Serving more than 100 million people every month, Vine delivers over 1.5 billion loops of its six-second content every day. This kind of engagement is elevating talented performers to celebrity status, while companies and brands try to harness these influencers' popularity to promote their wares. Meanwhile, those performers struggle to parlay the fleeting glory of a celebrated video into long-term dividends elsewhere.
Jason Nash, for example, achieved breakthrough success – to the tune of over 2 million followers – with successful videos like “Soda Dad,” and is trying to channel that viewership back into the work he did pre-Vine as a podcaster, stand-up and filmmaker.
“I was making a movie for Comedy Central called 'Jason Nash is Married', and I certainly wasn’t famous or had a big name or anything,” Nash recently explained. “But I knew I had to come up with some new [material] somehow, so I went on Vine and started doing whatever I thought was funny, and it just took off, and it worked.”
Not everyone on Vine who competes on Nash’s level has the same aspirations; then again, many of them started for entirely different, decidedly unprofessional reasons than Nash did. “There was a girl I had a crush on, and she had Vine, and one day she made a video and Tweeted it in her timeline, and I was like, ‘what is this?’” admitted Greg Davis Jr., aka Klarity. “I watched it, and downloaded Vine just so I could watch the video. And then I just started playing around with it.” In fact, it wasn’t until a friend informed him that he’d become popular that Davis began to recognize the impact of what he was doing.
“I remember starting and not knowing what I was doing, and so we shot some, and he said, I’m gonna post it, and I left. I went to church and while I’m there, he texts me and says it made the top of the page,” he remembered. “That was such a big deal because it means it’s like it’s trending on Twitter or whatever, and I’d beaten my head against the wall with social media for years trying to get followers and grow, and the first thing I did in this space, everybody who’s on this platform saw it. So from then on I was hooked.”
Nash indicated that the immediate appeal of Vine was the control he could exert over each video, and the speed with which not only he could shoot it, but receive a response from his intended audience. “You and I have this idea, ‘oh it would be funny if…,’ and next thing you know, you pull your phone out and shoot it, upload it and you know right away if people like it – you can tell in the first minute,” Nash said. “There’s tons of talented people out there, and that’s the best thing [now], that the power is in the hands of the creator, and no one can tell you no.”
“And the immediacy of Vine,” he added. “I’ve been waiting for this movie to get greenlit for six months, and I’m going to do a Vine today, and it will go up and people will see it.”
Davis, meanwhile, said that Vine’s brevity forces users to condense and maximize what they want to say, which has in turn honed his creative instincts and made him a more confident performer. “If you can be creative in six seconds, you can be creative in any amount of time,” he explained. “It’s forced me to get to the point quicker in telling a story. And it helped me in every other area of being a storyteller, whether it’s 30 seconds or long form. It forced me to be creative, and to get out of my comfort zone and to get over some fears with comedy.”
“I didn’t do it to procure more acting jobs, I just did it because I wanted to be not as insecure anymore,” Davis continued. “I wanted to knock the dust off, I wanted to hone my skill and be comfortable in front of the camera again.” That said, Davis insists that he isn’t letting that online success go to his head, nor expecting that it will do more than open a few doors in the creative areas where he truly hopes to make his mark. “Being on social media and having a million followers is cool, but until I get a call from Spielberg or Scorsese or whoever, I’m not taking anything from it.”
That said, Davis observed that what he does has the opportunity to entertain a lot more people than traditional forms of entertainment, especially now that cell phones and mobile devices have become inseparable from their owners. “You can go on Netflix and watch a comedy special, but who has that hour and a half out of their day until they go home at night or on weekends?” he asked. “But if you’re in traffic, you can pull out your phone and just laugh real quick, or you can be walking from one class to another and pull out your phone and get a quick laugh. I don’t think it’s ever going to replace anything, but it’s a new way to get content out there.”
For Nash, the goal is to merge his digital reach with his real-world creativity. “My endgame is just to be able to create content and have the audience tell me what’s good or bad,” he said. “In television and film, you write a script, you spend nine months on it and it doesn’t go – no one ever saw that effort.”
“I just want to do things that people see, and work. And what it comes down to is there’s an audience there, and it’s so wonderful, and it’s real.”