Facebook has become the latest social media platform to launch a ‘stories’ platform, following in the footsteps of the format’s pioneer, Snapchat, by rolling it out to its Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram apps.
The move represents the latest trend in social content, and it is one that doesn’t look like it will be going away any time soon.
What's going on?
Essentially, the format is designed to encourage more Facebook users to switch from text updates, to uploading more photo and video content.
Like on Snapchat, the content disappears after 24 hours and users can decorate their posts with a range of features.
The new feature has already started rolling out across iOS and Android, with three parts being introduced: a redesigned in-app camera, a new feed of ephemeral stories at the top of the News Feed, and a private messaging feature called Direct. When you add these together, the features represent one of the biggest changes to Facebook’s core product in its history.
Whilst the move by Facebook is undoubtedly an effort to take the edge from Snapchat, part of it is also reflective of how its users have been consuming content and using the platform in recent years.
Following the trend
“In the way that the flashing cursor became the starting point for most products on desktop computers, we believe that the camera screen will be the starting point for most products on smartphones.” - Snap CEO Evan Spiegel:
Visual storytelling has boomed on social media, and it’s not hard to see why. It provides a more instant gratification – removing the need to click on further content and leave the news feed. That’s a big deal in the world of social media.
Facebook isn’t the only brand making moves in this direction. Medium has launched a similar app, whilst Apple has gone public with its moves to do something similar.
This is where social media users are spending the bulk of their online time and, whatever you may think of that, it’s something that brands simply can’t stick their heads in the sand over.
Making stories work for marketers
Firstly, let’s address the likely reality – Facebook has given Snapchat users an excuse not to use Snapchat and so, if you’re advertising there, you may need to monitor your results from that channel a little more closely than normal for the coming weeks and months.
But in order to capitalise on what could effectively become a ‘second newsfeed’, marketers really need to understand how they are going to make this new feature work.
Content format is obviously a big issue, and brands need to think about how their content appears on a vertical smartphone screen.
How the content is presented is also going to be important, and we may see brands get quite creative in this regard. Innovations such as Canvas have seen content creators get much more creative with the content that they produce and diversify the formats that they use in order to drive engagement, and Stories may have a similar impact. They way in which stories are told in chronological order, rather than the reverse chronology of the Twitter or Instagram feeds, or of the algorithmic feed used throughout the rest of Facebook, could lead to brands telling their stories via multiple posts, for example, without having to worry about the message getting muddled by an algorithm.
Even if you’re one of those brands that really doesn’t suit being seen alongside emojis and puppy filters, it’s possible that your audiences are still going to be using this format. Learn how your brand can embrace it, rather than fight it.