In many ways, Vine was the first app to really hit the right notes for a mobile-social video app: It’s easy, has a “character limit” (a la Twitter) of six seconds, and it creates immensely watchable GIF-like video clips.
This smart combination hit a chord with users, fueling growth of the mobile-social video app to 13 million downloads on the iPhone alone, a number that should skyrocket pretty quickly now that it has come to Android.
Seeing the strong growth and the appeal of Vine, Facebook did what any company that paid a billion dollars for a social-imaging app less than a year prior would do and announced video capabilities for Instagram.
And now it’s game on. While I think it’s too soon to call who will become the dominant social video app in time, here’s what I see happening in the social-mobile video land grab over the next 12 months.
Instagram entry helps — and doesn’t hurt — Vine in the short run
While many of the headlines I’ve read in the past day or so have more or less been the equivalent of “RIP Vine,” I think they’ve got it wrong. Vine has had some nice growth, with 13 million downloads in half a year, but I don’t think the app has entered public consciousness in the same way Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook did before it.
But that could actually change with Instagram’s entry. By throwing its hat in the ring, Instagram/Facebook will make many more consumers aware of social video sharing, a rising tide that should also lift Vine’s boat.
Instagram’s big lead in users can’t be ignored
While Vine really has a first-arriver advantage in social video, Instagram’s huge installed base will make things challenging in the long run. Consumers tend to get a little invested in their social networks, particularly as connections and reservoirs of personal content (like images) pile up, and today Instagram has 130 million users (close to ten times that of Vine) that it will bring along into the social video revolution.
Vine needs to iterate quickly to attract new users (and not lose defectors)
The advantage of being a fast follower (which is what Facebook/Instagram is in this case) is the ability to offer features not available today from the first arriver, and, boy, did Instagram do that. Aside from an additional nine seconds, there are some really useful features in Instragram video such as delete-last-clip capability and filters. Vine teased new features in advance of the Instagram reveal, and I think it needs to match some of the important features like delete-last-clip and offer completely new ones (drafts would be a big deal for creators and could help set it apart).
Video sharing will be a much bigger advertising opportunity than photos
While Instagram is hugely popular, it hasn’t been exactly easy to monetize for Facebook. On the flip side, I think video is much more easily monetizable than photos, given consumers are used to a little pre-roll with their video meals. And while we may have to wait a little while since neither Vine or Instagram will want to turn off any ad-averse users during the land-grab window, I can envision ad videos slipping into Vines and Instagram videos in 12 to 18 months.