This piece was co-authored by Rebecca Hinds. Rebecca is the co-founder of Stratio and a Kairos Society fellow. She has a masters in management science from Stanford University.

Since the beginning of time, humans have sought to preserve historical record. Yet, over the past few years, we've seen a bizarre reversal of trends. A whole new genre of self-destructing or "ephemeral" communication apps have spawned - the likes of Snapchat, Yik Yak, and Slingshot. These platforms facilitate communication that disappears - not by accident, but strategically by design. And while our ancestors may lament that the rise of ephemeral communication platforms may not advance our efforts to preserve the historical record, marketers see a different reality.

Real-time content:

Communication via ephemeral apps is temporal and fleeting. A "snap" is bounded to the tune of 24 hours/. As any good marketer real-time marketing is the way of the future - it fuels consumer sentiment (a 16% lift) and intent to seriously consider a purchase (a 18% lift). Users are more likely to click on a 24-hour "Snapshot Story" if they'll be unable to view that same content the following day. This is similar to what television was before the era of syndication and DVR. The fear of missing something important can be potent. A study that saw Snapchat collaborate with MediaScience found that Snapchat ads garnered 2x and 1.5x the visual attention of Facebook and Instagram, respectively.

Emotional appeal:

When Snapchat initially launched, it was hailed as a sexting app. Recent studies have found that we are now drawn to Snapchat more "for fun" than for privacy-related reasons or even sexually-motivated reasons (Katz & Crocker, 2015; Roesner, Gill, & Kohno, 2014; Utz, Muscanell, & Khalid, 2015). Users view Snapchat interactions as fun and exhilarating, more so than Facebook.

Why, one may ask, is this finding welcome and important news for marketers? While one tends to share "big" life-changing moments on Facebook, one tends to resort to Snapchat and other ephemeral platforms to share and exchange less significant life moments (akin to engaging in the social activity of small talk). It's this "small talk" that tends to be most enjoyable and forge the emotional connections that marketers spend their days and nights trying to develop.

Genuine relationships:

Marketers constantly struggle to develop genuine relationships with consumers. Because "Snapchats" are understood to be of-the-moment, unpolished, and personal, there's a genuine and authentic element associated with them. This is why Snapchat users tend to use the platform to engage with close ties and romantic interests more so than the distant acquaintances they engage with via Facebook.

The new disappearing act in town is also constantly making new strides towards assisting marketers in leveraging the platform to forge genuine relationships with customers. Features such as Snapchat Partners (an advertising API), "Snapchat-Moat" (a quality score that gages the effectiveness of a marketing campaign), and "Snap Ads Between Stories" (purchased ads displayed on the platform) can be invaluable.

Despite the promise, the full potential of Snapchat has yet to be realized. According to a study from L2, nearly one-third of brands with a Snapchat account post content once per month or even less frequently. This data coupled with the fact that Snapchat's ad platform still mirrors the monetary commitment level of a television media buy (except for local geofilters), leaves brands with fewer options to connect.

To leverage ephemeral platforms effectively, brands must make a concerted effort to not only engage with customers on a regular basis, but to engage in meaningful ways. Authenticity resonates with Millennials and GenZ and brand's can use this fact to let down their guard and tell a genuine story through these platforms. The key is to post with the intention to deliver value, not just to sell and to increase the cadence of content distribution to a point where fans keep coming back to make sure they don't miss out. 

Published on: Mar 23, 2017