Disappearing Content Is Marketing Magic

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg “wants to re-create what he could not buy but offer it to over 2 billion Facebook users, compared to only about 180 million Snapchat users,” says Andrew Selepak, a professor of telecommunications and director of the graduate program in social media at the University of Florida.

Selepak goes a step further and questions Snapchat’s staying power. “Although they started before Instagram and Facebook, their platform is not as intuitive, and their user base is less than one-fourth the user base of Instagram,” he says, although he notes that Snapchat has “received a big boost with augmented reality,” while Facebook has been focusing on virtual reality with Oculus, a VR technology company that it acquired in 2014.

“Augmented reality might be the thing that saves Snapchat, but they need to add more users, make it more profitable, and find a way to provide marketers with more analytics to know the return on what they spend on Snapchat,” he says.

Regardless of platform, disappearing content is here to stay, experts predict. “Just because ephemeral content doesn’t work on one platform doesn’t mean that it won’t last in the long run. If Starbucks started selling cheeseburgers, they likely wouldn’t see their sales skyrocket. This doesn’t mean that McDonald’s is in trouble. Certain social networks are better suited to disappearing content,” Kerby says.

Talbot agrees. “If you look at the way that Facebook and all the other platforms copied Snapchat, there’s no way [disappearing content] won’t be around. It will take new shapes with the AR filters and incorporating music and brands, but the quick-attention-span and vertical video content [videos formatted for when a smartphone is held vertically] will be the future.”


Disappearing content can serve organizations in a number of ways, experts maintain. For Rogers, any business that has a strong visual component can benefit from using disappearing content. “Disappearing content can be the visual extension of a larger campaign. It helps develop brand trust by giving viewers inside access into a company through short, visual snippets. It can generate excitement around a new product and give viewers just enough information to tempt their appetite toward a new service or technology,” she says.

Among the industries with the most to gain are fashion, fitness, fast food, and small companies, the latter of which can give users behind-the-scenes footage of how they make their products, Rogers maintains.

“Your business doesn’t have to fall into these categories to be successful,” she continues. “If you can think of a visual element for your brand, disappearing content might be one of the most compelling additions to your social media strategy.”

For Lauren Gilmore, owner of PR and Prose, a website that specializes in content marketing, disappearing content is an effective marketing tool for two key reasons. The first is what she dubs “content shock,” helping companies overcome a desensitization to ads that results when the same ones are shown over and over. Disappearing content addresses this issue because it forces companies to make fresh content, she asserts. The second is fear of missing out, or FOMO, an especially big concern of Millennials, who have approximately $2.5 trillion in spending power.

For this reason, companies “absolutely must capture their attention,” Gilmore notes, adding that Millennials tend not to care for traditional marketing tactics, prefer experiences to things, and dislike missing out on experiences. As such, Millennials have “a heightened state of awareness for content that only lives a short while,” she says.

Gilmore cites the World Wildlife Fund’s 2014 #LastSelfie campaign as one example of how disappearing content was used effectively. The Snapchat-based campaign used disappearing content to demonstrate how quickly endangered species could become extinct. The organization also encouraged viewers to screenshot and share content via the tagline “Don’t let this be my #LastSelfie.”

Selepak agrees that disappearing content is already popular with the Millennial audience. “Younger people are already using these options on social media, and if a company wants to reach a certain demographic, you have to go where the audience already is and not where you want them to be. For this reason, companies should be using disappearing content if they want to reach younger users.”

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