Something is “ephemeral” if it only lasts a very short time.
As social beings, we love to connect with one another, and this era of digital media has seen an unprecedented ability to share moments and intimate insights into the lives of others anywhere in the world.
In response to this growing fascination with the shared experience, a new trend has emerged that allows users to broadcast temporary, intimate glimpses into their lives. Termed “ephemeral media,” pioneering apps like Snapchat, Meerkat, and Periscope let users deliver messages and webcasts with a finite shelf-life — anywhere from a few seconds to a day. For a moment (but just a moment), you can peer through your phone into the life of another person, and they can share with you something novel about their day.
Ephemeral media represents a unique avenue for engaging your attendees before, during, and after your event. To give you a place to start, we’re taking a look at three leading apps in ephemeral media, their strengths, user bases, and marketing opportunities for events.
The Frontier of Ephemeral Marketing
Snapchat launched in 2011 and now boasts a steadily rising user base of 100 million monthly active users. People can “snap” static pictures or videos that last between 1-10 seconds and evaporate after being viewed. However, these can be added to a user’s “story,” a strand of snaps that last for 24 hours. Users can also add their snaps to Live Stories, which are curated collections of user-submitted snaps that document city life, campus activities, and live events. At your event, this gives all your most active attendees and advocates the ability to create a totally user-generated narrative of their collective experience. A Live Story of your event would be a rare and exciting opportunity to see the event through the eyes of every attendee.
User-generated content is a powerful (and mostly free) way to promote your event. Depending on your demographic and your event, encouraging users to snap event highlights is a great way to showcase your content, speakers, and other points of pride all throughout their networks.
If you need more control over the content that goes out, creating a branded Snapchat account. Let your attendees get a sneak-peak of what’s to come, or what the event is like behind the scenes. Provide some novel insights into your event planning successes. Offer incentives or create contests for early registration by asking people to snap you a picture of themselves registering for your event and one reason they’re excited to come, rewarding the winning snap with discounted admission to the event. To carry the momentum into your event, pick your top 20 and feature them in your own Live Story on the opening day.
Snapchat’s Discover channels feature stories of highly curated editorial content with a high production value, in contrast with the rest of the Snapchat experience. Channel publishers include National Geographic, IGN, CNN, MTV, and others. Both Live and Discover stories are valuable channels for paid advertising, and Snapchat’s Two Pennies pricing model is based on two cents per view for a 10-second video embedded in the published content. Snapchat provides the number of views and screenshots for both paid advertisements and any contributions to Live stories.
Recently, Snapchat has also allowed fully sponsored channels within the Discover dashboard, kicking off with a multimedia, behind-the-scenes look at the new James Bond film, Spectre. While this would likely fall outside of the marketing and production budgets of most events (assuming Snapchat continues to offer this ad venue), the concept of having a series of snippets in a story about your brand reinforces the use of your own Live Story in delivering interesting, buzz-worthy content to your audience.
Meerkat and Periscope
Meerkat and Periscope are interactive live-streaming apps that leverage the infrastructure of existing social media giants Facebook and Twitter, respectively, to allow users to webcast themselves and interact with their audience. Audience members can comment, share, and like webcasts. Meerkat emerged first and its adoption exploded to 2 million users per day. Originally, users required a Twitter account to connect and cross-promote webcasts, but it now uses Facebook for this function and it’s optional.
In its wake, Twitter launched Periscope with better tracking and sharing functionality. Periscope has about 1 million users per day that live-stream approximately 40 years worth of footage daily. The interface is cleaner, and you can replay casts for up to 24 hours, providing for more sharing opportunity than Meerkat. As an added bonus, the audience can tap the screen to like the cast, issuing a little heart animation that people seem to love.
Meerkat’s head start and large user base has helped it to remain competitive, and it has two features that have yet to appear on its better-funded counterpart. Meerkat allows you to preschedule casts, generating a URL that you can share on other channels to promote the cast. They have also recently released a feature that allows you to stream from your GoPro, giving Meerkat a unique and exciting value-add to the adventure-seeking crowd. Planning any incentive trips on the slopes?
Periscope and Meerkat’s interactive streaming are great for boosting your promotional strategy and generating excitement leading up to your event. You can feature exclusive interviews and “ask me anything” sessions with your speakers and other influencers to gauge interest in your topics. Enlist sponsors and other stakeholders as well, featuring them on your channels and promoting you on theirs. Live streaming is also a great way to reach a new audience at your event, and offers some interesting opportunities to reach remote audiences with your event content.
Why Event Leaders Should Keep Watching Ephemeral Media
These apps are a fertile ground on which to grow your brand, engage your community, and promote your events. Reaching over 100 million users, apps like Snapchat and Periscope have been captivating the young and the tech-savvy. While ephemeral media’s early adopters tend to be a younger crowd, the rate of growth suggests it will soon begin to capture other demographics. As with any new platform, the reward for being an early adopter yourself is that fewer contenders vying for the attention of your target demographic makes you the only one to watch, giving you an advantage (if not a monopoly) in gaining recognition and developing a following.
Moreover, these apps reinterpret the concept of social sharing with what they take to be a more personal and authentic experience for their users (at least for now). At the current level of commercial penetration, the audience on an app like Snapchat is accustomed to innocent, friendly, and above all authentic messaging — mostly from their friends and others with similar interests. Because the audience opts into all the content they consume, they are ripe for knowledge-sharing and content consumption. This also makes them particularly receptive to honest marketing that reflects the general look and feel of the rest of the experience.
Ephemeral media is another tool to add to your roster, but it won’t replace other social media channels in your marketing plan any time soon. In fact, you will likely need to cross promote within your channels initially to make sure you have a decent ROI-generating audience. These apps are nevertheless a valuable way to expand the reach of your brand and your event to a young, new community.