For 16 year-old Lauren Giraldo, $US2,000 isn’t hard to come by.
All she has to do is press the re-Vine button to share a sponsor’s video with her followers and an advertiser will cut her a large check.
Giraldo is a star on Vine, the Twitter-owned video platform that launched in January 2013. There, millions of people post 6-second clips and share them with the community. Giraldo is one of the most popular people on Vine with 2.4 million followers. Brands who want to grow their followings or promote their products are throwing money at girls like Lauren.
Cody and Marcus Johns aren’t much older than Giraldo, and they’re making a lot of money on Vine too. Cody, a 24-year-old aspiring actor in Los Angeles, worked on one Vine ad campaign that paid off his entire college tuition.
“I’m literally making a living off this,” Johns tells Business Insider. He wouldn’t say how much the college-paying campaign paid, but said it was “in the ballpark” of $US20,000. “Campaigns can pay more than that,” he says. “They can also pay less.”
Cody, with 1.6 million followers, isn’t the most popular Johns brother on Vine. His younger brother Marcus has more than 4 million followers. Marcus is a 20-year-old junior at Florida State University who has contemplated dropping out of school because he makes so much money on Vine.
When asked how much he makes on Vine every year, Marcus likens the platform to Hollywood. “If you’re a big-name actor, you’re going to make more than someone who isn’t,” he says. “Someone with three million followers on [Vine] is going to make a lot more than someone with half-a-million. There’s a tier of top twenty Viners who are definitely making a good living.”
How do you become a six-figure Vine star like the Johns brothers and Lauren Giraldo? Here’s how the budding social media advertising industry works.
Many popular Viners have been using the platform since it launched one year ago. Cody Johns was one of the first people to join Vine. As soon as Johns saw the platform, he alerted his brother.
A recent Vine by Marcus Johns, who is well-known for his high-pitch voice.
“Cody wanted me to join because he said there were a lot of funny people on Vine and he thought I’d be great at it,” Marcus says. “I downloaded it and in the first 10 days of making vines i got 1,000 followers. That was a lot. I had Instagram for over a year and I didn’t even have 1,000 followers at the time.”
Giraldo says she was “really late to Vine,” joining the platform six months after launch. Her growth was slow at first. Suddenly, it exploded.
“My first Vines I did, only my friends would watch,” says Giraldo. When Twitter implemented its re-vine feature, her followers jumped by tens of thousands over night. The re-vine button lets anyone share someone else’s Vine to their followers.
“I left on a cruise with my family and I had 3,000 followers. But while I was on the cruise the whole revine thing happened,” Giraldo says. “By the time my cruise ended I had 30,000 followers. I was super confused and I realised it was because of re-vine. It was a collection of all my videos that got revined.”
For Giraldo, the witty videos her followers love come naturally. She says she doesn’t spend much time executing them or planning out skits. “I started Vine as a joke. Just to have fun. I under-thought everything,” she says.
For the Johns brothers, Vine is more work.
“I started very intentionally,” says Marcus Johns. “I posted Vines at times when people weren’t posting them so they’d get exposure. The whole goal in the beginning was to get on the ‘popular’ page.”
Vine’s popular page showcases videos that have gotten the most likes per minute. The more likes it gets, the higher the video goes on the page and the more users see it. It took Marcus three weeks to get a video on the popular page and that’s when things “exploded,” he says.
“In one month I hit 50,000 followers. The next month I hit 300,000. The next month it was at 1 million…There was a point where I got almost one million followers in one month,” says Johns.
Currently, Marcus Johns has 4.1 million followers.
For the Johns brothers, being part of something new was alluring. On YouTube they felt they’d have to start from scratch and compete against a bunch of already-famous people. On Vine, they felt they could grow with the platform.
“Being on something new — it was an amazing feeling,” says Marcus.
Cody and Marcus Johns have held in-person meetups for their followers. Giraldo’s Vine account has gotten her invited to events like The Grammies and flown to New York City. Giraldo plans to finish high school online so she can continue travelling and accepting Vine opportunities as they arise.
Each Viner has found that comedy is they way to earn and keep followers.
Giraldo goes by the name “Princess Lauren” on Vine and posts about three videos per week. She loves musical theatre and her Vine feed showcases her acting skills. Her videos are spontaneous and they’re often posted after just one take. Many feature Giraldo doing or saying something ridiculous.
“For boys who think girls always wear the same pair of black leggings,” one recent Vine of hers begins. The clip then cuts to Lauren on her bed, tossing around multiple pairs of black pants. All of her Vines are wholesome because Giraldo knows a lot of young girls follow her on Vine.
“I know there are a lot of younger girls that look up to me. I keep everything super clean, I don’t want to be the cause of mother’s worrying,” she says.
Giraldo doesn’t use many props in her Vines. But Marcus and Cody Johns think making a set from scratch can add a lot of value for viewers.
“People like to see you create a set,” they say. “People are fine with you making a a spaceship out of boxes and seeing the moon whiz by you on a sheet of paper. People think that’s funny. It’s kind of the whole slapstick, creative side of Vine.”
Cody and Marcus labour over the videos they post to Vine. Some of their 6-second videos have taken four hours to produce. They often spend money driving to places for shoots and buying props to bulk up their Vines. On average, they spend 30 minutes shooting a Vine after vetting an idea with friends.
“You have an idea, you write it down, you tell it to people and if they laugh, you say ‘OK, that works,'” says Marcus. His Vines evolve a lot from the ideation stage to the final product.
“My greatest vines have started with a simple concept but when you get there and you’re filming, it’s always the things people throw in at the last second that make it great. You could do the same take 1,000 times and that 1,001th time you do it it will be that much better, maybe because you raised your eyebrow a certain way. I’m never satisfied with a Vine. They say art is never finished it’s abandoned. You’re constantly looking at your likes, comparing videos and sharpening skills so [producing a Vine] is a never-ending cycle.”
As soon as he joined Vine, Cody Johns was trying to figure out how to make money. So when he received an email from Rob Fishman last July about a sponsored video, he was ecstatic.
Fishman formerly managed social media for The Huffington Post. He and his friend Darren Lambert realised individual followings on sites like Instagram and Vine were growing rapidly, and brands were interested in advertising on the platforms. The pair decided to create a business called Niche that would be a a new type of advertising agency, connecting brands with influential people online.
Johns was one of the first people Fishman reached out to about a money-making opportunity. Fifteen minutes later, Fishman received Johns’ phone number.
“The sentiment of the people we reached out to was, ‘We’ve been waiting for this, how come no one is noticing us yet?'” says Fishman.
The first campaign Johns and Fishman worked on together was for a video startup, NowThis News. Johns only had about 100,00 followers at the time. The campaign didn’t feel like an ad to Johns. NowThis News encouraged him to be creative, funny and himself to promote its content. Now Johns works with Fishman as an employee at Niche, helping other Vine stars connect with brands for their mutual benefit.
Fishman now works with 50 advertising clients and runs campaigns for American Eagle and Universal Studios. In six months the company has generated $US750,000. Brands are paying Fishman’s team anywhere between $US15,000 and $US150,000 per month to devise and execute effective Vine, Tumblr and Instagram campaigns for them.
One Vine campaign Niche did with Universal Studios received 125,000 likes. David Tisch, an investor in Niche, says his wife gained 60,000 new Instagram followers for her clothing line when she worked with Fishman’s company.
“What we’re finding is brands realise they need to be huge on Instagram and Vine,” says Fishman. “They know the audience is on social media but they don’t know how to be there too. What we’re offering is link up with incredible forces on these platforms and have them become ambassadors for what a brand is doing.”
The Johns brothers say they only do a few ad campaigns per month out of respect for their followers. Giraldo says she’ll accept anywhere between one and thirty campaigns per month as long as they’re endemic to her audience. Often, she’s only required to keep the branded video or re-vines on her page for six days. Then she can delete them.
For Giraldo and the Johns brothers, Vine is lucrative but it isn’t a destination. They see it as a stepping stone to even greater careers.
“I think this is a good platform to launch myself,” says Giraldo. “I’m not going to be a Viner for the rest of my life but maybe with my following I could land a job on TV or stuff like that through the opportunity.”
The Johns brothers and Giraldo agree that the only way to be successful on Vine is to be original.
“If you want to do it, you’ve got to do it with everything you’ve got,” says Marcus Johns. “You’ve got to be engaging and go all out. Another thing is being original and creative.”
“Just be yourself,” Giraldo advises. “I know it sounds corny but don’t try to be funny and I’m sure it will go well.”
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