The advent of the social media “Story” is one of the most exciting social media feature innovations to come about in the past few years. As such, it’s had a huge impact on the landscape of social media marketing. Though initially a lot of brands were unsure of the usefulness of ephemeral content (many wondered why they should invest resources in creating content that disappears after 24 hours), social media stories have quickly become an essential communication channel.
In this article we’re discussing some of the key benefits of Stories, and covering the differences between Stories across social channels.
The benefits of using social Stories
Over time, users have developed an expectation that the content in their social media feeds is, to a large extent, carefully curated by the person (or company) posting the content. Posts in the main feed represent the content users want to keep tied to their profiles for the long run. In other words, it’s pretty much permanent. Because of their (mostly) ephemeral nature, Stories are the opposite, comprising timely content that can afford to be more off-the-cuff and of-the-moment.
Stories have become an additional channel in which to capture user attention beyond the regular feed. Even more important than the additional communication channel stories provide, however, is the opportunity they create for brands to showcase a more approachable and authentic side of themselves. Stories can help brands build regular connection with audiences without the risk of being seen to post too much or seeming to be overly self-promotional and sales-y.
Some things to consider before getting started
Even though as a feature, Stories have a lot a lot of value to offer brands, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few precautions to keep in mind before getting started.
Because social Stories often have an off-the-cuff quality, it would be easy to assume that it’s fine to post them in an ad-hoc, unplanned manner. On the contrary. Like all elements of social media marketing (and digital marketing more broadly), Stories should be crafted and posted according to a well-researched strategy. That doesn’t mean your Stories need to be planned weeks in advance of posting, but they should be created to support the key established goals of the broader brand strategy.
Another easy mistake to make is failing to ensure a minimum level of production value and adhering to basic brand standards of aesthetics. Can you afford to loosen visual standards a bit and be more casual when posting a story versus a post in the feed? Absolutely. Can you let all quality control go out the window? Absolutely not. Be careful not to let standards slip when jumping into creating Stories.
Which version of social stories is best for your brand?
The three main social media platforms that offer Stories are Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook. Snapchat was the first, but Instagram is the reigning champion, and Facebook has also been making a strong showing recently. So how do you choose which platform to focus your Stories content on?
Ultimately, it mostly comes down to audience. For example, if your brand’s target demographic is aged 40-55, you aren’t very likely to find them on Snapchat, so you will have a difficult time succeeding with Stories on that particular platform. This isn’t a failure of the medium, it’s simply a mismatch between the content producer and the audience. The best advice is to understand which platform(s) your target audience uses most, and invest the majority of your efforts in those channels.
Beyond user demographics, there are a few key differences between stories platforms to keep in mind. Both Instagram and Facebook have roughly 500 million daily active users, well over roughly double the audience of Snapchat. Across platforms, Gen Z and millennials are the biggest users of Stories.
All three platforms also offer opportunities for advertising and the formats are very similar on all three. Ads can be either photo or video-based, and available length varies by platform. Some polling data suggests that marketers find Instagram Stories ads perform the best so far, followed by Facebook, with Snapchat in last place.
As users continue to thirst for more and more content, and particularly for content that’s seen as authentic as opposed to overly edited or curated, Stories are becoming part of the very fabric of the social media experience. Brands can use Stories as an opportunity to build more frequent connection with audiences and speak to users in a way that feels organic and authentic.