Since it’s release by Facebook in 2006, the News Feed has been in the news a lot and often not for the right reasons. First and soon after it was a petition to get rid of it, then it was a frequent backlash every time it was updated, and more recently it was for being overrun by brands and hijacked by fake news.
Despite its best efforts, it seems Facebook is finally coming to terms with the fact that the News Feed has had its day and it’s now time for a change.
That change is coming in the form of Stories. Stories is a format of content consumption, pioneered by Snapchat in 2013, that today that features on every major social platform from Instagram and Whatsapp to Messenger and Facebook.
Stories are favoured over the traditional News Feed for many reasons, not least because of its ephemeral and horizontal format that’s more suiting to the fast-paced mobile lifestyle.
Snapchat has over 173 million daily active users worldwide. More than 150 million people user Stories on Instagram. Zuckerberg is constantly running Story tests and experiments on Facebook — and has even said he believes they’ll be bigger than the feed. By these points it’s clear Stories are becoming an essential part of a modern social media strategy, but why exactly should your business start using them?
Behind the scenes
In the age of social media, users are less bothered by how perfect content looks and more bothered about the richness and realness of the stories behind it. This is where stories come in. Unlike static social posts, which can be staged and doctored, stories allow you to give your audience an unedited and unfiltered behind the scenes look at what’s really going on in your business.
Studies support this trend, showing that rough and ready content delivered in real-time outperforms big-budget ultra-polished productions. We’ve known for a while that transparency and authenticity are key to engaging the modern-day user, and stories is a medium that allows businesses to deliver on those value.
Instagram announced ads for Stories earlier this year. With news feed ads losing their novelty and growing competition among advertisers, Story ads offer an alternative and potentially much more effective way for businesses to reach wider audiences.
When Buffer experimented with Instagram Stories ads, it found they cost as little as $0.06 per click compared to its Facebook feed ads of between $0.30 to $0.60 per click. As they’re full screen, immersive, and accessible from the top of your News Feed, Story ads have engagement designed in. They exist before and between content, meaning they slide seamlessly into the user’s experience and appear much more like organic content.
Bring the user into the story
There’s arguably no better way to tell a story than letting real people tell their own. In this way, Stories are the antithesis of traditional marketing modes. Such direct marketing efforts as billboards and TV ads are one-directional and typically brand-orientated. Stories give brands the ability to start a conversation and not only incorporate but base whole strategies around content generated by their audience.
Just think about it: If a brand wants to build a loyal and engaged following, then along with ad hoc clips of client meetings and office antics, it wants to share the impact it’s having in the world. Not only does this offer great social proof and help build an audience, it also builds loyalty by demonstrating that you are actively engaged with your community and care beyond the point of sale.
Joseph Pennington is a freelance writer and long-term traveller from the North of England. Connect with him on LinkedIn and find more articles on work, technology, spirituality, and everything in between.