This post was contributed by Naida Alabata from Grit PH.
Gone are the days when marketers needed to focus solely on producing evergreen content as ephemeral content creation takes the social media marketing world by storm. Fundamentally, this type of content is short-lived photos and videos, usually running for 24-hours, that social media users can consume either via Instagram, Snapchat, or Facebook, among others.
And while evergreen content is still essential, ephemeral content lets marketers tap their target market’s inner FOMO or Fear of Missing Out — a term coined by Oxford Dictionary to refer to “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media”. Who would’ve thought that this fear can be used to leverage your digital marketing campaigns by producing ephemeral content?
What is ephemeral content?
Ephemeral content is a type of content in a photo or video format that lasts only for a limited period of time. Examples of ephemeral content are posts on Snapchat, Instagram Stories, and Facebook My Day that typically only lasts for 24 hours unless you put it under your profile’s highlights.
This concept of short-lived content was first seen in Picaboo, the first version of Snapchat launched in 2011. The initial aim of the platform was to provide a way to send photos that disappear within a few seconds.
And as the popularity of ephemeral or short-lived content skyrocketed, so as its concept’s adaptation to other social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram.
Ephemeral content allows your brand to use stories to demonstrate a new product, share tips, or to broadcast a live event, among various other possibilities.
Why so popular?
An article published by CNBC reveals that as of the first quarter of 2018, the Instagram Stories feature reaches a maximum of 400 million active users per day, while Snapchat has 191 million. With these many users patronizing these products, one can’t help but ask what makes this type of content so popular?
- First, since ephemeral content expires after a certain period, people tend to check the app more often so as not to miss anything. Here we can see the concept of FOMO coming into play.
- Then, there’s how these apps were designed. The camera feature is easily accessible in both apps, encouraging you to create content on your own.
- These apps were also designed to be interactive; making it more enjoyable to use. On Instagram, the hashtags and geotags allow you to reach a wider audience who are looking for content related to your posts. On Snapchat, you can create and join groups allowing you to build your own communities. And on Facebook, it allows your brand or page appear on your followers’ messenger apps and not just on their often crowded newsfeeds.
- Due to the platforms’ compatibility with vertical video, people are given the impression that they can use them regardless of how simple their setups are. No need for fancy and expensive equipment.
- Lastly, who can resist using the fun effects or filters that these platforms come with? They’re definitely one of the things that make using ephemeral content creation enjoyable.
Reasons to use ephemeral content
It allows you to get real
One of the things that convince people to pay attention to a brand is when its product or service is relatable. But no matter how much time and effort a brand puts into its social media posts, there’s still the tendency for these materials to come across as fake. Ephemeral content addresses this issue by allowing you to create raw content for that authentic feel.
You can also use ephemeral content to show the day-to-day activities of your company, allowing your audience to get a glimpse of what goes behind the product or service they see. This approach allows them to connect more to your brand as it enables them to relate to the people behind it.
It is easier to maintain
Because ephemeral content does away with the need for fancy equipment and production, using it for your social media marketing campaign will allow you to stay consistent in terms of the posts you produce.
If you are trying to stay on top of your content calendar, adding ephemeral content to your mix of high-quality photos and videos will allow you to publish fresh content more regularly since you won’t have to worry about polishing or curating it.
It allows you to grow your brand’s visibility
Because ephemeral content is shareable, there’s no limit as to how many audiences your post can reach. And since it will only last for a few hours, people are more likely to engage with it immediately, before it’s gone.
Just take note that for Instagram, you also have to consider its ever-changing algorithm to get your posts seen by the right audience, and get as many engagements as possible.
One example of brands who have successfully utilized Snapchat for engagement is the well-loved candy brand Sour Patch Kids. On one of its memorable Snapchat stories campaign, they presented a life-sized Sour Patch Kid called Blue Kid who roamed around the world in 2015. According to Digital Training Academy, the brand was able to get 120,000 new Snapchat followers at that time because of this.
It allows you to drive more engagement
Since people want to be involved in whatever is trending at the moment and ephemeral content has a limited lifespan, people are more likely to view, listen, and react to it as soon as they can. This is in contrast with its permanent counterpart that users tend to look past through since they can go back to it at their own pace.
An example of a brand that used Instagram stories for engagement is an apparel brand, Pacific Northwest Wonderland. Their limited-time promotion on Instagram Stories helped them gain more followers by encouraging everyone to click on their Instagram bio in exchange for a freebie in their next order.
Making the most out of your ephemeral content
Choose your platform
When starting out, it is best to run your campaign on a specific platform instead of just running them randomly or wherever you please. And in choosing the best social media platform for your brand, understanding the audience is key.
Since each social media platform focuses on different features and specialties, they also have a different set of audiences. This means that specific adjustments are needed depending on which platform you choose, to match its demographics.
For example, According to Shopify, Facebook’s audience is currently maturing as older generations start to become regular users along with millennials, while Snapchat houses mostly younger audience. In short, posting to Facebook requires you to have a bit of maturity to cater to a broader range of audiences (millennials and boomers alike), while Snapchat lets you be young, loud, and bold.
Hook your audience within the first few seconds
According to Kleiner Perkins, Facebook video ads are viewed for not more than three seconds. In light of this, make sure to communicate your message or hold their interest early on. The first three seconds are more impactful than you think.
Taco Bell, for example, shook the digital marketing sphere when one of its 2016 Snapchat campaigns, Cinco de Mayo, was branded as one of the most successful campaigns in the app’s history.
This campaign featured a filter that allowed people to transform their heads into taco shells via Snapchat. This interactive campaign effectively hooked the audience immediately and utilized the platform with out-of-the-box thinking. Unsurprisingly, it garnered an incredible number of 224 million views.
Make it meaningful
A well-woven story is one of the ways to get your audience to engage with your content. One of the ways to do this is to include a CTA within the first second. You can also split the stories into parts. Just make sure each section is unique enough to hold the interest of the viewer.
One example of a brand that practices providing content that is relevant to its audience through Instagram Stories is men’s fashion and pop culture magazine GQ.
GQ Australia, for instance, has stories that encourage their viewers to ‘swipe up’ to see the full content of their post.
Hashtags and geotags are there for a reason. Using these when you post content allow possible customers to find you. This helps your brand become visible to more people across the particular social media platform you are posting to.
Show the process and your progress
Another way to engage your prospective customers is to use stories to show a product you are developing. You can also use it to show your company’s involvement in industry-related ventures and events. Or maybe document a day in the professional life of your employees.
Ephemeral content allows you to be as authentic as possible so feel free to use it according to what you think best suits our brand.
By way of illustration, GE (General Electric) used Instagram stories to show what happens behind the scenes as their employees collect data from an active lava lake. They even placed a CTA leading to their Snapchat account to get more followers.
Disadvantages of ephemeral content
Given its benefits and the number of ways it can be utilized, ephemeral content is undoubtedly one of the most versatile social media marketing tools out there. But just like any other content format, it comes with its own set of disadvantages. Here are some of the pitfalls you must watch out for:
- Proceeding without a plan. Without a sound social media strategy to back it up, your ephemeral content creation efforts will go to waste. So make sure you come up with a long-term plan to ensure that all the stories you upload are impactful, relevant, and memorable to your audience.
- Uploading content without growing your business’ social media presence first. Ephemeral content is not as effective for brands that do not have an active social media presence. Your posts won’t get noticed as much if you don’t have a good number of followers. You have to build and increase your business’ followers on social media first.
- Not considering its correlation with influencer marketing. Ephemeral content creation works hand in hand with influencer marketing. In fact, various sources credit the success of Sour Patch Kid’s infamous 2014 Snapchat campaign to internet celebrity Logan Paul whom the brand tapped for collaboration. And according to Oliver McAteer of Campaign, 62% of marketers continue to grow their influencer budgets. However, finding influencers to market a product or service may not be that easy for niche and B2B industries. Be aware of that if your line of business falls under either of those categories.
- Not being consistent with your content. Your stories won’t be as effective unless you put in the work. Upload good content regularly to maintain the engagement of your viewers.
Looking back at its humble beginnings, one would never have thought that ephemeral content would be the next big thing in social media marketing.
When utilized properly together with a good social media strategy, you can reap the rewards of this simple yet powerful content format. But remember that ephemeral content is not meant to be a replacement for high-quality and permanent content. Both must be present and work hand-in-hand for effective brand promotion.
Naida Alabata is a content marketing specialist at Grit PH and an entrepreneur in the Philippines. She opts to share her expertise in branding, social media marketing, digital marketing and also some bits of advice in business development through helpful articles. Follow her on twitter @alabatanaida