Ephemeral messages: the opportunity for brands

Ephemeral messaging is liberating. It’s what Snapchat has built its success on. We don’t need to over-think what we send; we can just go ahead and express whatever we feel in the moment.

Ephemeral messages have a tinge of urgency about them. They’re exciting. You only have a few seconds to see a message before it’s gone forever.

No wonder WhatsApp wants to get in on the trend. It’s muscling in on what’s traditionally been Snapchat territory, starting with rolling out a feature that lets users send status updates that expire after 24 hours. Of course, this could be a convenient jumping off point for fully-fledged ephemeral messaging.

Snapchat has proved the model’s popularity  – but why do people love it so much?

Ephemeral messaging taps into our basic needs and fears

As the Digital Marketing Institute says, one of the main attractions of ephemeral content is accessibility. For generations who have grown up with influencers who have their own YouTube channels and merchandise, ephemeral content (like Snapchat posts) lets everyone be a content creator.

It has a real-time edge. You’re watching something as it happens – and you might be the only one of your friends who’s seen it. You know something that they don’t. It taps into our desire for gossip and being an insider. The flip side of this is that it also fuels our fear of missing out. What if you’re the only one not to see that content? You can’t go back to it.

Should brands create Ephemeral content?

It depends on the brand (and on the message). Ephemeral is edgy, exciting and urgent. It’s not a medium for traditional marketing content. The underlying message might be the same, but the content needs to fit the feel of the platform. If it’s too staid, or a simple cut down version of a Facebook video, it’s likely to stand out for all the wrong reasons.

Ephemeral messaging is ideal for content that needs to have an exclusive vibe. It’s great for letting people know about flash sales (that last a few hours) or for teasing content that’s about to go on general release, or for showing a sneak preview. If there’s something the brand wants to generate a social media buzz about, ephemeral content is a good way to do it.

Brands that excel at ephemeral content

Entertainment brands are using ephemeral content as a way to engage their audience and build anticipation for their shows. For example, in October 2017, Netflix’s Stranger Things ran a one-day Snapchat campaign that let fans take an interactive AR tour of a character’s room. It generated excitement, and contributed to the more than 15 million people who watched the debut of Stranger Things 2 over the first three days it was available.
Aer Lingus uses Snapchat to share behind-the-scenes activities and make announcements. Econsultancy reports one example where the company brought fans into a staff movie quiz night via a Snapchat story. Fans had to guess the film from a few emojis. This is a great way to bring customers into the brand community.

Drinks brand, Fanta, used QR codes on special Halloween cans to provide customers with exclusive Snapchat filters and lenses. By providing exclusive content to customers, Fanta gives people a little extra incentive to buy, but it also shows that the brand understands how many of its customers like to communicate.

Brands can make great use of ephemeral messaging, as long as the content is designed with the people viewing it in mind. Why do they use this format? What do they want from the brand? Does the brand have anything it can offer that will engage and inspire in a few seconds? Brands that keep these questions in mind have a good chance of creating and sharing exciting ephemeral content.

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