Blink and you’ll miss it

20-06-2018

With the evolving nature of social media comes a host of new features, updates and trends on an almost daily basis. One such trend is the rise of ephemeral content.

In terms of social, ephemeral content refers to posts that disappear after a period of time, usually 24 hours. This trend has taken shape in the form of “stories", where users can post daily updates on social platforms like Instagram and Facebook.

The shift from eternal to ephemeral content was pioneered by Snapchat and has since become a key feature on other platforms. What was once Snapchat's main competitive advantage, is now the reason why Instagram users are spending over 32 minutes on the app each day. And with over 300 million daily active users, Instagram Stories are growing in popularity every day. However, this is not just a feature for consumers: it's a prime opportunity for businesses to get social and start sharing their own Stories. Here are some great examples of how different brands have jumped on board.

1. Lowe's

Lowe's uses Stories to post quick and interactive DIY videos.

2. Waitrose

Waitrose posts step-by-step recipes to their Stories with swipe-up links to their website.

3. Chipotle

Chipotle gamified Instagram Stories by offering a year's supply of queso to the first person that clicked through 100 posts and revealed the secret code.

So, why should you use Instagram Stories?

Ephemeral content is authentic in nature. It's considered to be real, current and more personal than curated content. In a world where consumers are served curated ads and manicured feeds, Instagram Stories have the power to leave a lasting impression; for example, B2C brand, Boohoo uses Stories to show behind-the-scenes footage from shoots and events. This gives viewers a front-row seat and helps to further build brand awareness.

Posting to Instagram Stories can seriously increase your community engagement. With just one click, your audience can reply to your story, share it with others or swipe to an external website. In fact, 1 in 5 organic stories receives a direct message. Beauty brand, Glossier uses Stories to answer frequently asked community questions, post user-generated content and celebrate customer reviews – an approach that has helped to further build their online community.

With Instagram Stories, there is a real opportunity to diversify your social content in a way that engages your followers beyond just liking and sharing a post.

What are the downsides of using Instagram Stories?

Due to its real-time nature, committing to Instagram Stories may seem like a huge investment of time. Unlike other social platforms, you can't schedule and you can't upload from web. It's very hands-on and hard to plan in advance.

However, Instagram Stories can be easily integrated into your current social strategy and schedule. Airbnb has added regularity to their Instagram Story posting by introducing 'Travel Tuesday', where they post hints about their current location, enticing people to guess and vote via poll. Despite being really simple in concept and execution, this is a great way to add some consistency to your Instagram Story content.

With digital media, we are used to our online content being immortal. It can be liked, shared, retweeted and commented on for as long as it exists online. However, with ephemeral content, we take that aspect of social away. We give it an expiry date. Questions may be raised around the effectiveness of a piece of content that lasts just a day. Is it worth the time or money invested? Yes! In fact, this suspected weakness is actually ephemeral content's biggest strength: FOMO.

The fact that, by default, an Instagram Story post only lasts for a day is reason enough to keep up. It's reason enough to tune in! And for anyone still worried about longevity – or simply getting the most out of a great piece of content – there are alternatives. Instagram Story Highlights allow you to extend the lifespan of your Stories by grouping them together on your profile. Early adapters, ASOS and Strong Roots, have used Highlights to group Stories together with titles such as Stockists, Recipes and New In, essentially turning their Instagram profile into a micro-site.

With a little ingenuity and willingness to experiment, the possibilities of new digital formats are endless. Despite its limitations, there are lots of ways that you can incorporate Instagram Stories into your social strategy. It's important to test different strategies to see what works and what doesn't. Take some time to experiment and take note of posts that perform well. Shake the feeling that ephemeral content is temporary, or that it might not be for your brand. After all, everyone has a story to tell.

Jessica Mahon is a Social Media and Content Executive at McCannBlue.