January 16, 2019Published by: Kieran Moriarty

Stories: The Imitation Game

Way back in 2013, Snapchat launched one of social media’s most groundbreaking innovations – Stories. The feature enabled users to post photos and videos that gave audiences a more complete picture of what a person or brand was about, before it all disappeared after 24 hours.

Since then, Stories have gone on to be replicated on pretty much every platform and have even overtaken the traditional news feed on Instagram. Users clearly find the informal, often less-polished style of content more appealing, and the ephemeral nature of Stories aligns with the new behaviour of social media users - constantly seeking narratives in an easily digestible format.

Here, we take a look at some of the more surprising players in the Stories market - some of which might be familiar if you’ve been to our Social Media Week events in the last couple of years...

Facebook

Facebook was another early adopter of Stories, introducing the feature back in 2017. Stories clearly represent a huge part of Facebook’s social strategy, as evidenced by the global rollout of Group Stories last month and cross-promotion of WhatsApp (which we’ll get to in more detail later).

Facebook Stories has also been a hit with brands. By providing an additional visual content stream, brands have a useful alternative area for hosting social advertising campaigns and engaging users.

It's a format that certainly seems to be working for consumers too. Recently released user numbers for Stories on Facebook and Messenger revealed that the two services attract 300 million people each day. And with the recent rollout of Group Stories, it's likely this figure will grow significantly over the next few months.

WhatsApp

Since its introduction in March 2017, WhatsApp’s version of Stories (called Status) has grown to more than 450 million daily users – more than double that of Snapchat, and even eclipsing Instagram’s daily active users.

There’s huge potential for WhatsApp to increase its daily Status usage by following Facebook and Instagram’s example of cross-platform sharing. WhatsApp is already testing one-click, cross-platform sharing so users can potentially create Stories on Instagram that can be automatically shared to a WhatsApp Status to reach wider audiences.

The messaging app is also set to start monetising ‘Statuses’ soon by incorporating advertising between users’ stories. With big businesses no doubt likely to be interested, the WhatsApp Status juggernaut is set to roll on.

LinkedIn

In November LinkedIn began trialing its version of Stories, Student Voices, which is designed to provide university students with a way of sharing their experiences involving internships, job fairs and classes. The feature has been optimised with info-heavy content in mind and, compared to the standard 15-second Story found on Instagram, LinkedIn’s can be up to 45 seconds long.

Commentators have cynically claimed that Student Voices is an optimistic attempt by LinkedIn to engage younger audiences. Whether that’s true or not, it still provides a perfect example of how a platform can reimagine a popular feature from a competitor and adapt to suit its own purpose.

YouTube

Even YouTube has got in on the Stories act. Initially introduced as Reels in November 2017, YouTube’s version of Stories consists of combining shorter mobile videos of up to 30 seconds, on which filters, music, text and stickers can be applied. Like Instagram, YouTube ‘Stories’ can be viewed by both channel subscribers and non-subscribers alike.

However, there are some neat differences. Story content displays in the ‘Up Next’ sidebar that queues up related content to play after you finish a video. Also, YouTube Stories are viewable for a far longer period of time – seven days compared to the usual 24 hours.

Admittedly, they haven't been a runaway success yet, but following YouTube’s recent decision to expand the feature to channels with over 10,000 subscribers we should see wider adoption by more content creators in 2019.

Stories takeover

The proliferation of Stories across social media not only shows the feature is here to stay, but also highlights how platforms are having to adapt to changing user behaviour.

Instagram, the leader when it comes to Stories, is a prime example. In November, our own Battenhall Instagram Brands 100 report revealed that posting on Stories was 13% higher than on the main feed for the world's biggest brands. That's a massive shift, but for many, a trend that’s reflected in their own activity and habits.

It seems like the future of social is set to be all about tapping, rather than scrolling through a newsfeed.

About Battenhall

We look after brand profiles on social media, and we're proudly the world's #1 at what we do. Named The Drum's social media agency of the year for the last three years running. Get in touch! hello@battenhall.com

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