Raw addiction – the rise of ephemeral content

Alison Brown | Group Account Director Marketing, Social Media

In the constant push by brands to win the attention of customers on social media, one of the most successful strategies this year has been to use ephemeral content.

Ephemeral content is fleeting, timely and relevant. It is often shot straight from the hip and, as such, tends to be raw but at the same time innately human. This lends a greater degree of authenticity, engages more and aids cut-through in a cluttered online environment. 

The approach perfectly leverages the scarcity principle that, in the area of social psychology, works much like scarcity in the area of economics. Simply put, humans place a higher value on an object that is scarce, and a lower value on those that are abundant. The thought that we, as humans, want something we cannot have drives us to desire the object even more. This idea has become deeply embedded in our consumer culture, with ‘limited time only’ shopping events triggering anxiety among those who desire a product but ‘fear’ missing out on getting a bargain.

Examples of ephemeral content, in a social media context, include the likes of:

  • Snapchat, almost in entirety
  • Instagram Stories
  • Facebook Live and all other forms of Live streaming
  • Facebook Stories

Interestingly, many of the new digital platforms, like messaging app Kik and TBH in the US (recently acquired by Facebook) also focus on fleeting content.

By leveraging the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO), digital channels like Facebook and Instagram increase platform stickiness, repeat visit rates and ingrain usage as a habit. On average, Facebook users visit at least 14 times a day, whereas Snapchatters check in around 18 times each day.

The introduction of Instagram Stories in 2016 was a game-changer for Instagram with now more than 250 million people around the world creating and watching Stories every day. What’s the big deal with Stories? While the content disappears after 24 hours, the images and video are real. The content is less polished making it appear more genuine. Importantly for brands, they’re easy to create and Instagram users really enjoy watching them.

Will Facebook Stories be the new Facebook Live?

Facebook Live launched in 2015. Two years down the track, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg claims that one in every five Facebook videos is a live broadcast. What’s more, the daily watch time for Live broadcasts is up by four times, year on year.

This year’s launch of Facebook Stories, by comparison, was very low key. Introduced to personal profiles first, updates include the option to cross-promote Instagram Stories for individuals and opening up Stories for all Pages. It’s likely future updates will include even greater functions for brands and individuals because unlike on Instagram, it appears that Facebook Stories have failed to spark inspiration among its user community. It’s a sad reality that for most people, the Stories row at the top of Facebook’s mobile app is a barren desert of zero activity.

The lucrative advertising opportunity that Stories present is too good for Facebook to give up on making this outlet for ephemeral content a success. One of the biggest reasons Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat work so hard to make them a success is because it allows the companies to sell advertising between each video message.

So, marketers should hopefully expect greater incentives to use Facebook Stories in the future. Bets are on the carrot Facebook will be dangling will be better organic reach.