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How to make great content that doesn’t last

14th November 2014


Just when we all thought we had our heads around social content and how to make this move amongst the right audiences, along comes a change that is likely to alter the landscape considerably. Ephemeral content (or rather, content that expires after a specified time) is no longer just the preserve of Snapchat users, but it appears there’s a wider move amongst multiple social media platforms to offer expiration options for social media posts.

Recent reports stated that Facebook was in the process of considering offering ephemeral content options. Whilst its trial is currently only available for certain iPhone users, the dye is already being cast in terms of various social media channels considering whether it’s better for content to expire rather than exist forever.

But what does this mean for those of us that work in PR and social media? Is ephemeral content a good thing? And, most importantly, how can we exploit this new function to best effect for our clients?

The simple answer to the questions above is that ephemeral content will require us to think more about the useful lifespan and relevance of our social media content. For example, if you ran a competition on Facebook for a client that ended on 10 November, you would understandably want that content to expire once the competition had closed.

However, things get more complex when we consider the different types of content that we want to share on each social media channel. Ephemerality requires a far more rigorous approach to analysis. For those of us who handle social media for our clients we will also need to investigate the general lifespan and engagement levels of all our types of content; from infographics to news stories, from images to video. For each type, we need to advise our clients on how long posts should live for and why; which means we need to stay a step ahead in terms of offering good client consultancy.

There are advantages to ephemerality that could aid in giving content a greater degree of virility. For example, if content is only available to view for a certain period of time and that content has particular resonance with an audience, this could help it gain traction more quickly and reach the critical mass required to become viral.

However, there are bigger issues at stake than just whether our posts will go viral. For example, how will content expiring affect the search rankings of brands? Will Google change how it indexes social content and will those brands whose content expires quickly lose out in terms of their SEO? These are all questions that are hard to answer at the moment, but the reality is that ephemerality is going to radically change the way we create and administer social content on behalf of our clients.

Looking to the future, it isn’t inconceivable to say that with ephemerality will come more payment options for our social content. We may end up paying not just for the size of audience we reach, such as promoted posts on Facebook or promoted tweets, but for the time that our content will be served to them as well.

One thing is for sure, ephemerality looks likely to be the next big move in social media content and PR practitioners need to be ready to advise clients on how best to capitalise on this change in the social media landscape.

Jon Priestley, head of Wolfstar London



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