We talk a lot at SOCIALDEVIANT about the seismic shifts in human behaviors that have happened over the last decade, driven by changes in technology, new forms of media, and the ways in which we communicate.
Think about the massive transition from TV to the web. From web to mobile. From mobile to social. Think about the scale of changes around how we work, play, connect and consume at each of these junctures. We are talking big, gnarly differences, not just changes in aesthetic.
So, what is the next technology changing the way we capture, share and live our lives? Say hello to the Ephemeral Web.
- No timelines, news feeds or profiles for people to judge, after the fact, at a single glance
- Every piece of content as an opportunity for a new first impression
- Identity tied to two-way conversation, not one-way broadcasting
This isn’t new. Snapchat has been around for years and grown far beyond sexting teens to become the communication weapon of choice for nearly anyone under 25. Places like Tumblr have allowed “anonymous” accounts since day one, serving a growing number of users looking for a safe place to share their true journeys, desires and dreams, separate from the wall where their aunts come to say “Happy Birthday” every 12 months.
This juxtaposition between living in public but sharing in private is the crux of the rise of Ephemeral behaviors. As people’s sharing and consumption habits have exploded, a vacuum has been created. People love broadcasting their ideal self on places like Facebook and Instagram. It’s why these platforms thrive and why we as consumers check them an average of 15 times per day. The result is a dearth of places for people to share their ACTUAL LIVES, in real-time, as purely as possible.
Snapchat lets you broadcast your day-to-day life as if it was your squad’s private camera man. Periscope (and live video in general) lets you show people what you are doing right this second, as if they were flies on the wall. Both experiences foster a level of intimacy and access unachievable on most social platforms.
We’re on the verge of big changes in how social content is produced, distributed and consumed. With that as our context, let’s think about what brands should be considering over the next 6 months while planning for these shifts.
Three Things Brands Must Master
to Dominate the Ephemeral Web
The truly real-time nature of Snapchat and live streaming video (be it Periscope, Facebook Live or Meerkat) is probably the biggest change from just a year ago. Knowing that something just happened (or is happening) creates a level of drama and connection once reserved for collective IRL experiences like a concert or dinner party. Plus, knowing that the content will be gone tomorrow adds scarcity and exclusivity to the mix, thereby creating tension and ultimately, real connections.
Brands must start looking at each piece of content as a new first impression. It’s now less about getting a person to recall a single piece of content a day, week, or month later and more about building experiences and campaigns that create a desire in followers to come back tomorrow to see what’s new, what’s next. How does your content interact with the context (time, real life events, geography) it resides in?
Burberry perfectly tapped into this notion by creating a fake “heist” which featured models breaking into one of their retail stores and broadcasted the resulting mini movie natively on Snapchat.
People now share a magnitude more of content today on Snapchat, from the same events than they did just 24 months ago on Instagram. Where we would once share a single photo each day from a music festival, we now share dozens of images and videos, stitched together and broadcast as they happen in our Snapchat Story.
This faster cycle of sharing leads to seemingly deeper connections with the people you follow online. It doesn’t feel like the TL;DR version of someone’s life; it feels like watching a rough draft being created. It’s real and raw and you never know what will happen next. You are watching a person’s process, not just celebrating their ultimate result.
That is a scary thing to think about as a brand. As marketers, we are taught to avoid third rails and highlight the pretty things. The Ephemeral web begs brands to lean into their bruises. What better place to take on a sticky subject matter than a platform like Snapchat, where content disappears and your viewership feels more like a private party than a public shaming?
We see brands every single day that have thousands of followers on Instagram yet follow ZERO people back. This is (other than ridiculous) not sustainable in the Ephemeral Web.
People gravitate to ephemeral platforms for the conversation– the back and forth, the mutual connection. If you and your community management team aren’t spending as much time on Snapchat (or Instagram for that matter!) replying as you are sharing your stories, you are doing it wrong. You have to go far beyond your Twitter auto-responders and Facebook canned responses to succeed here. You have to be nimble and creative. Really, you just have to act like a human.
The biggest thing to understand about the Ephemeral Web is this: We are entering one of the rare times in technology when marketers are playing catch up with consumers. Brands are following human behaviors rather than trying to change them. As you think about how your brand will take on this new paradigm, remember: Ephemeral platforms will evolve and change while the behaviors driving this momentum are here to stay.