Ephemeral Content Marketing: The Use of Temporary Content in Marketing Campaigns to Drive Engagement

Ephemeral content is inherently different from traditional social media content. It exists for a short period of time before disappearing, playing into the fear of missing out (FOMO) phenomenon in modern society. The unique characteristic has grabbed the attention of marketers around the world and many have swiftly integrated some forms of ephemeral content into their marketing strategies. As one of the most evocative changes in the marketing landscape in recent years, the rise of ephemeral content in marketing campaigns has made a big impact on how marketers plan and execute their content strategies to drive customer engagement. This paper aims to provide a comprehensive guide on what ephemeral content is and how it can be successfully employed in marketing campaigns to achieve higher customer engagement. In this section, I will expand on what ephemeral content means and how it can benefit marketers when they plan for their marketing strategies. The two subtopics in this paper are also introduced, highlighting the main areas that will be covered later on. This section will end with providing an overview of the subsequent sections.

Definition of Ephemeral Content

Ephemeral content refers to short-lived posts or videos that are available for a limited time. This content quickly disappears, usually within 24 hours. It’s a popular form of content among younger generations, who often favor consuming “in the moment” content that is raw and unpolished. The ephemerality of this type of content is what makes it so well-suited for social media. For a start, the short life span of such content taps into the fear of missing out or FOMO. The possibility that users will miss seeing something is an excellent motivator for them to check back often. Also, as ephemeral content takes precedence over traditional social media posting in viewers’ lives (most people check social media content at some point on the same day the message is posted), social media platforms are programmed to place ephemeral content right at the top of a user’s news feed. Users’ news feed algorithms are increasingly favoring the real-time, more impulsive nature of this type of content over the traditional, largely static content of regular posts. Also, the temporary nature of ephemeral content allows companies to experiment in content production. Rather than investing a large amount of time or finance to produce high quality posts, a company can create a series of short, experimental and more informal pieces to gauge user engagement. This kind of light touch, feedback-heavy marketing avoids bombarding users with the same repetitive advertising. As such, the advertising becomes more interactive and includes users in the development process, fostering digital communities and giving users a more active role in dictating their social media environment. The brevity of ephemeral content requires content creators to consider carefully what they wish to convey with a post. Such content lends itself to more exciting, spontaneous ad campaigns that demand real-time user attention. Because of the urgency to engage before the content disappears, users are far more likely to interact with it, either through views or engaging with built-in interactivity such as ‘swipe’ options on Instagram. Such marketing reinforces to users that the advertised content is not only crucial but stands to become unavailable with time. Popularity can therefore rise rapidly in the immediate aftermath of a well-received ephemeral marketing campaign. This can outstretch the direct 24-hour impact that each individual post makes, creating a ripple of user enthusiasm that a company can use as leverage to support long-term growth.

Importance of Ephemeral Content Marketing

Ephemeral content’s fleeting nature is seen as a good thing to both consumers and organizations. Because stories disappear after a set period, audiences have a sense of urgency to look at the content before it’s gone. This encourages customers to remain up to date and investigate the brands on a day-by-day basis. Social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat are designed to keep viewers engaged and active. Such apps are continuously updating and adding new features, such as filters or story formats, that provide interactive and playful multimedia reports to capture the attention of millennial and Gen Z users. Sophisticated technologies allow customers to physically engage with a brand through fun, playful elements such as virtual reality filters or picture-matching games. These types of interactive content encourage real-time engagement and maintain the audience’s attention. Such advertising techniques are critical for brands as they evolve into more consumer-centric advertising and marketing strategies that sell products through emotions and experiences, rather than aggressive sales techniques. Many global brands have already embraced ephemeral content marketing, with innovative and resourceful advertising campaigns that have captivated customers all over the world. Coca Cola, for example, used a sponsored Snapchat lens to reach thirteen million views and connect with over 4.5 million users worldwide. At Nestle Fitness, a smart ‘data just’ marketing campaign designed to draw attention to the issue of heart disease in women, received a 271% increase in engagement compared to non-ephemeral health campaigns. Such creative and practical campaigns prove the effectiveness of ephemeral content in social media marketing, including increased audience engagement and attention, fostering authenticity and relatability, and driving conversions and sales.

Utilizing Ephemeral Content on Social Media Platforms

On these social media platforms, ephemeral content is usually accessed through the social media stories feature. Do you want to share personal experience with content services you used? I think you should find trusted reviews on Scamfighter to validate the quality of the product or service you used. “A social media story is a separate feed or thread from a user’s regular timeline posting and allows a user to post a collection of images or videos that will only be available for 24 hours,” Lim explained. This means that both the creator and the audience knows that the content will not be available forever – it creates a sense of urgency for the audience to view and engage with the content, which deepens the sense of real-time engagement between the two parties. It also allows the creator to constantly update their story to link into current events, fads, campaigns or trends; this leads to better engagement comparing to posting static, non-ephemeral content on social media platforms. Dr. Monica Thakkar, Senior Lecturer in Marketing and Course Director for BA Marketing at Middlesex University London, commented that “ephemeral content allows social media users to be more spontaneous and creative with their content and empowers real-time, immediate engagement between users and firms”. This aspect of ephemeral content not only allows for a more engaging and interactive way for firms to use social media, but also for a more direct and authentic relationship to be built between a firm and its audience through closely linking to the instantaneous and unpredictable nature of social media engagement. So it seems here that the use of such ephemeral content through social media marketing is not only a fresher way to target and reach a specific audience, compared to the traditional use of more static forms of social media marketing strategies; it also helps to open up endless possibilities for marketers to get creative on social media platforms. Through the immediate, ‘in-the-moment’ and playful nature, marketers could further utilize the aspect of real-time engagement immersive and innovative, creating treatments and experiences that are responsive to the specific needs and interest of users during the perpetually running world of social media interaction. And instead of long-term engagement, which may be more relevant to more traditional form of digital online marketing, ephemeral content in the form of social media stories particularly allows marketers to focus on impactful, short bursts campaigns that are designed to have immediate effect and makes a lasting memorable impression on the viewing audience. Overall, our findings and explorations reflect how the use of ephemeral content through social media marketing could really help brands to establish a meaningful and purposeful presence in the everyday lives of people. It provides a fresh, innovative, and exciting way for firms to create a strong and loyal customer base, allowing differential and competitive advantages through creating focused, relevant and authentic relationships between the brand and the audience.

Real-Time Engagement through Social Media Stories

Real-time engagement, as the term suggests, refers to a continuous interaction between a brand and its audience on social media in real time. Social media stories, a feature first introduced by Snapchat in 2013 and later adopted by Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, are the perfect medium for real-time engagement. The “stories” format allows users to post images and videos that are accessible to their followers for 24 hours. What sets stories apart from traditional posts is its ephemerality – the content disappears after 24 hours. As a result, users are more compelled to check their friends’ and favorite brands’ stories regularly to avoid missing out. This feature offers a brand the opportunity to engage with their audience in a more spontaneous and unpolished manner. Brands can post a series of updates throughout the day that document a special event, a behind-the-scenes look at a product launch or even just a typical day in the office. The content is expected to be more candid and authentic, offering a glimpse into the day-to-day of the brand. With interactive elements such as polling and questions now available in the stories format, brands can further increase engagement by posting interactive elements of their own. Followers can engage with the poll or question and see the results in real time, which adds another layer of interaction and gives not just followers but the brand itself immediate feedback. And since each interactive story frame can be set to link to the next frame, brands can now share entire “choose your own adventure” style narratives with their viewers. The opportunities to embrace spontaneity and create a stronger, more interactive relationship with the audience through social media stories are endless.

Creating a Sense of Urgency with Ephemeral Content

When professional marketers hear of creating a sense of urgency, they think about Facebook and Instagram stories. These are the features of these platforms that create a fear of missing out for users who have an interest in a particular product. This is because the stories only last for 24 hours before they disappear. This kind of ephemeral content has been used to great effect in marketing, especially in the fashion industry but also in ecommerce and other sectors. For example, new clothing lines being introduced and advertised in stories, with a clear call to action to swipe up before the story disappears. Also, using phrases like ‘act now’ and ‘while stocks last’ can really encourage potential customers to engage with the content and make a purchase. The results have shown that sales increase when these kind of practices are used. If the audience reach is big enough, the product that is being advertised can even become a trending topic, leading to immense sales over the period that the story is live and even after. This creates momentum and a hype which is ideal for brand exposure. Not only are sales increased but also traffic is driven to the website. For example, using the swipe up action on Instagram stories, customers can be taken to the product page which will inherently increase sessions and decrease the bounce rate. Also, the sense of urgency and the fashion with which the customer has to act in – in this case, clicking the product link in 24 hours – installs a clear ambition for the marketing. Follower to customer conversion is the main aim and getting customers to provide data and interact with the website can only be a good thing for the company in the long run and more target specific in marketing strategies.

Leveraging Facebook and Instagram for Ephemeral Content

As a result, organizations can set up a solid presence on these platforms and use live video streaming, messages, and status updates alongside stories to drive engagement. It is important that the content published on Facebook and Instagram should be designed to be viewed on mobile phones, and especially on the go. Instagram’s user base, 52% of whom use the platform daily and 35% of whom check it multiple times throughout the day, works exceptionally well for just-in-time content. There is a range of tools and resources available to set up, create, and manage the effectiveness of Facebook and Instagram ads and organic posts, including the ability to target specific audiences. On the other hand, Instagram offers a range of enhanced profile features, such as contact information, call-to-action buttons, and access to analytics if certain guidelines regarding follower numbers are met. ‘Swipe up’ links can be added to stories if the account publishing the story has at least 10k followers. This can be particularly useful for marketers looking to provide a seamless user journey. Instagram data helps show which age groups, genders, and locations have engaged with each piece of content. This feedback can be used to inform future content, as well as identifying the best times to post. Through understanding the expectations and motivations of the digital consumer, a better understanding of how and why category marketing works can be developed. Such analysis can help identify and explain the various identification, interaction, influencer, and loyalty functions that so dominate in the digital world. The extensive use of short-form, ephemeral, and sometimes self-erasing media that characterizes transient content portrays a confident interconnected society where the individual and the algorithmic interact complexly.

Benefits of Ephemeral Content in Social Media Marketing

The scarcity principle dictates that the less there is of something, the more valuable it becomes. This psychological heuristic is not lost on marketers, many of whom view ephemeral content as a golden ticket to increased user engagement. A primary benefit of ephemeral content in social media marketing is that it has the potential to create a ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO) response in users. Because stories only last 24 hours, users are compelled to stay up to date with a brand’s content to avoid feeling ‘out of the loop’. This is the anticipation structure working at its best; users are constantly awaiting the next story installment and are therefore more likely to stay engaged with each new piece of content. The temporary nature of stories means that followers are more vigilant in searching for a brand’s posts and are less likely to absentmindedly scroll past them, as is common with the static content on other marketing channels. Because individuals are coming back for successive installments of content, much greater engagement rates are witnessed across story contents as opposed to static-media based messages. This, in turn, can lead users through a far more detailed narrative pathway than what is achievable through a single, isolated marketing campaign initiative. Moreover, stories represent a more genuine and informal method of connecting with audiences, a far cry from the pre-planned, rigid structuring of traditional digital marketing strategies. With the application of various interactive marketing features unique to the story format, such as hashtags and polls, the potential for authentic user engagement becomes all the more prevalent. Authenticity is highly sought after in the world of marketing and it can be a struggle to achieve. However, ephemeral content facilitates an atmosphere of ‘in the moment’ relatability between brands and users. Its impermanent nature means that followers are given a personalised insight into a brand’s day-to-day activities. From a user’s perspective, this intimate portrayal of a company’s workings can make followers feel a greater sense of emotional investment into the brand’s success, a quality that is near-on impossible to attain through static content methods. By maintaining this consistent level of relatable interactivity with followers, brands can start to establish a loyal, repeat-audience fan base that eagerly anticipate new story revelations. It’s fairly commonly known that Instagram and Facebook, the two largest engagement social media platforms with 1 billion and 2.5 billion active users respectively, have very nicely integrated story features into their application frameworks. This means that if companies decide to employ the use of ephemeral content as a primary digital marketing strategy, they are automatically opening themselves up to a potentially colossal audience reach on a global scale. By including various interactive components such as user polls, Q&A type features and even the ability for story-viewers to directly message a company’s account, these platforms offer a very simple yet powerful method to connect and maintain strong ‘brand to consumer’ relationships – fostering an underpinning for repeat custom and digital outreach growth. This is definitive proof that whatever the ethos of marketing campaign – be it a focus on increased exposure, creative brand awareness, or simply uptake in product sales – the application of ephemeral content through social media outlets can offer a wide range of strategic advantages to all kinds of digital marketing needs. However, the task of enthralling a target audience for the duration of a campaign, however short, is by no means an easy feat. Producing consistent, stimulating story content can quite easily devolve into a laborious check-list exercise if creatives aren’t careful. This is why constant critical analysis of the story’s engagement metrics and user feedback is vital; effective marketing strategies capitalize on the dynamic feedback potential that ephemeral content affords, allowing for adjustments in proposed narratives and consequential improvements in user enjoyment and investment.

Increased Audience Engagement and Attention

By nature of being designed to capture immediate and momentary experiences, ephemeral content is inherently attention-grabbing. The time-sensitive nature of such content encourages social media users to engage with posted content on a more frequent basis, as there is an implicit understanding that missing such content – whether it’s a daily story from a close friend or a 24-hour flash sale from a favorite retailer – will result in a total loss of access. This is a relatively novel approach in social media marketing; most conventional digital marketing strategies require experts to carefully plan and develop long-term content that aims to be consistently engaging over time. Ephemeral content, however, creates intermittent spikes in user engagement – a valuable trend that helps commercial content to stand out in oversaturated social media environments. In particular, the psychological effects of missing out on a limited-time experience are well-documented. This concept is known as ‘loss aversion’ and is widely used in fields such as behavioral economics and decision theory. When translated to the context of digital marketing, ephemeral content presents a unique opportunity for marketers to leverage this deeply-ingrained aspect of human nature; users are, in theory, more likely to engage with time-sensitive content in the fear of missing out on a positive experience, such as a flash sale with exclusive discounts. As such, leveraging ephemeral content allows for a more intuitive path to increased audience attention; by engineering engaging, time-sensitive posts, a greater share of a target demographic’s collective time spent browsing social media can be captured by commercial content. This will in turn lead to higher online conversion rates and improved customer relationships, as potential clients have been exposed to a wider range of engaging commercial content.

Fostering Authenticity and Relatability

To successfully engage in ephemeral content marketing, businesses must provide content that is not only entertaining but also fosters a sense of authenticity and relatability between the brand and the audience. As ephemeral content, like Instagram Stories, often offers a less filtered and more immediate look into the lives of both users and brands, it provides an opportunity for businesses to showcase the people and the work that makes the brand unique, as opposed to the high production, low authenticity content often present on more traditional static media platforms. For example, Starbucks utilizes Instagram Stories to give their audience a behind-the-scenes look into the life of their employees. By showcasing employees, the brand is showing its audience what goes into the product that they love, and as a result has experienced a significant increase in users sharing the product in their own stories in conjunction with the Starbucks brand. As social media users are more likely to view and engage with ephemeral content because of the knowledge that it will be lost within a day, leading to a fear of missing out if not engaging in time, brands are provided with a potentially large, attentive audience. By successfully engaging in an ephemeral content marketing strategy to help connect with mobile consumers, businesses are placing themselves on a platform that is accessed by consumers up to 80% of their mobile active day. With 250 million active daily users on both Instagram and Facebook due to the introduction of stories on both platforms as well as 26.3 million weekly active users for Snapchat, businesses have the potential to reach a large audience. Ephemeral content strategies do two things to help businesses and the brands connect with their consumers. First, the fear of missing out that ephemeral content has the potential to produce can drive the meaningful metric of engagement by having both current and potential consumers interacting with the brand’s stories. Second, the aesthetics of the full screen and signifier, like the colorful rings around the Instagram Stories, create a more immersive and intimate space for both the content shared and the relationship between user and content. By doing this, both the user and the brand are provided with the unique opportunity to cultivate a connection between each other.

Driving Conversion and Sales

By creating a sense of urgency, taking advantage of data and analytics from social media platforms and providing clear, concise call-to-action methods, brands can successfully drive sales and improve return on investment with ephemeral content in marketing campaigns.

A sense of urgency is a powerful psychological motivator that marketing professionals have long used to influence consumer behaviour. In the context of ephemeral content, the 24-hour limit and “here today, gone tomorrow” nature of the content creates a heightened urgency for the viewer. When a potential customer feels that they must act quickly in order to take advantage of a certain product or offering, the likelihood that they will convert to a sale is greatly increased. This concept is closely related to the fear of missing out phenomenon, or FOMO for short. Ephemeral content naturally capitalizes on FOMO, and those who utilize such content in their marketing strategies can expect to see improved sales figures and a higher rate of customer conversion.

When a user views an ephemeral piece of content and feels inspired to make a purchase or take advantage of an offering, they are more likely to complete the transaction with a sales-driven marketing strategy. Implementing a strong call-to-action, such as “swipe up” or “shop now”, in ephemeral content is an effective way to direct a viewer to the final point of sale, and brands that utilize such strategies have seen significant success. For instance, skincare and beauty brand GlamGlow created an Instagram story that included a “swipe up” call-to-action to learn about and shop a new product. By doing so, GlamGlow saw an 80% increase in return on ad spend and a 20% increase in sales on their website.

So, to conclude, it can be said that ephemeral content is a great engagement tool in marketing. The 24-hour availability of stories and the fear of missing out that disappears with it makes it an absolute treasure to the creative, innovative marketing people. However, only a dedicated and focused marketing team would be able to use this tool wisely. The advantage is that it lets you know easily and quickly how well your marketing is going. For creative, energetic, and innovative people, this provides a perfect and original way to convey a brand’s concept. I think creative and innovative people should take advantage of this and use it as a tool to show their abilities. Using ephemeral content, marketers can instill a feeling of exclusivity in their audience and encourage engagement. This can be in many ways like offering promos that are only available to the first x amount of people to find the story. So, not only is the person likely to make a move a lot faster to try and get whatever is being offered, but the marketer can also get an idea of just how effective their campaigns are by being able to track engagement. The last point, according to my analysis, is that the element of surprise can be a fantastic aid in engaging an audience. Not trying often, and certainly not by everyone, but if the right sort of thing is put up at the right sort of time, users could be hooked into what’s being sent out and will be likely to be checking regularly. This, in my view, gives marketers a great opportunity to experiment and generate fresh ideas and also to see these through to a positive conclusion due to the feedback-led nature of the use of short-term media. So, in my view, by efficient and productive utilization of ephemeral content in marketing, there’s a long way to go for the uplift of the brands and business.