They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Snapchat launched its Stories feature way back in 2013, and Instagram, and more recently, Facebook, have since jumped on the bandwagon to offer their own clones of the feature.
For those of you that are unfamiliar with Stories, the feature groups together a set of images or videos, which are played in chronological order before expiring after 24 hours. Stories can be shared with friends or followers, and in the case of Instagram and Facebook, they appear at the top of the newsfeed – making them very prominent from the moment a user first opens the app.
Instagram Stories grew in popularity very quickly. By January 2017, just five months after its launch, 150 million people were using it every day, and with 600 million monthly active accounts – double that of Snapchat – it wasn’t long before Instagram launched Stories adverts to promote brands, and generate Instagram a huge amount of revenue for parent company, Facebook.
The potential to monetise Facebook Stories is even bigger, with 1.87 billion monthly active users worldwide – but with a far broader demographic than that of Snapchat or Instagram, only time will tell whether the feature will be popular with a more diverse audience. Facebook is clearly betting on this being the case, and after the success of Instagram Stories, you can hardly blame them for trying it out on a more established platform.
Why are Stories so popular, and who uses them?
One of the main drivers for Stories has been its popularity amongst millennials and generation Z, who are more likely to have been early adopters of newer social media platforms like Snapchat.
It’s reported that teens remain more loyal to the original innovator, in part due to the fact that Snapchat is more likely to be used to share Stories with friends rather than being predominantly positioned to share or watch Stories intended for a wider audience. In contrast, brands and influencers are increasingly choosing to invest in Instagram since the launch of Stories, as new Snapchat users begin to decline. Only time will tell whether this trend shifts from Instagram to Facebook, if and when the feature gains traction with its users.
Flow Digital recently conducted research into the way that users interact with different social media platforms. Chris Ogle, Head of Strategy for New Business at Flow said:
“At Flow, we have witnessed a huge shift over the past 24 months in how young people (under 30) interact with social media. Facebook is obviously well established with all age groups, but its wide net restricts users ability to show their true feelings as their followership often includes loose acquaintances, colleagues, and family members. Although Facebook has functionality to show posts to a restricted group, it is time-consuming and laborious.
“Snapchat stories are typically for much smaller audiences, usually close friends who they don’t have to modify their image or behaviour with. This enables users to be free to say and show what they like, without fear of impacting how their wider network views them. As a consequence, a notification from Snapchat is likely to be funnier, more honest, and provide the user a greater moment from that update than the other social platforms can offer.
“As a rule, we believe marketers have been very slow to react to the potential of Snapchat with that younger demographic. Data from a study in March 2017 backs this theory up, showing that under 30s check Snapchat notifications well ahead of other platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
“We also believe the new Facebook Story feature is too little too late to the party as millennials continue to disengage from an ageing platform.”
Kay Brown, PR and Social Manager, and Founder of Digital Mamas agrees that the feature may be popular on Facebook amongst some millennials, but is unlikely to interest older users, potentially limiting its appeal.
“Facebook is clearly trying to recapture the attention of a younger audience by introducing Stories, as messaging and media with a finite lifespan is popular among this demographic; however, this doesn’t negate the issue of their parents being on the same platform! Early adopters and people who use Snapchat already probably will try out the feature, but I’m doubtful people like my parents (60+, limited digital skills) will make use of it.”
Stories are also often used as a tool to keep existing followers interested in a simple yet effective way.
Giovanni di Cosmo, Digital Account Director at Smoking Gun PR says:
“Releasing a Story out to your friends and/or fanbase can be done swiftly, without the forethought that a photo or a text update would take – though in reality, the Story is often rehearsed for that flawless and ostensibly effortless effect.”
How can brands use Stories successfully?
The sporadic nature of these posts coupled with the fact that they are only available for a limited amount of time makes them perfect for hyping up announcements, promoting flash sales and discount codes, and offering exclusive content to followers. But there is much more that brands can be doing to maximise the impact of integrating Stories into their marketing strategy.
Rax Lakhani, Social Media and PR Consultant, explains that brands that choose not to utilise the feature are missing out on many opportunities to engage with their audience.
“The prominence that Snapchat, Instagram, and now, Facebook, give to Stories on their apps means that content is much more pronounced and unmissable. The way that Instagram puts a red ring around new stories, positions content to a premium position in an individual’s news feed, making it much more likely to be viewed.
“Brands or individuals that regularly host events are able to use Stories to show a chronological narrative of how things unfold over a given twenty-four hour period. Done well, this can be extremely effective, particularly when most people really don’t have the time to interact with content throughout the day. Often, when a snapshot of an event is packaged into a format such as a Story, the key messages can be much easier to communicate.
“I find that the ephemeral nature of the basic Stories format allows brands to experiment with different types of creative content to see what gets the best traction with followers. This insight can then be fed back into producing more ‘sticky’ content that is posted via the more traditional ‘permanent’ social media posts that brands are more used to putting out there. Add to this, the sense of urgency that Stories create, which encourages people to “share while it’s still there”. However, the notion of creating an album of individual moments isn’t new even though the disposable 24-hour self-destruct element may be something brands need to get their heads around.
Success with Stories
Stories provide a great way for businesses of all sizes to promote their brand. The beauty of Stories is that they do not take much time to plan and execute and their visual and spontaneous nature makes them an exciting way to deliver content to followers, and far more memorable than a ‘traditional’ status update. Nike reportedly generated a massive 800,000 views in 24 hours for an Instagram Story on the first day that the feature was made available. While brands with a huge number of followers may seem to have the upper hand in most situations when it comes to social media, smaller brands are also reaping the benefits.
One business we spoke with that has embraced Instagram Stories with great success is Jennifer Pinder, a floral stylist in the UK. Jenn states:
“I use Stories a lot on my Instagram page, and Instagram is how I get most of my clients. I find that in my line of work (floristry) the market has become incredibly competitive and so I really need my Instagram gallery to be in great shape for people to even consider following me. That means my images are taken on my DSLR and often edited. I then plan my gallery to make sure colours flow together; this is something that takes a lot of time and planning to get right. I love Stories because it is less calculated and more fun and immediate. I use it to give an unedited window into my flowery world. The fact that everything disappears within 24 hours means that I feel no pressure for the images or videos to be ‘perfect’ – which I do feel with my gallery!”
The battle for the monopoly on Stories is far from over. While Snapchat has its diehard fans, preferences, and communities, could the combined power of Zuckerberg’s social media behemoths spell the end for the innovator? At Browser Media, we personally don’t think so – particularly if the number of people using Facebook Stories to share their Snapchat username is anything to go by!
Also published on Medium.