Byte is a new social media app, released on January 24, 2020, that lets users upload six-second videos.
Today, short videos are so popular that it’s hard to remember a time before they were everywhere. But a single app started the short video craze: Vine.
With six-second looping videos, Vine offered creators a limited format with unlimited potential and quickly grew a devoted user base. The platform launched the careers of creators Jake and Logan Paul, singer Shawn Mendes, and The Good Place writer Demi Adejuyigbe, among others. Then, in 2016, Vine’s parent company Twitter announced that the platform would be shutting down. Cue hearts breaking across the world.
Soon after the demise of Vine, its founder Dom Hofmann teased the release of a new Vine-like platform. Originally referred to as Vine 2.0, Byte was delayed from a planned spring 2019 launch. Now that it’s live, here’s everything you need to know about Byte, the newest social media platform in 2020.
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What is Byte?
Like its predecessor, the Byte app is a platform for creating and sharing six-second looping videos. Unlike Vine, it’s not affiliated with Twitter in any way. It’s a new, independent platform.
Many will compare Byte to TikTok, but the two have some important differences. For one thing, TikTok allows longer videos: 15 to 60 seconds. The extremely short nature of Byte videos also sets it apart from Snapchat (10 seconds) and Instagram Stories (15 seconds).
For another thing, videos on Byte are minimal: you can add a caption, but otherwise there is no text or video effects. Byters are split on whether or not to add effects, with some pointing out that the raw, minimal format is what made Vine so special— and what sets Byte apart from other video-focused platforms.
It also differs from Vine in one big way. Byte has announced a partner program to pay creators for their work. The inability to monetize a popular video was a major factor that led to the demise of Vine, as popular creators left for platforms where they could earn money from their content.
The platform is community-focused, with founder Dom Hofmann actively participating and sharing updates and information with creators. The Byte app is rapidly improving in response to user requests, updating the app a week after release with new features like audio control, pausing Bytes, and sharing links.
Early reviews are positive, with a 4.3 rating on the App Store. Many reviewers are former Vine users who are excited about the return of the format. And a number of popular Vine stars have returned to the platform, as well as celebrities like YouTube creator Louis Zong and Glee star Finneas O’Connell.
Byte is already facing its first major challenge: dealing with a flood of spam accounts. In an update, Hofmann promised that moderation and comment filtering were in the works to deal with the issue.
How to use Byte
Byte has a sleek, simple interface. It’s easy to upload videos, explore content, and see what other users are up to.
By the way, a Byte user is a Byter, and a video is— you guessed it— a Byte.
Here’s how to get started using Byte:
How to make a Byte profile
Simply choose a user name (20 characters or less) and upload a photo. You have the option of adding a different display name and a bio to your profile. That’s it!
How to navigate the Byte menu
You’ll see a trending video selected for you as your first screen. At the bottom is the menu bar, with five buttons: Home, Explore, Record, Activity, and Profile.
- Home will show you trending videos on the platform. Tap the screen to see the comments on each video, as well as the total number of views. Swipe down with a finger to see new videos. You can share (“rebyte”), like or comment on each Byte by tapping the buttons next to the creator name. Click the Byter name to see their profile and follow their account.
- Explore will let you search the platform by username or explore by channel, like Comedy, Pets, Experimental and Beauty. You can also look at trending videos (Popular Now) or see the Latest (the newest videos uploaded to Byte).
- Record will let you post videos (more on that in a minute!)
- Activity will let you check out the interactions on your Bytes, including likes, comments and follow from fellow Byters.
- Profile will display your bio and screen name, let you edit your profile, and show you the Bytes you’ve uploaded. You can also find your Settings here.
How to upload your first Byte
Click the center button to open the record screen. You can upload videos and images from your camera roll, or record live in the app. A progress bar along the top tracks your remaining time (six seconds goes by quick!).
In the default record camera mode, you hold the center button to start recording and release it to stop. You can also change the camera mode by going to your profile. Hit the three dots next to the Edit Profile button in the top-right to open your Settings, then scroll down to Camera Mode. Select Classic to record by touching and holding anywhere on the screen. The default mode is Classic.
Once you’re done recording, tap the forward arrow in the top right corner to see your finished video. You can add it to a channel and write a caption if you want, but these are optional! Caption limits are generous, but most Byters keep them short and snappy.
Unlike TikTok, you can’t add effects like stickers or text to your videos. It’s very streamlined. So once you’ve added your caption, you’re ready to post!
How to check your Activity
See who is liking and commenting on your Bytes under the Activity tab.
Tap the profile photos of Byters who are engaging with your videos to see their profiles, where you can follow them back or watch their Bytes.
How to find more Byters to follow
The Byte app is all about community, so don’t be shy! Scroll through the videos on your home screen or explore by category and username to find content that you love.
So far there’s no way to explore the app by hashtag, so you either need to search for specific profile names or browse within categories.
How to track your growth on Byte
Find out who’s following your account by heading to the Profile section. By clicking the three dots next to the Edit Profile button in the top right, you can open your Settings. Scroll down to find Your followers and see who your fans are.
You can also find a few fun features in the Settings tab. My favourite is App icon, where you can change the look of Byte on your home screen. What, you don’t color-code your home screen?
Byte was downloaded 1.3 million times within one week of launching, and was the number-one download in the iTunes App Store in the weekend following its release.
Since the platform is still so new, no data is available on user demographics. However, we can make a few educated guesses.
TikTok is most popular among Gen Z, with 41% of users between ages 16 to 24. However, Vine skewed older, with only 28% of users in the 18 to 24 age range. Byte seems to be popular with Gen Z audiences too, judging by the self-reported ages of users.
In the week after launch, the majority of Byte downloads (70%) were by U.S. users. Canadian users made up 6% of downloads and U.K. users 7%. For brands with a North American audience, Byte is a good fit.
How brands can use Byte
Byte is piloting a different model of advertising than other platforms, promising no “pre-roll” ads (the ones that appear before the content you want to watch, as on YouTube) or ads in your following feed (like on Instagram). They’ve also promised not to do ads based on retargeting, which anyone who has ever searched for an item and then been haunted by it for months online will appreciate.
So what does their ad strategy look like? Byte hopes their ads will celebrate creativity and community, focusing on quality of content. Ad campaigns will be managed through their Partner Program.
Participation in the Partner Program is by invitation, though brands and individuals can apply for consideration through an easy two-question Google Form. All applications will be vetted and the number of partners will be limited to keep the platform from becoming overly saturated with promoted and sponsored content. This seems like a good strategy to keep the focus on creators, and also avoid the pitfall of ads that alienate or annoy users (something platforms like Instagram have struggled with in the past.)
Hofmann has set a goal of launching the partner program within two to three months of the app’s release, so as yet there are no partners announced.
Since the platform is new but rapidly growing, there is a ton of potential for brands to establish their presence on Byte. Get a competitive edge by growing your audience early with fresh, original content.
Here are a few ideas for using Byte successfully.
Create a meme-able format
Nike launched the first-ever Byte ad campaign on February 1. It featured a series of “Self Hail Mary” videos, which showed people throwing and catching impossible football passes. The campaign ran for a week with a featured category on the Explore tab.
byte’s first ad campaign is live and we did it with @nike. i’m *really* proud of our collaboration. the creative is amazing and nike‘s focus on movement and fun is a perfect fit for our first step into this world pic.twitter.com/I34iRGFFvS
— dom hofmann (@dhof) February 1, 2020
The campaign was perfect for the six-second format, using a simple editing trick to make it look like someone was throwing a ball to themselves.
It also sparked other users to play with the format and make their own “self Hail Mary” Bytes. Inspiring other creators and having fun with the format— that’s what Byte is all about.
Share original content
It’s tempting to share the same video across multiple platforms: it saves you time, and it lets more people see that great thing you spent so much time making! But ultimately, reposting identical content hurts your brand.
This is especially true for Byte, where users are likely to be active on TikTok and YouTube as well. If you try to post the same video, they’ll notice and tune you out. Plus, the platform emphasizes creativity as a core value. Trying to get away with recycled content here is against the spirit of the app.
Engage to grow your audience
Because the partner program will be limited, brands can’t rely on being able to buy visibility. There’s no guarantee your company will be accepted as a partner, so you should focus on organic engagement with your followers.
That means liking, rebyting and commenting on other Byters’ videos! Since you can’t search Byte by hashtag (yet), explore categories to find users who fit your audience. You want to engage proactively and reactively: reply and follow back when users comment on your videos or follow you, and seek out other creators to engage with.
Keep an eye on your Byte stats (likes, rebytes and comments) to track your engagement. As with any platform, these analytics provide helpful insights into your performance.
Pay attention to special occasions
You probably have a social media content calendar with special occasions, holidays, and other relevant moments, right? If not, you should! Byte is a platform that rewards timely content, so you don’t want to miss any short-lived opportunities.
On Valentine’s Day, the popular and trending videos were heavy on the V-Day jokes.
No occasion is too small or too silly for a little video celebrating it, so get creative!
Share a quick DIY or tutorial
For brands in beauty, cooking, crafts or other creative industries, mini-tutorials are a great use of Byte.
A brand like Sheertex that creates content showing people trying (and failing) to rip its signature tights would also be a good fit here. The trick is to showcase your product in a clever, attention-grabbing way.
Easier said than done, right? But like Vine, the Byte app is a hotbed for funny videos. The short format is ideal for gags and silliness. If your brand voice is serious, then this app might not be the best fit. But if you connect with your audience through humor and candor, Byte can be a great place to build connections.
It’s also a place to be casual and off-the-cuff, so it’s the perfect place to test concepts, jokes and campaigns. You’ll see quickly if people are responding to your idea.
Every new app is like a new language. It takes time to learn, but the best way to do it is to immerse yourself. Dive in and have fun!
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