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Visual Micro-Sharing Platforms: The Next Big Thing in Social Media Marketing?

First it started with Twitter. Now other micro-sharing platforms, like Vine and Snapchat, are becoming a popular way to share content and communicate with friends, family, and online. Vine was acquired by Twitter and officially launched in 2013. It allows users to create looping six-second videos and share them via app only, much like Instagram (in fact, there's not even a user login on Vine's website).

As for Snapchat, it strives to make messaging and communication to friends and family easily through photos with captions that are deleted instantly once the recipient views it (however, the "instant deletion" part is under contention, especially because the iPhone can take screenshots). At the end of 2012, Snapchat users were sending 50 million photos a day. In response to the large ballooning growth of Snapchat, Facebook created a Poke app that does much of the same thing, in just 12 days.

Poke vs. Snapchat

photo credit: TechCrunch

These micro-sharing platforms make sharing photos and video faster than ever, but the question remains, can businesses use it?

They Aren't For Everyone

Much like other social networks, Vine, Poke, and Snapchat won't work for everyone. As Mashable's Erica Swallow shares, start-up companies have been some of the first to adopt Vine, using it to showcase products and share employee antics. And Snapchat has been used by companies to share exclusive deals or moderate exclusive giveaways and contests.

One main difference between Snapchat/Poke and Vine is that Vine was seemingly built with companies in mind, whereas Snapchat and Poke make it harder for companies to use, as they are mainly for messaging one on one. As the apps grow, more opportunities for business presence seems possible (especially because Snapchat will most likely start showing ads soon). Another difference is that Snapchat and Poke focus on sharing content that is temporary, whereas Vine users' videos are available on their profile page.

While these two platforms have some major differences, the opportunities that both present for businesses is palatable.

Showcasing Products

Because of the main emphasis on visual communication, these micro-sharing apps are great for showcasing new products. A dress company tweeting "Our new paisley dresses are to die for!" just doesn't have the same impact as a 6-second video of the dresses on actual models or mannequins. These apps are also extremely scalable. What if a company's Vines were showcased on a 42" monitor in their stores or office waiting area? The ease and instant appeal of Vines would make it easy to create new content by almost anyone with access to the account and an HD camera or camcorder.

In addition, companies can also showcase videos and photos of actual customers utilizing its products or services. These could be via user submissions or in the company's stores or office (with permission). Actual people using the actual products can create a visual connection that sometimes e-commerce site or blog posts can't.

Flash Deals

You only need 6 seconds or an instant to share a coupon code or freebie, so visually sharing exclusive giveaways or promotions could be an easily trackable way to gauge the ROI of these types of apps. Because the emphasis and the quick and instant is the main focus, making deals have a time restraint only plays into their natural platform and intended use.

For instance, if a restaurant shared a Vine about an exclusive $4.99 lunch deal for Vine users for two hours only, it would provide both a sense of urgency and a way to get a handle on its Vine audience. Sharing vines via social media (especially Twitter, which offers thumbnails of vines in search results) can also help businesses gauge the crossover rate of other social networks into Vine.

Showcasing Company Culture

Besides its products and services, businesses can also use these apps to share a sliver of what it's like behind the scenes at the company. Whether it is creative team meetings, events, conferences, or even dance competitions, sharing what the company workplace is like can help users feel more connected to the business and its brand.

Personalizing a company is one of the best ways to use social media, and these apps make it easy for almost any employee to take part. As start-ups continue to make millions while promoting creative workplaces, corporations need to embrace the intuitive creativity that comes with utilizing these types of social networking apps.

The Downsides

These micro-sharing apps do have some downsides: as mentioned, Poke and Snapchat are mostly used on a user-to-user basis, and Vine only allows users to upload 6-second videos. This may lead to extensive editing to showcase as much as possible in a short amount of time. Stop motion animation has enjoyed a relevance resurgence thanks to Vine users, but this takes more time to cut and edit than just shooting a straight 6-second piece of video.

Additionally, these apps have also been in the news for becoming a haven for sharing porn and other illicit videos. It is important that companies know the meaning behind hashtags they are using, as well as users that are linking to, just in case it might lead their own customers to something that may be inappropriate.

While these micro-sharing platforms are so new spam hasn't had a chance to spoil it yet, their passionate user base means that companies need to utilize them for community building and exclusive sharing of products and services. Instead of believing users will stick around to watch 6-seconds of a company's logo, businesses should be dedicated to staying relevant and interesting in this instant new way of communication. 

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