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What Is Ephemeral Video For Marketing And Social Media?

Remember the old spy movies that always had a message set to self-destruct in 5 seconds? Today, self-destructing video is a powerful tool for marketing. That doesn’t mean marketers go around exploding customers’ laptops and mobile devices (please don’t do that) but more marketers are embracing ephemeral video.  

Ephemeral video is content that is only available for a short period of time before it disappears. Think Snapchat and Instagram stories. These videos usually expire in about 24 hours. Appearing mostly in social media “stories” or other outside the newsfeed sections of social, this type of video helps you reach viewers in the moment on the platforms where they spend the most time. Though often quick to produce, it can have a big impact on your audience engagement.

Benefits of ephemeral video

If you’ve resisted ephemeral video up to now, you probably don’t have all the facts. Some marketers hesitate to create this kind of content because it seems like a lot of work for something with a 24-hour shelf life. After all, with just a little more effort, you could create evergreen video content that keeps promoting your brand for years. Yet ephemeral video brings benefits that evergreen just can’t touch. 

Ephemeral video works on the power of FOMO. No, that’s not a new type of internet service, it stands for fear of missing out. FOMO drives users click and watch because this might be their only chance to do so. Think of it like a flash sale for your video content. Users who might otherwise think, “oh that looks interesting, I’ll watch it later,” feel the pressure to act immediately instead of putting it off.

Ephemeral video attracts eyeballs, thanks to FOMO, and allows you to communicate with your audience in real-time. It can also help you reach a bigger or at least a different audience because ephemeral videos appear in users social media stories outside the influence of the newsfeed algorithm. If you up the ante by going live on any of these social platforms, followers will even get a message notifying them that you’re live streaming that very moment.

If all that isn’t enough to convince you, consider that 2 out of every 10 organic stories posted by businesses result in at least one direct message from followers. Can your other marketing efforts boast that level of engagement?

Those are just a few of the reasons why ephemeral video is so popular. How popular? Facebook Stories, Instagram Stories and WhatsApp Status all have more than 500 million daily active users each. The Shorty Awards even has a category for “Best Use of Ephemeral Video.” 

This video from BET won in 2019:

Quality versus authenticity in ephemeral video

If you want to start experimenting with ephemeral video, start on the platforms where you already have an audience. Stories extend your reach and help you build an engaged audience. But, just like any other video format, your results are only as good as the work you put in. 

Users will feel compelled to watch if your videos are entertaining, informative or compelling—ideally all three. Low quality content or the same old thing over and over won’t have the urgency you’re hoping for. 

For the best results, follow these video best practices: 

  • Meet high video and audio quality standards
  • Base your video around a clear takeaway or message
  • Include a call-to-action
  • Use tone, characters and messaging that matches your brand.

 At the same time, your ephemeral videos don’t have to be perfect. Save the complex scripts and fancy special effects for content with a longer shelf life. When it comes down to quality versus authenticity in ephemeral videos, err on the side of authenticity.

5 tips for powerful ephemeral videos

As you may have realized by now, ephemeral video should complement your existing video strategy, but it shouldn’t be exactly the same. These five tips will help you create ephemeral video that strengthens your overall marketing mix. 

  • Pick your topic – Behind the scenes content and breaking news or deals are ideal areas for ephemeral video creation. The urgent and authentic nature of these items fits well within the quick to disappear format. 
  • Be consistent – Ephemeral video works best when you train your users to expect and look forward to it. If they don’t know it’s coming, it might be gone before they realize it’s there.
  • Go vertical – Most ephemeral video content is hosted on social media platforms optimized for vertical video that can easily be viewed on smartphones. With video that expires in a few hours or a few days, you want to meet users where they are, and where they are is increasingly on mobile.
  • Use tagging – Hashtags, geotags and tagging other users or brands can help increase your reach and draw more attention to your ephemeral content.
  • Add Interactive content – Most platforms allow you to include polls, questions or other interactive elements either during or in between ephemeral videos. Using these features can help boost engagement while gathering useful information from your audience that can inform future marketing efforts. 

What about ephemeral ads?

On Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp (all owned by Facebook) ads can appear in the stories feed. If done well, audiences may barely notice that they’ve gone from user content to an ad and back again. These ads are full-screen and immersive, with an interactive element that allows users to swipe up to shop or learn more about the product. 

To make the most of your ad opportunity, ephemeral ads should meet these technical standards: 

  • 9:16 ratio
  • 4 GB max file size
  • No longer than 240 minutes but should be a lot shorter!
  • Up to 125 characters of text.

The Facebook Business page has the full list of specifications for ephemeral ads.

Mix it up

Ephemeral content can add some spontaneity and urgency to your video marketing, but it shouldn’t replace evergreen content completely. You’ll need to find the right mix of self-destructing and long-lasting video content to engage and inform your audience. 

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