At first glance, ephemeral content appears to be yet another buzzworthy trend making rounds throughout the marketing industry. But after making a disparaging remark at PRSA ICON recently, I was schooled by a few marketers who helped me explain why this type of content is so engaging. I’m not alone. ntroduced by Snapchat in 2011 these kinds of stories were met with overwhelming skepticism, as marketers struggled to make sense of this new type of temporarily available content.
Traditionally, marketers have always focused on long-lasting, reusable content. Investing valuable resources into a medium that is available only for 24 hours seemed very counter-intuitive to me. However, the growing popularity of social media platforms such as Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram meant that traditional strategies also had to evolve in order to remain effective, and more importantly, relevant. Ephemeral content has become a crucial part of any well-thought-out marketing strategy.
What is ephemeral content?
Ephemeral content refers to any type of visual content, such as photos and videos, accessible for a short period of time. Snapchat was the first the develop a concept that allows users to exchange photos and videos that would disappear after being viewed. The company later introduced Stories, allowing users to share content that will be available 24 hours before finally disappearing. Other companies soon followed suit and today, Stories can be found on Instagram, Facebook and even the Facebook Messenger app.
What makes ephemeral content so appealing?
The overwhelming popularity of disappearing stories can be explained in two ways. On one hand, the act of content creation has moved from the hands of brands and companies and into the hands of consumers. This allowed them to tell their stories with an authenticity that was previously unmatched by a large corporation. And consumers crave authenticity like never before, with more than 86% of consumers citing authenticity as the deciding factor when it comes to liking and supporting a particular brand.
Also, the fleeting nature of ephemeral content creates a sense of urgency and relies heavily on the fear of missing out to elicit a specific action or an immediate response from the audience. Further supporting this claim are the statistics: Snapchat currently has 188 million daily active users, while Instagram Stories boast twice as many daily active users, reaching the 400 million-mark in Jun of 2018. But what are some of the practical marketing benefits ephemeral content has to offer?
Increasing user engagement
One of the major benefits of ephemeral content its ability to drive user engagement. Instagram provides a number of story-oriented features that are designed to engage the audience. These include swipe meters, polls, and questions. Businesses can use these features to survey existing and potential customers and receive much-needed customer feedback about specific products and/or service. Instagram Stories also come with a live feature that allows businesses to interact with their followers in real time.
Improving brand loyalty
Creating and sharing content regardless of your brand’s physical location helps develop authenticity and ensures brand loyalty. Modern consumers expect a great deal of transparency from their favorite brands and businesses can use ephemeral content to further humanize their brand. Stories can be used to show a behind-the-scenes look of the company or showcase the hard-working employees behind the brand itself.
The most important thing is to maintain the brand message and tone of voice with all your content, including ephemeral. You can sift through the portfolios of prominent branding companies to get an idea of how the pros integrate all their efforts into a cohesive strategy which helps amplify the brand’s message. By using your branding goals as a compass for your social media strategy, you can create authentic, relatable Stories which will help you build a relationship with your audience and increase customer loyalty.
Reaching a much wider audience
Users are interacting with Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook stories on a daily basis. The combined numbers of daily active users offer a large potential for extending your brand reach and engaging potential customers. One of the great ways to engage your existing following while increasing your overall reach is to use to Stories format as a vehicle for user-generated content. A single click is all it takes to showcase audience-made content and put a smile on a follower’s face once they see their work being shared by their favorite brand.
Getting the most out of ephemeral content
Never use ephemeral content as a means to spam your following with product and service announcements. Instead, use it to tell your brand story and convey your brand message. You’re working with an ephemeral medium and every piece of content you share needs to complement and elevate your audience’s digital experience. Instagram and Snapchat are both mobile-first, location-based applications that offer rather engaging branded and various other filters used to service specific events and locations.
Show authenticity by providing your following with a sneak peek into your company’s daily activities or take them behind the scenes and introduce them to the company employees. It’s important that you always act with integrity and use ephemeral content in addition to your regularly scheduled content, not instead of it. Lastly, Instagram supports Story Ads as a way to reach your audience quicker and provide potential consumers with product and service information they might be interested in even if they’re not explicitly following you.
Ephemeral content is here to stay, despite its fleeting character. It is a viable marketing tool for increasing engagement, expanding audience reach, establishing authenticity and ensuring loyalty and trust. That said, research precedes development, so make sure to an extensive research into your target audience before spending large amounts of your marketing budget developing an ephemeral content strategy that might not even work.