The triumphal march of “stories” continues. Or at least this is what was recently heard at the Facebook developer conference “F8”. Current figures support this statement: The idea which originated from Snapchat is enjoying great popularity in other social media channels as well. But why is that, how will things continue and what does it mean for marketing?
A success story and its future
As well as the internal messenger, Snapchat’s stories are certainly the core of the app. Facebook originally wanted to purchase the start-up, but Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel declined. Mark Zuckerberg’s team went to plan B: copy and paste. The Instagram stories were the first move in 2016. They were so clearly copied from Snapchat that Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom even admitted it openly. Since then, however, a lot has changed.
Instagram has significantly enhanced its stories feature and turned it into a success story: With 300 million daily active users, it has long since overtaken the Snapchat model in this respect (190 million). And that’s not all: WhatsApp also got its stories, whereby this is called “status” here. With 450 million active users a day, these are now even more successful. The Facebook app got it too and also Facebook Messenger. These two then found it much harder to inspire users. But Facebook isn’t letting up and it seems to be paying off.
As a result, other companies have woken up and don’t want to miss the train: Stories or similar features are now available for YouTube, Google News or Skype. In 2017, the stories mania finally led to the “Will Have Stories meme, where everything from pregnancy tests to potatoes got a stories feature. And Excel too, of course.
In the meantime it has become clear that the topic must be taken seriously. Whether you can do something with the format yourself or consider it a passing fashion: The numbers are increasing sharply. Since the beginning of 2016, the use of stories has increased by an incredible 842 percent. This was determined by the social media agency Block Party. Between the second quarter of 2016 and the third quarter of 2017, stories grew 15 times faster than traditional feeds. And as mentioned at the beginning: Facebook assumes that it will become the predominant format next year. This is not surprising: The stories are perfect in an online world that is increasingly taking place on the smartphone.
The stories do not completely replace the classic feed with its postings. But those who want to be heard with their messages will barely be able to avoid the stories.
What this means for those responsible for social media marketing
For social media marketing, this brings about a considerable change. Those who continue to think in postings with text, pictures and links will not get far here. The editorial plan needs a comprehensive update and the social media team must supplement its skills accordingly. Because skilful storytelling is in demand, the focus is on audiovisual content and an emotional appeal is more important than ever. After all, users want to be entertained by the stories or at least beneficially informed. A boring story is quickly skipped with a wipe of the thumb. This applies similarly not only to one’s own stories, but also to advertising in stories formats. It has to fit in, tends to be more complex to produce than before, but also has the opportunity to address users in new ways.
For companies and their marketing managers, for example, this means that they should look for suitable talents in the company. Teams that previously had only occasional contact with social media should now become actively involved. Specialists for photo, video and graphic design are at the top of the wish list.
But don’t let yourself be mislead by the sometimes crazy and colorful nature of the stories. It is important that your brand remains recognizable. This applies to the visual appearance as well as to the content.
“Time” magazine, for example, does not post funny selfies of the editors in its stories, but is testing the new format in order to implement its journalism in text, images and moving images in a new way. The magazine’s quality standards for content and implementation are just as high here as elsewhere.
Other professional accounts such as Starbucks, Netflix, BuzzFeed, The New York Times or NASA can be used as stimuli. They are all actively experimenting with how the new format can be used for them.
It’s been a good ten years since “feeds” changed the face of the social web. While everything previously revolved around one’s own profile page, the starting page with its list of new entries is now in the foreground.
The transition from desktop to mobile Internet is now well advanced. It seems only logical that we also see a new format for this new world.
Of course, it can still be the case that stories are only a passing fad. However, the current figures indicate otherwise. And Facebook has had a good nose for new trends more than once in recent years. Because acquisitions such as FriendFeed, Instagram or WhatsApp often took some time to show why they were just right.