All Covered With Vines

It’s Time For You to Get Vine (And New York’s Biggest Vine Star Will Explain Why)

It's not just a million videos of people brunching, we swear.
Nicholas Megalis makes a Vine. (Photo: Nicholas Megalis)

Nicholas Megalis makes a Vine. (Photo: Nicholas Megalis)

On a warm summer day in late July, hundreds of people gathered in Central Park, some sporting Halloween costumes and all cheering like crazy for a group of their idols who had taken the stage. But the people clustered on the platform weren’t the latest iteration of One Direction or Justin Bieber. They were a small, tight-knit group of kids in their 20s who have millions of followers on Vine–a six-second video-sharing app that only came into existence on Jan. 24 of this year.

Many of the people standing on the platform had cultivated their impressive fan bases just by posting funny stuff in six-second snippets with no post-production. They don’t have record deals, they aren’t on TV and they’ve only started to garner attention from the media fairly recently. Even established MTV stars like Nev Schulman, who’s also a Vine enthusiast, are taking notice: Mr. Schulman tweeted that a handful of famous Viners attended a taping of the latest episode of The Catfish Aftershow.

To the millions of people who follow them, they’re known as Vine stars.

One of them, Nicholas Megalis, has more followers than Mr. Bieber, Lady Gaga, and anyone else using the app. Just by creating funny micro-shorts and being himself, Mr. Megalis, who’s also been making music for years, has become the most popular user on the entire network, garnering 2.2 million followers since February.

Philadelphia Viner Kaelee Dooley was one of the hundreds of fans who showed up in Central Park last month after she heard about the costume party through Mr. Megalis’s Vine. She marvels at the way a social media app has so quickly created a group of celebrities who “were just regular New Yorkers not too long ago.”

“I think people can relate to them,” she says. “These guys aren’t all mixed up in politics, making religious statements, flying to Cuba because they’re friends with the president. They’re all people in their younger years who are making things we encounter every day and putting a funny twist on it. It allows people to have fun with the simplest of things.”

Despite Vine’s hordes of diehard and obsessive fans (three of whom stopped and freaked out over Mr. Megalis during Betabeat’s interview with him last week), many are still holding out on downloading the app.

Perhaps, much like Twitter in its infancy, Vine is still vastly misunderstood, with some thinking that if they download Vine, they’ll be subjected to endless six-second clips of brunches and selfies and other heinously boring attempts at Personal Brand building.

Yes, those posts exist, but there are so many great ones that cancel them out. To those who haven’t taken the plunge yet, Mr. Megalis’s advice is, “Try it. Try it and call me after you’ve tried it and tell me that you’re not addicted.”

Mr. Megalis specializes in creating two-line jingles that tend to get stuck in your head. Example, the Vine that really catapulted him to Vine fame consists of Mr. Megalis rapping against a hip hop beat about using candy as currency:

It’s easy to find such funny content quickly, too. Just by checking the Popular page, you can find an endless stream of people doing things that will crack you up in six seconds. And for a young generation that isn’t likely to watch Saturday Night Live religiously, that’s a huge deal. Ask a kid to name three SNL cast members and three Vine celebs, and see what happens.

How much you enjoy the app has everything to do with the content you create and the people you follow. With Mr. Megalis’s insight, we’ve created the definitive guide to creating crowd-pleasing Vines and getting the most out of the app.

Your Guide to Using Vine

• Have an idea. Conventional storytelling wisdom dictates that a beginning, middle and end are de rigueur. While some Vines accomplish that, we’ve found that a concept or idea on which to hang your Vine, no matter how weird, is all that’s really required, as seen here in Rudy Mancuso’s “Terrible Tour Guides”:

• Get over yourself. If you want to use Vine to solidify the brooding, sarcastic online identity you’ve painstakingly crafted through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, you might want to skip it. When people use Vine as a latter-day away message to show what they’ve been up to all day, shit gets boring. The key is to be creative and not be afraid of looking a little dorky.

“I think that Vine is goofy and ridiculous and fun and has a good spirit,” Mr. Megalis says. “We’re in our groove and it lets us be positive, make people smile and make people laugh.”

Take, for example, Floridian Viner Marcus Johns’s recent dance video. Have you ever seen such unbridled joy?

• Be yourself and don’t force an idea if you can’t think of something you’re crazy about. Mr. Megalis has a habit of singing what he sees, so his Vine persona grew from that, he says.

“Music is so important in my life it’s not even separate,” he says. “I didn’t set out to be like, ‘I’m gonna be the music guy on Vine.’ I’m just singing nervously all day.”

Musicians tend to flock to Vine, with many of the biggest Vine celebs displaying serious musical talent. Mr. Megalis thinks this is because of the temptation to create a perfect loop, which can start to sound like a musical beat when you watch it over and over again. Also, composing a Vine is similar to composing a musical piece–through practice, he’s now able to map out a six-second span in his head.

• Think outside the box. Example: some Viners use raw hot dogs to activate the touchscreen so that they can use both of their hands, while Mr. Megalis used to duct tape a blank CD to his phone so that he could see himself before Vine added the option to record while facing your phone’s screen.

And when there aren’t any DIY fixes to be found, Mr. Megalis makes fun of thatas seen in his Vine where he tapes pieces of paper all over himself and the walls that read, “BAKED BEANS,” then asks his viewers to pretend there are baked beans all over him.

“It’s forcing people to think like they did in the early days of cinema,” Mr. Megalis says of the app’s limitations. “Back in the day, The Wizard of Oz was all trapdoors and smoke bombs and wires and cables and props. Nowadays, it’s a guy in a green suit in front of a green wall and they add it all in later–but movies aren’t any better than they were then.”

 For an example of Vine’s answer to special effects, see Mr. Johns’s “What Happens When You Scare Spiderman”:

• Classic comedy translates well. Although Vine is a game-changer in terms of disseminating comedy, old-school tropes like slapstick and celebrity impersonations are more than welcome.

It’s popular as a vehicle for pointing out everyday annoyances, too.

• Finally, here are some people who you have to follow in addition to Mr. Megalis:

Jordan Burt.

Marlo Meekins.

Keelayjams, for your daily fill of pizza, dark humor, Seinfeld and Motorola Razrs. He also likes to make pretend sponsored posts. Below, “Chandler Bing loses it” and “Eating a salad out of a pair of lady Air Jordans after winning the big game.”

Simply Sylvio, who’s so much more than just a humanoid in a gorilla suit, seen below in “Sylvio Doffs His Hat.”

Jerome Jarre, the most enthusiastic French person ever.

… as well as Arielle Vandenburg, Simone Shepherd, Alphacat, Mr. Mancuso and Mr. Johns. Now go download Vine because if at this point you’re still resisting, you basically are this guy:

Follow Molly Mulshine on Twitter or via RSS. mmulshine@observer.com