Social Media Stories: What Brands Need to Know About Ephemeral Content

Social Media Stories: What Brands Need to Know About Ephemeral Content

Ephemeral, or disappearing, content in the form of Stories is taking center stage in the digital world. Social media stories, originally popularized by Snapchat, have seen significant growth and adoption across nearly all major social networks. While the networks add Story capabilities to their channels, the data from users showing increased interest follows suit. A recent report from GlobalWebIndex found that Instagram and Facebook users are increasingly viewing and creating social media stories.

While some channels are seasoned veterans when it comes to the social media story game, others are just joining in on the fun. Recently, LinkedIn and Twitter were the latest to announce the launch of a stories format on their channels. With the content capabilities across social showing no signs of slowing, many brand marketers are wondering how these new features may be beneficial. That’s why we’ve outlined everything you need to know about social media stories in our quick-start guide below.

Social Media Stories Breakdown by Channel

Key Takeaways:

  • Snapchat has pioneered Stories with innovations like geofilters, AR lenses, and much more, paving the way for other networks who have since looked to replicate this experience for their users.
  • Instagram Stories quickly overtook Snapchat in usage within a matter of months, as shown by the chart below.
  • Stories on Facebook were rather slow to take off. However, Facebook Stories has since amounted to roughly 500 million daily active users.
  • Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube now have their own Stories feature.

Snapchat

Snapchat is the OG of the vertical, full-screen content format we’ve come to know as “Stories.” While some marketers have strayed away from activating on this platform due to the younger user base, others have found success on the channel. Here’s what you need to know about Snapchat Stories.

Social Media Stories - Snapchat example
  • A Brief History: Snapchat Stories launched in late 2013, just two years after the app’s inception. The feature was the first step towards community sharing on the app, allowing users to post public content for friends to view for 24 hours. Since then, Snapchat has pioneered Stories with innovations like geofilters, AR lenses, and much more, paving the way for other networks who have since looked to replicate this experience for their users.

  • Brand Marketing Opportunities: For brands looking to leverage Snapchat to engage their audience, here are just a few opportunities:
    • Story Ads – draw Snapchatters into a branded Story with a sponsored tile on the Discover page where users browse popular, custom content
    • Filters – for brands looking to acquire user-generated content (UGC), Snapchat filters are a great way to take part in users’ conversations with creative overlays they can add to their own snaps

  • Brand Marketing Watch-Outs: Snapchat’s audience skews younger than other social networks, so depending on who your brand is targeting it may or may not be the right channel for you. 82% of Snapchatters are 34 years or younger, so keep this in mind when determining if your campaign should live on this channel.

As an official Snapchat Certified Partner, our experts would be more than happy to help kickoff your brand on the platform.

Instagram

  • A Brief History: Instagram took the Stories stage by storm when it launched its copycat version of the ephemeral content type in August 2016. While many were skeptical that the channel couldn’t successfully replicate Snapchat’s brainchild, Instagram Stories quickly overtook Snapchat in usage within a matter of months, as shown by the chart below. Since then, Instagram Stories has launched a slew of creative tools and interactive features that keep users engaged and posting.
Social Media Stories - Instagram
Source: Statista
  • Brand Marketing Opportunities:
    • Instagram Story Ads – just as you would run a promoted post in the feed, you can do the same in Instagram Stories. This placement delivers a full-screen, immersive ad experience that allows marketers to generate exposure, encourage website clicks, and more.
    • Live Broadcasting – brands can go LIVE in Stories to give their fans a real-time, intimate experience. As a bonus, Instagram offers the ability to go live with another user, bringing about the opportunity to connect multiple fan bases.
    • Engagement Stickers – As mentioned above, Instagram has continuously rolled out a plethora of interactive stickers that create quick-and-easy opportunities for engagements. Options include polls, countdown, quizzes, and more.
    • Story Highlights – while regular Stories “self destruct” 24 hours after being posted, brands can create Story Highlights from archived Story content, extending the lifetime of these pieces. This content also takes prime real estate on your profile just above your feed posts.

  • Brand Marketing Watch-Outs: One thing that makes Instagram Stories unique is that they are supposed to feel unpolished, so don’t go out of your way to make them more of a production than they need to be. While you may spend hours perfecting the aesthetic of a post that lives on your main Instagram feed, users are looking for a relatable, authentic experience when tapping through their Stories – don’t be afraid to give them that.
The Complete Guide to Instagram Stories for Brand Marketers

Facebook

Social media stories - Facebook
Source: Facebook
  • A Brief History: To the dismay of many, Facebook rolled out its own take on Stories in March 2017. Unlike its subsidiary’s instant success with the format, Stories on Facebook were rather slow to take off. However, Facebook Stories has since amounted to roughly 500 million daily active users, indicating there is an undeniable appetite for this content on the platform. While the interface is a bit different than that of its daughter company, Facebook and Instagram Stories’ features are nearly identical.

  • Brand Marketing Opportunities:
    • Story Ads – Similar to Instagram, this placement offers brands yet another opportunity to place themselves in front of fans in an immersive setting and extend reach beyond the feed.
    • Connect with audiences – The genuine and authentic nature of Stories gives brands an opportunity to build rapport and trust with target audiences.
    • Prime real estate – And lastly, if you really need to search for a reason for your brand to leverage Facebook Stories, consider that the Stories panel on the mobile app accounts for roughly 30% of a users’ screen. That’s a big opportunity to catch your audience’s attention right when they open the app, without having to spend money on paid media.

  • Brand Marketing Watch-Outs: The easy route for Facebook Stories would be to simply replicate your Instagram Story content and blast it to Facebook, right? Wrong. As with any other piece of content, you must consider the variances in your audiences across channels when producing content. If there is an opportunity to customize your Facebook Story even further, take it.

YouTube

  • A Brief History: Originally named YouTube Reels, YouTube Stories were launched and tested with select accounts in early 2018. Then, at the start of the next year, YouTube expanded the capability to channels with over 10,000 subscribers (essentially, all those who fall into YouTube’s Partner Program). YouTube Stories are different than other ephemeral content in that they’re made for mobile only and don’t expire for 7 days (but comments are viewable for to the creator for 30 days).

  • Brand Marketing Opportunities:
    • Engagement Stickers – When you’re editing a story on the platform, there are three types of stickers available to encourage engagement with your content: Mention, Location, and Video Stickers. Video stickers are an original sticker asset that allows you to share one of your own YouTube videos every 7 days.
    • Community Engagement – Like with YouTube videos, stories also allow comments where the community and creator can engage together. You can even “reply in story” to address specific comments/questions that others may have, and it helps personalize the content with your audience further.
    • Influencer Partnerships – Because this feature is prominently made for the creator community, it’s ideal for brands to partner with YouTube creators to create sponsored content versus creating their own stories.

  • Brand Marketing Watch-Outs: This feature received mixed reviews when announced in 2017, as many creators thought that YouTube needed to focus on other issues instead of “copying other social media.” Aside from that, YouTube Stories still haven’t really taken off, especially since only those in the Partner Program have this capability. Additionally, if your channel is made for children, this feature isn’t available at all since YouTube has worked to modify ad targeting in relation to content for kids.

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LinkedIn

  • A Brief History: At the end of February, LinkedIn confirmed that it’s internally testing its own version of social media stories, and now, the feature is available to users in Brazil. Back in 2018, the company tested a similar feature, Student Voices, that was only available for university students. It looks as if the new iteration will look similar to the one tested a couple of years back, although it’s not yet clear whether or not the capability will be available for both members and company pages. According to the overview page, Story creation on LinkedIn will function much like other platforms with video time limits, various privacy options, and publishing available on mobile only. 

  • Brand Marketing Opportunities:
    • Events – Sharing live event updates on LinkedIn, beyond a simple feed post, can be a challenge with the current available posting options. With the introduction of a story format on this channel, companies could share behind-the-scenes event updates to offer followers a glimpse into the action.
    • Employee Advocacy & Recruitment – Over 75% of people who’ve recently changed jobs used LinkedIn to inform their career decision. It’s a key platform for job applicants and employees alike when engaging with employers. Stories cold be leveraged on company channels as a way to have current employees share exclusive content and personal experiences to assist with recruiting new hires or even potential clients.
    • Higher Education – Obviously, LinkedIn sees stories as something that members in the higher education field could leverage, given the creation of Student Voices. Beyond student-to-student engagement, we see an opportunity for universities on LinkedIn to connect alumni, feature career opportunities for current students, or spotlight graduates in the workforce all via stories. 

  • Brand Marketing Watch-Outs: Once this does launch, brands will want to be mindful of how they present story content both visually and from a messaging standpoint. While the natural instinct on stories on other platforms is to come across more casual and less polished, brands may not want to copy and paste this approach here given LinkedIn is a ultimately a professional platform. While stories may provide a great opportunity to connect with members on a deeper level, the content approach should still fit the channel. As always, consider what your audience is looking for and how they expect to be communicated with.

Twitter

Social media stories - Twitter
  • A Brief History: In early March of this year, Twitter made headlines with the announcement of Fleets, their own take on Stories in Twitter format. However, the feature is only being tested in Brazil since Twitter is such a highly utilized app within the country. Similar to its predecessors, Fleets disappear after 24 hours but are not compatible with Retweets, likes, or public comments. You can only engage with the author via Direct Message, but because Fleets are public, anyone can engage. They’re also primarily text-based, but you can still include other media formats within.

  • Brand Marketing Opportunities: Right now, brand opportunities are very limited, especially since no one in the US is included in the Beta. We’re also not certain that Fleets will be a feature that brands want to utilize, as they’re really designed for users to be able to more freely express themselves. That said, we’re keeping an eye on any initial findings Twitter releases or roadmaps they share in relation to rolling out Fleets publicly.

Pinterest

Pinterest Story Pins
  • A Brief History: Despite the name, Pinterest’s Story Pins aren’t ephemeral content, which is why we put them last on the list. It would be more accurate to compare Story Pins to Facebook’s Canvas feature, as they are designed to highlight multiple forms of media to… tell a story. Launched last year, Story Pins are still an interesting feature worth exploring, but unfortunately, they’re still a work in progress and not available to all accounts.

  • Brand Marketing Opportunities: Story Pins are optimal for brands that promote recipes and DIY content, allowing you the ability to string together multiple forms of media to showcase a concept. Pinterest touts that it’s ideal to use this feature to create step-by-step guides or curate a collection of products, so keep that in mind if your content already follows this type of strategy.

It appears that Snapchat started a trend that certainly doesn’t seem to be going away in the next 24-hours (…see what I did there). Many other companies will try to create their own version of stories, but for now, Instagram seems to be winning that game. As you plan for the future don’t feel the need to invest in every social media stories format, but allocate your resources towards those your audience is heavily using.

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