Today we are going to focus on social media Stories.
Specifically, we are going to look at:
- What Stories are (and why they matter to over one billion people).
- Which platforms you need to focus on.
- How you can use Stories to boost your campaigns.
If that sounds like the kind of information you were looking for, let’s get started!
Social Media Stories: Over 1 Billion Users Can’t Be Wrong
Stories are a big deal.
Facebook revealed that more than one billion people use Stories every day across their products, including:
- WhatsApp (as “Status”)
That is just shy of the entire population of the United States and Europe together using one type of social media content.
Instagram has also confirmed that users spend between 24 and 32 minutes watching stories every day, which is longer than an episode of your average sitcom.
This means there is an unprecedented amount of attention being focused on the platform — as confirmed by Mary Meeker’s 2019 Internet Trends Report — which, by its very nature, creates an excellent opportunity for marketers and advertisers.
Marketing Land reports that 15% to 25% of users swipe up on links shared on Instagram stories. This is almost twice as many as people who interact with links in traditional Facebook posts.
Brands are benefitting from this increased interaction, too. Gap have incorporated video-based stories into their marketing campaigns on Instagram.
By doing so, they have seen a:
- 73% increase in their campaign click-through rates.
- 17-point rise in advert recall by targeted customers.
- 4-point increase in message association.
These are numbers that few other social media content types can offer. And, there has never been a better time to take advantage of them.
Before we get into how you can use social media Stories, let’s first take a closer look at what they are and where you can use them.
What Are Stories (And Where Can You Use Them)?
Stories focus on the storytelling aspect of social media. They allow you to use photo, video, text, emoticons, and tags to create both long-form and short-form content.
They are typically:
- Uploaded from mobile devices.
- Only visible on mobile devices.
- Recorded in a vertical format.
- Set to expire after 24 hours.
The Story section of a social media app is most often displayed at the top of a screen with circular images displayed in a line with a colored circle surrounding them. Like this:
You can find Stories on apps such as:
How stories are used and interacted with can vary from platform to platform. So, let’s take a closer look at each of them in detail.
Instagram: The Go-To Story App
Instagram is the current market leader with 500 million people using their Story feature every day. 86.8% of their users post content there every day!
Here is an example of how a Story on Instagram looks:
As you can see from the Chipotle example above, you can customize and create stories here in several different ways.
Some of Instagram’s stand-out features are:
- Shopping: users can click through to tagged products.
- Polls: create interactive polls to engage with users.
- Q&A: giver users a direct-line to ask you questions.
- Hashtags: connect your stories to topics or locations users follow.
- Lyrics: add songs and music to your stories.
- Highlights: save Stories to your profile for viewers to watch after they expire.
All these features allow you to create a unique story, from scratch, and set you apart from your competitors and galvanize your audience.
Snapchat: The Original Story App
Snapchat created the social media Story concept. And, despite a few rough years, their user base seems to be revitalized and growing again.
They have 190 million daily users, 90% of which are between the ages of 13 and 24, all looking to interact with Story-based content. If this is your demographic, it is the place to be.
Here is how a Story might look on Snapchat:
Snapchat offers lots of customization options, including:
- Geo-filters: specific filters you can assign to (or use in) a particular location.
- GIFs: add moving images to your stories.
- Time limit: adjust the duration of each Story slide.
It is worth noting that many of these features are available as standard on other Story platforms, while Snapchat offers fewer audience-interaction features. By using tools like Photoshop, you can create images off-platform and upload them to tell unique stories, as Nat Geo did in the video example above.
Facebook: The Up-And-Coming Story App
Facebook Stories are essentially Instagram stories adapted to the Facebook platform. They have a smaller user base — around 150 million daily users — but this does not make them less effective.
The advantage of using Facebook Stories is that they display in the apps for both:
Increasing the opportunity that your Story will be seen.
When we attended F8 we saw a lot of evidence that Facebook will be pushing stories on their platform in the coming months. They even led a Facebook-stories workshop.
Where took part and managed to snap a picture of this informative blackboard before leaving:
You can create stories natively on the platform and benefit from many of the features Instagram also has. Or, create them on Instagram and carry them over to Facebook. Your call.
YouTube: Video-Focused Storytelling
YouTube’s Stories are a recent feature: at the time of writing, they are still in the beta-testing phase and are only open to creators with 10,000+ subscribers.
They have also taken a slightly different approach to the Story format.
- They are video-focused.
- Stories last for seven days.
- They are not only visible on the Subscriptions page of the Creator but also in the user’s feed (on mobile).
Creators seem to agree that they are a great way to connect with your audience and raise awareness about what you do outside of video creation.
They can be especially useful if you have a lot of YouTube subscribers but have struggled to translate that into a social media following.
They also have a lot of video-focused features such as editing and snipping tools to help you keep your YouTube stories in-line with the other content you create.However: if you are not using YouTube as part of your marketing strategy, you may benefit more from devoting time to Stories on other social media platforms.
WhatsApp: The “Secret” Story Platform
WhatsApp is an often overlooked marketing platform. But, with more business integration, it is becoming a tool brands need to start paying attention to.
If you are a brand already using WhatsApp to connect with customers and close sales, you can use the Status features as a less-direct way to keep in touch.
Here is a video from WhatsApp showing how to use their Status feature:Status updates can be extremely useful when connecting with customers in the developing world, where WhatsApp is the most popular digital way to communicate.
8 Best Practices To Make Your Social Media Stories Stand Out
By now you should have a much better idea of:
- Why stories are important.
- Where they are available.
- How different platforms use them.
In this section, we are going to look at how you can use stories to entertain, engage, and delight your audience.
These tips were gathered (and confirmed by professionals) at Facebook’s F8 2019: they are tried-and-tested and ready for you to use right away!
1. Keep It Upright
Vertical orientation is key to creating engaging stories.
82.5% of video website visitors hold their mobile phone in the portrait position while watching. Yep, even when the video is supposed to be landscape.
As Loomly’s CEO, Thibaud, eloquently put it:
“Mobile-first now means vertical-first.”
You should create all of your Story content with this vertical view in mind. Think about how you will create your narrative and how to best use the screen real estate that gives you.
Wholefoods Market does this really well using a mix of illustrations & videos:
You can see how the layout and visuals are used to create a narrative that makes sense in the vertical format. Everything is within the edges of the screen and easy to follow along with.
2. Start And End With Your Brand Message
When planning your Story’s narrative, be sure to start and end with your brand. This helps users recognize who the message is from and leave them with a lasting impression.
This can be done by including:
- Your logo
- Brand-relevant hashtags
- Relevant tags
In the first and final slide of your Story. Or, if you have a call to action, in the second-to-last slide. (More on that soon.)
Here is a Story example we created to illustrate this:
Doing this can be powerful because people are often mindlessly skipping through updates. So, having a slide to introduce your brand can create a separation between your post and others.
3. Use High-Quality Creative Elements
How your Story looks and feels can make or break it. Despite social media’s more relaxed reputation, quality, and presentation are still important.
A Nielsen study showed that 49% of sales lift is impacted by the creative. That is to say, the assets used such as:
In a brand’s advertising campaign. Research also suggests that high-quality creative assets can increase brand recall and overall impact.
Here is a great example by AFEW STORE x Nike:
Now, it is important to remember that high quality does not mean expensive or complicated. Budget-conscious brands can still make great stories using tools like Canva and Unsplash.
The creative here is high quality without being complex or breaking the bank.
But, if you do have money to invest in designers and improving the quality of your creative, then we highly recommend that you do.
4. Create Contrast Between Your Slides
Breaking up your narrative arc can help you to hold attention and keep people engaged.
An easy way to do this is to create contrast between each of your slides, and break down stories — whether video or image-based — into standalone slides.
Daniel Wellington, the Swiss watchmaker, does this superbly in their Stories by using contrasting images that carry the narrative arc forward:
These images all feel like they belong to the same brand, but they do a great job of standing out on their own and grabbing the attention of someone flicking through.
5. Build & Maintain Momentum
Stories are immersive, interactive and… quick!
The secret for brands to meet user’s expectations in terms of experience is speed.
In other words: offering snappy content that sustains the viewer’s attention.
A brand who is doing this superbly is Airbnb, showcasing their adventures in Story;
6. Do Not Spam With Stickers
Stickers can be used to create cool effects in your Story. They also add a level of engagement when you use polls or sliders users can interact with.
But using too many of them can hurt your Story and cause people to switch off. So, instead, look for innovative and exciting ways to work them into your slides.
Dollar Shave Club has found the perfect balance in the following Story, smartly asking their followers with a sticker whether they were “Team Antiperspirant” or “Team Deodorant” (which is the main theme of this campaign):
The key here is to use stickers that are relevant and fit with the context of your post. If it feels forced or looks like a bad Cyberpunk movie, then users will lose interest.
7. Create A Strong Call To Action
When you have created an entertaining, informative, and enjoyable Story for your audience, do not be shy about adding a call to action at the end of it.
The name of the game here is interaction. So, provide a relevant link that expands on what the user has just read and keep people engaged with your brand (or products) a little longer.
Glossier is mastering the art of the bold CTA in this Story:
If you are doing this on Instagram you can save these Stories as highlights so this content will be accessible to people in the future too!
8. Test, Test, And Test Some More!
The underlying principles of all social media are to:
- Generate ideas
- Create updates
- Test them
- Digest the data
This is especially true for Story-based content. Although Stories have been around a while, the jury is still out on what the “perfect” formula is.
What might work for our audience may not work for your audience. And, you need to experiment and test to see what the users you care about are responding to.
If you want to learn more about testing and analytics, check out our guide here.
Bonus: Think Outside Of The (Story) Box
We love it when creatives blend with their support instead of being constrained by them.
In a previous post for Social Media Today, our CEO, Thibaud, had mentioned how Netflix was using Instagram Stories as a way to offer free show-themed wallpapers to their followers, while Decathlon had created a Street Fighter-like tap-and-play video game in their highlights.
Well, the list of innovative ways to leverage social media Stories goes on, and one amazing initiative we recently discovered was led by the New York Public Library, who is now inviting more people to read by making books available in Stories, such as here with Alice In Wonderland: