Most brands expect to drive engagement and generate leads with social media strategies. However, ephemeral content is often overlooked in favor of long-form and feed content to achieve these goals.
If leveraged properly, ephemeral content can help you beat the algorithm and keep your brand top of mind.
Let’s look at why ephemeral content works for brands, how you can use it to drive results and examples from real brands.
What is ephemeral content?
Ephemeral content in social media refers to any kind of social media content that is visible for a short amount of time, typically for 24 hours. Also known as disappearing content, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok stories are all examples of ephemeral content.
It’s the opposite of evergreen content—your audience won’t be able to view it later, except if it can be manually saved to your profile, like Instagram Stories Highlights. The subject often only has relevance for a short period of time, like a flash sale announcement or a daily update.
Ephemeral content allows you to engage with your audience on a more human level through more authentic, less produced content. You can also generate an immediate response or action with the right kind of content.
Types of ephemeral content on social media
Let’s briefly look at the different kinds of ephemeral content available on social media platforms:
Instagram Stories are photos or videos that have a lifespan of 24 hours. It comes with many interactive elements like polls, question boxes, stickers and links. You can save your stories into Story Highlights and keep it visible even after it disappears from you stories feed.
Stories can be a great way to drive leads and customers. According to a study, around 43% of social media users watch Stories more than other types of video content on Instagram.
Facebook stories are similar to Instagram Stories and stay on your feed for a day. They are displayed at the top of the newsfeed and allow users to add filters, stickers and text to their posts. Facebook stories can be viewed by friends, followers or a custom audience chosen by the user.
A Snapchat story is a collection of ‘snaps’ that are captured within the past 24 hours. You can save your stories to Memories to extend their lifespan. They can be a fun way to document your activities as a brand and share them with your audience.
TikTok stories, also known as TikTok moments, are videos that stay on your feed for 24 hours. You can add links, hashtags, tag other accounts and add location tags. Unlike Instagram Stories, TikTok stories can only be created by capturing content in the moment.
Read this blog to know more about what social media stories are and some of the best ways you can use its features.
Why ephemeral content works for brands
We see many brands using ephemeral content across channels. Is it because they’re easier to create or do they contribute to the marketing goals of the brand? It’s both!
Short-form videos and images boost engagement
Ephemeral content fits perfectly in a world where people love shorter forms of content.
In general, short-form video content works well for brands and is the most engaging type of in-feed content according to Sprout’s Content Benchmarks Report. We can safely assume that this is true for stories as well because they are quick to watch and have interactive elements.
Short-form content in stories can be used to make a spontaneous purchasing decision or signup. Or to quickly connect and share updates with your following. Consistently publishing ephemeral content can help increase brand awareness by creating a frequent, low-lift touchpoint with your audience to stay relevant in their minds.
Leverages FOMO to attract viewers
Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a feature unique to ephemeral content and is a major reason why it works for brands and creators. Your followers know they only have a limited time to view the content which brings about a sense of urgency.
Let’s say that your favorite brand answers audience questions during the weekend and you wouldn’t want to miss the chance to ask your questions. You can do the same for your brand, leveraging time-sensitive activities to fuel interest and engagement.
Many brands often announce their latest product launches and promotional discounts via stories. This limited release of content drives urgency which further drives engagement.
It builds authenticity
Social media users prefer “real-life” content from brands on social media. In a study by Sprout Social, 64% of consumers say they want to feel connected to a brand.
Ephemeral content allows you to show the human side of your brand on social media with ‘in the moment’ content. This makes your content and brand more relatable and personal because it’s casual and not heavily edited. You can share behind-the-scenes or exclusive content and foster a deeper connection with your target audience.
It’s more interactive
While in-feed content is more for gaining reach, ephemeral content is for engaging with your followers.
Most platforms have a variety of interactive features unique to ephemeral content. These include asking questions, running polls or adding specific call-to-actions.
Another reason why ephemeral content brings more engagement is because of its “low pressure.” As they are only available for a short period of time, users can engage with the content without feeling the need to carefully consider their response. So users who are too self-conscious to comment on a post or DM may be more willing to engage, because their response isn’t automatically recorded within in-feed content.
3 examples of brands that drive engagement with ephemeral content
Here are three brands that use ephemeral content in different ways to drive engagement.
Nike uses Instagram Stories to build a buzz around their new product launches with short videos. This particular story covers the launch of the Nike React Infinity 3 running shoes introduced in June 2022.
Similarly, if you’re hosting an event like a conference or convention, covering it with ephemeral content is a great way to generate engagement, both for attendees and those tuning in virtually. You can then repurpose these short snippets into other formats.
Using a tool like Spout Social, you can schedule the content across different networks and at the optimal times for engagement. You can also track your ephemeral content performance and compare it to the metrics of other content forms for a comprehensive view of your event’s social performance.
To promote their latest blog post or YouTube video, Semrush shares valuable highlights in their stories. They also leave a link to the content piece to encourage viewers to click through to their website.
If you want to drive traffic from social media to your blog or website, follow something similar. Share a link to the page with a preview of the content and a compelling hook or highlight.
Additionally, you can create a trackable link with Sproutlink to measure the impact your ephemeral content has on traffic to your website.
Brainify, a brand that offers practical parenting advice, uses Facebook stories to learn about their audience’s interests with interactive polls and questions. This is a simple way to gather data about your target audience while building relationships with them.
Like Brainify, you can leverage the interactive elements not only to boost engagement, but to also hear directly from your audience about what they think. This can be used to inform future content or even improve your products or services.
How to fit ephemeral content into your marketing strategy
Although ephemeral content is spontaneous compared to other forms of content, it’s still best to have a strategy in place.
Similar to other marketing content, the three key steps to incorporate ephemeral content into your marketing approach are: establish goals, create content and monitor results. But before this, understand your audience.
Know your audience
First, get an idea of how motivated your audience is in viewing and engaging with disappearing content, and when they’re most often viewing it. You can determine this through native analytics or a social media management tool, like Sprout.
For example, if the daily unique reach of your Instagram Story is higher, there’s potential for growth in your ephemeral strategy.
Define your goals
Once you understand your audience’s interest in ephemeral content, set goals to align with content creation. Here are some common goals ephemeral content can support:
- Improve brand visibility
- Build your email list
- Get instant feedback on products and services
- Drive traffic to other platforms like blogs
- Generate sales
Decide on content formats
Don’t be afraid to experiment with ephemeral content. Here are a few ideas you can steal:
- Behind-the-scenes glimpse
- Fun polls
- Customer testimonials and success stories
- Features and use cases of your product
- Question and answer sessions with an expert
Getting started, you can repurpose some of your existing content into ephemeral content. For example, you can take out highlights from a podcast episode you recently posted and use them to create short, attention-grabbing snippets.
Make sure you incorporate storytelling into your ephemeral content strategy. A string of disjointed content pieces will likely not garner the desired results.
Alternatively, you can use ephemeral content to understand audience interest in other content you’re planning to create. Let’s say you want to create a YouTube video on a particular topic. How do you vet the topic using ephemeral content? You can either ask your audience directly with a poll, or post disappearing content on this topic to test out engagement.
When you’re ready to share the content, think about how frequently should you post ephemeral content. This will depend on the platform and audience. You can discover the best times by looking at the analytics on your social profiles, or using Sprout Social’s viral post technology to determine the best time to post for your audience.
Additionally, leverage a scheduling tool like Sprout to plan and publish Instagram stories and other forms of content ahead of time.
Track content performance
Keep track of the performance to determine the kind of ephemeral content that best resonates with your audience. It’s best to track the performance of each piece of ephemeral content you put out. Try to decipher how you can improve its performance. Here’s what you should find out:
- Which type of ephemeral content received the most views, replies and engagement?
- When are users engaging with it most?
- How are they driving traffic?
- How are they impacting engagement on posts?
Do a bit of qualitative analysis and identify concepts or language that work well for your audience. Here are some resources to help you learn more about tracking results on social media:
Go beyond the feed with ephemeral content
Ephemeral content can be a quick and engaging way to connect with your audience on a more regular basis. It’s a great way to engage them with minimal effort in content production.
As with any form of content marketing, ephemeral content is an excellent way to improve brand engagement, generate brand awareness and build trust—while adding some fun to the mix as well.
To start understanding the impact of ephemeral content on your larger social strategy, here’s a metrics map to help you analyze the right KPIs for your social strategy to make data-driven decisions.
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