The social media Story format will soon surpass feed-based posts. Invented by Snapchat but scaled and popularized by Instagram, the Stories format challenges that of the scrolling news feed. Stories are growing 15 times faster than feed-based sharing, with more than 1.12 billion users across Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and Facebook consuming or creating Stories, contributing to a 987 percent lift since early 2016.
On Instagram alone, more than 400 million people use Stories each day. Last April at F8, Facebook’s Chief Product Officer Chris Cox declared, “The Stories format is on a path to surpass feeds as the primary way people share stuff with their friends sometime in the next year.” In October, Zuckerberg echoed a similar statement, noting that Stories will surpass sharing into feeds in the “not-too-distant future.”
Given the widespread popularity of the content format and the emergence of Instagram as the clear leader in the space, it’s no surprise that other platforms such as YouTube, Netflix, and even Airbnb have begun adopting this media format. Even Google has announced plans to leverage Stories in search results.
Below you’ll see some of the paving the way for Story content, along with actionable next steps for how you can make Stories work for your influencer program and larger marketing strategy.
YouTube dips its toes into Stories
In an effort to help creators build their communities, promote their channels, and facilitate audience growth and engagement, YouTube expanded its Stories feature to creators with 10,000 or more subscribers in December. YouTube Stories differ from Instagram or Snapchat Stories, with the biggest differentiator being that Stories on YouTube disappear after seven days, not 24 hours. As such, Stories on YouTube have the potential to reach more users during this extend content lifespan.
Unlike other that allow all users to create Stories, YouTube claims that their Stories are a “community-focused” initiative, designed to foster “strong bonds” between all creators and fans. However, some creators doubt that Stories will actually foster real engagement on YouTube.
As YouTube influencer Philip DeFranco put it, “YouTube ‘Stories’ are weird. They stay up for 7 days, they allow comments, but you can only reply with another video/pic, and they currently lack swipe up/video linking features which to me seems like a missed opportunity. Potential but I’m skeptical.
Instagram continues to release new tools to fuel platform Story growth
During Facebook’s third-quarter earnings call, Zuckerberg said he expects short-form content to play a much bigger role in the future of both Facebook and Instagram. This became even more apparent when, at the end of December, an Instagram “bug” which made Instagram feed posts look and feel more like Story posts, was accidentally rolled out to all users. Seemingly, this underscored an important point: Facebook is preparing for a future where Stories are more important than feeds.
In Q4, Instagram has released new ways to monetize Stories (Stories Ads), new ways to engage with Stories (Music Sharing Options, Countdown Stickers), and new ways of sharing Stories (Close Friends).
What’s next for the Story format?
Although Stories first existed as quick, unfiltered, candid alternatives to the perfected feed-based posts, Stories are now becoming more polished and, consequently, more time is spent creating these posts. As a result, many creators have turned to third-party apps and tools like Unfold, to assist in the story creation process.
Since its launch in January 2018, Unfold has grown to to three million monthly active users and is adding more than 100,000 new users per day. Nearly 50 million Stories have been made with Unfold in the last eight months.
While it’s likely that the Story format will continue to transcend into different media platforms, the transition to Stories, as opposed to Feed-based sharing, is likely to be challenged by the same content moderation obstacles that have become apparent for platforms over the last year. Stories allow users to capture and share everyday moments that they might not choose to permanently chronicle, but the disappearing nature of the format could also easily enable the spread of misinformation, hate speech, or other extreme content.
As the content format continues to grow, both in scale and popularity, it’s important to begin running influencer campaigns that test some of these new features. Not sure where to start? Poll your influencer network to better understand which of these features foster the most engagement with their audience and use that information to inform your brand‘s strategy to reach your target audience.
Ideas for your influencer strategy:
1. Repurpose influencers’ stories to brand stories. Repurposing influencer-generated Stories is a great way to offer your followers an authentic, behind-the-scenes look at products, services, and features. In order to repurpose an influencer’s story on your own branded account, the influencer will need to tag your brand in the post, so always make sure to include that as a part of your influencer outreach and campaign brief.
2. Include a CTA. Ultimately, the success of a Story depends on the action it drives toward the end-goal. As such, most offer a variety of tools designed to spur action, like Instagram’s “swipe up” feature. This feature, specifically, is a great way for a brand to seamlessly drive traffic from Instagram to its website. This feature is only available to Instagram business accounts with more than 10k followers or verified accounts, so when working with influencers who fit this criteria, make sure they are including links to your product or website where applicable.
3. Create Story highlights on Instagram. Although the shelf-life for a Story on Instagram is 24 hours, saving the content to your highlights will effectively make the content evergreen, increasing reach and opportunities for engagement. Think of story highlights as similar to Pinterest boards and consider segmenting story highlights into a few different themes, depending on what’s relevant to your brand and audience.
4. Repost Stories from other channels. There’s no need to recreate the wheel for every network. In fact, the story format is similar across networks, which allows you to efficiently repurpose Story content. Facebook even has built-in Story sharing from Instagram. It’s also possible to save a Snapchat post as a video that you can then repost on Instagram and Facebook.
5. Poll influencers about their preferences. Marketers have the opportunity to collaborate with influencers on research, source ideas, and obtain pre/post campaign feedback with interactive features like Question stickers and Polls on Instagram. Marketers may even consider making a campaign from user comments and insights.
6. Use Instagram’s Close Friends List to share posts with specific segments of fans and followers. While these lists could be based on a post’s contextual relevance (i.e., location), they could also be curated based on brand, interest, or engagement to allow for more exclusive, VIP-like experiences. The biggest potential gains for marketers come from the ability to rapidly test and iterate on content with select groups of influencers and their followers before content goes to market.
Download our latest Q4 2018 Influencer Marketing Quarterly Trend Report to learn more about some of the key updates and trends affecting the influencer marketing sphere and informing your influencer strategy.