April 23, 2019

Are Stories the Future of Social Media?

Zach Cohen

In 2013, Snapchat launched Stories and forever changed the way social media users would create and consume content. Taking note of the upstart’s success, other social networks imitated the feature, with Instagram Stories debuting in 2016 and Facebook Stories arriving the following year. Since then, hundreds of millions of users have embraced stories across Snapchat (186M users), Instagram (500M users), and Facebook (300M users).

Is this vertical, mobile-friendly format the future of social media? If you asked Facebook, the answer would likely be yes. In 2018, its then-Chief Product Officer Chris Cox announced, “The stories format is on a path to surpass feeds as the primary way people share stuff with their friends sometime next year.” A few months later, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg again predicted on its Q3 earnings call that Stories would be a bigger medium than the feed. In fact, the social network seems to be experimenting with a potential redesign that would merge the News Feed and Facebook Stories into a single feed much like Snapchat or Instagram Stories.

As consumer behavior and platforms rapidly shift towards stories, marketers are catching up. In the 2018 Sprout Social Index, marketers ranked Instagram Stories third in a list of social media features and strategies they used the most, above both live video and user-generated content.

So, are stories the future of social media? We’d say yes. The feed is certainly not going away anytime soon, but as stories and mobile usage continue to rise in popularity, it will become increasingly important for brands to meet their customers where they are. Given this trend toward the “storification” of social media, here are a few ways you can better use stories as part of your brand’s content strategy.

1. Take a test-and-learn approach.

The ephemeral nature of stories makes them perfect for experimentation. To find out what objectives and optimizations work best for your business goals, create a test-and-learn agenda and don’t be afraid to play around with new tactics. Test the objectives and optimizations organically first, then use the learnings to inform your promoted content. Time is money, and quickly knowing what’s resonating with your audience is important in a fast-paced world.

2. Explore more authentic, behind-the-scenes content.

In comparison to the elaborate, polished content found on most social platforms, stories are a unique opportunity for brands to form an important connection to the consumer with more personal, authentic content. In fact, according to a report from Facebook last year, 58 percent of survey respondents in the U.S. looked to Instagram Stories for authentic, unfiltered content, compared to 42 percent who preferred the feed. Stories provide a space for spontaneity, whether it’s behind-the-scenes content from an industry conference or off-the-cuff videos from a team retreat. It’s becoming increasingly important for businesses to put their human sides on display—and stories are the perfect way to do just that.

3. Embrace greater opportunities for interactivity.

The interactive nature of stories makes it easier for brands to boost engagement and get creative with their followers. Simple directions like “tap forward twice for X selection or three times for X selection” allow consumers to create their own narrative for your content. Other opportunities on Instagram Stories include adding polls or an “ask me anything” option. Instagram also makes it easy to share user-generated content to your brand’s story.

4. Put the product front and center.

For retail and e-commerce brands, both Facebook and Instagram Stories have a variety of shoppable options that can help drive product sales. On Instagram Stories, the “Swipe Up” feature takes users right to a product page with one swipe, and Facebook Stories have a similar “Shop Now” CTA button. Last year, Instagram also announced the addition of shopping stickers which allow users to tap on each sticker to learn more about the product and, ultimately, make a purchase. With these features, brands can tell a different story about their products than they can in the feed—and seamlessly drive sales.

Interested in learning how to make the most of stories for your brand? Get in touch.

Tags: Best Practices, Snapchat, Strategy

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