How Volatile Short-Form Content Provides a Competitive Advantage

It takes a tremendous amount of effort, skill, time, and even a fair bit of intuition to create a content strategy with which your audience will engage. Given that it takes so much work, it’s only natural that small businesses and digital marketers would want to maximize that content’s lifespan as much as possible. It’s only instinctive, at first, to bloat a content strategy with too much evergreen content production.

If that sounds counter-intuitive to you, I wholeheartedly agree. In the early days of a burgeoning business or a fresh marketing campaign, laying a foundation of evergreen content is an effective strategy…but that’s not all you should be doing. One component of your marketing strategy should be creating content that is expected to be short-lived. We’ll shortly take a look at the best benefits of ephemeral content, but before we do, let’s take a moment to address evergreen content’s shortcomings.

Why Evergreen Content Isn’t a One-Size-Fits-All Solution

Evergreen content, while providing value in the long term, does undoubtedly have its own variety of shortcomings. Unfortunately, evergreen content can’t do everything and isn’t the be-all-end-all solution for your marketing strategy. Believe it or not, there are many sites that don’t thrive on evergreen content at all, and instead shift focus towards producing topical ephemeral content to keep an audience informed with the bleeding edge of current events in a niche or industry.

Evergreen content is inherently flawed because it cannot adapt to the latest trends. Sure, you can give your evergreen content a fresh coat of paint every now and then by updating it to reflect changes in your industry (and it’s recommended you do so at least once a year), but the ephemeral content is better suited for specific applications, like news websites, for example. In short, evergreen content isn’t as flexible and adaptable as ephemeral content, so let’s take a closer look at the benefits of short-lived posts.

Real-Time Response

The first advantage of ephemeral posts is that they can react to industry changes, current events, and quotes in real-time. We live in a world of unbridled speed and immediacy, where yesterday’s Tweet is old news, and everyone gets seemingly instant notifications on their phones for just about anything (RSS updates, app updates, YouTube channel video posts. etc.). Given that rapid updates that disseminate information with incredible speed, you may find that you aren’t always the first to hear the news ahead of your audience.

Adapting content and posts to the bleeding edge of news from your industry will show your audience you’re a go-to source for the latest information. It could very well be that a post responding to an event within 24 hours of its occurrence loses relevance within a week or a month, but if its a big event, it’s important to give a response to show your audience you’re in the know. For example, I would think less of a computer security website that failed to respond to the heinous wiretapping scandal uncovered by Edward Snowden.

Twice as Bright, Half as Long

The chances of your evergreen content going viral are slim, and sure, you could make the argument that the chances of any post are going to be slim. But ephemeral content, while having a much shorter lifespan, has a greater chance of going viral because it is topical. Viral posts and videos tend to only exist for the here and now, which is the complete opposite of evergreen content, which is supposed to engage moderate amounts of users over a long period.

It’s simply the nature of viral content to spread really quickly, but not last very long. While you shouldn’t expect every piece of content you create to go viral (it’s a very rare scenario), you should strive to not only create long-lasting posts but also shorter ones that were designed to only be relevant in the short-term.

Posting Frequency

Ephemeral content doesn’t necessarily have to be long-form content, either. Posting more frequently not only increases content production but also increases trust and brand loyalty by establishing your site as an industry’s source of news and information. For instance, take a look at IFLScience, whose immense success is tied to the frequency of its posts.

IFLScience (and other similar competitors) posts multiple times a day with the latest scientific news and updates in fields such as space, technology, biology, environment, and other scientific niches, and you can bet that the stories they post are hot off the press. As such, I can typically find the latest news on their site before I find it from other sources.

Capture Attention More Effectively

Long-form content is appropriate for certain tasks, such as reviewing a product or service, providing a length step-by-step tutorial, or storytelling. But we live in an ever-accelerating fast-paced world filled with an enormous number of distractions. There’s a reason digital platforms like Vine videos, Snapchat, and Twitter were all designed to be intentionally short forms of messaging.

Unfortunately, it has been said by multiple sources that millennials and younger generations have shorter attention spans than previous generations. If you’re trying to target any millennials or anyone younger, they may not have the time or attention to read your longer posts. Instead, shorter-form content is easier for them to digest. Furthermore, note that some people are more visual, and prefer videos to reading. Breaking content up into smaller chunks makes it easier for these types of people to understand and remember.

Final Thoughts

If you’re only aim is to produce evergreen content, you should rethink your content strategy. The truth is that to be an effective digital marketer, one must take a multifaceted approach. Short-form content that is ephemeral in nature, albeit counter-intuitive, is a valuable component of a successful content strategy.



Will Hanke is the Chief Search Marketing and SEO Strategist at Red Canoe Media, a top independent Internet Marketing firm based in St. Louis, Mo. In addition to helping some of St Louis, Missouri’s most recognizable brands with their online marketing strategy, Will also is an Amazon bestselling author, speaker, and teacher. Follow Will on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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