NEW DELHI :
In November, a 10-second video of a hand trick by 19-year-old Tori Pareno from the Philippines went viral on Twitter, drawing six million views. The short video was created and first published on TikTok, the social media platform that has taken the world by storm.
Formerly Musical.ly, which was acquired by China’s ByteDance in 2017, TikTok has youngsters in China, India and now the US dancing to its tunes.
With more than 200 million users, India is TikTok’s biggest and fastest growing market, followed by the US. And TikTok’s success has finally spurred interest from rivals.
In November, Facebook-owned Instagram announced Reels in Brazil, a 15-second video format. US’s Firework, which offers slightly more leeway with its 30-second time limit, was launched in India in September. The platform claims to have three million active users in the US and 100,000 in India. TikTok also increased the time limit for videos recently from 15 to 60 seconds.
Short videos though aren’t new for social media. Its origins can be traced back to Twitter-owned Vine, which allowed users to create 6-second-long looping videos. It was launched in 2013 and went on to have 200 million active users by 2015, before falling out of favour and eventually being disabled in 2017.
Many feel that Vine was ahead of its time and the audience wasn’t ready for it. Resources such as faster internet speeds or high-quality smartphone cameras were lacking and didn’t allow users to take advantage of the platform then.
Vincent Yang, co-founder and CEO of Firework, attributed the success of short-format video in India to operators such as Jio, which made fast internet available to the common man at very low prices.
“I personally think for a company to launch anything timing is important. You don’t want to be too early or too late,” he said. “Until a few years ago, people were not even familiar with using or creating videos on social media. The term ‘influencer’ was not familiar to many, and now many young people are thinking of it as a career.”
Unlike TikTok and Firework, Vine’s feature set was quite narrow. The lack of audio clips, filters and stickers limited the amount of customization that was possible. Today, users can even edit and merge videos, use emoji stickers, face filters, beauty effects, and add their favourite music, sound or dialogues in the background.
To differentiate itself, Firework has a feature called Reveal, which allows creators to capture both horizontal and vertical views in one shot. Instagram, which already has a user base of over a billion, and is known to be immensely engaging, is expected to provide huge stimulus to the short-video format.
Roopak Saluja, founder and chief executive officer, The 120 Media Collective, a digital market firm, said: “The primary difference (between Vine and today’s platforms) is the interactivity and the conversation that happens around the content on TikToK, unlike Instagram, which is all about creating an image of yourself.”
“Whereas TikTok’s real success comes from the fact that it allows you to be your vulnerable self, which is what makes it so endearing,” he added.
While the platforms may have got their breakthrough from ‘fun’ content, they are now evolving to offer more mature content to draw audiences and creators from a wider demographic.
For instance, TikTok recently started streamlining educational content under #EduTok so users could access them easily. The company has even tied up with organizations such as National Skill Development Corp. (NSDC), Bhumi Foundation, Josh Talks and Suicide Prevention India Foundation for campaigns on social change, for the EduTok campaign.
Many brands, content publishers, celebrities and production houses have also come on board to engage with their audience.
Clearly, short-video format can be used in multiple ways. All it requires is a bit more creativity on the creators’ part. Take the case of K.M. Chaitanya, an award-winning Kannada filmmaker, who feels all stories don’t need 20-30 minutes. He has created a series of 30-second, open-ended stories on Firework receiving quite some traction.
While photos and videos still hold a lot of appeal, short-form videos is the new buzzword on social media. As of now, youngsters are their biggest takers, but as content matures so will the audience.