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Supporting image for Ephemeral Storytelling and Millennials – @KateTalbot2
Ephemeral Storytelling and Millennials – @KateTalbot2
The Agents of Change

We live in an age where consumers are scrolling fast through social media, so we need to adapt to that in order to capture their attention in quick bites while still staying front of mind. Millennials are perhaps the biggest “mobile junkies” so if you want to reach them, you need to hang out where they are.

Some of the best tools out there that you can utilize to accomplish this are Snapchat and Instagram Stories. We need to create a strategy that allows us to get our message across while still remaining true to our brand, but that also piques the interest of and engages our audience.

Rich: Kate Talbot is a writer, marketer, speaker, and entrepreneur who has built an astonishing track record helping brands engage millennials. For this she has been featured on NBC News, CNBC, Venturebeat, Huff Post, and TechCrunch. An expert in social media and content marketing, she’s built a successful global digital campaigns for big names like Virgin America and Teva, among others.

She wrote a #1 Amazon bestselling book, Oh Snap, to educate the masses on how to use Snapchat for business. Currently she’s a growth marketing consultant for early stage startups in Silicon Valley. Very cool. Kate, welcome to the show.

Proof that Rich actually did jump out of a plane. (As referenced in the intro.)


Kate: Thank you so much for having me.

Rich: I explained to Kate before we got on the phone that I am still suffering from a head cold so I’m just going to make mistakes and she’s going ok with it she said. She did say that she might make fun of me. No, she didn’t say that, she’s very nice, not like me at all.

Alright, so Kate, before when we were chatting you used a phrase that I absolutely just loved and you said “ephemeral storytelling”. Can you explain what you mean by “ephemeral storytelling”?

Kate: Yeah, definitely. I think the way that we look at social media nowadays, whether that’s Snapchat or Instagram Stories, it’s all about content coming and then going away, and I just feel like that’s the future. So with ephemeral storytelling it’s how are you capturing your audience with quick bites and make them remember you. But also it doesn’t have that kind of perfect feel that an Instagram or a Facebook post would have.

Rich: So I’m going to treat you like a hostile witness for a moment. Not really, but there’s part of me – and this is maybe me being old school – is why should I care about ephemeral storytelling? I come from an SEO background so every molecule in my body wants my content to stick around forever. I put all this energy into telling an Instagram Story and then 24 hours later nobody can find it. Tell me why I need to rethink this.

Kate: Yeah, I mean there are definitely so many different components to your marketing mix. So of course SEO is super important, but as other things are within marketing, this is important because people have such quick attention spans nowadays. Now they have 6 second NFL commercials so people really aren’t reading those longform articles that help you out with SEO and they’re really just looking at their Instagram while they’re riding the bus or just looking at Snapchat while they’re waiting in line. So you’re really getting their attention right then and there and it’s a long term gain. One story isn’t going to do it, you’ve got to do it daily, weekly, or whatnot, and that’ show people are going to remember you. And just keep doing the SEO in the long form to get those Google results, but I just think it’s part of the marketing mix and the way that people are digesting content in the 21st century.

Rich: Ok. So I know that you’re kind of an expert when it comes to reaching millennials, how do we use this ephemeral storytelling to reach millennials? Walk me through the process.

Kate: I would look at it as a way of taking your editorial calendar as you would for content marketing or social media marketing and taking those aspects like TBT – throwback Thursday, transformative Tuesdays – and bringing those kind of content overlays to your Instagram or Snapchat. So thinking about each story having a narrative like you would with any other content piece, and then just making the story really fast. You could have a person from your company do a selfie and talk it through, but just really creating content that  people will watch really quickly, it’s really fun and still be attached to content marketing and social media so it doesn’t seem so different than your brand itself.

Rich: So I can understand how from a B2C-type company I could use Snapchat or Instagram stories to reach people, but what if I’m in a really boring industry like accounting – and I’m not insulting any accountants out there – but something that maybe doesn’t seem to lend itself well to this type of storytelling? What do you say when somebody asks you a question like that?

Kate: Totally, and I hear it all the time. Especially talking about Snapchat because of course people are just like, “Well isn’t that a sexting tool?” or “Why would my accounting firm or cybersecurity firm really want to be on Snapchat if our demographic is 50 year old males?” So I totally understand that, I think it’s just a really good way to start learning how to storytell in a different way. All those B2B spaces have been having to change how they create content anyways, they’re not doing those ebooks or whitepapers that are so long, they’re truncating it and posting on Twitter with a photo.

So to that point is that when you’re in a B2B kind of company you can use Snapchat or Instagram stories in a really fun way. One of my favorite is when you go to trade shows of course you want to be getting people to your booth, so with Snapchat you can create a Snapchat filter driving people to your booth, and everybody in that area radius – because of the way the filters work – will see that.

So there’s so many ways to utilize Snapchat to drive people to your booth for a B2B. And then also if you want to look at the way marketing is now, everybody talks about people to people, at the end of the day we just want to be entertained. So even if you’re a B2B marketer and you’re looking at your audience, they’re still consuming content on Instagram or Snapchat. It might not always be for work but if you’re kind of bringing your brand or your company to life through this ephemeral storytelling, it will be top of mind and they’ll remember it. So it’s a win and the best part is it doesn’t have to be perfect so just try it out and get yourself out there.

Rich: Alright, so let’s say that I start doing this sort of stuff and I’m telling my stories, I can’t imagine that suddenly people are just going to start finding me and then checking out my stories. There must be some techniques that you use, that you recommend for clients, to get in front of more people. What are some of the things that I could be doing so that people find my stories in the first place?   

Kate: Totally. And I think discovery for social media is the hardest part, especially for small businesses or you’re not a huge brand. I came from VIrgin America, then to an early stage startup, so I could do one tweet and it would get 40 retweets. Then I could do the same tweet and it would get no likes or retweets. So I totally understand the discovery process.

Something that I recommend, I love Facebook ads. I think that’s the best way to get conversion on social media. So you could do an ad explaining that you’re active on Instagram or Snapchat and have that link go to your Instagram or Snapchat account. You could post in your Twitter, you could do a pin up to the top on your Instagram, you could put your Snapchat logo so that people could follow you there. Or just say we’re going to be doing Instagram Stories, check it out above. OR email as well, email of course is such a driver in marketing. Create a module in your newsletter and tell your audience that you guys are active on Instagram Stories and Snapchat as well.

So there are so many different ways that you can do within your marketing mix to drive people to your Instagram and Snapchat. And I know it’s a long term game and sometimes it’s super hard, but I think it’s worth the investment. 

Rich: So when you’re talking about doing – whether it’s advertising or email – what we’re trying to do in this case, and I’m more familiar with Instagram although I do have Snapchat, trying to get them to our account to follow us. Once we get them following us say on Instagram, then our stories appear in those little bubbles up at the top of the screen and hopefully we convince somebody to click on those and start checking out our stories, right?

Kate: Totally, yup.

Rich: Alright. So I have tried Instagram stories and I may have tried Snapchat stories once or twice, and generally what happens is I’m really active for a solid day and then I’m like, who cares about my day going to In N Out Burger in Arizona or whatever it is, or the bike ride that I took. So Kate I want you to coach me to tell better stories. And you can use me as an example, you can use a client as an example, but for my day either I’m doing flyte new media stuff talking to clients about digital marketing stuff, or I’m doing Agents of Change stuff preparing for the next conference or preparing for the next podcast. What kind of behind the scenes stuff would an audience of a community care about to actually watch my story do you think?

Kate: I think the way that people look at content nowadays is all about behind the scenes. People want to know why, or how, or where you’re spending your day and how that content really comes at the end all pretty and packaged. So when you’re showing your day I think it’s really interesting. An example I did is I worked with social media influencers and YouTube stars this summer for an app called Dote – it’s a fashion app – and we would do really nice Instagram posts that would gets tons of engagement because these girls have so much influence and they’d get 10,000 ‘likes’. But every day we would also show their behind the scenes of how they’re doing their videos or how they’re getting fashion or what clothes they’re going to wear.

So the way I look at it is that everything is a reality TV show nowadays and we’re the stars, so you want to make your life as exciting as possible but that sometimes is mundane as well. But you’re keeping people engaged and they’re learning more and more about you every single time you do a story. And for myself, the more I do it because I consult, or I need to get clients, or I need to engage media. So the more I look at who’s looking at my stories, and if there’s a journalist there or a client, then I know that they’re seeing me and remembering that I’m active if I do marketing and I’m having  a great day, too. So it might seem mundane but it’s the long term value of it.

Rich: Well I think sometimes also people overlook the importance of mundane, and the bottom line is most of our life is going walking down the street and saying to somebody, “Nice weather.” So I think that there’s a certain amount of that that I think might just become natural and part of the ephemeral storytelling vernacular for all I know.

You mentioned Snapchat, you mentioned Instagram, I wonder if there is recommendations that you have based on a company, which they should focus on or should they be in both places?

Kate: I think if you have the bandwidth you should be on Snapchat, but if you don’t have the bandwidth and your audience isn’t millennials, then I would do Instagram Stories. I feel like I’ve had to switch. I wrote a book on Snapchat so I’m super pro-Snapchat, but realistically if you have a small team it’s the same type of storytelling and that’s what I’m proud of and I think is the future. So I would go off with Instagram Stories if you don’t have the bandwidth and you know that your audience isn’t going to be on Snapchat in general. 

Rich: Alright. And I think I shared with you that at Agents of Change one of the things when I asked our attendees what are you looking for going forward is people asked how to attract the attention of millennials and younger people. What kind of content would you say that millennials are looking for? If I’m specifically – whether I’m a pizza parlor or web designer or whatever I’m doing – if I’m attracting a younger demographic what kind of content is going to engage with them?

Kate: Yeah, I think that attracting millennials is like the thing that everybody wants. It’s all these executives scratching their heads trying to figure it out. But I think 2 things that work really well with the millennial or Gen Z audience is authenticity. Just working with the YouTube stars they would get in front of the camera and put on their makeup or whatever and just talk about their day, maybe talk about a boyfriend, and people really want to connect. Their audience would tell them they’re like their best friend. People would be connected and have an authentic time with them, so anything that just feels natural within a daily life does really well to connect.

And then also stuff that’s just really funny. If you look on Instagram, memes do super well from the Fat Jew, or Boy Without a Job, or GIrl Without a Job. We need to just start looking at what kind of content millennials are liking and engaging with, and those influencers and memes is a win/win or the millennial audience because people love learning from influencers – especially fashion – and the memes everyone just loves and shares.

Rich: It’s funny because I have a 15 year old daughter and basically the only way we communicate is sending memes to each other expressing how we’re feeling at any given moment of time. So I totally understand where you’re coming from.

So we’re talking about how to attract the millennials. What other strategies do you have to get in front of them and engage them? It feels to me like a lot of ephemeral storytelling is just that, it’s “Ok, I like your brand. It’s kind of cool, I’m looking forward to seeing your story tomorrow”, but how do you get people to actually take an action from your stories or is that not really the point here?

Kate: Well what I think is cool is that there is now emerging between conversion and ephemeral storytelling, so if you look on Snapchat now you have a swipe up feature. So if somebody is talking about a necklace that they really like you can insert a link and then you can swipe up and then go to their ecommerce store. So there is definitely a conversion factor to all this storytelling now.  

And then with Instagram, same thing. If you have enough followers you can swipe up and you could also just insert a link. So I think there’s definitely a conversion factor to all this and so you want to create the stories, you want to engage with them, you want to create brand awareness, and if you really want them to keep learning and not just look at your stories, just start testing is people are swiping up, if they’re clicking on that link, and seeing what you could do to make it a better relationship. And hopefully at the end of the day a dale or a conversion.

Rich: Let me make sure I understand what you just said. Snapchat and Instagram are introducing tools for people who may want to work on versions or sales by using this “swipe up” method. And that’s something that’s available on Snapchat and rolling out on Instagram?

Kate: Yup.

Rich: Ok. And so do you feel – and this is kind of the crystal ball question – do you feel that as they add more of these tools for marketers and professionals and business people, that they’re going to turn off the very people who kind of grew these platforms? I mean, what do – and I know I’m asking you to speak for an entire generation of people which is completely unfair – but do millennials, are they excited about this or is this just a complete turnoff and they’re going to look for the next emerging platform, and then all of a sudden we’ll just be talking to a bunch of old people again?

Kate: Well hopefully not the last one. I think my favorite example on this – and it is what it is – Kylie Jenner is literally about to be a billionaire in 5 years and she built, besides her reality TV show and her family, she built everything off of Snapchat and she was able to sell her lip kits in 20 minutes and make millions. All off of Snapchat. So I think that the millennial generation  is understanding there are stories and you learn about the people, but then people want to buy what they’re selling because they trust them. It’s like influencer marketing at it’s best. They just swipe up and get the lip kit or whatever else people are selling.

So I think that everybody when things first come out  say it’s so annoying, I remember when the news feed came out  on Facebook being like, “No way, we’re against the news feed.” Then things just happen and people get used to it.

Rich: Uh huh, I see. So there’s outrage and then everyone gets used to it.

Kate: Yeah, totally.

Rich: So I’ve heard from some people that you should craft a story, like the epic narrative or something like that and not just have little snippets from your day. What do you feel about that when you’re crafting your own stories or crafting for clients, is there a beginning, middle, and end, or is it just more like scenes from a day? 

Kate: I think that kind of goes back to the editorial calendar. You could definitely do scenes from a day and I think that that is really unique because you’re connecting with a person and you can chat. But also from a client perspective, more like you really want to build that narrative and you want to storytell and you want your audience to really learn about the product and the person behind it.

So I recommend from a client perspective to definitely feature more of a narrative but definitely include what you do during your day, those are fun as well. And also, one thing to add is to mix it up. It could be video, it could be just a photo, it could be a boomerang, or on Snapchat you could add a different filter. This isn’t just normal storytelling where you’re watching a story happen, there are so many different components to these platforms that you can really make it fun.

Rich: What other tips do you have for better ephemeral storytelling, or what things are you seeing out there that you really like or dislike? Because I’m assuming you spend a lot of time taking a look at what different brands and people are doing with this storytelling platform.

Kate: Yeah. I love what Everlane did with Snapchat in the beginning when it first came out. They were really first to market and really smart about how they were using the platform. They would do product launches and each launch would have the CEO interviewed and talk about the product itself or a product designer. And then they would also have the Snapchat filter that would relate to the product itself. I think with Instagram I think the fashion brands do an amazing job especially with New York Fashion Week or Paris Fashion Week, you really see the product and the fashion behind the scenes that you wouldn’t get otherwise.

I think what some storytellers do that’s really cool is go tell the story itself through the writing if you just click through it they can use the story aspect itself, you just click and there’s more writing. So I think that’s really neat.

And then one last thing for Snapchat, because a lot of people watch on the streams, is to always include text with what is actually going on in the story itself. I think that’s super helpful. In my book I talk about how NPR does this because they know that a lot of their audience is looking at it on the train, so including text boxes really helps out.  

Rich: Kate are you currently telling stories on both Instagram and Snapchat for yourself?

Kate: Yeah. I’m on Instagram Stories everyday.

Rich: Ok. And how much time would you say you spend everyday creating telling stories?

Kate: I think I just live my life and I just show that story. So it’s just a natural part of my life and I think that is what a millennial or Gen Z person would say. I think that it’s just natural and normal to do so and I don’t know if that sounds weird to older people, but I just think that’s what we’re doing is we’re just creating our day and showing it off to our friends, And I think that is an integral part of this next generation.

Rich: Very interesting. You know it’s funny because I’ve always been fascinated by storytelling and the way that things evolve over time and I remember years ago when I was studying English Literature in London that they talked about the fact that the novel – when it first came out – it was considered to be such a low form of communication that people who would read novels would have to actually hide them under their beds or things like that because they would be embarrassed if anybody caught them. It was like the equivalent of reality TV.

And so there’s part of me that sits here and says this is so silly, we’re creating all this content that’s going to be gone tomorrow and why are we doing it. And then there’s this other part of me that says no, this is the evolution of storytelling and everybody can be a storyteller.

And for those of you who want to jump in you have this new opportunity where there are no barriers to telling a story, and you can really let people kind of see what’s going on with your brand. And if you have the right type of clientele or you’re going after the right type of clientele, this could be a real big opportunity for you.

Kate: I totally agree and I think that even in the last couple of years people are getting more and more comfortable with this type of storytelling. I know for example I was one of the first ones to introduce selfies to brands at Virgin America. I got teased so much and called narcissistic and all this stuff, but I was like no, I’m seeing this and everybody is posting this on the airline on Twitter and Instagram so we’ve got to do it as well. And it seems embarrassing but this is what people are doing. So I kind of look at every single trend as it’s better to give it a shot than try and be too highbrow.

Rich: Alright. Kate this has been very eye opening, I really appreciate your time. Where can people check you out online?  

Kate: My website is katetalbotmarketing.com, you can just connect with me on LinkedIn I’m Kate Talbot, and Twitter is @katetalbot, too.

Rich: Alright awesome. Kate I appreciate your time and expertise today, thank you so much.

Kate: Thank you, I really appreciate it.

Show notes:

Kate Talbot is a whiz when it comes to teaching businesses how to engage with millennials, she even wrote a book about it!  Learn more of her strategies and tips at her website, and be sure to follow her on Twitter and connect with her on LinkedIn.

Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine. He knows a thing or two about helping businesses grow by reaching their ideal customers, and to prove that, he puts on a yearly conference to inspire small businesses to achieve big success. You can also head on over to Twitter to check him out, and he just added “author” to his resume with his brand new book!