Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Airbnb and Google – what do they have in common? They have all recently developed the ‘stories’ format: a full-screen vertical video or static post which is only available for 24 hrs before disappearing. And so far the numbers are impressive: Instagram, the winner of the stories battle, has 300M daily active users, almost double of those of Facebook and Snapchat which hover at around 150M users a day. So why are they so popular? And is it worth investing in stories? Can they deliver tangible business results?
Here is my take on the topic…
The subject of our attention spans becoming shorter has been widely discussed over the last couple of years with social media being listed as a major culprit of our attention deficiency. What’s interesting is the fact that our brains are adapting to the new speed – according to a Fors Marsh Group study, people can recall content on news feed after seeing it for just 0.25 sec. With this increased rate of information processing, it’s no surprise the ‘snackable’ content format has been an instant success. What’s more, stories have truly embraced the mobile creativity – vertical videos and images led the way with the option for using horizontal content being added a few months after release. The full-screen format gives users the opportunity to tell a story in a visual way, add filters, stickers and text overlays to express themselves better. It offers tools to play and have fun, the content disappears in 24 hrs and is not designed to gain likes or reactions from other users, a major difference between stories and posts added to the newsfeed. Stories are not designed to gain appreciation from other users – they are simply there, for a short period of time, to tell a story in real-time.
Another stories feature introduced by Snapchat (who pioneered the format) is the ‘swipe up’ call to action – at first a foreign concept to social media users, now an intuitive gesture for most mobile users. Arguably a more tangible action than a tap (which could be accidental) or an impression, a swipe up rate is becoming a universally accepted hard metric used to measure social media campaigns.
The latest addition to the array of option is the share function which allows users to share a photo or video which mentions them which opens up the possibility for partnerships and sharing branded content.
So how do stories translate to advertising?
The moment Instagram and Facebook reached 150M daily active users of stories they started testing commercial opportunities. According to an internal Instagram study, 1/3 of most viewed stories come from brands with some of them delivering 75% lower cost per engagement, 81% conversion rate after install and higher ad recall than the feed-based ads. Creatively stories ads give more flexibility than the more traditional formats – starting with the vertical size which takes over the mobile screen and maximises the ‘real estate’ space, to using stickers and overlays which make them look less like ads and more like posts worth looking at. They enable advertisers to be more flexible with their advertising, tell better stories and not limit their creativity to one frame.
The other important factor to bear in mind is that 60% of stories are viewed with sound on which opens up a lot of opportunities for more explicit call to action and a more immersive brand experience.