Producing content that has an intentionally short due date can in fact make people more engaged in your message…

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How to use ephemeral content in marketing

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Stories, short term content and why scarcity makes content more desirable.

As a digital marketer you’d naturally want to get the most bang for your buck when approaching consumers/followers. Traditionally this would mean fine-tuning your content and marketing materials in an outdrawn process just to ensure their longevity.

In the modern marketing environment however, it has been shown that the complete opposite can be true as well. Producing content that has an intentionally short due date can in fact make people more engaged in your message.

This is what is referred to as ephemeral content or ephemeral marketing. What it basically means is quick, on-the-go content with a very short life expectancy (literally).

On different social media platforms, the creator can either make posts that can only be seen within the next 24 hours or do a live stream that can only be watched right then and there.

When the time is up the post gets deleted and can never be seen again (with some rare exceptions). For most people this isn’t anything new, as you’ve probably both watched and shared images, clips and streams with your friends on platforms like Snapchat and Instagram Stories for years now. What might not be as familiar is how it also is a very powerful marketing tool when used correctly (especially in the millennial demographic).

The reasons for this can be found deep within the human psyche. Scarcity and limited editions of any kind appeals to our wish to not be left empty handed, i.e. it creates a fear of missing out (also referred to as FOMO).

Compare it to watching a live concert with your favourite band (unfortunately not a scenario we’ll be experiencing anytime soon). Sure you can always listen to their music recordings, and save the ticket money for something else…

But what if they never do a live show ever again? And what if something historic happens at this specific concert?

Your gut feeling is to opt-in and buy a ticket, because you have that fear of missing out.

Terrible pre-pandemic analogies aside, this is exactly what ephemeral marketing is all about. With this kind of temporary posts, companies can get a form of immediate engagement that complements their more traditional marketing strategies.

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Authenticity

Generating bigger follower engagement, getting a wider reach and building loyalty are only a few areas where ephemeral content creates value for companies.

It has been shown that authenticity is one of the biggest deciding factors when people choose what company that deserves their business.

The short, quick (and often spontaneous) feeling of ephemeral content builds upon this as it tends to have a more personal touch as compared to a traditional big budget TV-commercial for example.

Furthermore, approaching followers on a platform like Snapchat puts them on the same level as you, which again boosts the feeling of relatability in a “this-company-is-creating-and-posting-using-the-same-tools-as-I-am” kind of way.

Even just the sense of getting a sneak peek behind the scenes transforms the business from a faceless entity into a person (or persons), which is extremely powerful when it comes to building trust and lasting bonds.

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Reaching and engaging an audience

With this in mind it is easy to see how ephemeral content also sparks more engagement from the audience. Since the post is only available right now (FOMO kicking in) immediate responses are more likely.

Regardless if it is sharing the post, answering a poll or submitting content of your own, the timed window of opportunity encourages people to take action immediately.

The “stories”-format also hold the advantage of not cluttering the social media feeds of your followers. Aside from avoiding needless irritation for taking up unwanted space, it’s also strategic as it requires a deliberate action from the consumer in order to be shown.

Needless to say, having someone willingly look up your post generates a higher frequency of engagement. Getting notifications to tell you when someone’s gone live is another way that ensures a wider reach, especially in combination with engagement and ease of sharing content among friends.

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What to think about when creating ephemeral content for your marketing mix

Undoubtedly ephemeral marketing can be a powerful tool. Success isn’t necessarily guaranteed, though, as there are a few things to consider and some pitfalls to avoid in your approach.

First off, make sure that to have a plan with your posting. This might come off as rather contradictory to the notion of spontaneous and personal posts, but the idea is essentially that your posts should have a purpose.

Are you telling a story?

Do you want to show off some new and exciting product?

Is there a poll to determine what people want to see more of?

A competition with user submissions?

Asking people to engage with your post requires you to mutually respect their time.

Posting one-off images of seemingly random things won’t encourage engagement. Even worse, spamming your followers with thoughtless content only to fill some predetermined quota of post will most likely result in a lost follower.

Again, this doesn’t mean that the content itself has to be “perfect”, but you should always have a plan with what you’re doing.

Coming off of this notion it is also important to follow through when it comes to consumer interaction. Did you ask for submissions to create follower engagement? Then it simply won’t do to post the results weeks later.

The essence of ephemeral content is that it is right here, right now. Everything before or after is irrelevant. Creating long term relationships by short term content only works if you’re completing your part of the deal.

What would you like to see?

Ephemeral marketing is in many ways uncharted territory for online advertising. While there are things you can consider for an effective campaign, you should know that mistakes will be made along the way.

It might not feel perfect in the beginning, but that is also the beauty of ephemeral content – after the 24h cycle you get a new chance!

The gist of it all is to experiment and try new things while also having that touch of authenticity in there.

As with so much else a great rule of thumb is to ask yourself the question “what would I like to see?” and then plan your strategy. As long as you play to the strengths of the ephemeral format (including creating value for your followers) chances are that you will create a successful campaign.

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