When Snapchat was launched in April of 2011, the multimedia messaging app stood out for introducing a different concept, where content vanishes shortly after it is posted. Given this communication platform’s quick gain in popularity (by May 2012 Snapchat was processing 25 images per second)¹, marketers quickly saw its potential and capitalized on the opportunity.
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Being in the know is a feeling that naturally for most people provides a safety blanket. After all, knowledge is power. In an internet era where everything is on record and can be fetched with a few keystrokes, suddenly feeling like you are out of the loop can be daunting. Some companies now want to engage us with a “new” tactic, banking on your fear of missing out (FOMO). They want us to view their posts with urgency before they’re gone. This is called ephemeral marketing.
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Ephemeral content is quickly getting traction on social media; Snapchat and Instagram being the most recognized platforms within this growing trend. As a form of communication it currently resonates with a younger demographic that converses with a blend of videos and images on a chat string. The content that is posted is only available for a short period and it disappears without a trace within 24 hours of being posted. As with all trends in the younger demographic, it didn’t take long for marketers to notice and since ephemeral content provides a great deal of engagement brands are now adopting it.
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Seems counterintuitive for a brand to consider leaving its mark in the sand during a rising tide, but actually, ephemeral marketing is nothing new. Ephemeral content brings back a media experience that some people crave. In Jean Shepherd’s 1983 movie A Christmas Story, Ralphie became a member of the Little Orphan Annie’s Secret Circle, which gave him access to an exclusive decoder pin he had to order to decipher Annie’s secret messages. This turned Ralphie into a very engaged listener. Those Ovaltine sponsors knew how important it is for us to be in the know, although they seemed to have a flawed strategy. More on that later.
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Ephemeral marketing is not expected to be refined, it counterbalances airbrushed and surgically-edited advertising where everything is just perfect. This gives brands some flexibility and one could say, room for error. In fact, this format is preferred by millennials who while they do not dislike brands, they do not trust conventional advertising.
Take Saturday Night Live as an example. Its success is based on several marketing factors: a short descriptive title, consistent format and very talented people who address current issues. But the main hook for its audience is that it is a scheduled gathering with a relatable brand. Every Saturday night the audience has a date with the SNL cast and although sometimes things do not go as expected, what people really care about is authenticity. Because of this, the loyal audience tunes in and cheers for the performance with faults and all. That’s engagement!
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If it is so effective, why isn’t everyone doing it? Ephemeral marketing is risky. Publishers need to be on top of their game. When you upload your post or go live your content needs to be engaging and consistent with the brand. Your content might be unpolished, but if you fail to be authentic and honest with your audience they will not follow you for long. This is where I think the Ovaltine guys got it wrong. After all, Ralphie was promised the “honours and benefits” of Little Orphan Annie’s Secret Circle, whatever those were, only to be disappointed by another “crummy commercial”.
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There are many ways to engage your audience with ephemeral marketing. From live story telling to flash sales, driving traffic to a website or teasers. Platforms are expanding their capabilities to accommodate ephemeral content and with Facebook on board this trend might very well start spilling into other demographics, which marketers are sure to follow.
The question is, how can your brand adopt this emerging trend to look more like SNL and less like Ovaltine?
How can your ephemeral social media strategy feel more like an exciting gathering at a moment-in-time rather than another “crummy commercial”?
¹Gallagher, Billy (May 12, 2012).
Given its increasing popularity, is ephemeral marketing a safe bet for your brand? https://bit.ly/2AQcF4v
Engaging through fear. Is ephemeral marketing the right choice for your brand? #FOMO #ephemeralmarketing https://bit.ly/2AQcF4v