Six seconds to make a visual impression — go. Millions of people have risen to video app Vine’s surprisingly fun challenge: It’s now an Apple store top five mainstay, an instant hit when released on Android on June 4th and a serious social media competitor after passing Instagram in total Twitter shares shortly after its Google Play debut with 2.37 million links in just one day. Want in? Here’s how to take what’s already happening on this stop-and-start, looping video app and make it work for your brand:

1. Stick with your message: Let’s take a look at Target, a company that has bypassed plugs in favor of feel-good, stop action Vines. Each artistically executed clip is brimming with nostalgia (lemonade and Lite Brite, anyone?) and while there isn’t a product in sight, it’s all in keeping with their slogan of the season: Summer Up. Six seconds in, and you’re sure to follow their page — plus make a run to Target for a bathing suit, flip flops, and sunscreen now that you’re in the summer mood.

2. Be a resource: Home improvement retailer Lowes showed their creative chops with their #lowesfixinsix Vine campaign, a series of stop-action animation life hacks that both promotes their brand’s message and actually helps the user. (Not to mention #howto is a constantly trending hashtag.) Who knew a screwdriver how-to could be this sweet?

3. Engage with your audience: Urban Outfitters was the first brand to boldly Vine — but that’s far from the only reason this retailer is up to a whopping 41,000+ followers. After their first post in January, a collage of cute puppies, the company has stayed consistent to what their young customers want to see (read: Vines of PBR, Star Wars, and body paint). And people are watching — and commenting, giving the brand valuable insights on what their followers like and would potentially buy.

4. Play up your product: With ecommerce gaining more ground, it’s becoming more of a challenge for brands to replace the experience of shopping: the texture of a skirt, the jangle of a bracelet. With Vine, these items can come alive again. The Gap has taken to the app to pack purses, twirl in dresses, and lace sneakers, which connects their products to a lifestyle and compels customers to get those clothes in their closets, stat.

5. Create brand intimacy: In the Year of the Selfie where even ultra-private stars are Instagramming their every move (thank you, Beyoncé), consumers are starting to expect transparency. And a snap behind the scenes creates an intimacy that will set your brand apart and confirm your fans’ love of your company. Just look at lifestyle website Refinery29, which, in addition to showing literal behind-the-scenes shots of photo shoots, frequently shares office-themed Vines that add a personal touch and up the brand’s glam factor.

6. Raise awareness: …for your brand and beyond. Mashable and (RED) just discovered one of the coolest things that Vine can do — good. The two companies teamed up to raise AIDS awareness with a Vine challenge: Set the first ever Vine record for the most videos sent for a single cause. Over a thousand users created a video including red (and occasionally ginger beards) or using their voice to speak out against AIDS with the hashtag #RedWorldRecords. And people paid attention, including Twitter creator Jack Dorsey, who submitted an entry. The takeaway: Vine contests will create buzz (since creative fans love stepping up to the six-second challenge), and partnering with a charity can do you one better by enhancing your brand’s philanthropic image.

Use your people, your ideas, and your creativity. Be genuine, and it will work. You can trust us…

(featured photo via Digital Trends)