Vine was founded in June 2012 as a short-form video sharing service. Videos were limited to just six seconds, which forced users to get creative when creating content.
Acquired by Twitter just before its launch in October 2012, it quickly became popular among teenagers as the go-to place for funny video content. Just a few years later, however, Twitter recently announced it will be shutting down Vine in effort to focus on their core service.
This upset a lot of loyal users, including their largest age-demographic (28.1% of Vine users are 18- to 24-year-olds ), but at the end of the day it’s just business.
With the rise of Snapchat, there’s no doubt Vine was feeling pressure to retain users. After all, 37% of Snapchat users are 18- to 24-years-old, so there’s a good probability Vine’s users migrated toward more popular services competing in the video sharing space. Instagram adopted Snapchat’s story format, Nicola Mendelsohn (VP EMEA at Facebook) predicts Facebook will be all video in five years, and (as pointed out by BuzzFeed News) YouTube undoubtedly had something to do with the steady decline of the Vine user-base.
I feel for the users who used Vine as their primary channel for their content, because it can’t be easy discovering you’ve been severed from your audience.
But this isn’t the first time users felt the pain of digital sharecropping.
The Danger of Digital Sharecropping
Digital sharecropping is the act of building your home on someone else’s land.
It’s dangerous because you’re at the mercy of whoever owns the land. If the owner wants to make a change, they will regardless of your interests.
It’s not mean, it’s business.
If you’re serious about building an audience, then you should approach your work as a business as well. That means building independence for yourself so you’re not at the mercy of another business.
In this case, Vine was a business that owned the land on which many built their home. They spent countless hours networking with other users, sharing content, and growing an audience.
This happened back in 2012, when Facebook reduced organic reach.
They didn’t severe users from their audience completely, but they made a change that forced users to pay to reach their audience.
It’s not mean or greedy, it’s just business.
Using a service to share your content is still a great idea, as you can reach large communities of people. However, you shouldn’t approach a service, like Vine or Facebook, as the main home for your content and activity. You need to build your own home on land you own.
You need to develop your independence.
Develop Your Independence
If you’re serious about your work on the web, whether you’re a video producer, writer, or musician, it’s important you establish and develop your independence.
How do you do that?
It’s recommended you start your own website, but really all you need is an email list … the list of people who have expressed interest in hearing from you.
These are your most valuable subscribers.
You can reach them anytime you want, independently from social platforms like Facebook or YouTube. All you have to do is draft your email and click send – it automatically goes to everyone on your list.
Sure, your subscribers on a social platform, like YouTube, may receive a notification after you upload a new video, but who’s to say YouTube will be around for the next five years?
Do you really want to spend the next five years pouring your time, energy, and money into YouTube to build your subscriber base, only to find out it’s been shut down like Vine?
Of course not.
Instead, use the social platform as an outpost for your home base … use it as a channel that promotes your own website or email list.
If you want to learn how to approach this in detail, check out Darren Rowse’s article about social outposts to learn more.
It’s always sad to see popular services shut down, but it also demonstrates why you shouldn’t build your home on someone else’s land.
Investing your time and energy developing your home base on a website you don’t own leaves you at the mercy of the website. And you can never be sure whether or not the platform will be around for long … it’s just the nature of the web and our culture.
Dedicate time and energy into building your own website, where you can collect subscribers independently from social platforms and services … this way, even if YouTube shuts down or (more realistically) applies some form of limited reach like Facebook, you’ll still be able to reach your subscribers.
Take a look at MailChimp to get started – it’s a free email service you can use to build an email list.