It may seem like decades ago, but ephemeral content only debuted in 2011 – thanks to a little platform called Snapchat.
Originally known as the app for sending disappearing messages, Snapchat has changed drastically since.
It added numerous features such as photos, videos, chat and filters, and grew to reach an astonishing 190 million daily active users.
What remained the same about the app is the impermanence of its content.
Everything that is posted vanishes after 24 hours, and this concept was quickly copied by its biggest social network rivals, Facebook and Instagram.
This is known as ephemeral content and brands have been quite quick to recognize its marketing potential.
On one hand, it might seem absurd to use this kind of a channel to promote your brand. After all, you’re spending time and resources to come up with engaging content that disappears after a day? What’s the point?
Ephemeral content can actually offer some benefits that marketers can’t get anywhere else. Basically, its biggest selling point is that the way this content works perfectly mirrors the contemporary way of living – it’s quick, transient and restless. The content is created, consumed and forgotten in a blink of an eye.
However, it’s far from being ineffective. In this blog post, we’ll share four ways that temporary content can actually improve your brand’s awareness.
1. Increase engagement rates
Most ephemeral content is visual, and visual content is shared 40 times more often on social media than other types of content.
But more importantly, ephemeral content is highly engaging because it creates a sense of urgency and plays on the concept of missing out. The “fear of missing out” (FOMO) has become a commonly used phrase for a phenomenon that goes beyond social networks.
FOMO refers to a sense of anxiety and mild panic that one feels when missing on a certain event or a piece of news. Social media have amplified this feeling by putting everything your friends, favorite brands, celebrities or news portals share, do or plan right in your face, thus creating a feeling of concern for not being a part of it or not knowing about it at all. In fact, 56% of social media users suffer from this fear to some extent.
So it’s no wonder that Snapchat gets 10 billion video views a day, which still puts them ahead of Facebook in this respect.
In a way, almost all content posted on social networks is ephemeral. Most of it does remain online, but most of it also gets forgotten and buried under other content in just a couple of days. Therefore, ephemeral content just goes a step further and actually tells users that it won’t be available at all after a short period of time.
This is what drives people to immediately watch it, react and consequently even make impulse purchase or signup decisions, especially if the visual content is accompanied by smart copywriting or a good call to action that creates a sense of urgency.
For brands who want to encourage the sense of urgency, using words like “today”, “right now”, or “for a limited time” in your Instagram and Snapchat Stories CTA can drive your users to take actions more quickly.
2. Humanize your brand
With the sudden surge in active users on Instagram, it’s hard to believe that Snapchat once reigned supreme as the most engaging social network for millennials.
At one point, they actually preferred Snapchat much more for its raw, unpolished content to Instagram’s perfectly filtered photos. Why?
Because they wanted to see real, unedited, and natural content instead of something meticulously curated.
Ephemeral content can actually improve brand loyalty by showing authenticity and true, genuine human faces and minds behind the brands.
This is because temporary content usually doesn’t need to be too polished or refined and thus has a genuine feel to it. This evokes a sense of spontaneity and gives your brand a more human-like face.
For instance, a large, corporate brand can can create Instagram Stories to capture behind the scenes footage of your company and its employees having fun doing everyday things. This shows their audience that they are real, authentic people just like them.
That’s why more and more of top social media marketing agencies have decided to use ephemeral content to do just that. It uncovers the veil of unreal and fabricated perfection around the brand that usually causes people to distance themselves from it and affects their trust for the brand.
Even Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel makes a similar reference in Snapchat’s first ever company blog, saying that their app doesn’t “conform to unrealistic notions of beauty or perfection, but rather creates a space to be funny honest, or whatever you might feel like at the moment.”
So for companies that want to use ephemeral content to highlight the human side of your brand? Do just that! Capture moments of team building and genuine interaction between people and you’ll come across less corporate and more real.
3. Improve your reach
In a world where attention spans are getting shorter, people don’t have the patience to watch videos longer than a minute or two and even if they do, they tend to forget about most of them immediately. But if you’re able to capture their attention within that short amount of time, they’ll be more than likely to share your content with their network.
If you want to start reaching a wider audience, ephemeral content might be just the strategy you need.
As I mentioned, this type of content fits the time we live in perfectly – it’s quick, simple and doesn’t demand little effort in order to be consumed. And this is what makes it shareable, watchable and increases its viral potential.
Ephemeral content is especially useful to reach the younger generations. Namely, more than a half of 18-29 year-olds use auto-delete apps.
With Instagram Stories, brands can improve their reach even with more as they can now create ads, tag users, and users can send each other your brand’s stories.
So if you want to grow your brand and reach new audiences similar to your existing ones, start creating interesting impermanent content on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat!
4. Spend less time on content creation
Coming up with new relevant content on a regular basis is one of the biggest challenges for all agencies, marketers and social media managers.
The fact that ephemeral content is transient actually instills lower expectations in terms of quality. Users aren’t expecting every little detail to be perfect or meticulously executed -meaning you can improvise and be more spontaneous with the content.
So whenever you want to take a break from producing a cycle of high-quality and high-effort content, add a little ephemeral content into the mix.
This is a great solution whenever you think of an idea that you feel would be very engaging for your audience, but simply doesn’t fit the concept and the overall look of your permanent Instagram timeline, for example.
Posting this content in the form of Instagram story gives you a chance to keep the audience occupied and amused without spamming or making the post oddly stand out.
In general, ephemeral content is great as an addition for your regular content, as well as a channel where you’ll quickly remind the audience to check your new posts, videos, blogs and products.
Additional tips on how to use ephemeral content
As I mentioned, this kind of content is best used in combination with high-quality, permanent content. As great and easily consumable as it is, it can’t really do the job for your brand on its own.
So how do you find out if ephemeral content will work for you? One simple way is to use a social listening and media monitoring tool like Mention. You can track what people are saying about your competitors in your industry and see if there is any talk about ephemeral content. If a cool Instagram Stories campaign from your competitors is picking up a lot of buzz, chances are you could make it work too.
Secondly, social listening helps you get instant feedback on whether your ephemeral content stirred some emotions and created some hype. This can help you figure out if you’ve done a good job and help you improve your strategy for the next campaign.
Some other pieces of advice include encouraging user-generated content by offering people custom branded lenses and filters. They can amuse themselves while at the same time amplifying your brand.
In the case of a very popular Taco Bell campaign, it generated more than 200 million views for the brand.
Finally, you’ll have to be authentic and up-to-date at all times. Try to include a call-to-action whenever it seems appropriate and make your content look as natural and spontaneous as possible.
Now and forever
Ephemeral content can give your reach a boost and add some of that informal, casual charm in order to create tighter bonds with your audience and make them more loyal.
But the basis of a real, longstanding relationship that people tend to create with brands is providing long-term value and trust with useful, high-quality content that will stand the test of time. Only when combined together, can ephemeral content fully live up to its potential.