The power of ephemeral marketing

According to data analytics firm Chartbeat, 55 per cent of visitors to a site spend less than a quarter of a minute engaging with a given page. When it comes to native advertising, only 24 per cent of visitors scroll down a page, and of those, less than a third read beyond the first one-third of an article. Brands are paying for content that isn't capturing the attention of visitors. It's no wonder then that more and more are turning to platforms like Snapchat, Periscope and Meerkat.

Ephemeral marketing, as it's known, places a focus on transmitting content that exists temporarily. In the case of Snapchat, photo and video messages are available to view for a day and, once opened, will delete automatically after several seconds.

"It isn't the limited time that makes Snapchat the most engaging social platform right now. It's the urgency that a 24-hour story [a string of 'snaps'] creates for its followers. The fact that in a day, this message will be gone, and it will literally be gone forever, this keeps users coming back," says Peter Watson, marketing director at Chatty Imp, a Lincoln-based social media consultancy company. "Most importantly it makes users click on the story every time. Because they never know if they have missed something important."

Facebook likes and Twitter retweets have become a standard industry currency. It's widely assumed that the more shares content gets, then the more people that are reading or viewing it. Research from Chartbeat suggests that this isn't always the case.

Snapchat can be seen as slightly different. By simply clicking on a 'snap' users are already interacting with the content. Whether they go on to view the full post and take further action is not guaranteed, yet the platform can offer encouraging metric levels compared to more traditional social media.

Read: Why abandoning digital could boost your business

"We have a product within our business called SnapDiscount. It was launched as soon as Snapchat became big in the UK, with the idea that a discount would only be there for the 24 hours, and it had to be used while it was live," Watson adds. "It created a huge buzz in our test zones, with open rates of around 98 per cent. Why? Urgency."

The New York frozen yogurt shop chain 16 Handles launched a coupon promo campaign through the app at the start of 2013. It's claimed that they had over 1,400 interactions with current and new customers through it within a few days. More recently, the Arizonan quick serve restaurant chain eegee ran a flash discount and saw its sales increase by 23 per cent in the 24-hour period following a post, as reported by Forbes.

Watson says that having one chance at screengrabbing an offer does increase engagement, but keeping users' eyes glued to their screens means that the content needs to be visually-led. Any text needs to be minimal and digestible.

For Hugh Thomas, co-founder of Ugly Drinks, a soft beverages brand producing a range of spring water infused with natural flavours – launched in Selfridges last June – creating short-lived content isn't all about promotions and sales. It can help build authenticity,

As start-ups can be strapped for cash, they don't usually have money to throw at fancy, digital advertising space. Instead, the buzz has to be created through word of mouth and finding novel ways to get the product out there and in people's faces. Thomas believes Snapchat is an ideal platform to introduce itself to new customers.

"I really love this quote Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, often refers to: 'A great brand is a story that never stops unfolding', and I very much see the Ugly journey as of those," says Thomas, who decided to go with the username 'glugugly' in keeping with the quirkiness of the company's identity.

"I feel like Snapchat allows brands to almost tell the behind-the-scenes story from the first person point of view. This is unique for social platforms currently out there, most of which allow you to plan, curate and time your posts. It gives a real look into a company. We’ve already had such an interesting ride [using it]."

Whatever gets posted on Snapchat only exists for a mere instance. Ironically, the trend for ephemeral marketing is unlikely to disappear any time soon.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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