tablet showing an instagram like count on the screen

Social media continues to grow as one of the primary destinations for video distribution. As a result, more and more viewers are engaging with video designed to last only a day or two.

With fast-moving news feeds on Facebook and live videos that disappear once they have concluded on Instagram, viewers are being trained to watch videos as they are available or risk missing out entirely. The trend may have started with the inherently ephemeral nature of videos posted to Snapchat, but it has since spread across platforms. For instance, in addition to the live video feature, Instagram also encourages the use of ephemeral video via Instagram Stories. Like Stories on Snapchat, these casual images and videos disappear 24 hours after being published. Not coincidentally, Stories also offer a rare opportunity to attach a link directly to your image or video on Instagram. Getting users to your website requires a clumsy workaround when posting to the main Instagram feed.

Ephemeral content has several advantages over video made to be viewed over the course of months or even years, especially in the eyes of marketers. The fleeting nature of this type of content means that viewers are more likely to take immediate action based on what they see. These videos also typically feel more personal, both because of the delivery method and because they are often less polished than more traditional video content.

the increase in production capacity means videos can be tailored not only to specific events but also to specific people — or at least, specific marketing personas.

This style, length and even aspect ratio of this type of video content will vary based on the destination platform, but regardless of where you’ll be posting, the best ephemeral video has a well-defined purpose, a clear target audience and a direct call to action. A runtime of two minutes would be on the long side for this type of video, and this short format allows for generally quicker turnaround times. Knowing the video will be obsolete in a matter of days also helps stave off the urge to go back and perfect that one last cut or graphic. The use of templates that can be reused on a number of projects speeds up production even more. Overall, the increase in production capacity means videos can be tailored not only to specific events but also to specific people — or at least, specific marketing personas.

With these advantages, marketers are leveraging this phenomenon as part of their advertising campaigns — relying partially on audience FOMO (fear of missing out) to make sure viewers are engaged. For video producers, the trend means sped up workflows that push the balance between quality and efficiency. It calls for a shift in how projects are planned and produced, and what is expected in the finished results.

No longer is shelf-life a primary concern. These videos are not expected to be viewed more than a few days after they are published, so the traditional rules to making a project look timeless simply don’t apply. In fact, attaching a specific date to your video may actually highlight its relevance and make it seem more timely to viewers looking for specific information on current events or a recent news announcement.  

In many ways, this rise in ephemeral video content mirrors the increasing appetite for fleeting text content. Demand for lightweight video produced on tight deadlines will also increase as video continues to replace or complement text in many applications. Bloggers and journalist, however, are already in the mindset that their work is created to serve a specific purpose and will eventually no longer be relevant. Many video producers are not. The reporter doesn’t get wistful over past news stories, and nor should the videographer producing content for social media.

What we as videographers need to recognize is that this new form of video is neither better nor worse than more long-lived content. It’s just different, and it therefore demands a different mindset and a different workflow. Video production is moving faster and faster as demand continues to rise. Our tools are continually improving to meet the demands of these new fast-paced workflows, but video producers must also mentally prepare to let content drift away into the ether as its usefulness expires.

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