Leveraging Ephemeral Content: Strategies for Modern Marketing Impact

Ephemeral content, or content designed not to last like Instagram stories, has more impact on the marketing world than many realize.

Leveraging Ephemeral Content: Strategies for Modern Marketing Impact
Staff Design // Adriana Lacy Consulting

Social media's strength comes from capitalizing on the modern attention span: it can effortlessly switch between thoughts and concepts, never holding space for too much at any given time. But how can we best use what we know about this type of content to power better marketing strategies?

Ephemeral content, or content designed not to last like Instagram stories, has more impact on the marketing world than many realize. It's quickly becoming the online and social content that's the easiest to digest, making it a potent way to grab the attention of prospective clients or target demographics. 

The Evolution of Ephemeral Content

Snapchat and Instagram are the two social media titans we usually associate with ephemeral content. Snapchat's initial model was all about content that eventually disappeared. Instagram followed suit with Stories, giving users the flexibility to post evergreen or ephemeral content as they see fit. 

Now, ephemeral content is a staple across virtually all social media platforms. TikTok, the current reigning king of online content, thrives off this type of content. "Stories" of all varieties are also popping up everywhere - Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat now use this format. And since most businesses have at least one of these platforms, they're finding creative ways to connect with their consumers by using ephemeral content to their advantage.

Ephemeral Content's Role in Marketing

The most important aspect behind any content is arguably engagement. And since there are fewer things more engaging than ephemeral content at the moment, it's no surprise that it's finding its moment in the sun. But are ephemeral content's effects on marketing as fleeting as the content itself? 

The answer seems to be a resounding no; even though the content isn't evergreen, its impact can be. The secret to success on social media is brands that feel authentic and engage with their followers more interactively. And the platforms make this relatively straightforward: stories can include call-to-actions, polls, or asking specific questions to connect with your audience.

Another strength of ephemeral content is its inherent ability to capitalize on or create FOMO and urgency. FOMO, or "the fear of missing out," is a natural response to wanting to connect or belong - to be in on the story or joke the content provides. Ephemeral content automatically introduces this sense of urgency since it doesn't last, making users more likely to want to engage with it before they lose their chance to. 

Brands can also use the natural phenomena of FOMO to offer limited product launches or promotional discounts. As you become the brand known for releasing ephemeral content that includes things like this, the urgency increases, with the boost in engagement soon to follow.

The Impact on Marketing Strategies

Brand awareness and visibility are two significant aspects of any solid marketing strategy. Ephemeral content helps bolster both aspects by enabling businesses to engage with their audience in an authentic, interesting way. The content your brand puts out can even strangely have its own brand (think of the virality of Wendy's borderline goofy behavior on what used to be Twitter), so you can use ephemeral content to make a name for yourself on social media where users will want to see what you're sharing before it's gone.

This brand awareness is instrumental in drumming up customer loyalty on these apps. When you create engaging content, the algorithms are much more likely to increase your post's visibility, thus exposing your brand to a broader audience. 

Building a relationship between you and your followers is also an essential part of digital marketing, and once again, ephemeral content shines here. Over half of all social media users say they want to feel like they can connect with a brand. Having planned ephemeral social media posts that don't feel too scripted can help bring character and humanness to your brand that will resonate with your target audience.

Temporary content can even facilitate community building and make relationships with customers even stronger. As people engage with your content, a back-and-forth can develop, and your brand's circle of influence grows. It's in these moments where you can really harness this power to mold your brand in the public eye, talking about things that matter to you, being candid about your experiences, or just sharing fun anecdotes. 

You don't want to go too far where it becomes a place to talk about your personal life, but finding a happy medium and opening up to your followers in small ways can be an excellent way to make the most of ephemeral content. This method will be more valid for some brands over others; it really depends on how much your industry relies on this kind of interaction.

Case Study Snapshots

So, what businesses are using ephemeral content in innovative ways to level up their marketing strategies? Here are a few real-world examples to give you a better idea of how your brand could successfully implement these strategies.

National Geographic

National Geographic's Planet or Plastic was an Instagram campaign highlighting the chilling reality of the world's plastic crisis. The striking photos of a seahorse wrapped around a cue tip were only the beginning. The final slide included one simple question: planet or plastic? They implored users to choose the planet and to swipe up to take their pledge. The brand uses a heart-wrenching reality and visual storytelling to draw viewers in, boosting their engagement for a good cause.


Nike is all about building buzz around their new product launches with ephemeral content. The videos feature the shoes at each launch; it's simple and doesn't take much effort, but these posts play into FOMO and urgency, getting people excited about something and making them want to buy it before it's too late.

Taco Bell

Taco Bell was highly ambitious with its ephemeral content in a way that paid off handsomely. Their social media marketing team came up with the brilliant idea for a Cinco de Mayo campaign - to use Snapchat's AR to create a filter that could turn people into taco shells. This idea was unsurprisingly a huge hit and generated a lot of interaction for the brand while also playing up their sense of humor. 

The Timeless Effects of Fleeting Content

While the fleeting nature of ephemeral content can make it feel like using it as a part of your marketing strategy isn't necessary, it's an undeniable force shifting how users consume content. And businesses must adapt to ensure they're keeping up with the trend, finding new and unique ways to introduce and produce ephemeral content for their marketing plans.

The future seems equally bright for ephemeral content marketing; Taco Bell's resounding success with AR technology will doubtlessly mean that many other companies will try to replicate this lightning in a bottle. And while the novelty may eventually wear off, augmented reality is still very much in play for digital marketing. Interactive storytelling and creating immersive experiences will also be high on the priority list for ephemeral content creators, finding new ways to connect with their customers in creative ways that excite and intrigue them.

Undoubtedly, evergreen content has value and should be a major player in any well-rounded marketing campaign. But harnessing the power of ephemeral content is a guaranteed way to ensure your content stays fresh and relevant. Brands need to speak to an audience that wants to see more creative, unique approaches that finally make their scrolling finger come to a screeching halt.

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