Blink and you’ll miss it: the success of ephemeral content
You might have already heard of the latest marketing buzzword, “ephemeral content”. But if you haven’t yet run into the actual term itself, chances are high that you already engage in ephemeral content regularly – it’s the Stories format on Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook. Stories have a lifespan of 24 hours before disappearing from the platform, and as such, they might seem counterintuitive to social media marketing, or any kind of marketing at all – why create something that’s going to disappear in a day?
Yet, Stories have proven to be a powerful marketing tool, especially on Instagram.
Although Snapchat debuted the concept and made it famous, Instagram Stories now reign supreme, boasting 400 million daily active users worldwide, while Facebook expects Stories to become the primary way of sharing content on the platform. In this post, we’ll talk about why this format is so successful with audiences and what that means for your business.
Why is content with a limited lifespan so appealing to audiences?
The success of ephemeral content is no coincidence – after all, the short-lived format is a perfect reflection of how information is consumed in the digital era. Our attention is pulled towards something, we have a look, often in an offhand manner, we react, and very soon – we forget.
Catering to an audience with incredibly short attention spans, temporary content knows what it can get and what to aim for. It’s easily digestible and it doesn’t even aspire to be monumental, thus directing the attention to the present moment. It finds its place above the swarm of permanent posts by playing on the well-known fear of missing out (FOMO) on social media.
Ah, the social media FOMO – it’s what drives us to check our feeds first thing in the morning and what keeps us glued to social in the first place. And when content has a limited lifespan, a sense of urgency is created. There’s a window of 24 hours to view the Story, react to it, and share it with our friends, and you bet we (the average social media users) are not going to pass up on the opportunity.
Because, hey, there could be something really valuable there, and we better not miss it. That Story button is an itch that’s too easily scratched for you not to do it.
Ephemeral counters the polished nature of permanent posts
Ephemeral posts leverage FOMO to grab attention and direct audiences their way, but that’s only half the reason why they’re so popular. The other half has to do with the special nature of the temporary content – it’s simply rawer and more “real” than permanent posts, which largely seek to craft a very curated image. Audiences love that Stories are so casual, spontaneous and that there’s no pressure for the quality of any kind.
Not only does viewing the Stories of others feel like a glimpse into a less curated social media presence, but the harmlessness of temporary content makes people feel liberated to post whatever they like – without fearing that it will be dug up to haunt them once they’ve completely forgotten about it.
After all, Snapchat was developed with the idea to counter the overly curated nature of social media, and that’s the very quality which propelled the platform to success, soon making Instagram and Facebook realize they need to be in on it.
Now that we’ve pinpointed what draws audiences to temporary content and what they love about it, let’s have a look at how you can leverage this in your social media marketing strategy.
Social media marketing requires consistency, and posting regularly at defined intervals is crucial in order to gain visibility and maintain your relationship with the audience. But, relentlessly churning out high-quality, engaging content is next to impossible – which is where temporary content saves the day.
Stories are not a demanding format to create. There’s no need to carefully set up the image or the video, no need for editing, and no need to come up with an elaborate narrative. It’s a great way to keep your audience engaged and stay on their radar while you prepare the more time-consuming permanent content. You can:
- showcase products casually
- show sneak-peeks of your work in progress and direct viewers to your website
- film whatever’s going on in your company at the moment
- experiment with filters
- give shout-outs to other brands or followers, etc.
But while doing this, it’s important to keep in mind that you need to maintain a consistent brand voice across all channels and mediums – including the Stories you post on any of the three platforms. They might be impermanent, but they’re a powerful addition to your marketing and branding efforts, and they need to reflect your brand identity and campaign goals.
To ensure all your efforts are in line and give your ephemeral content direction, it’s a good idea to consult experts first or at least see how the pros are doing it. If you need help but have a limited budget, you can refer to DesignRush, which is a resourceful online platform where you can filter search digital agencies by location and budget as well as other categories. The platform showcases the agencies’ portfolios and provides a quick overview of each one, so you can get an idea of their work and learn more about how experts integrate social media into a cohesive marketing strategy.
Show authenticity and establish trust
Maintaining an authentic presence is vital to successful social media marketing – it’s how you humanize your brand and form that connection with your followers. And when it comes to presenting a business as more human, authentic, and relatable, ephemeral content is the best tool out there.
One of the best ways to win your audience’s trust is by showing the behind-the-scenes footage of your organization in your Stories. You’ll be giving your audience a glimpse into your world and showing the real human faces behind your brand – the real people who are making it all happen. No matter the scale, this works marvellously for all businesses because it allows the audience to relate to your brand. It’s how you show them that your business is comprised of people just like them, plus you can show the informal side and the stuff that you’re doing when you’re not just working.
You can do live videos or weave a story through clips – either way, the point is that it’s unstaged and genuine.
With Facebook’s and Instagram’s algorithms having changed earlier this year, engagement rates have become the name of the game. Genuine interactions with followers are now far more important than the sheer size of your follower base or the number of likes you get on posts.
By eliciting responses through an established sense of urgency, ephemeral content harbours a lot of opportunity for engagement, and that’s one of the reasons it has become a vital component of social media marketing. To facilitate interaction and engage your audience you can:
- run contests and giveaways to encourage UGC (user-generated content)
- run polls and Q&A sessions using question stickers
- film live videos, where audiences can interact with you in real-time, etc.
When you track mentions of your brand, you’ll be able to find UGC that you can post in your Stories – it’s a win-win situation for both sides and can be a great conversation-starter.
Widen your reach
Everything about ephemeral content makes it a great tool for gaining visibility – the sense of urgency it creates which compels people to respond or share Stories immediately, the casual nature of it, the way it encourages UGC. They’re just a light and easy social medium where every interaction particularly doesn’t require much effort or decision-making.
It takes a single tap for a follower to send your Story to a friend, which means they are automatically directing your way someone who’s most likely also a part of your target audience. Along with UGC, that’s how your followers can help you reach target audiences – you just have to make the Story compelling enough to share. Memes, anyone?
Plus, you’re not only widening your reach on social media – the “Swipe-up” option on Instagram, for example, has become a great tool brands use to drive traffic to their websites. Use Stories to showcase your products in action or to build anticipation before an event (a product launch or sale, for example) and direct your audience to find out more on your website.
From encouraging authentic human interactions, to engaging followers, to building a consistent brand identity, Stories hold marketing power that’s too great to pass up on. By understanding what your audience loves about ephemeral content – the raw and genuine approach, the feeling that they’re in-the-know on social media – you’ll be able to use this format to your advantage. It’s by no means a format that can be enough on its own, for the time being at least, but by spacing out your permanent posts with a regular stream of Stories, you’ll have struck that balance in your social media presence.