7 Ways to Make Ephemeral Content Better

7 Ways to Make Ephemeral Content Better

Continuing our series on major trends in communications in 2022, in this installment we’re discussing ephemeral content and how to harness it for effective marketing.

What is Ephemeral Content?

Traditionally in marketing and communications emphasis has been on evergreen content – something that will stay visible and relevant for years. Evergreen content is still important and forms the backbone of many websites, including blog posts, white papers or case studies, and complementary media like videos or podcasts. However, over the past few years there have been more and more opportunities to experiment with ephemeral content, which is any content that disappears quickly – usually after 24 hours – and can’t be found again.

Ephemeral content is mostly based on video and social media platforms. Snapchat introduced the world to the concept, but virtually all major social media platforms now have ways of posting something that is designed to be seen for only a short time.

How Is It Used?

Celebrities frequently use this kind of content to showcase personal videos, and in general ephemeral content is very popular as a way to share something personal people don’t necessarily want on the internet forever. In some ways, it could be considered the evolution of “felt cute, might delete later” culture, but with a mechanic in place to make it easy and acceptable.

Clever brands have capitalized on this type of content by emphasizing its “exclusivity.” If you aren’t there for that 24 hour period, you’re not “in the know.” For brands with diehard followings, this generates incredible buzz. It’s like getting a sneak peek, something not everybody gets to witness. It also creates a sense of urgency, which is complementary to a good CTA – such as a pre-order or a flash sale. The biggest reason ephemeral content works is harnessing a very particular emotion, commonly known as “FOMO” or “fear of missing out.” It ties back to emotional marketing at its core.

Ephemeral content definitely steps out of many of our comfort zones. We’ve spent so long designing campaigns meant to run for weeks or more, not just one day. We prepare, we launch and we watch metrics over time to learn. With ephemeral content, everything happens so quickly. The preparation phase may take the same amount of time, but the content is usually shorter (e.g. a single photo, a short video, a brief story broadcasted live), has a real “wow factor” or casual authenticity and for marketing purposes, a very specific intent such as to raise brand awareness or to drive sales. Once it goes live, there are only 24 hours to measure metrics, and no opportunity to make adjustments. Ephemeral content is a true leap of faith.

Where Is It Most Effective?

Platforms for ephemeral content have been:

  • Snapchat
  • TikTok
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • WhatsApp

In 2022, we expect to continue to see Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram and Facebook as the leading platforms for ephemeral content, particularly video. The biggest deciding factors in which network to use should be the medium you plan to create and the user demographics. Snapchat, for example, still skews young, and wouldn’t necessarily be the best audience for brands looking for a mature buyer with money to spend.

When planning ephemeral content, we must consider its purpose. As mentioned earlier, brand awareness and driving sales are two significant reasons marketers use ephemeral content. Another that banks on the strength of the brand following is enhancing brand loyalty – as ephemeral content essentially rewards your most active viewers with something special they catch within its lifespan. If your goal is to increase sales, your story should have an exclusive discount that only can be found in that story for as long as it’s around. To raise brand awareness, there are a lot ways to be creative with ephemeral content, but a good example is broadcasting a short video from an event your audience would love to attend but can’t – like the Superbowl or Oscars. If your brand isn’t able to access that level, it can be just as effective to determine through psychographic research what is popular with your target audience and go there. For example, if your audience is of a demographic and psychographic that loves music festivals, pick one like Coachella and create content there.

How Can I Make Ephemeral Content Better?

Each platform offers its own unique way to share ephemeral content, including ephemeral ads. Whether you create an ad or something organic is up to you and your goal. Here are some tips for making the most of the options available:

  1. If the platform lets you create interactive ephemeral content (like a short quiz or invitation for feedback), interactivity is always popular.
  2. Live streaming is the best way to engage your audience in real-time, and give an authentic personality to your brand.
  3. Make use of tags when available – including tagging other accounts and geotagging locations to increase visibility.
  4. Couple ephemeral content with reminders before the content goes live. Whether it’s an email blast to loyal customers telling them to keep an eye on your Instagram, or posts on Facebook teasing something special that top fans won’t want to miss, generating buzz before your ephemeral content goes live increases its chances of being seen by those who’d most appreciate it.
  5. Work with influencers if you can, because many of them are incredibly savvy about the networks they use most and already know how to generate effective ephemeral content into which they can insert your brand to introduce it to their existing audience.
  6. Create more urgency for an already temporary event, like a sale that lasts a couple of weeks or an ongoing giveaway, with ephemeral content.
  7. Use ephemeral content to reward followers in a way you wouldn’t normally with evergreen content. If someone creates something regarding your brand that’s really stand-out, share it in a story. It’s a 24 hour “thank you” that shows your brand cares, but it might not necessarily be the kind of thing you’d put on your blog or social media forever.
  8. Don’t go too wild – while the sky’s the limit for ephemeral content, you should still stay on-brand. Best practices for adhering to visual branding and messaging should still be followed. You want your content to be recognizable as belonging to your brand.
  9. When possible, make it shareable. Users should feel enthusiastically driven to share and spread the word on their own accounts. Visual content is far more likely to be shared than anything written, and information like recipes and tips is always popular. Those who truly love and support your brand are likely to share flash sales, but people who don’t know much about your brand or aren’t regular customers are more likely to pass along content of practical use. A flash sale has its purpose, and a recipe has its purpose – but one is to drive sales and the other is to increase brand awareness.
  10. Don’t over-polish video or live content. It’s OK to not stick to a script or to have little quirks like “umms” and “uhhs” in anything spoken unless the intent of the content is to be completely professional and dazzling. On the other hand, quirks give your brand relatability and make it feel especially authentic.
  11. Keep it short, confident and natural for the best results. People on these platforms are used to seeing personal content. Unless you have a good reason to make your ephemeral content stand out as something different, you can easily slip something that feels very organic in the mix and you might find your customers love you all the more for participating in a “real” way on their favorite networks.

Don’t be afraid to let your content expire. Ephemeral content is fun to create and when done well, it’s well rewarded. It’s marketing in the moment, but making that moment memorable.