If you haven’t yet run into the term “ephemeral content” and aren’t sure what it means, don’t let the seemingly fancy marketing buzzword confuse you. To help demystify the concept entirely, here’s a bit of etymology first: Ephemeral means temporary, derived from the Greek word ephemeros, which roughly translates to “lasting only one day” or “short-lived” (the more you know!).
We refer to ephemeral content in regards to the social media landscape, where it’s used to describe posts which are accessible for only 24 hours – after which they self-destruct.
Yes, it’s the Stories feature on Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook. Chances are, you’ve probably engaged with this format in one way or another on one of the three platforms.
But if you haven’t yet considered them a vital brand building tool or included them as a legitimate part of your social media marketing strategy, you’re in the right place. In this post, we’ll talk about why audiences love ephemeral content, why it’s especially important for online retailers, and how you can use Stories to maximize their brand building potential.
Why are audiences drawn to temporary content?
Sure, crafting something that will only disappear is naturally counterintuitive to marketing. But it’s no coincidence that online retailers and businesses of all sizes have taken to Stories both to sell their products and extend their brand building efforts. Snapchat’s success and Instagram’s Story feature boasts 400 million daily active users are just a part of the proof that ephemeral works with audiences – and there’s more than one reason for this.
Catering to the moment and social media FOMO
It’s easy to see how temporary content reflects the way we consume information on social media. We allow our attention to be pulled and tugged, we scroll, swipe, we laugh and smirk – and soon enough, we forget it all. We then direct our attention towards something equally amusing and ultimately forgettable. In that sense, everything on social media is temporary. Even though you might often be annoyed at Facebook’s insistence to refresh irrelevant old memories, the point is that our sentiments towards content on social media are as fleeting as our attention to it.
And what does ephemeral content do about this phenomenon?
It not only adapts to it, but it hacks into the way people use social media. These short-lived, fairly causal snippets don’t aim to be monumental, to form a greater whole, or to outperform each other. They are easily digestible, complying with audiences with generally short attention spans. They direct the focus to the present moment, knowing well that the best way to grab attention is to be constant and to leverage the good old FOMO (fear of missing out) on social.
It’s this fear of missing out that drives people to tap on your Stories in the first place. Additionally, that Story button is like an itch that’s just way too easy to scratch for people not to do it (and this concept really lies at the bottom of our social media habits). That’s how you grab attention, over and over again, systematically building top-of-mind awareness. Leveraging the FOMO to stay top-of-mind has become brand building on social media 101, and it could be one of the best tactics yet.
That special character which means the world to brand building
Way back in 2011 – an eternity ago in ephemeral content years – Snapchat introduced the concept of temporary posts as a way to counter the overly polished nature of social media.
Audiences responded with awe. It was a novel and trendy platform, but most importantly, it offered a medium that allowed users to communicate and participate in a community without the oppressive burden of always looking good, presenting something amazing, and curating their feeds.
In other words, ephemeral feels more real to audiences. You can be spontaneous, average, underwhelming – and that feels liberating when you’re the one posting, or more intimate when you’re viewing the Snaps from others. Of course, once they’ve seen Snapchat’s idea and how it was propelled to fame, Facebook (including Instagram) couldn’t pass up on this opportunity to give the audiences what they wanted.
And so, a world of opportunity arose for marketers. The raw, casual, spontaneous nature of Stories is helping brands establish a more real and trusting relationship with their audiences.
This is especially important in the e-commerce sphere, where the entire customer journey is digital. So along with branding their products, retailers have to work hard at brand building, relying heavily on marketing and reputation management to bridge the gap between human and machine.
Don’t hesitate to look for help when developing a brand strategy to ensure all your marketing tactics are aligned. Although Stories are a casual medium, you want to make sure that you incorporate them well with the rest of your strategy and that they fit your brand voice.
Since Stories can feel so casual, marketers can be wary that they are even pulling the return on investment. If you use Rebrandly and branded links within Stories- you’re able to brand, track, manage, add UTM parameters, and even a retargeting link to every short URL you add to a Story. Learn more about Linking on Instagram in this blog post.
How you can leverage ephemeral content for effective brand building
Surpassing Snapchat’s user base, Instagram now reigns supreme as a marketing platform and channel for ephemeral content, while Facebook Stories have yet to catch on.
Nevertheless, your platform of choice and content strategy are still a matter of knowing your audience and simply being where they are. In regards to the previous points we’ve made, here are the 4 crucial ways Stories will enhance your brand building strategy, along with some tips on how to use them:
Humanize your brand
So, your audience is already open to your messaging through Stories because it feels more real, spontaneous, and intimate. You’re at an advantage, and you want to use that position to build trust – to create a relatable image and humanize your brand.
One of the best ways to do this is by going behind the scenes and giving your audience a glimpse into your day to day operations. Snap a photo to show them what you’re working on, film your work day in a live video, show them the people who are helping you. If you’re a one-man show, tell your audience about your experiences or struggles with running things alone and show them how you do it. Don’t hesitate to also show what you’re doing when you’re not doing business, and showcase your company culture. Both live videos and uploaded photos work well, just invite them into your world.
Engagement rates are far more important than the sheer number of followers and likes – and it’s not only Instagram’s and Facebook’s algorithm changes that support this fact, but common brand building principles too. And the great thing about Stories is that through leveraging FOMO, they create a sense of urgency – there’s only a 24-hour window to view, respond, and share, so users are impelled to act. They’re a golden tool for eliciting immediate responses and boosting engagement. Grab this opportunity by:
- Running polls and Q&A sessions using stickers. Ask your audience for their opinion on certain matters, let them give you suggestions for your products or upcoming events, ask them what would they like to see in your store this holiday season. Also, let them ask you whatever they like about your brand in an official Story Q&A session.
- Encouraging user-generated content. Contests and giveaways are a great way to promote your products as well as boost engagement rates and encourage user-generated content. You also want to track mentions of your brand so that you can feature posts by your customers which feature your product. Make sure to ask them for permission, tag them and give them a shout-out in your Story – you’ll find that people are quite happy to be a part of the brand’s story and get featured.
- Filming live videos to communicate with your audience in real time. Get your phone out and film your day, film an event you’re attending, or run a classic live Q&A session.
The underlying principle here is that by boosting engagement, you’re building a relationship with your audience and promoting brand loyalty – it takes constant work and participation, but that’s what Stories are essentially there for.
Widen your reach
We’ve just mentioned how Stories elicit an immediate response by creating a sense of urgency, as well as how user-generated content is vital to boosting engagement and promoting brand loyalty. All this ultimately results in widening your reach.
If you craft a Story interesting or enticing enough for your audience to share it with their friends, you’ll be highly likely to get new followers your way – relevant followers who are also a part of your target audience. In other words, by offering something shareable, you’ll be able to get your followers to direct their friends your way. And because Stories are such a casual medium and people really don’t put in too much thought as to whether they should share something or not – it takes only a tap anyway – making them shareable enough is easier than with permanent posts. I mean, just look at how memes have become a digital marketing tool.
Lastly, you’re probably aware that there is no brand building without consistency. You want to maintain a consistent brand voice across all channels and messages, but there’s also the more tangible side – posting on social media consistently at predefined intervals. That’s why most businesses create a posting schedule and rely on content scheduling tools.
But consistently churning out quality, engaging content on social media is difficult. It takes time and effort, and you can easily fall off your audience’s radar while you prepare your high-quality content for publishing. That’s where ephemeral comes in to save the day. It’s intentionally raw, and it doesn’t require any preparation or editing. So while you prepare your permanent posts, you’ll be able to stay in touch with your viewers and keep them engaged through Stories. You can do things such as:
- Showcasing your products in action
- Filming behind the scenes of your operations
- A live video session
- Filming events
- Showing some of your work in progress
- Directing viewers to your site to find out more about a product
- Sharing user-generated content (with credit)
- Showing appreciation for other brands or followers by giving shout-outs, etc.
Over to you
All in all, ephemeral content offers opportunities that are too valuable to pass up on. If you haven’t taken Stories as a legitimate part of your strategy, now is the time to jump on the bandwagon. Just make sure you maintain a clear brand voice and dive right into it. It’s still work when you use Stories for marketing purposes, but they’re ultimately fun.
Guest author: Daniel Bishop, Editor, Design Rush
Daniel Bishop started off as a content consultant for small SEO and web design companies. Online consulting was perfect for him as he is very social and loves to travel. Settling down in Europe, for the time being, he finally found his place as a junior editor for Design Rush a B2B marketplace connecting brands with agencies. Always searching for new opportunities, he loves sharing ideas with other professionals in the digital community.
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This Article is About:
- Social media trends
- Social media marketing
- Ephermal content strategy
- Small business strategy