Dec 16, 2017

Ephemeral Content: What it Means for Your Brand

The evolving nature of social media brings about a constant stream of buzzwords and trends. One of the latest buzz phrases is ephemeral content. Brought into the mainstream by Snapchat, the term has become important to some brands, but many have been slow or unwilling to take it up.

But using Snapchat and Instagram Stories can be a valuable source of lead generation and conversion. In this article, we discuss the value of ephemeral content and provide some practical advice on how to use it in your content strategy.

What is it?

Ephemeral content is, quite simply, any visual content - video or photo - that is only available for a certain period of time.

Ephemeral content is, quite simply, any visual content – video or photo- that is only available for a certain period of time.​

On Snapchat and Instagram, users can send photos that can be viewed once or twice but then disappear. The content can be sent to individual users, groups or posted on publicly available “stories”. Stories can vary from narrative tales, product demonstrations or just a series of unlinked observations, jokes or videos.

Why is it popular?

It has been called the “hottest topic and trend in social media marketing right now” and eMarketer projects that nearly 20% of Americans will use Snapchat this year.

Part of the attraction is that ephemeral content taps into one of the key attractions of all social media – content creation.

As much as users can passively enjoy others’ content – they can actively create their own.

Take, for example, Snapchat’s default open. When the user presses the Snapchat logo on their phone, they are not met with a feed of information or updates from friends – they are met with a camera. From the get-go they are being nudged to create content, to join a community and add to the network’s worth and value to users.

After all, a social network is only as useful to users as the information it holds. Nobody is visiting a network that nobody posts on. Ask Friendster.

There are a number of other reasons that this content is popular and they are worth remembering when your brand decides to use the platforms.

The platforms are friendly to vertical video, meaning that setups for their use can be informal and inexpensive. They are human, authentic and off-the-cuff. This means that people are expecting to be met with very real content. It is also worth remembering that the platforms are fun – both Snapchat and Instagram have built-in filters, voice modifiers and pop culture tie-ins which make using them enjoyable.

Another reason is FOMO. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, FOMO stands for Fear Of Missing Out. The fact that the content self-destructs after a set period means that users are far more likely to check the app regularly.

According to Business Insider, users will open the app on average 18 times a day. Furthermore, those users spend 25 to 30 minutes a day on the app. For Instagram, that figure is 32 minutes.

Why should I use it?

If the mechanics behind the technology does nothing for you, maybe these figures will.

  • Snapchat has 173 million daily active users
  • Instagram Stories has 250 million
  • Combined they account for around 18 billion daily video views
  • 53% of Snapchat users are under 34
  • The spending power of Millennials is set to surpass $1 trillion by 2020

53% of Snapchat users are under 34.

So there is a massive cohort of online users on the platforms, using it every day, who will have a lot of money to spend in a couple of years. Have you planned how you’re going to reach them?

Cassie Philips of Social Media Explorer says that the benefits are abundant.

Snapchat really brings something new to the world of social media marketing, allowing brands to reach out and engage potential customers in unique ways. It brings a new perspective that better engages younger consumers.

“By offering your followers exclusive content and discounts as well as taking advantage of Snapchat’s distinctive functions, you can tap into a market of some of the most loyal consumers out there.”


Taco Bell Snapchat lens.

So now you now the whats and the whys, what about the hows? Snapchat and Instagram are like any other social media – finding out what works for your brand will take work, planning and experience.

Here are some tips to get you started:

Have a plan

As with any facet of a marketing strategy, you should have a solid, executable plan. Who are your customers and what needs do they have?

As with any social media, there is a chance on Snapchat and Instagram to be of use to users. Stay true to the audience you have and want to build. Pay attention to your data and respond to your users’ likes. Without any other measurement of engagement than opens, this will require a good bit of attention.

From there, you should use a personal account. Get used to the platform’s features, pros and cons. Then think about how you will use them to market yourself.

Once you have done that – leverage your audiences. Promote your Snapchat across other platforms. Use the Snapcode (a QR-like code that allows users scan and follow you) as your Facebook avatar, tweet it, put it in your emails and add a button on your blog.

Be engaging – but tell stories

Instagram Stories and Snapchat’s My Story share a very important word.

The most important part of an engaging story is structure. As Snapchat journalist Frankie Greek says:

Don’t overthink this. Stories have a beginning, middle, and end. That’s all you need

“Too many brands post snaps that are disconnected from each other and hours apart. Most of your followers are going to be watching your story all at once so regardless of what time you post each snap, you need to tell one cohesive story when played beginning to end.”

Greek also suggests using video as well as stills, ensuring you are regularly posting and partnering with influencers.

Don’t be afraid

There is no one way which ephemeral content works. In Ireland, fashion influencers find success with a wide array of stories. This can range from highlighting products, partnerships with brands or even just simply talking to the camera.

Don’t be afraid to try different things. Given the nature of the platforms, you can try and fail without a major lasting impression because, in 24 hours, whatever you posted will be gone.

  • Product demos
  • Tutorials
  • New product announcements
  • Behind the scenes of your brand
  • Videos of your product in action
  • Industry tips
  • Discounts/Flash sales


Remember, the point of the whole exercise is to affect sales or lead generation. Both platforms allow brands to add links to their stories. Using a quick swipe up, users can land on your website.

Ensure that your stories are aimed at directing users towards this. At least one point in your story should encourage visitors to swipe up to shop, learn or read more.

You can also use paid-for ads and geo-targeted filters.

When Spotify paid for ads on Snapchat to promote their year in music, they earned 26 million total views and a 30 percent increase on subscriber intent.

Targeted filters are cheaper – available for as little as $5 – and can have a more immediate impact.

Snapchat filters.

When Snapchatters in the location of your choice take a Snap, they’ll be able to select your filter. This can work particularly well if you have an event on, have a large area around your business or if you just wanted to invent a “national day” around the product you sell.


While their growth has been rapid and will eventually plateau, Snapchat and Instagram’s engagement numbers are massive, they are used multiple times a day and they have fast become part of peoples’ daily internet usage. If you aren’t using them, you need to ask yourself can you continue to sit it out?

Using ephemeral content marketing is hard and you will make mistakes. But by experimenting, planning and executing, you will be able to capitalise on the massive audience base and spending power on the platforms.

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