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3 Rules for Creating Engaging Ephemeral Content

January 27, 2020 Natalie A. Kilgore

Recently the Bradford Group outlined five social media trends digital marketers shouldn’t ignore in 2020. One of those trends – ephemeral content – has boundless possibilities and is quickly being enhanced across platforms. Don’t worry if you aren’t yet familiar with this fancy buzzword. Ephemeral is derived from the Greek word “ephemeros,” which means “lasting only one day” or “short-lived.” Therefore, the term “ephemeral content” is used to describe content that is available for a limited period of time before disappearing forever.

Currently four platforms support ephemeral content: Instagram and Facebook (through their Stories) as well as Snapchat and WhatsApp. Combined, these platforms have more than 1.5 billion daily active users posting and viewing ephemeral content in 2020. (Fun fact: you can view social stats in real time using Influencer Marketing Hub’s tracker.)

With ephemeral content now a part of social media users’ everyday lives, how can digital PR and marketing professionals make their content stand out from the crowd? Below are three rules for creating competitive ephemeral content.

Cater to the moment

FOMO (or the Fear Of Missing Out) is a real thing. It’s also one of humanity’s strongest motivators. It’s FOMO that drives us to tap on a brand’s Stories in the first place. What are we missing: A flash sale? A pop-up performance? An in-store meet-n-greet? A limited edition item? Ephemeral content should always be timely, not evergreen (or content that is relevant every day of the year). Creating a sense of urgency makes users more likely to take action and therefore deliver greater results for your client or brand.

For example, Sony Pictures promoted the theatrical release of its 2018 blockbuster film Venom via a custom character Lens with voice changing technology, a red carpet Live Story Ad as well as a Snap Ad. Each piece of ephemeral content swiped up to ticketing – creating a strong sense of urgency – and effectively drove people into theaters. The campaign resulted in one million incremental ticket sales, not to mention 45 million marketing impressions for the film.

Authenticity beats make-believe

Ephemeral content is a vibrant brand-building tool, but it only works if the content shared is authentic. Shakespeare’s famous phrase “To thine own self be true” definitely applies here as you create ephemeral content to showcase the personality behind your organization or brand. Ephemeral content shouldn’t be polished like your sponsored posts. Remember, its temporary content meant to give followers a peek behind the curtain. Give your viewers a tour behind-the-scenes at your office. Post a thought-provoking question or survey and then post your viewers’ results to encourage engagement and communicate your transparency as a brand. Share video of a team-building exercise, office pets or of your employees manufacturing or packaging popular, new or limited-edition products. Ephemeral content isn’t meant to be perfect but it IS meant to be exclusive and a way for you to tell your story (or your clients’ stories) in a way no one else can.

Timing is the key

While the photos and videos created for ephemeral content don’t need to be perfect, the timing of their release does. Ephemeral content lasts a mere 24 hours. Your content needs to be topical and trending. Or, if you’re promoting a product or offer, it needs to be available for purchase at the time your content posts – not two months, two weeks or even two days from now. If not, you’re missing out on potential revenue.

You’re also missing out on potential brand loyalty, followers and engagement. Posting too often about items or experiences that aren’t yet available for your followers’ instant gratification may make you seem like you’re crying wolf too often. The result could be a decrease in views, followers or shares. And since visual content is 40x more likely to be shared than any other content on social media, you may risk missing out on growing your brand through this platform since ephemeral marketing is visual by nature.


Remember marketing via ephemeral content only works when a sense of exclusivity and urgency is created. While this type of content continues to become more popular with social media users, it may not work well for every PR or digital marketing campaign. For more helpful tips on implementing successful social media campaigns, visit the Bradford Group’s company blog page.

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