Ephemeral content: just what is it?

— Jessie Bland, WE 

It’s no secret that as Snapchat loses users, Instagram – and its ‘new’ Stories feature – is capturing them in a bizarre game of Tetris. It’s a battle of the ephemeral.

But just what is ephemeral content?

In short (pun intended), ephemeral content is short-lived content. The Snapchat story or Instagram story that exists for a fleeting 24 hours, never to be seen again. A trend born out of our mobile obsession, it’s recorded on and for mobiles. It’s the definitive representation of everything you ever hear about our shortening attention spans and desperate need for immediacy.

The art of ephemeral content is its transitory nature.

Stories are in motion before than ever before, and ephemeral content is the most obvious example of this to-date. It goes against everything we’ve ever prioritised – that is SEO-optimised, ever-green content that has longevity and lives beyond one moment in time.

Instead, these are stories that live, breathe and pulse with the same energy as their audience. The most influential and riveting stories are never static. In fact, Instagram’s usage is up since the advent of this ephemeral function: 32 minutes per day for those under 25, and 24 minutes per day for those 25 and up.

So, now you know what it is, but why exactly is ephemeral content such a hot commodity, and why should you care?

Next-level FOMO

People understand the content is only available for a limited time. The saying ‘you don’t know what you got until it’s gone’ becomes more pertinent here and brands can capitalise on this fear of missing out. That said, Instagram’s recent ‘highlights’ feature is a sneaky way to allow brands to ‘pin’ the content that is just too good to disappear.


In the same way that when Instagram started, candid shots and coffee flat lays became the ultimate marker of authenticity. Ephemeral content offers a new level of ‘realness’. In a world of orchestrated candidness, Stories are a little rough around of the edges, and your audience doesn’t mind. Take advantage of this opportunity to create ‘unpolished’, quick turnaround content.

The Jenga effect

The ability to stack ephemeral content on top of each other – to build-up a real-time tracker of moments of your day – means that each video or image can work as a standalone, as well as a chapter in a bigger narrative. Explore ways to use each Story as a slide in a slideshow – layering copy-led statics in between UGC video.

In the spirit of ephemeral content, I’m going to make this blog deliberately short. Feel free to share along to keep it alive just a little longer, though.