many of the core features and technologies of SnapChat would ultimately be implemented into Instagram as well. 

Essentially, Vine from a business model perspective was cooked. 

By 2015, the platform scrambled to keep users. The app was hemorrhaging influencers, their most key demographic for engagement. To appease influencers, Vine added a feature for the viewers and creators to see how many users had engaged with the video. Something that seems commonplace now. 

Their second attempt was to increase the video length to 140 seconds. On a fundamental level, this is a smart move as it allows brands to build longer form content that both increases brand notoriety, as well as brand equity with users. However, at this point, Vine had lost such significant market share to both SnapChat and now Instagram that these changes barely moved the needle. 

Vine failed to correctly understand how users engage with video and social content. The result was a good idea taken halfway in a manner that was never sustainable for a long-term brand. 

Dive into the New Year with a Carefully Planned Digital Go to Market Strategy

By October of 2016, Vine had been taken down. A wild ride of instant success followed by failures to monetize as well as understand their target market led to the shuttering of a platform of 200 million users in less than three years—a business worth $30 billion to $0. 

The question remains. Did Vine have a long term Go to Market Plan? Did they understand how to build sustainable success? Did they understand their uniquely better? The answer may never be known, but for three years, the richest Vine bore the most fruit. 

Does your brand or business have a digital Go to Market Plan guiding your marketing strategy? History tells us that even unique and revolutionary products/platforms, such as Vine, fail without a targeted approach and strategy. Book your 30 minute exploratory session today to get started. 


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