Larry Reed
Larry Reed 17 July 2018

How Brands Can Benefit from Creating Ephemeral Content

Read about how brands use ephemeral content in their marketing strategies to attract and retain new customers, and entertain old ones.

Snapchat debuted back in 2011, and although the platform has added numerous features since then, the principle remains the same: each post vanishes after 24 hours. This is known as ephemeral content and it has existed as a concept long before digital media (not meaning to get too detailed with etymology, but it helps to know ephemeros is a Greek word that translates to “lasting only one day, short-lived”). 

Now we’re seeing ephemeral content take over social media ever since Facebook and Instagram quickly picked up on Snapchat’s concept and added Stories to their features. Not only that, but Facebook is expecting the Stories feature to surpass the News Feed as the primary way of sharing content. 

This is all not without a reason, as huge marketing potential lies in impermanent posts. You might be wondering “How can creating something so short-lived be beneficial to my brand in the long term?” and that’s a very sound question. Ephemeral content can actually benefit your brand in more ways than one, and we’re here to show you the how and why.  

Showing Authenticity 

Brands have been working hard to establish trust and present themselves as more relatable, often in a rather staged and forced manner. We’ve seen polished photos and unapologetic product placement, carefully staged posts presented as spontaneous, collaborations with celebrities and mega-influencers – you name it, brands have tried it in an effort to appear more “human” and authentic, but audiences are generally not quite convinced

That’s where ephemeral content takes on a completely different perspective. Firstly, its temporary nature doesn’t require it to be polished or curated, which instantly gives it a more genuine feel. It’s raw and unpretentious, focusing on a single message or story, which is what users love about it. 

Secondly, it gives businesses the opportunity to present their employees in spontaneous situations and genuine interactions or to show behind-the-scenes footage of the company – even in real time. You’re not only talking about your product or service anymore – you’re showing all the people working hard to make it available. It works marvelously for small and large businesses alike, because it essentially shows audiences that your business is comprised of people just like them.  

This gives a real, human face to the brand, and it does so in a natural and unforced manner – unlike those old TV ads where employees wave at the camera.

Maintaining Consistency

Consistency is key to your social media marketing campaign, but churning out high-quality content on the regular is a major challenge – it requires plenty of effort to create and endless inspiration to come up with. Ephemeral content provides a perfect opportunity to spread out your high-quality posts without losing on consistency because “raw and unrefined” are at the base of this concept. Expectations are significantly lower in terms of quality, so you need much less time, effort, and resources to present something that will keep your users engaged while you prepare more complex material. 

If you check out the social media feeds of some of the top digital marketing agencies of 2018, you’ll find that ephemeral content is being used as a way of presenting or announcing new features brands work on. For example, with the option of swiping up on Instagram Stories which takes users to a brand’s website to find out more, you’re able to guide your audience to your website and you don’t have to create an elaborate post to do so. 

This doesn’t only help you maintain consistency in your social media marketing campaign but also helps you widen your reach, which brings us to the next part. 

Widening Your Reach

The “swipe-up” option on Stories is a direct way to drive traffic to your website, but there’s more to why ephemeral content, be it short videos or images, is a great way to gain visibility. 

Ephemeral content is inherently shareable, and that’s because it’s ideally compatible with the nature of social media and the way we consume information today. It’s typically simple and demands little effort to be consumed, which instantly makes it more engaging. More importantly, its temporary nature urges viewers to share it with their friends before it vanishes from the platform – that is, if you manage to capture their attention and provide them with something they’ll want their friends to see. 

With a single tap, viewers can send your Instagram Story to friends, ultimately directing relevant audiences your way.  

Increasing Engagement

As we’ve mentioned, the temporary nature of ephemeral content creates a sense of urgency and this is what drives it to be so highly engaging. Not only is there a 24-hour window to take action or share, but knowing something will disappear soon drives users to pay attention to it in the first place. 

It’s essentially the reason ephemeral content is so relevant in this day and age, when the concept of FOMO (fear of missing out) is a common phenomenon on social networks and beyond them. Social media users want to be informed and take part in whatever is going on, but with information being constantly thrown at them across various platforms, it’s easy to overlook posts or skim them listlessly. Temporary content takes advantage of this, presenting itself as highly relevant at the moment and grabbing the limelight in a swarm of permanent posts. 

Stories have become the ultimate tool for increasing engagement, both in terms of promoting sharing and establishing communication with audiences. This week, Instagram took it a step further by introducing the Questions sticker to Stories. This is a great opportunity for businesses to start a dialogue with their audiences, encourage collective storytelling, and even get valuable input for improving their brand. 

You can’t go wrong with ephemeral content because it emphasizes human interactions at its core, giving you a voice in a natural and unpretentious format. It’s not, however, a self-sufficient form of content marketing, but it’s designed to work in conjunction with high-quality, permanent content. By using both effectively and taking advantage of all the latest features different platforms offer, your disappearing stories will have an impact beyond the short time frame. And after all, that’s the nature of storytelling. 

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