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Herding Through the Grapevine: Why Novelty Shouldn’t Cloud Your Social Media Judgment

“At this stage of the game, I would argue that any brand could use it.”

How often is this true about a medium? At GSG’s recent Social Media Week event, my colleagues Marshall Maher and Hugh McMullen demonstrated the importance, among other things, of knowing when to tell clients that they may not be suited to a Twitter handle, Pinterest board or Tumblr page.

The quote above is from a blog post about Vine. Vine is a new application that creates a six second video loop which can run natively on Twitter. It’s big news for marketers, advertisers and just about everyone else who has a stake in the worlds of social media, advertising or video creation. An animator friend told me that his studio is having hurried meetings about how best to capitalize on the two inch window of opportunity that just appeared on all of our Twitter feeds.

As with any such window, brands have rushed to fill it. Some have got it right straight away. Calvin Klein trailed a runway show with this simple yet effective Vine:

British online shopping brand Asos asked users to send them Vines using the hashtag #ASOSUnbox, capturing excitement that is often missing from internet purchases:

Yet before we all jump on the Vine wagon and head west, it pays to take a step back. Calvin Klein and Asos are visual brands. Vine is a perfect match for them. But this is not universally true. In their rush to be ahead of the curve, some brands seem to have lost sight of who they are, and why they use social media. The offering below is from the McDonald’s handle, announcing a new addition to the menu:

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the McDonald’s Vine, the idea is cute – but contrast it with a post you would see regularly on the @McDonalds handle.

Compared to the glossy video, the Vine post does not speak in McDonald’s voice. McDonald’s is not Asos, and it is definitely not Calvin Klein. They make food that is consistent and reasonably priced, but it would not be described as a visual brand. None of this is a problem, and it does not mean that McDonald’s shouldn’t use Vine, but it does show the importance of thinking about what it can really do for you before rushing in.

And that’s what General Electric has done:

In one post they are clean and simple, yet innovative, the exact persona of the @generalelectric handle and brand. It is measured and stylish.

As Marshall and Hugh demonstrated, it’s about finding your voice on the right channels, and using them to speak to the identified audience. Vine is a great addition to your social media tool kit – use it smartly and sparingly.

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