Stories, which was an innovation of Snapchat, has now been replicated by Facebook and Instagram. This has brought the exclusive 24-hour content onto the big stage and many brands are - naturally - asking whether it's worth investment for the future.
Both Facebook and its image-based sister Instagram have already started to experiment with paid ad content in Stories but is it something that will catch on?
For Facebook especially, the feature didn't work without brands. There was an incredibly slow adoption of Facebook Stories when it first launched, with many users unable to see the point of it. Remarketing it towards companies provided a new perspective but is it something that brands should be investing in?
Considering your strategy
When a social media platform launches a new feature or allows paid advertisement on it, companies can be tempted to jump in with both feet before really thinking about how it benefits their brand. As with any marketing campaign, it's important that businesses look at how Stories could help them engage with their audience and how a strategy would fit in with its wider online presence.
Too many companies use the temporary nature of social media Stories to send out content that has very little to do with their brand. This technique is likely to fail but, with the right approach, it can hold a lot of potential.
The exclusivity of 24-hour content gives companies the unique opportunity to gain interest and foster loyalty among their target audience. Short-time offers can be used to engage with new users, while posting regularly with content that speaks to your followers will encourage them to visit your page frequently to ensure they're not missing out.
Although it should be done as part of a wider strategy, Stories are often used by businesses to show a more fun side. This offers exciting opportunities to publish personalized content and be more creative. The users checking social media Stories are likely to be the most connected with your brand so make the most of this interest and produce something new and exciting.
Is it the future for paid advertising?
Collectively social media have impressive membership numbers, with many logging on every single day to catch the latest updates. This holds a great potential for brands but finding the right way to advertise on these traditionally personal platforms can be difficult.
Instagram has been a typically challenging avenue for anyone who doesn't have a considerable marketing budget. The aesthetically-pleasing nature of the platform means it can be a difficult for companies to make their mark but Stories offers a new option. Users are much less demanding about the quality of the images shared on Instagram Stories, wanting brands to offer them exclusivity rather than beauty.
For Facebook, it's a chance to get your content seen in a space where algorithm changes have made this much more difficult. The world's most popular social media platform is also fighting to prove its worth to businesses, amidst the backlash from the Cambridge Analytica scandal and unwelcoming functionality changes.
Because Stories are positioned at the top of the mobile app, it's the first thing that people see when logging on, offering a valuable opportunity for companies. Brands could see their Facebook Stories pushed to the top - above their rivals - to get the best spot. This could ignite a bidding contest like that seen in PPC or other paid advertising campaigns.
Paid vs organic
However, there's still opportunities for brands to organically generate interest using social media Stories. Their positioning in both Instagram, Facebook and even Snapchat make them prime real estate, with users able to scroll past them but not turn the feature off. This means brands are being offered free advertising with the massive potential to be seen by a large number of people.
Stories provide a platform for companies to experiment with new and more creative ideas without the risk of wasting huge amounts of marketing budget. Of course, doing something radically off-brand carries the danger that it could backfire but that's why understanding where social media Stories fit into your wider marketing strategy is so important. Once you have these guidelines in place, you're free to share exclusive insight into your business or short-time offers to your most loyal followers. Both of these hold great potential for brands to organically grow their presence online.
Taking the right approach
Social media Stories offer a unique opportunity for brands to produce less-polished content for users to see. This can be a fantastic way to showcase your company culture, especially as consumers become more bothered about this element in their purchasing decisions.
Brands aren't the only people producing Stories, with celebrities also using the feature. This means that companies have plenty of content to compete with besides that of their direct competitors. The only way businesses will be able to measure up is if they're able to use the feature to create authentic stories that engage their target audience. This is easier said than done but developing a specific strategy for social media Stories and then using spontaneous opportunities to share content within these guidelines will be the key to success.