Why is Facebook Betting Big on Stories?

Oct 12, 2018

Article ImageThe Stories content format was first launched by Snapchat way back in 2013 when the platform, which had previously been all about sharing images and videos, gave users the option to create Snapchat Stories. These were an entirely new format type that allowed users to build collections of shared content that could be viewed an unlimited number of times over a 24-hour period.

Since 2013, social media consumption has seen a significant behavioral shift. Previously users consumed content directly in the news feed, but today we are seeing a clear trend towards Stories, as they become more and more popular with users looking to share visual snapshots into their lives or keep up to date with their favorite brand or celebrity. In 2016, Instagram added the Stories feature to their platform and today they boast 400 million users. Facebook followed suit adding Stories in 2017. With Stories as the format of the moment, is it any surprise that Facebook is looking to open it to marketers with a brand story to tell?

Facebook is the platform with the biggest audience. A staggering 2.2 billion users connect to Facebook monthly, giving brands looking to advertise on the platform unparalleled reach. It has also stated that it is committed to Stories, which means it will invest in keeping the format engaging and easy to use. This gives brands a great opportunity to integrate Stories with other high-ROI ad opportunities on the platform, such as Live Video and promoted content in the News Feed, making it appealing to experiment with the Stories format on Facebook.

Social media performance data shows that organic reach is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve on social media, especially in light of the algorithm changes announced by Facebook at the beginning of the year. More and more brands are expected to put dollars behind their content, in order to ensure that it gets seen. Stories have been one of the content formats that has successfully driven organic engagement, primarily because they are consumed actively, not passively as with the news feed. Brands should feel more confident in putting their ad dollars behind a content type that has historically performed for them. By giving brands the ability to promote content through Facebook Stories, they will give them, at least to those posting quality content, the chance to grow both reach and engagement on the platform.

Facebook’s investment in Stories overall will certainly come at the cost of one platform: Snapchat. Back in January Snapchat rolled out an update to the app, splitting snaps into two feeds, one for “Friends” and one called “Discover,” which includes publishers, celebrities, brands, essentially everyone who doesn’t follow you back. The change meant that branded content would no longer appear in the same feed as content from the user’s personal friends, resulting in less exposure. The algorithmic nature of the Snapchat news feed automatically pushes content from friends with whom users interact frequently to the top of their news feed. Again, not great news for brands. The update did, however, bring Promoted Stories to the app. Promoted Stories allow brands to push their Stories to more users via the Discover feed, enabling them to reach and engage new audiences. But whether this is enough to let them compete for ad dollars with the likes of Instagram and Facebook Stories remains to be seen. Facebook has the resources to keep on raising the bar for Snapchat, so if they want to remain in the market for ad dollars, innovation is going to be key.

The past 10 years of social media analysis tells us that Stories, as a format, won’t be appealing forever. Content formats come and go. Facebook is constantly innovating to make sure it delivers formats that give marketers new and exciting ways to engage with their audiences in relevant and authentic ways. So, the time is now to invest in Stories. As a B2C brand, if you haven’t already experimented with the format, you’re leaving potential reach and engagement on the table.

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