Yes, authentic marketing is a buzzword.
Often when you hear a buzzword too many times, it tends to lose all meaning. That said, authenticity in marketing is one trend you can’t ignore if you’re marketing to millennials and Gen Z.
Authenticity in marketing means stripping down the facade of your brand and showing your true self. Ephemeral content such as live video and stories are the best media to accomplish this.
Snapchat was the king of Gen Z’s attention with its focus on authentic and spontaneous communication using ephemeral content – which is content that is only available on its platform for a limited amount of time. Since its launch, other social media networks have copied what makes Snapchat so engaging for Gen Z, and have started to incorporate more ephemeral content into their platforms.
Before we dive further into both live video and stories, let’s take a look at what authentic marketing really means, and why ephemeral content is the best medium for it.
What is Authenticity in Marketing?
Authentic Marketing isn’t such a complicated concept, really. Essentially, it means lifting the veil of your brand to show your human side.
In the connected age, millennials and Gen Z both are more likely to connect with an engaging social channel or relatable influencers than with passive marketing. Sixty-three percent of Gen Z would rather see real people in ads than celebrities, a result of living online and witnessing the rise of their favorite YouTube and social influencers.
In order for brands to adapt, they need to change the way they interact with their audiences. This can be a scary proposition for the following reasons:
- Having a more casual brand identity means you need to focus on that voice, potentially alienating other audiences.
- Changing your brand interactions requires you to completely rethink your content, advertising and social media strategy.
- Practicing authentic marketing also means you’ll need to rethink how marketing relates to business goals.
On the other hand, possible benefits include:
- Customers who have a more intimate relationship with your brand
- Far more regular brand engagement from your audience
- Strong brand advocacy from your customers
- Free press if executed well
Why is Ephemeral Content a Great Tool for Authentic Marketing?
Ephemeral content such as live video and stories encourage users to want to log in regularly to see what their favorite influencers and brands are up to, or risk missing out. I could use the term “FOMO” to describe this, but that wouldn’t be authentically me, unless I used it ironically.
Since regular social media users also use live video and stories, when brands get in on the action by using real people in their content, it blurs the line between friend and brand. When followers identify with the people you feature, you can expect to receive far more engagement than any type of passive advertising.
How Do Live Video and Stories Drive Engagement?
Live video is exactly what it sounds like – video streamed live on the web or on social media. Some live video platforms allow for the recording to be rewatched, whereas others will be exclusively live and won’t save a recording. The latter adds extra incentive to tune in or miss out completely. Most live video platforms have some way for the viewers to engage with the streamer or each other while live.
Stories are collections of still images or short videos viewed in sequence that followers can access up to 24 hours after they were posted, after which they are removed from the platform. Strung together, these collections of images and videos can tell an effective story, almost like a comic strip. The content here is often made to look completely organic – taken “off the cuff” with no marketing spin whatsoever. Also, be sure to try out many of the fun and goofy filters and stickers, as well as AR characters on each social media app to add a little flair to your images!
Here’s a summary of the various networks that specialize in ephemeral content and how they work.
Before you try posting a live video or story, be sure you do your research to determine which network would be the best one to use based on your use case and audience profiles.
Images or videos you add to your stories on Snapchat will last for 24 hours only, but can be viewed unlimited times within that window. Brands have opportunities to boost their stories as a “featured story” with reach beyond their subscribers. Learn more on Snapchat’s website.
Fun Fact: 25% of Snapchat daily users post to their stories every day.
Images or videos you add to your stories on Instagram will last for 24 hours only, but can be viewed unlimited times within that window. Verified accounts can also add links to their Story – a valuable feature. Users can also reply to Instagram stories with a DM. Learn more from this comprehensive guide from The Verge.
Fun Fact: One in five organic stories from businesses generated a direct message from a follower.
This one’s the newest kid on the block, using the same format as Instagram stories, though less popular. It was only recently opened up to brand pages. You can also cross-post your Instagram Stories to Facebook.
Instagram Live Video:
Go live on Instagram video at any time and it will show up as a live story. People can comment, and comments show up at the bottom of the video. When finished recording, you can then add the video to your brand story, which will last 24 hours. You can also, however, save the video when you’re done recording and repost it elsewhere. Learn more on Instagram’s website.
Facebook Live Video:
When an account goes live, videos will show up as regular posts on a user’s feed, but followers will also get notifications by default when a brand page or friend goes live. Users can comment and add reactions, which all show up on the video. Facebook live videos can be saved and rewatched on Facebook indefinitely. Learn more on Facebook’s website.
Fun Fact: Facebook Live Videos Are Watched 3x Longer Than Videos That Aren’t Live
Owned by Twitter, Periscope is the best choice for live video if your audience is primarily on Twitter. However, there are also 2 million people who use the Periscope app daily and look for live streams. When you go live, followers of your account on Periscope will be notified, and you can embed the live video in tweets. Viewers can add hearts to your broadcast, as well as chat with one another. Video files can also be saved to repost elsewhere. Learn more in this guide from HubSpot.
Fun Fact: Periscope viewers watch 40 years worth of video collectively every day.
Twitch is a specialist live video platform specific to gaming, with an enormous following. Only look to get brand awareness here if you’re a relevant brand. Read this post by Marketing Land for more info.
Fun Fact: 106 minutes of Twitch live video watched a day on average per regular viewer
The Golden Rules for Producing Authentic Content with Live Video and Stories
Heed these rules, lest you end up trying too hard at being authentic and missing out on the entire point of trying to be authentic!
1. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not.
This is rule #1, and in many ways the hardest for many brands to adapt to.
So much time in marketing is spent focusing on aspirational messaging that will evoke an emotional response to earn conversions.
The main principle of authentic marketing using ephemeral content is to focus less on the aspirational, and more on being relatable and transparent – adding a human face to a brand. Basically, assume your content will be seen next to one of your follower’s friend’s random pictures, and you’re trying to ensure your messaging doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb and make them want to unfollow you.
Also, be wary of trying to tap into a zeitgeist that isn’t applicable to your brand identity. If a financial brand starts pushing memes and Gen Z in-jokes, it will obviously come across as inauthentic. The Pepsi protest ad with Kendall Jenner aside, plenty of other brands are also guilty of trying too hard “to be cool” or tapping into a popular movement without fully understanding it.
The golden goose for a brand is finding the right mix of ephemeral content to be seen as fun, entertaining, informative or friendly first, while still being true to your brand identity and also promoting your products or services.
2. Ensure your videos and photos are good quality.
Almost as important as rule #1: Make sure you don’t confuse authenticity with being unprofessional when it comes to your content. You still need to ensure all content fits with your brand identity, and doesn’t look sloppy.
Make sure that whoever is in charge of taking photos for your brand, especially employees who are not used to participating in marketing, are aware of your brand’s standards for imagery. Using a quality digital camera or mobile device to capture images is a must, and don’t use photos that turn out blurry or don’t focus well on the subject.
Similarly with live video, if you plan to do it, make sure you do it right. If what you’re doing is scripted, make sure people know the script. Make sure your host or subject is camera trained. You can find more valuable tips for recording professional-looking live video over at Social Media Examiner.
3. Share exclusive experiences that will awe your audience.
Chances are, your brand has access to events or experiences that are fairly exclusive or not local to your followers. Why not share them using live video or stories? We may not all have access to The Oscars or The Super Bowl, but chances are if an event is a big deal to you, it would be a big deal to your followers, as well.
For example: Car companies love to create dramatic video ads of their cars tackling race courses. Why not record a live video of a passenger going through the experience? (Choose a passenger who is not used to incredible speed for additional hilarity.) Alternatively and less intense, the same car brand could use stories as a way to show off their brand’s presence at a car show.
It could even be as simple as a fun Christmas hangout from your staff or a live stream of the office holiday party.
Encourage your viewers to feel like they’re a part of your exclusive club and they’ll be even stronger advocates for your brand.
4. Show your employees being people.
Showing your employees as brand advocates is not a new concept on social, but live videos and stories allow you to aim for a more improvised and authentic feel.
Thirty-three percent of buyers trust brands, while 90 percent of customers trust recommendations from people they know. As mentioned before, social media stories play alongside a user’s friend’s own stories. It’s a great opportunity to blend in by focusing on real people instead of models and celebrities. Just make sure your staff are comfortable being put on display.
This is also a great opportunity for followers to look behind the curtain of your brand and see its inner workings. Even if it’s just office life, there’s generally levity you can capture. You could also use stories to tease the next big company announcement.
A lot of brands also do regular “ask an expert” sessions with employees using live video to give followers a chance to learn some new skills as well as ask questions as if they were attending a live panel.
5. Use the power of influencers.
If you can leverage the skills of an influencer that would make sense as an advocate of your brand, the dividends can be huge, particularly in the youth market.
A Google Study showed that 73 percent of Gen Z feel a kinship with at least one YouTube celebrity, and about 40 percent would even say that they feel closer to those YouTubers than their own friends.
You don’t get much more prolific that DJ Khaled, aka “The King of Snapchat” and ephemeral content. Brands regularly pay him to take over their accounts for a day to make them his own, to the delight of his massive 3 million-strong fan base.
Sometimes influencer involvement can be as simple as product placement, such as with this Naked Juice plug from Katie La Vie:
Of course, not every brand can afford to hire major influencers, but don’t dismiss the power of micro-influencers. Invite them to a product launch, or send them a product to unbox, and you can expect them to promote your brand heavily.
6. Craft engaging stories (and use CTAs)
Last but not least, while it may be tempting to use ephemeral content as sporadic and occasional experiments for your brand, you’d be missing out on so much potential.
When you use stories, the aim isn’t to simply post four random pictures from a day. You need to make sure the images you use work together to tell a story in sequence in order to draw in the viewer emotionally. Then you need to produce these stories consistently to earn loyal followers who look forward to seeing the next one.
National Geographic does an amazing job telling a story using sequential images, in this case as part of a campaign with a Canadian travel company:
As for live video, even if you only plan to use it a couple of times per year for big events, if you don’t promote weeks in advance, you’re missing out on a large potential crowd. If you’re the type to go live sporadically, make sure you do it often, or people won’t be looking forward to your next broadcast (which is what you want!).
Like any marketing tactic, use of ephemeral content should fit intelligently into your wider campaign strategy and work to help tell your brand story. Be spontaneous – with a plan. Build up a following, and then you can use ephemeral content to more actively promote your products and encourage people to visit your website (see examples below).
Also, remember to use CTAs: It’s easy to use text overlay in a story (and in some cases, directly link to your website). And you can always use the end of live videos to encourage people to visit your site, or subscribe to see more.
Examples of Brands Being Authentic on Social Using Live Video and Stories
The notoriously difficult obstacle course events run occasional live video sessions of their runs or training sessions, either so you can psych yourself up to do it, or just shake your head at how insane some people are. Here’s an example of one of their recent live training sessions:
Wendy’s and Game Grumps
Noted Wendy’s fanboy and YouTube gamer Arin Hanson of Game Grumps was invited to the Wendy’s test kitchen to try some never released burgers and insane concoctions. Thousands of people tuned in to watch this fun, cross-promotional stream.
— Game Grumps (@GameGrumps) February 24, 2017
Some brands use live video to run regular how-to shows to teach viewers new skills. Experian runs their weekly #CreditChat every Wednesday on Twitter via Periscope. In this chat they teach users financial literacy skills, and allow for Q&A to make the sessions interactive.
Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox takes popular tunes and creates wonderful jazz and lounge renditions of them. On Instagram Stories, they share behind-the-scenes footage of their recordings, while also providing fans an easy way to access their shop or view their full videos on YouTube with just a swipe.
A website devoted to telling the stories about the weird, beautiful and rare sites of the world, they use social media stories to tease their videos and articles. Take, for example, these modern churches. Seeing them in a sequence piques your imagination and makes it more likely that you will slide up to see the article at the end.
A prime example of having an influencer take over your social media for a day, actress and model Jamie King took over the Harper’s Bazaar channel when she was preparing for the Dior Cruise show.
If you want to give a shoutout to any brands who do authentic marketing particularly well, be sure to share them with @HeyOrca on Twitter.