Brands have had great success using social media to start conversations with fans and followers.

However, with the advent of instant social apps, brands now need to find new ways to connect in the moment.

Content must remain engaging and sharable, but also be relevant to the individual and the moment in question.

Let's take a look at a few selected examples, before examining the benefits and risks of instant social.

Facebook Live

NBC’s singing contest, The Voice, used Facebook Live to get its fans more involved with the contestants.

Fans posted requests for a drawing board game (similar to Pictionary) and the contestants had to guess what the sketches represented.

Although the activity had nothing to do with singing, it did offer an extra way for fans to see the personalities of the people they may eventually be voting for.

In retail, Benefit Cosmetics runs a series called Tipsy Tricks. Every Thursday at 4pm they broadcast a live make-up tips show where they carry out make-up demonstrations and answer questions from fans on live chat.

By engaging with viewers as much as they do, the hosts allow people to ask questions specific to their make-up needs. As a result, viewers often get live demos of exactly how products can be used to create desired looks.

benefit facebook live 

Instagram Stories

Instagram stories act like a temporary slide show of images and/or videos. They get deleted after 24 hours, and don’t feature on a person or brand’s main profile page.

To find them, you need to log in to the app from your phone and the latest stories will appear at the top of the page.

Brands like National Geographic use stories to share interesting content from around the world, while others, like the Travel Channel, let influencers take control to share their travel stories.

BarkBox (a monthly subscription service for dogs) has used Instagram Stories to post humorous 'interview' segments with dogs.

barkbox instagram 

Snapchat 

The New York Times used Snapchat Stories to post an interactive review of the Apple watch back in 2015.

Soft drinks brand, Gatorade, quickly capitalised on the winning team’s coach being doused in a bucket of the drink after the Super Bowl win, by creating a Snapchat Lens.

Fans could now tip virtual Gatorade over their own heads and share the clip with their friends (which they did 165 million times in two days). 

Periscope 

Periscope is another platform that doesn’t always save content for posterity, but it’s great for bringing people from around the world into one place to share an experience.

Cosmetics brand Kohl used Periscope to live stream events at the 2016 Oscars, ensuring that followers wouldn’t miss out on the action due to commercial breaks, and granting them access to certain after-show parties.

Nissan used Periscope at the 2015 New York Auto Show, and again in 2016 when it launched the GT-R. It uses the app as a way to get real-time customer and fan feedback.

The benefits of instant social for brands

Instant social apps provide brands with a massive potential audience. Snapchat is used by 150m people a day, while Instagram has 300m daily users, and Periscope had 200 million broadcasts in its first year.

Some of these apps are more widely used than more established social media platforms like Facebook, especially by the youth market. 

Brands have no choice but to create short bursts of content for these apps. Marketing teams have to work at packaging any messaging in an entertaining and engaging way to get it seen and shared.

Our attention spans aren’t getting any longer, and brands need to consider this when creating any content.

By using instant social apps well, brands can create and distribute content that results in longer periods of engagement, and gets people sharing and talking about the brand – which is ultimately what social media marketing is all about.

What of the risks?

The challenges of instant social apps depend on the content being created. Live streaming via Periscope and Facebook Live needs to be planned and rehearsed to avoid slip ups.

In the case of user generated content, strict guidelines need to be in place (like the ones created by Twitch when it launched its social eating category).

Brands need to know how they’ll answer questions in real-time, and if their content creators can cope with the pressure of producing high-quality content on the fly. It’s a difficult, but potentially rewarding challenge.

There’s no doubt that brands can create interesting stories using social apps. The challenge lies in discovering what content will be enthralling and relevant enough to the product and consumer in the moment. 

The more brands endeavour to get to know people on an individual level, the more relevant their content will be to them, and the more engagement they can expect.

For most brands, this is a process of trial and error, but the rewards are well worth the risks.

Tamara Littleton

Published 24 November, 2016 by Tamara Littleton

Tamara is CEO and founder of social media agency The Social Element and a contributor to Econsultancy.

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