4 Tips on How to Succeed with Stories

4 Tips on How to Succeed with Stories

Back in 2013, the upstart social network debuted Stories — vertical, ephemeral slideshows made of a mix of pics and videos shot by users over the course of a day. Snapchat’s teen users loved the format, though the rest of the social media universe took little notice . Facebook itself, as well as its messaging platforms WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, rolled out Stories in 2017. For companies that rely on social media to reach their customers, this presents brand new opportunities—and some real challenges. More than 1 billion users are already hooked on the format. Far from a direct marketing or sales play, Stories are a branding opportunity, with little place for a heavy-handed call to action. Juice brand Tropicana immediately recognized the potential of higher production-value Instagram Stories to boost awareness and sales among young adults. Successful brands are instead using the multimedia format to show how products fit into the context of customers’ lives. Finding this balance isn’t necessarily easy, and even some of the world’s leading media brands have had to experiment. Ryan Holmes is the CEO of Hootsuite, a social media management system with more than 10 million users.

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Are you ready for the “storification” of social media? Here are some best practices from successful early adopters.

Blame it on Snapchat. Back in 2013, the upstart social network debuted Stories — vertical, ephemeral slideshows made of a mix of pics and videos shot by users over the course of a day. Snapchat’s teen users loved the format, though the rest of the social media universe took little notice . . . at least, not at first.

But then Stories were copied by Facebook and introduced to a much wider audience on Instagram in 2016. Facebook itself, as well as its messaging platforms WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, rolled out Stories in 2017.

Now, a multitude of indicators point to a surprising conclusion: Stories are quietly eating the social world, fundamentally changing how we share and consume content on social media. For companies that rely on social media to reach their customers, this presents brand new opportunities—and some real challenges.

Stories represent yet another platform requiring attention — perhaps not welcome news for businesses already straining to manage content across multiple social channels. And while the old-fashioned newsfeed, a holdover from the desktop era, is well suited to short bursts of text or single images, Stories demand a mix of more time-intensive video, pics, and graphics.

But it’s difficult to ignore the power — and potential ROI — of the Stories format. According to the latest research, Stories are growing 15 times faster than newsfeeds. More than 1 billion users are already hooked on the format. In fact, Facebook’s own chief product officer, Chris Cox, has pretty much hitched the company wagon to Stories, noting, “The Stories format is on a path to surpass feeds as the primary way people share things with their friends sometime next year.”

In other words, embracing the Story format may no longer be an option for businesses, but a requirement. Indeed, it’s estimated that four of five major brands have already gotten onboard. Getting it right, however, isn’t easy.

Millennials and gen-Zers have grown up saturated with digital marketing and “content.” (Some 293,000 status updates are now posted on Facebook every minute.) They’ve learned to tune out banner ads and can smell a sales pitch a mile away. Companies hoping to reach them with Stories need to provide true value: to entertain, inform, or educate, not just sell. Far from a direct marketing or sales play, Stories are a branding opportunity, with little place for a heavy-handed call to action.

Here’s a quick survey of some effective early Stories adopters, revealing key principles that can help companies looking to ride the next social wave.

Invest in creativity

Stories work best when they integrate video, text, images, and more. Though they might look “off the cuff,” they often have higher production value and require greater technical expertise than a typical Tweet or Facebook post. As noted by TechCrunch‘s Josh Constine, “Advertisers must rethink their message not as a headline, body text, and link, but as a background, overlays, and a feeling that lingers even if viewers don’t click through.” Narrative and storytelling–those buzzwords of content marketing–are table stakes.

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