Digital Considerations: Giving Your Brand Content An Expiration Date
By James Reynolds

Over the past 5 years, the way we share content digitally has been changing. Social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have brought about a near constant demand for content. Recently, we’ve seen interest begin to shift to live content and content that expires in a short amount of time. Brands should consider the potential advantages in this trend when creating and executing content strategies.

The Old Way of Creating Social Content: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram 

With behemoth social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, it’s hard to imagine social conversation happening any other way than through these three mediums. Popularized by the Friendster and Myspace approach, users create and post content that lives in a timeline indefinitely. The advantages being that, as time goes on, your personal profile becomes its own time capsule or photo album for you to go back and enjoy. The cons? You can never run for President because of what you did in college.

The New Way of Creating Social Content: Snapchat, Periscope, Facebook Live Video, Twitter Moments

Recently, content sharing has been about immediacy, authenticity, and transparency. You are no longer allowed to set up the perfect situation for your fake social media persona with the new social mediums. Further, all of the content eventually expires – leaving you free to let your freak flag fly without worrying about your past self coming back to bite your future self. It has been a refreshing change from etching our entire lives into digital stone for the past decade. 

Why is This Happening?

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are here to stay and will continue to be our choices for carefully crafted, calculated interaction with the rest of the world. People will always want to share their experiences with their friends, family, and the world, but people also want to be themselves and free to grow, change, and evolve – the old channels stymie this idea.

How do the new channels deliver on this need-state? Users can now create content that sufficiently shares their experiences, thoughts, and ideas – but then goes away forever to make room for the next quirky moment. This is the driving force behind the success of Snapchat. In a social landscape of permanence, they were the fleeting rush. Part of what makes experiences so special is that they don’t last forever, and Snapchat is the embodiment of that idea.

The permanence of the old way of posting content actually keeps people from being their true selves. We are all reluctant to “say how we really feel” on social, since time and time again we’ve seen public figures get themselves into hot water with off-the-cuff statements that are years old.

Many of us don’t actually want a permanent dossier of our Goth phase in high school or a drunken Taylor Swift karaoke sing along. Would we be okay with this content existing for 24 hours? Probably. So while Facebook remains a great place to post pictures of family and friends, the fun and interesting content is all being shared on Snapchat. Younger people aren’t who they were 6 months ago, and expiring content allows them to change.

Lastly, the urgency of the content draws more of our attention. How many hours have we spent scrolling through our Instagram feeds, hardly paying attention? When you get a Snap from someone you care about, you sit down and you watch it.

The downside of this medium, specifically Snapchat, is that it allows for a lot of really bad and boring content, too. The highs are much higher, but the lows are much lower with this fleeting content. For every hilarious drunken sing along, you’ll get 5 Snaps of someone driving in their car rambling on about nothing.

How Can Brands Take Advantage of This Trend?

This new trend doesn’t mean that brands should drop everything and focus solely on Snapchat, but there is a lot to learn and potentially apply to your content strategies across every channel (old and new).

Many brands feel an aversion to expiring content because “why would we delete content that we paid all of this money for?” To that objection, one could reason that marketers have been producing brand content in the form of television commercials and print advertising that cost millions, only to be viewed once or twice – this isn’t much of a leap from the days of old marketing.

Secondly, the urgency of having your content only appear for a limited time makes your call to action that much stronger, and allow you to control user behavior within a certain window – similarly to how product sales only last a finite amount of time.

Lastly, content with an expiration date allows you and your audience to be free. Your brand content can be fresher, more interesting, edgier, more experimental, or more eye grabbing under the notion that it isn’t being etched in stone to be forever seen as a reflection of your brands core ideals. Your audience will also be more likely to voice their honest opinions, knowing that the feedback loop will be closed quickly.

Approaching content this way gives brands more flexibility for experimentation, and the benefits (interaction) are still exactly the same, if not more so. How many likes, shares, and comments really appear a week after a piece of content is posted, anyway? Does anyone think that audiences are going deep into the timelines of branded content to find what you posted months, or years ago? They aren’t.

If the increased interaction by setting a time-limit is greater than any residual interaction in the following years of the content sitting on your brand page’s timeline, then there is a better ROI to have an expiration date on your content. This should be considered for every piece of content, on any channel, with every call-to-action.

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