Brand marketing typically involves getting a campaign message to stick in clients’ minds and resonate for some time, but the new era of communications is far more fleet of foot (or of smartphone – you get the drift). Welcome to the Age of Ephemeral Marketing. No, this isn’t a plea to hire ghosts or the undead to do you’re bidding. Ephemeral simply refers to the fact that more platforms are experimenting with ways to transmit messages that exist only temporarily—mere seconds, in most cases—to drive engagement and specific actions on the part of consumers. Admittedly, Snapchat and its ghost-like emoji have becoming the calling card of this kind of messaging. Yet ironically, it doesn’t appear this strategy will vanish anytime soon. As the platform creeps up on its third birthday, we decided to pull together a few things Snapchat has taught us about ephemeral best practices.
Lesson #1: Innovative messaging can be disruptive.
There’s nothing worse than a reverse Field of Dreams. No one wants to play on an empty social media platform. Lucky for Snapchat it found an adoring audience eager for 10-second fading photo dispatches from friends and family. (More time is allotted for brands that opt for its Stories approach.) At last count, the network reportedly had 100 million monthly active users and a valuation on the order of $10 billion, according to Mashable. What’s more, users appear to have a greater affinity for Snapchat advertising than for generic smartphone ads. According to a survey commissioned by the platform, two ads generated favorable ratings from 60 percent and 44 percent of viewers respectively, Advertising Age reports. Meanwhile, brands have caught on. Companies like McDonald’s and even organizations like the University of Michigan already use the platform, Business Insider notes. (Incidentally, some companies argue their version of ephemeral adds a layer of security for sensitive information.)
Lesson #2: Ephemeral calls to action are effective.
As with most social media, one of the best ways to use Snapchat is to deploy calls to action. Yet the added benefit of Snapchat is that it feels more personal—and perhaps more exclusive—because of its temporary nature. That personal touch has Snapchat stars such as Cyrene Quiamco advocating for new and different brand content as opposed to repurposed TV material. “I personally want to see more cross media campaigns,” she tells Marketing Land guest author Nick Cicero. This approach is at play by Audi, which routinely sends out engaging content to its constituents, as Digiday explains. It also has partnered with ABC Family to provide exclusive clips from the TV show “Pretty Little Liars.” Retailers are taking advantage of calls to action by distributing a variety of coupons and other discounts to drive foot traffic, as this post from SmallBizClub points out. A hashtag, universal grouping mechanism of the social universe, can be promoted around a campaign for added promotional power.
Lesson #3: Broad appeal is possible.
Snapchat often is characterized as a platform that’s exclusively at the mercy of tweens, but research suggests the value of ephemeral crosses demographic boundaries. A survey analyzed by eMarketer indicates that a majority of college students would follow a brand on Snapchat if they also track that brand on another platform. Therefore it’s time to think about how ephemeral messaging can connect with an array of viewers. After all, the platform has an engaged user base and a global reach, Business Insider says. In addition to boasting plenty of users in the U.S., it has fans in Canada, the U.K., Australia and beyond. Major brands who use this technology blend entertainment and exclusivity to literally reach users’ hands via smartphones. The message might reach thousands of people, but the impression these messages leave are one-of-a-kind.
Lesson #4: Invite media and artists to join the fun.
In an announcement in late January, Snapchat introduced a new service called Discover that aims to bring editorial content onto its platform in addition to advertising. “This is not social media,” Snapchat wrote on its blog. “Social media companies tell us what to read based on what’s most recent or most popular. We see it differently. We count on editors and artists, not clicks and shares, to determine what’s important.” News updates are refreshed after 24 hours across multiple channels. Although it isn’t clear what this will mean for distribution of information outside of marketing, it’s evident Snapchat has expansive aims. Continue looking for ways to build your network and forge partnerships that could lead to innovative presentations of ephemeral content. Benefits can be shared by marketers, the media and the audience alike.
Lesson #5: Yes, there are still bugs to work out.
No social media platform is perfect, and Snapchat has its challenges. It can be hard to help users discover your brand unless they’re specifically seeking it out, and there’s little capacity to edit Snapchat messages, Social Media Today’s Elizabeth Kent notes. Moreover, analytics can be hard to come by. That hasn’t stopped companies such as naritiv from stepping into the space to help brands determine how their Snapchat activities are performing. For the more technically minded, this analysis by iMedia Connection shares handy formulas and tips for getting your arms around the stickiness of messages that would otherwise slip through your fingers like vapor. However much time your brand chooses to invest in Snapchat or related jaunts into ephemeral marketing, expect to find more opportunities than you might have initially expected. At the same time, realize that the experience is probably fleeting. Who knows what the next permutation of marketing might hold?